Thinking about graduate school?

By Katrina Knisely

Many Tufts economics majors go on to pursue a variety of higher degrees in economics and related fields. This post contains some informal advice and helpful links to get started on your research. Interestingly enough, most of the seniors majoring in economics that I know aren’t going to graduate school next year, so I’m taking this opportunity to remind you that there is a great deal of real-world experience to be gained before pursuing a higher degree. Going straight into grad school, especially with an economics degree, is not for everyone. By now I’m sure you’re familiar with the term opportunity cost, which is something you should absolutely think about. That said, the types of degrees you can pursue with an econ background are VERY different from each other.

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How to e-mail like a pro(fessional)

By Jay Farber

In an internship or summer job, people expect you to generally be competent, but they usually understand that you’re still a college student. For many Tufts students, beginning the networking and interviewing processes is the first time that we really need to act professionally. Being professional isn’t a skill that any class at Tufts teaches, but it’s invaluable in one’s career. Here are some tips about communicating professionally in your internship or job search.

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Office Hour Myths Busted

by Katrina Knisely

 

I admit, I haven’t taken advantage of office hours enough during my time at Tufts, and I suspect many upperclassmen would agree. Especially as a freshman, talking to professors outside of class seemed intimidating. In reality, attending office hours is one of the smartest and easiest things you can do to get ahead at Tufts, especially in the economics department.

In this blog post, I hope to address some common concerns about office hours. A lot of advice applies to any subject, but if you see a *, that means it’s directly applicable to the Tufts economics department in particular.

Myth: Professors are too busy to meet with me.
FALSE! Follow these tips to maximize your time:

  • Office hours are the times instructors set aside to talk to students in their office. This is part of their job description; your tuition pays for them to be there! If your schedule conflicts, email your professor to set up a mutually convenient time to meet.
  • Even if a professor has regularly listed office hours, a good strategy is to make an appointment. “Dropping in” usually works, but I have found that with a scheduled meeting, you can ensure that s/he is expecting you and you probably won’t have to wait in line (as long).
  • In a large lecture class, e.g. EC 5 or EC 13, your instructor might not have enough time to meet with everyone individually. Find out what his/her policies are, and if necessary reach out to your TAs or recitation leaders first. However, I’ve never met an econ professor who wasn’t happy to meet with students!
  • About a third of Tufts economics instructors are part-time lecturers. Be aware that they aren’t at Tufts all the time and often require extra planning to meet outside of regularly scheduled office hours.

Myth: My professor will think I’m stupid.
FALSE! Except if you aren’t prepared…

  • Do your homework – literally: Reread the course material to identify the parts you don’t understand. Take a substantial stab at the problem set or brainstorm possible paper topics before seeking help. “I feel so overwhelmed” or “I don’t know what to write about” don’t cut it: professors want to see that you’ve already made an effort, and they won’t do your thinking for you. There are no “stupid questions,” but professors do notice when you’re unprepared.
  • Make a list of your specific questions and remember to take notes.
  • Many economic concepts are better explained with a graph. Before going to see a professor with your question, I’ve found it’s helpful to draw a gigantic graph of whatever your question is on, taking up at least half or even a whole sheet of paper. Some professors don’t have white boards in their offices, so it gives you something to refer to and draw on right in front of you. Same goes for complicated formulas (e.g. stats, econometrics). Clear notes  easier studying.
  • Go to office hours in small groups if you’re shy. If 2-3 of you are having trouble, talking to the professor together will make you feel more confident, and you’ll benefit from hearing each other’s questions.

Myth: Office hours are only for students who don’t understand course material
FALSE! Even if you’re doing well in your classes, there are many other reasons to attend professors’ office hours.

  • Introduce yourself – attach a face to a name early in the semester.
  • Expressing your interest in a subject early might lead to research assistantships, independent summer research or a senior thesis. For example, ask about what research your instructor is currently doing or what publications s/he would recommend you read.
  • Need an advisor? Even if you’ve never had the professor in class, email him/her to find out availability to be your advisor. In office hours, you can see if s/he would be a good fit for your academic interests.
  • *Don’t know where your future is headed? Professors who know you and your work well are better equipped to give you advice. For example, they can help you figure out if you might be successful pursuing a Master’s or PhD in economics, and what classes at Tufts would best prepare you.
  • You will need letters of recommendation. Building up a relationship with a professor and keeping in touch is essential. Your work freshman year will look a lot different from your work senior year, so if you can take another class taught by the same professor, even better. Professors can write much better recommendations about you if they’re familiar with not only your academic ability, but also your work ethic, progress over the years, motivations, future plans and overall character.

Myth: Office hours are my only opportunity to get help.
FALSE! Sometimes economics assignments require specialized knowledge that even our professors don’t have the time to help us with. Here are some additional resources:

And finally, some comments on etiquette:

  • Leave yourself time. Don’t show up in the last 15 minutes of office hours expecting a thorough answer to your questions – often instructors use this time to get ready for their next class or meeting.
  • This isn’t social hour. You will get better recommendations by doing good work and asking meaningful questions than spending an hour talking about your summer vacation.
  • Get to the point. Don’t monopolize time; be considerate of other students who might be waiting. Ask your most important questions first in case you get cut off.

Thanks for reading! If you found this post useful, you’ll probably be interested in the events the Tufts Economics Society hosts throughout the year. Sign up to hear about them by sending an email from your preferred address (include your name please!) to tufts.ec.society@gmail.com.

 

That Time of Year: Planning for the Summer

Written by Pattra Audcharevorakul.

It’s getting to be that time of year—and no, I’m not talking about spring break season. I’m talking summer job application season.

It can be a little daunting to be thinking so far ahead when summer seems so far away from now (especially if you’re a first year!), but it never hurts to start looking early. A lot of firms have structured internship programs with application deadlines ranging anywhere from mid-January to early May, and other companies will have openings on and off throughout the entire year. Here’s a quick-and-dirty guide to help you get started.

  1. What should I do?
    First years have a lot of flexibility in this department. I’ve known people who were camp counselors, lifeguards, baristas, or ice cream scoopers, and it never hurts to make a little extra money for the next school year.A common campus myth is that if your summer job doesn’t have anything to do with your field of study, or doesn’t sound “impressive,” then you shouldn’t put it on your resume—this is false! Especially when you’re a first or second year, summer jobs are a good indicator that you were punctual, responsible, and dedicated enough to keep up a job during your supposed months of relaxation.
  2. How do I start looking for an internship?
    Let’s say your fledgling years of college have passed, or you want to get an early start on the summer internship experience. In this case, you‘ll want to keep a few things in mind.Firstly, start looking EARLY!Network with your family and friends to see if anyone close to you might have an opening for you. You should also take a look at Tufts Career Connect, the online job posting board maintained by Tufts Career Services.  Be sure to do your homework on the companies that you want to work for.Secondly, whip your resume into shape. Your resume is a reflection of yourself, so make sure it does it well! Be sure to check for typos and alignment issues—every minute you spend tidying up your resume will always pay off.If you want more specific tips on how to get started, check out the Econ Society’s powerpoint on the internship search, resumes, and networking. You can download it here!
  3. What about funding?
    It’s tough to deal with expenses as a college student—books are expensive, there’s rent to be paid, and there are going to be a ton of other things that you’ll want to invest in over the school year. Even so, don’t let the internship of your dreams pass you by just because it’s unpaid.There are plenty of scholarship opportunities out there. For one, Tufts Career Services provides a $3500 summer internship grant for students who want to intern at non-profits or start-ups but need funding in order to go through with the opportunity. For more information on the grant application and some other sources of funding, visit the Career Services website.

If you have questions or comments, or want to join our e-List, feel free to contact us at tufts.ec.society@gmail.com.

Also, be sure to check out Tufts alum David Coyne’s lecture, “Careers with the Federal Reserve and in Economic Research,” TONIGHT, 7:00pm-8:30pm, in Cabot 205! He’ll be talking about his experiences working at the Federal Reserve, how to break into government research and other research fields. For more info, check out our TuftsLife posting.