I'm a junior economics major who wants to get a masters and then possibly a PhD. I know that math background is a very important component of economics grad school admissions and so I'm also minoring in math. The problem is is that I haven't taken either real analysis or an upper-level linear algebra course yet (I did take an undergrad linear algebra course over the summer and got an A in it). While I have the GPA needed to get into most masters programs and I expect to do well on the GRE, I'm afraid that my transcript as of my junior year isn't very reflective of my math abilities. During my sophomore year I was in a really bad place dealing with both anxiety and depression (I know everyone uses this excuse, but I have the doctor diagnosis to prove it) and I got a C in my calc 2 class and a B in vector calculus even though I could have gotten an A.

Since my math background is so important for econ grad school, should I even bother applying before completing these upper-level courses that will better showcase my ability to do the math that economics grad school requires?

2 Answers 2


There are lots of programs where important classes are not taken by students until their senior year, largely because of the design of the major. Also, in most cases, if there is a "capstone" course, it's not taken until the final year, and grades would not be ready until after applications are due. However, this has not proven to be an obstacle for students applying to grad school, because the people making the decisions are cognizant of such organizations, and take this into account when making their decisions.

So don't worry too much about applying with your senior year courses missing—most of your peers will be in a similar situation!

  • That's true, I'm mostly upset because I was hoping that doing well junior and senior year would offset or at the very least mollify the impact of my subpar sophomore year.
    – jwill1101
    Mar 31, 2018 at 4:26

The Director of Undergraduate Studies and/or your advisor in your major & minor would be helpful for this. The Econ DUS could advise you on what kinds of schools may be interested, and the Math DUS and/or your linear algebra instructor may be able to mention your struggles in a recommendation letter and endorse your demonstrated aptitude for math.

Doing well in a calculus-based econometrics class will also allay concerns.

Do practice for the GRE. It has a lot of formulaic questions about ratios, which go a lot quicker once you're used to them. Unfortunately, I don't remember it having calculus-based problems, so you could not directly use it to make up for your grades there.

  • 1
    I would not waste a letter of recommendation explaining why the OP's grade in linear algebra was subpar.
    – aeismail
    Mar 31, 2018 at 0:25
  • @aeismail Actually, OP did well in linear algebra, and the letter might tangentially say that there was a reason for subpar grades in previous classes. Mar 31, 2018 at 0:30
  • 1
    Thanks for the answer. I did get an A in my intermediate microeconomics course, which relied pretty heavily on calculus so hopefully that will show that I'm not completely inept. I do plan on taking an econometrics course next semester, but again that's my whole problem haha
    – jwill1101
    Mar 31, 2018 at 4:21

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