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PhD profile review / How else to tip the scales? / programs?

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Joined: 03 Jun 2013
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PhD profile review / How else to tip the scales? / programs? [#permalink]

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New post 20 Jun 2013, 15:08
So, after careful consideration and lots of research on different other possible choices, I've decided that I want to pursue a PhD. I've already went through a lot of data, and I'm even considering expanding this thread into a mini-blog of a sort, for the sake of future generations (and also in case some new questions come to my own mind :-D). However, nothing can be substituted for other people's experience and opinions. Going to be a long post, so I think a table of contents wouldn't hurt lol:

1)My profile
2)General questions
3)Where to apply?

1)My profile:

24 years old, will be 25 this September.
White Russian male.

Just got the GMAT official report: 760 Total (50 Quant, 42 Verbal), 5.5 AWA, 8 IR.

Currently a 5th year student at Moscow Aviation Institute (5-year Diploma program, graduating June-July 2014), the official program name is "Applied Information Technology in Economics". That's basically a double major in Computer Science and Economics, with courses in System Analysis/Systems Theory thrown in. Lots of advanced maths, like Linear Algebra, Probability Theory, Optimization Theory etc. There were no "Macroeconomics" and "Microeconomics" courses per se, we had a year-long "Economics Theory" instead, plus Accounting, Finance, Econometrics, Mathematical Economics etc etc. Computer Science courses like C++ programming, Databases, Oracle (PL/SQL), Networks etc.

My current GPA is like 4.8-4.9 out of 5 (roughly 3.85/4 - 3.9/4). There's one more semester to go + final exams and the thesis, but that doesn't really matter since I'll be applying this Fall, before the GPA has a chance to change (hopefully it's only going to get better anyway). I'm the top-1 student of my concentration group (20 ppl), and probably one of the top in my class overall (like 150 ppl).

In terms of work experience - I'm currently an Intern (Analyst) at General Electric, Global Growth department, Strategic Marketing group. Started this April, and the contract is going to last until graduation. Before that I've been working freelance as a software developer/architect/designer etc. I've also served 1 year in the army, combat engineer(sapper) at the elite airborne corps.

Weak spots:
* University unknown internationally (though well-known in Russia). I think there are only like 2-3 Universities in Russia that people know of in the West.
* No real research experience. I mean, I did lots of papers for my courses, but that's not really original research. I'm going to be writting a thesis for my diploma, but that's only going to be next year.
* Recommendations - I'm probably going to be able to arrange 100% glowing ones, but my profs are not known internationally at all, I don't think they ever published in English. I was thinking of having 2 academic ref.letters + 1 professional one at my work. After all, I am doing research there (among other things), even though it's market research lol.

2)General questions:

How do people normally go about arranging so many recommendations? I mean, I'm going to apply to like 15 or even more programs (since chances of being addmited to any one in particular are so small), and each of them requires 2-3 academic ref.letters. I only have a few profs that I'm close enough to ask a recommendation, and asking a person to submit like 10 letters on your behalf is kind of harsh I think lol.

Are there any additional supporting factors (other than published papers, of which I have none) that can help tip the scales in my favour. I know that MBA addcoms look at things like extracurriculars, leadership qualities etc. Do these matter at all to the PhD addcoms? Which other things do?

3)Where to apply?

As far as the business schools go, well, I was thinking of basically applying to every M7 school, plus NYU Stern (I heard their PhD is better than their MBA), INSEAD and Duke Fuqua. Any other worthwhile GMAT-accepting PhD programs out there? Any advice on particular concentrations at some of the schools? I'm inclined to Marketing and Management ones mostly, after considering the placements and admission stats. MIT doesn't publish them though (at least I couldn't find). The exception here is Harvard, where I'd prefer the Business Economics PhD. Also Wharton has an Operations and Information Management program that seems to be great.

I'm also thinking about applying to regular Economics PhD progs at econ.departments. These require GRE, however, and my GRE is not stellar - 93% Verbal, 92% Quant, 4.5/6 AW. For some reason I screwed it up. The one prog that I'm considering in particular is the Berkeley's (not Haas) econ PhD, which seems nice (decent placements, large program, and admissions are not as tight as i.e. Stanford econ PhD). I will probably also apply to places like Yale/Princeton/Columbia, just hoping for some random luck. Columbia, by the way, allows to apply to their business school and their graduate school in the same year (two separate applications), which is nice. The University of Michigan Econ PhD seems to be fine too. Any other places I should consider, that would be reasonably good and that I would have decent chances of getting admitted to?

Thanks! Reading through all of the above was quite an effort i think lol. Every opinion, advice and comment is much appreciated!

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Re: PhD profile review / How else to tip the scales? / programs? [#permalink]

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New post 21 Jun 2013, 15:27
Several are generally well positioned for an academic career save the couple of weaknesses you point out. PhD programs are much less concerned with work experience than raw intellectual horsepower which you seem to have in abundance. The GMAT alone will likely get you some attention. Good grades too, but it's a shame you dont have a Master's degree...that would make you more competitive from the research angle as you indicated was a weakness. Additionally, this lack of grad school experience has resulted and/or will result in a more difficult time gettting the recos as you point out. How do people get so many? They went to grad school! Your job now is to build relationships with as many profs as you can and see if you can get some really good research experience under your belt before you finish. I would not ask anyone to write more than 3 or four letters, so you can do the math and see that you will need to broaden your support base. I think you would at least have reasonable shot at just about any program, so it's tough to recommend specific ones. Sounds like you have done a lot of due dillgence already on where you would like to apply. Definitley stay in the top 20, as it will have benefits throughout your career. You may want to also do some homework on where you would like to work afterwards (which universities most appeal to you), since you can reverse engineer your choices by seeing where your PhD target programs place their freshly minted professors. Hope this helps.

Bryant Michaels
Admissions Consultant

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PhD profile review / How else to tip the scales? / programs?

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