Wednesday, December 29, 2010

So You Want to Get a PhD in Economics?

This is a nice conversation between a graduate student and an undergraduate student who is asking the advice of graduate student on Economics PhD. Enjoy it on You Tube when you need to relax from hectic process of application.

Monday, December 27, 2010

How to Get Bank Letter Showing the Financial Availability

Before you get admission letters and I-20 you may be asked to provide the proof of financial availability. Since US education is costly therefore you may be asked to send the financial affidavit before the university issues the I-20 form. Remember even if you have got the assistantship you might be asked to send the proof of financial availability if the estimated expenditure for the year exceeds the assistantship amount. Only after the proof of financial availability is received by the university the university will issue the I-20 form and it may take 7-10 days to reach via regular mail depending upon your location. . Once you get I-20 form you can apply for visa. Yes, you can’t apply for a student visa unless you get I-20 form.

The proof of financial availability can be in two forms first, bank letter and second, financial affidavit. So, what is a bank letter? A Bank Letter is a statement that you have ‘stated’ amount of money in your account with a particular branch of a bank. This is a statement printed on the Bank letterhead and normally is not valid if not on a bank letterhead. So make sure you get the statement on the bank letterhead with the seal of the bank and original signature of the branch manager.

And how do you get the bank letter? It’s as simple as that. Normally if you have got assistantship you would be asked to show not ‘huge’ amount in your or your sponsor’s bank account. You may be asked to show some 2-3 thousand dollars in your account. However, it’s advised to show a little more amount than what has been asked, may be 2000 dollars more.

All you need to get a bank letter is, to contact your branch where you have a bank account and ask them issue a certificate showing that you have such and such amount in your bank account. The amount must be stated in US dollars equivalent by using the latest exchange rate. There may be a fee for issuing the certificate but it would not take long time.

You can also show money in your parents account or some close relative’s account. In that case you would need a financial affidavit.

Friday, December 24, 2010

How to Choose the Best University from among the Acceptances

When to expect admission results to be out can be found here. Once the admission results are out, the selected candidates would normally be notified by email. Sometimes the applicants are notified about the admission and assistantship decisions simultaneously however sometimes you may be notified of admission decision while the assistantship decision might be on hold and has not been taken yet. In such a case it could probably be a good idea to write to graduate director of your department asking about the assistantship decision.

Once you get an assistantship decision in your favor, you may proceed to next step. And that is applying for a student visa. However, you may probably want to wait for the admission and assistantship decision of other universities you have applied to. If the acceptance that you have got from is from the most favorite university of yours, then you can proceed for the student visa otherwise wait. Once you have got the admission decisions from all the relevant universities you have applied to, it’s time to choose the best university for you; by best I mean the most suitable university for you.

How to choose the best university you have got acceptances from? There could be two important criteria, inter alia, to choose the best university among the various acceptances; one, the perceived quality of the program as indicated by the faculty and your area of interest and the second, the financial status. If you haven’t already done this, go and check the profiles of the professors working in your area of interest of all the universities you are considering getting in. Some university may have a better ranking but there are not very good professors in your area of interest so it would be better to finally get admitted to one which has probably a little lower ranking but professors working in your particular area of interest are better renowned. Remember though ranking matters, ranking isn’t everything!

The second important criterion obviously is the financial aid status. Say, you have got admission into your first choice but not the assistantship then probably it’s a better decision to enroll into one that has low rank but you have secured assistantship in. For international students this is particularly a very crucial decision as for them US education might be prohibitively costly and they are not allowed to work outside campus. If you are working inside campus, your earning wouldn’t be sufficient to pay for your fees, let alone the living expenditure. Though some students work illegally outside the campus but that is very risky and if caught you might be deported back to your country and hence not advised.

Once you are decided about the university you are going to join request them to have send admission letter and I-20 form to your address if they haven’t already sent them. But before they send the I-20 form you might be asked for financial affidavit which is to be discussed in next post.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Getting a B in PhD Course

Well… this post is a little deviation from PhD admission rather it’s related to those who are already pursuing their PhD. The motivation of writing this post is again a search item in Google with post name.

So what is the implication of getting a B in PhD courses? Okay… a B isn’t bad and if you have only B’s and no A’s and no C’s then it’s still okay but if you have only B’s with no A’s and even a single C that is probably bad. In most of the universities your assistantship is contingent upon maintaining good academic standing which means your GPA should be no less than 3.0 otherwise it may lead to assistantship withdrawn.

How is the GPA determined? Well… normally a student can get an A or a B or a C or an F in each course. If you get an F that means you have failed the course. Let’s not talk about this as you will be kicked out of the program in most of the economics departments. If a student gets an A he is given 4 points, a B means 3 points and a C means 2 points. The GPA is the sum of the total points divided by the number of courses. So if you get 2 B’s and an A in three courses you have a GPA of (3+3+4)/3 that is, 3.33. With a GPA of more than 3 your assistantship is safe. SO if you get B’s in all the three papers your assistantship is still safe and you don’t need to worry. Nevertheless, it’s better if you have slightly more than 3.0 such that you have room to make some mistakes in future. The main idea is not to let your GPA go below 3.0 if you care of assistantship.

Now, what is its implication academically rather than from assistantship point of view? Well… in my view in PhD grades should not matter much and this is your research often indicated by published journals or job market paper. But the grades do matter in real world. However, if you maintain most A’s and a few B’s this is certainly a good thing as better GPA is certainly going to give your transcript more value than otherwise. Anyways, at PhD level one should avoid getting C’s. C’s don’t look good on the transcript.

I would emphasize that research work is the most important thing. However, A’s on transcript looks better but you don’t need to worry if you have B’s in courses with some A’s.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What If You Have Missed the Deadline?

Sometimes it happens. Even after your best efforts you may miss the last date of application. Though you should try to avoid any such situation however if you have missed the deadline of some university, just don’t sit idle. Here are some steps that you can take in order to have your application being considered even though it reached after the deadline.
First and foremost thing that one should do is, open the online application account at the university website well before the deadline and start filling up the necessary information. Even if you are running late and are still preparing for the required tests you can do it simultaneously. When you are in the process of preparing for GRE or TOEFL tests you need a break in between your studies to refresh your mind. In those periods of rest you can have a cup of coffee and start completing the application. This way you can utilize your time optimally. So by the time you have written your GRE you have almost completed the online application form to the selected universities while not compromising with the time which could be devoted to test preparation. So once your scores are ready you can simply input the test scores in the online application form and submit it. The idea is, to submit at least, online application form at the right time.
Once you have submitted the online application you can contact the universities about the documents which have been sent by regular mail. Simply tell them the situation that you have sent the necessary documents and it may take a few days to reach them to the university. If you are using some fast and reliable courier services the documents are normally delivered within a week, no matter where you are sending them from. The universities do consider such cases however it should not be too late. Normally a delay of 3-4 days can be considered as universities also expect some delay and hence, probably start reviewing application after 3-4 days of the last date of applying. Anyways it may take them a few days to sort the applications in an easy-to-review manner.
In cases where you have even missed the deadline of the online application submission before submitting the application contact the department authorities and make sure that they are going to review your application. If they are not, there is no point in wasting your money. In fact, some universities may accept online application for as late as 2 or 3 weeks. You must have a valid and strong reason however, in order to request this.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

When is PhD Admission Decision Available?

Again the credit goes to an applicant with the search itemwhen do admissions decisions come out for economics phd”. The deadline of application to the universities varies greatly from as early as 31st of December to as late as 15th of March. However, normally it’s a good idea to apply before 15th of February to the universities where the deadline is 15th of March. This increases your chances of getting admission with assistantship. Do not wait for the last date to apply.
After the application deadline, the admission committee sorts the application and start the admission process. Though I don’t really have much information on how an admission committee works but probably they sort the application first, according to GRE scores. Since a university gets much more applications than they can actually opt for and they don’t have enough time to go through all the applications, sorting the applications or the basis of GRE scores makes sense. They normally have a minimum score of GRE and they are not going to look upon the application with a GRE score less than that. This makes evaluation of applications a lot easier. One might ask why GRE score? The answer is simple: no other method of sorting is going to as easier as sorting according to GRE score.
Once they have sorted out the application on the basis of GRE scores, it’s very difficult to say what the most important factor considered for admission is. One of the admission committee members says ‘after we sort out the application on the basis of GRE scores, we look at all other factors very carefully’. That means they give equal weightage to all other factors. Depending upon the size of the program, it may take anywhere from 3 weeks to 8 weeks to be admission decisions to be taken and the successful students to be notified. They would also notify the rejected applicants and sometimes they are going to notify the applicants who are on the waiting list as well. Some universities display the admission decision of a particular applicant on his application account, however, almost every university will notify the applicant about their admission status by email or at least, notifying them that the result is available online.
The admission decisions begin to be notified to students by the second week of February. It would be probably a reasonable estimate to expect the admission decisions to be out after one month of deadline though. The waiting time for admission decision is indeed, anxious. However, to keep busy oneself if he isn’t already, can start preparing himself for the graduate school.
Please raise your questions such that I know what topic to deal with. Please subscribe to the blog if you find it useful and also get draft of the recommendation letter if you subscribe by email. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Applying online to graduate school

Chris has asked to provide some suggestion over how to apply: online or via regular mail? Certainly applying online is preferred by most of the schools and applying online is easier too.
The best thing about applying online is that you can complete your application in a couple of days or weeks. So you are not in a hurry of completing you application at once. It’s better to open your account on the university website before a month of application deadline or so. You can start filling up the basic information even if GRE and TOEFL scores are not yet available.
Filling up an online application is quite lengthy and requires patience. You might get bored and hence it’s better to complete the application in several sittings. You need to input all the information related to your undergraduate degree, your place of residence and even your passport details if you are an international student. Keep your documents handy when completing the application form. You may have to fill up the percentage of marks obtained; name of specific courses taken, the year you graduated or you are expecting to graduate. You also may have to provide the name of your recommenders, the organization your recommender is associated with and his address. You may have to upload your Statement of Purpose and Resume. However, remember that even if you are applying online, you need to send transcripts via regular mail on the university address, normally to the graduate school or the department in which you are applying.
Some universities will accept only online recommendation letter which has to be submitted by the recommenders online through the university website or via email. Some universities however accept hard copy of recommendation letter in a sealed envelope, so when asking your recommender for a reference letter; try to get sufficient number of copies such that you don’t have to ask him for one again and again.
Once you have completed the online application and you are ready to submit it. Go through all the sections of the application and recheck them. Make sure there are no mistakes and errors. Once you are done with it, you can finally submit the application. However your application is not submitted or even if submitted it won’t be considered for admission unless the fee has been paid. The application fee can be paid through credit and major debit cards and is non-refundable. In certain scenario, some of the applicants may be eligible for application fee waiver. See if you qualify for this.
Once the fee is paid and the application is submitted your part is done. You can’t make any changes after you have submitted the application. So in case after submitting the application, you found out you have done some blunder, immediately contact you department to modify it. I think… that’s it. If you have any questions feel free to comment.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Draft of Recommendation Letter

On the demand of many readers I have prepared two recommendation letter drafts. These recommendation letter drafts would be available to the followers and email subscribers of the blog. Once you subscribe to the blog via email, these drafts would be sent to your email address within 24 hours. The subscription form is in the right sidebar at the top. All you need is to enter your email address and verify it. You can unsubscribe anytime if you find this no longer useful.
Most of the schools ask for 3 recommendation letters. However applicants can prepare third draft by selecting suitable and appropriate sentences from these two drafts. Try to avoid too many same sentences in more than one recommendation letter. It is also the responsibility of the applicant to use the sentences which best fits him because not every sentence fits to every applicant. Remember something which seems to be ‘white lie’ may jeopardize your chances of securing admission. So make sure you don’t lie. Even though recommendation is supposed to be written not by you but the Professors, however the admission committee knows that in most parts of the world an applicant prepares the draft for the same. So it’s you responsibility to include only relevant and appropriate stuffs which shows you a suitable candidate for PhD. Focus on your strengths and get it substantiated by your recommenders.  

Any comments and feedbacks are also welcome. If someone wants to add some specific information to his recommendation letter but he is not sure about it, feel free to get feedback on it.
All the best,
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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Exam time

Hi Guys,
As all of you know this is time of final fall exams and I am also busy in that. That's the reason that I have been away from blogging for a couple of days now and will be away for a few more days. I will be back soon with new post related to Economics PhD Admissions. However, you are always welcome to give your feedbacks and raise you doubts. Those will be answered at the earliest.
All the best!
Thanks for visiting the blog.