Tuesday, October 18, 2011

First thoughts on graduate school in economics

At this point I'm roughly a quarter of the way through my first year of graduate school in economics.  And I'm glad to be doing it.  I am frustrated by the things that I expected to find frustrating (it's all math, which is fine in and of itself, but macro is frustrating because there's very little attention given to whether particular tools are applicable in various situations... I'm hoping that part comes later, but I'm not holding my breath).  I'm also enjoying the things I expected to enjoy (there's some nice math, and a lot of interesting ideas).

A few observations that should be obvious, but continue to be overwhelming:

1.  Grad school is exhausting.  You can never master everything, but you have to try.  There is never an end in sight.
2.  You are always behind, no matter what you do.  This is particularly true for Americans, who tend to have less preparation than the European or east Asian students.
3.  You can understand everything if you come in knowing a lot of math but very little economics, just like everyone will tell you.  But you will have to spend a lot of time learning foundational concepts, notations, and terminology that most of your classmates take for granted.
4.  Just because you majored in math doesn't mean you're familiar or practiced with a lot of the computational skills that you will need for economics.  You will learn those skills, but they will also take time to develop.

Of course, if you're thinking about graduate school in economics everyone will tell you the first two things.  And the third and fourth should have been obvious, in retrospect.  But all four are survivable, or at least I hope so.  It's still to early to say.