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I believe I have the pre-requisite GPA, GRE, tough classes, etc. to get in to a top PhD program in finance or economics. What I believe I am missing is the research experience.

What are these top programs looking for in the research arena, it's not exactly listed on their sites?

Is faculty supervised research experience a must have for a top 10 program? Or will independent research suffice?

If you have basically perfect attributes in the other metrics, does research experience matter too much?

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    This might be a bit dated, but research experience used to be absolutely not required. If you had some, cool; if not, you're hired on promise (gaged from alma mater, GPA, GRE, recommendations and such). From memory, we had 11 across these two fields in my first year. In finance, one had a Ph.D. in physics; in econ, one had done genuine Econ research. That leaves, say, 8 or 9 out of 11 w/o any relevant experience (including me). That said, these two are now by far the most accomplished researchers. Coincidence? I don't know. – gnometorule Mar 2 '16 at 20:47
  • Out of curiosity, what year did you start your PhD? – Devin Mar 2 '16 at 20:58
  • More relevantly, I graduated in 2002. By then, it was still like this. – gnometorule Mar 2 '16 at 22:45
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This probably depends a lot on your definition of "top."

To get a sense for what successful applicants look like, check the websites, CVs, and/or LinkedIn profiles of current students in the programs you are interested in. (Look at their history from before they entered the program, of course.)

For example, I looked up the list of current econ PhD students at NYU Stern and started Googling. All the ones I checked (the first five names or so currently on that list) had some kind of formal research experience prior to joining the program.

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