Grad School Advice from a Grad Student

What follows below are some of the lessons I’ve learned while in school.  I write them here to share them with you:

Econ 101 is called “fundamental” because it is just that. Everything you’ll learn in your higher level classes are built off of Econ 101. All the theories, all the techniques, all the tricks you’ll learn are spawned from Econ 101. Just as calculus is built off of mathematical operations like addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication.

When I am doing research, I often find it is best to go back to my introductory Econ textbook (either Alchian & Allen or Tabarrok & Cowen) and review the material. Several times, I’ve found either a mistake in my reasoning or a better way of exploring my problem.

It’s easy to drink one’s Kool-Aid and become enraptured with the mathematics and statistics of economic analysis. It’s trivally easy to prove just about anything you want. But do not fall into that trap. Use the mathematics and statistics as a tool to tease out your assumptions. Translate your formulae into English. If you can’t do that, burn the mathematics. (Paraphrased from Alfred Marshall)

One thing about grad school is that it is extremely tough on the ol’ ego. There are constant rejections, frustrations, failures, and nonsense. There are insane levels of stress and pressures and it takes a lot to get even one praiseworthy bit of work done.

What makes it bearable are the people you surround yourself with. Mentors are invaluable. But so are friends, colleagues, and collaborators (who are often one and the same). Without my friends here at GMU, I’d probably go insane. 

 Grad school isn’t an individual effort. It’s a team sport. We pick each other up when we’re down, we boost each other to get over obstacles, and we share in each other’s victories and defeats. I’m part of a fraternity that they couldn’t pay me enough to leave.

Find your friends. Stick by them. Remember that we’re all strapped to this roller coaster named Life together.