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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
<p>Let me start by saying that I don't really want a "yes" answer on this (to the am I crazy question, that is). I'm kinda just looking for encouragement and practical advice from mamas who have been there.</p>
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<p>So, I was all set to graduate next year (bs in econ), when all of a sudden I decided that I needed to add another year to my undergrad in order to get the minor I need (math) to go to grad school for my PhD (in econ). It feels really scary, especially as a single mama, but I also know that if I <em>don't</em> do it:</p>
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<p>A.) I will graduate from school with no better job than before I went back to school after getting laid off, <em>and</em> with an added $50K in debt. </p>
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<p>B.) I will always wonder if I could have done it, if only I had just <em>tried</em>. </p>
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<p>C.) I won't feel like I've practiced the values that I hope to one day impart to my kiddo (specifically the ones about education being very important and about following your passion).</p>
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<p>D.) I will never be able to retire, let alone be able to help send my kid to school (of course this may not happen anyway, but it definitely won't if I just quit after my bachelor's).</p>
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<p>If all continues along this path, I will be applying next year for programs starting in fall 2014. So far, I think I'll have a good shot at a fully funded fellowship.</p>
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<p>Thoughts? Suggestions? Encouragement? <img alt="Sheepish.gif" id="user_yui_3_4_1_2_1335426087124_164" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/Sheepish.gif"></p>
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<p>I've heard stories about people going for a PhD in econ, then changing their mind after earning Masters, getting a job, working hard, being promoted, and later, when the rest of that PhD year came back to workforce, the dropout Masters already had a larger salary and a superior work title - the PhDs started lower on the totem pole. Something to consider.</p>
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<p>Edited to add about B) - of course you could. Why even doubt?</p>
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
<p> </p>
<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>DoubleDouble</strong> <a href="/community/t/1351671/considering-a-phd-am-i-crazy#post_16960285"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br><p>I've heard stories about people going for a PhD in econ, then changing their mind after earning Masters, getting a job, working hard, being promoted, and later, when the rest of that PhD year came back to workforce, the dropout Masters already had a larger salary and a superior work title - the PhDs started lower on the totem pole. Something to consider.</p>
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<p>Edited to add about B) - of course you could. Why even doubt?</p>
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<p>Hey thanks!</p>
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<p>I guess I doubt because I am still gaining confidence. I tend to have more self doubt than the average bear, although that's slowly been changing. Giving birth really helped. <img alt="orngbiggrin.gif" id="user_yui_3_4_1_2_1335430250048_305" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/orngbiggrin.gif"></p>
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<p>As for Masters vs. PhD, I wonder what sorts of jobs they got. Do you know? My understanding is that a Masters in Econ is comparable to an MBA in certain areas of the private sector (finance, in particular), but what about the public sector? I've heard that to work anywhere in public policy (or the IMF, the Fed, central banks or regulatory agencies, etc.) a PhD is virtually mandatory, but that might be wrong... do you know anything about that?</p>
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<p>Hi! Well, I have some perspective on phd programs in econ and experience in the public sector that may be helpful to you.</p>
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<p>First, I would say, yes, you can do anything you put your mind to, if you are willing to make the necessary sacrifices.</p>
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<p>Second, I would say that you would be just fine with an MA in the public sector, and a PhD is not at all a requirement. I worked in a large government agency in which people with MAs did just as well as those with PhDs. Granted, it might take a few more years, but those with PhDs spent a few more years in school. MAs in econ have pretty good marketability -- I know because I have one. You can enter at a decent level and move up in research consulting firms, think tanks, and the public sector. There may be a bit of a glass ceiling in some of those places (not the public sector though) for those without a PhD, but there are always cases of those who break through.</p>
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<p>So, I mentioned I have an MA in econ. I studied at a top 25 or so ranked school about 10 years ago. Let me just say that grad school in economics is extremely brutal. You may or may not already know that, but most programs eliminate a 10th to third of the class through comprehensive exams. During the first year, you struggle to keep up with your classmates, who are the best and the brightest in the WORLD because so many international students study econ in the U.S. Everyone pretty much feels like they are about to fail out, because it is just that hard. After each exam, where you are put through the meat grinder, you have to pick yourself back up and get ready for the next blow. The second year is not much easier in terms of time management. After that, you are in dissertation phase, if you make it that far. At that point, if you have supportive faculty, then it can be more manageable.</p>
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<p>So, I did not make it through the comps. I left with an MA. It was brutal and horrific, I barely made it through the first year psychologically speaking, and it was a tremendously difficult experience. Indeed, I had no problem at all finding a job, but the feeling of failure was just awful. I watched my former classmates go on to move into higher positions than me at the same research firm. I felt I could not have autonomy and a renewed sense of self-confidence without a phd.</p>
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<p>So, I went back for a PhD. Not in my own field but in a related one. I had my first child in the first year and my second in my last year. It was totally doable in this program. But, here I am at the end of it all with a PhD and my job prospects are more bleak than they were before. I am trained to be an assistant professor, which earns a salary about 75 percent of what I was making before I went back. I am over-qualified for data analysis jobs which might have permitted part-time work, which I really wish I could do to spend more time with the kids. It is quite a conundrum.</p>
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<p>So, I totally get that a BA in econ is not enough. An MA in something is definitely worth it. However, think very carefully about whether that something should be econ. The benefit of econ is that they often cover your studies with fellowships or assistantships, so you don't leave with a ton of debt the way you do with public policy. But it is very, very hard to not buy into the idea of getting a phd like everyone else in the program and "just leave with a Masters." At the same time, PhDs in econ have decent job marketability. If you take a job as assistant professor, the salary may be a little low, but there may be opportunities later on for consulting. If you take a nonacademic job,  you are looking at starting salaries of about $90K. But, all of this is assuming you want full-time work, of course.</p>
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<p>So, you are a single mom already, and need earning power. But, you also need to be able to make it through whatever program you choose. Econ is not a family friendly program whatsoever. You will need to study all the time, and it will be very hard to develop the comraderie with other students when you need to be home for your child. I'm quite certain I could not have made it through the first and second years of my econ program with a young child. The programs have only become more demanding and strenuous over time, so I imagine it is even harder now. There are a few programs that are committed to the success of their students, like Princeton I believe. I would highly suggest talking to students at these various programs, finding out which ones do not eliminate parts of their cohorts and where the environment is supportive, and maybe apply to those. If you get in, great. If not, maybe consider doing an MA in public policy, public health, or statistics.</p>
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<p>If you do decide to pursue econ, talk to as many grad students in econ as you can to get a real sense of what it is like. You really have to know what you are getting into and that you are willing to take it on. Again, you can do it if you are willing to make the sacrifices, which will probably be time with your child. You will need child care, someone to make sure everyone eats, etc. In econ grad school, you will have to be in class most of the time in the day and studying as much as you possibly can. So if you had someone near by to help that would make it more possible.</p>
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<p>Okay, long ramble. Good luck!!</p>
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
<p> </p>
<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>porcelina</strong> <a href="/community/t/1351671/considering-a-phd-am-i-crazy#post_16960740"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br><p>So, you are a single mom already, and need earning power. But, you also need to be able to make it through whatever program you choose. Econ is not a family friendly program whatsoever. You will need to study all the time, and it will be very hard to develop the comraderie with other students when you need to be home for your child. I'm quite certain I could not have made it through the first and second years of my econ program with a young child. The programs have only become more demanding and strenuous over time, so I imagine it is even harder now. </p>
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<p><strong>DoubleDouble</strong>,</p>
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<p><em>This</em> would be why I doubt myself sometimes.</p>
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<p><strong>porcelina</strong>,</p>
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<p>Thanks for your honest appraisal of your experience. The fact that Econ Masters graduates can get jobs in the public sector, but face a glass ceiling and/or extra time to move up when they settle for a Masters was very helpful. It was also helpful to know that a PhD in another subject offered you bleaker job prospects than the MA did. I will definitely take your suggestion to choose a school near someone who can help me with the kiddo. I'm fortunate to have loving and supportive family all over the country in many of the cities where the top schools are. Also, there are a few schools (Penn State, for instance) who are beefing up their programs and have invested a lot into funding, completion success, and placement, so I will check them out as well.</p>
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<p>It's interesting to me that you would find the dissertation process easier than the testing. I think a lot of that comes down to learning style don't you? I do extremely well in a testing environment, as I have an excellent memory. While I'm a decent writer, it takes me a significant amount of concentrated effort so, it's much harder for me to do with a baby on my lap (I usually write in fits while he's sleeping - LOL). As for making friends and networking within a cohort, yes... it's much harder with a baby, but I seem to have done okay thus far. I'm also an introvert, so it's harder still, but less required for my mental health. That's definitely something to consider.</p>
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<p>I'm so grateful to find another economics enthusiast here! What, more specifically, did you do with your Masters? I'm so curious to know what jobs economists fill! Do you enjoy your work? I'm fortunate that I was able to get a lot of related work experience (10+ years of investment analysis) without any degree at all, so I'm hoping to use that to my advantage when looking for work.</p>
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<p>I'm sorry that your experience was less than stellar. Are you also a single mom? My experience has been that while tougher financially, it's surprisingly much easier emotionally and psychologically (and even academically). Interestingly enough, I read a "happiness" study last year in my Women in the Economy course that supports that. I've drastically improved my GPA since becoming a single mom if that is any indication. I'm now actually very likely to graduate summa cum laude. More evidence that I'm in the right place with regard to that.</p>
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<p>I'm pleased to make your acquaintance. Both of you! <img alt="biggrinbounce.gif" id="user_yui_3_4_1_2_1335464326618_163" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/biggrinbounce.gif"></p>
 

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<p></tips hat off></p>
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<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Mommel</strong> <a href="/community/t/1351671/considering-a-phd-am-i-crazy/0_30#post_16960861"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br><p> </p>
<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>porcelina</strong> <a href="/community/t/1351671/considering-a-phd-am-i-crazy#post_16960740"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br><p>So, you are a single mom already, and need earning power. But, you also need to be able to make it through whatever program you choose. Econ is not a family friendly program whatsoever. You will need to study all the time, and it will be very hard to develop the comraderie with other students when you need to be home for your child. I'm quite certain I could not have made it through the first and second years of my econ program with a young child. The programs have only become more demanding and strenuous over time, so I imagine it is even harder now. </p>
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<p><strong>DoubleDouble</strong>,</p>
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<p><em>This</em> would be why I doubt myself sometimes.</p>
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<p>Yeah, I understand that approach. What I meant is that you could do it (when it comes to commitment, intellect, study habits, etc), but after weighing your whole life and situation, you might be too smart to walk into that trap. It takes a great degree of free thinking to NOT do some things. So don't be hard on yourself if you decide not to finish the PhD or whatever.</p>
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<p>Also, I've seen people completely broken when, for whichever reason, they couldn't get a PhD in hard sciences. I'm glad that econ has an escape route.</p>
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<p>Edited to add - I also know people who said that if they could go back in time, they'd never do a PhD, they'd avoid it like the plague.</p>
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
<p> </p>
<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>DoubleDouble</strong> <a href="/community/t/1351671/considering-a-phd-am-i-crazy#post_16961002"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br><p>Yeah, I understand that approach. What I meant is that you could do it (when it comes to commitment, intellect, study habits, etc), but after weighing your whole life and situation, you might be too smart to walk into that trap. It takes a great degree of free thinking to NOT do some things. So don't be hard on yourself if you decide not to finish the PhD or whatever.</p>
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<p>Also, I've seen people completely broken when, for whichever reason, they couldn't get a PhD in hard sciences. I'm glad that econ has an escape route.</p>
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<p>Edited to add - I also know people who said that if they could go back in time, they'd never do a PhD, they'd avoid it like the plague.</p>
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<p>I've heard that too, but a lot of that sentiment I've heard about other programs, and not so much about Econ. Also, I suppose that a lot of people think of econ as a hard science, but it is usually part of the social science colleges, interestingly enough. It's not as hard as people think, but there is, as <strong>porcelina</strong> pointed out, a lot of foreign competition in econ because of its extreme "mathiness". It's still technically a social science though, and it's far less mathy than engineering or physics.... or math. LOL </p>
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<p>It's true, I am often hard on myself, but only because I tend to be an all or nothing sort of thinker. Unfortunately that sometimes leaves me not even trying, and trapped in my fear and inaction, which is arguably worse than being trapped in a tough academic track. I'm learning though to be better at letting go. The good news is that I'm very adaptable, so if it all goes to hell in a hand-basket later on, and it's just not working for us, I'm pretty good at picking up and moving on without too much collateral damage once I've decided to do so. As for Mr. Moo, the longer I stay in school, the longer he sees more of me than he would if I was working a full-time job <em>and </em>doing part-time consulting, which is what I'd need to do to make it work for us long-term without at least a Masters.</p>
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<p>That said, I'm not entirely committed to it just yet, but I <em>am</em> committed to giving it a shot. I really feel like not trying at all is just a cop out. So, I'm going to give it one extra term than I would have done anyway (no extra money borrowed - yay!) and take the next two terms to decide if I actually have the math ability (and the stamina with kiddo in tow) to make a go of it.</p>
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<p>So to give you an idea of what jobs are out there for MA vs PhD economists, first, what is your field of interest (or do you know)?</p>
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<p>Obviously there are academic jobs in every area but you need a PhD for those. Nonacademic jobs in trade/international finance would be any of the international banks (World Bank, IDB, ADB, etc). Here the salaries are really high if you have a PhD, and you kindof need a PhD to get a decent job there. If you have an MA, you can get a job as a non-permanent consultant where you essentially do data analysis. You probably couldn't work your way all the way to the top, but could do really well for yourself, particularly in the operations area. Note these kinds of jobs require lots of travel. Nonacademic jobs in macroeconomics include the Federal Reserve, the CBO, etc. Jobs in labor economics (perhaps your interest, given the course you mentioned on women in the economy) are numerous, including research consulting firms (like Rand, Mathematica, Abt, MDRC), the World Bank, the Fed, CBO, etc. Here again, if you had an MA, you could work in most of the same places, but would just be lower down on the ladder. In some cases, you could work your way up to the equivalent position as a PhD, but not always. And then there are a ton of think tanks, if you are inclined towards a particular cause.</p>
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<p>Perhaps the best thing for you to do is to look at the job ads for economists. Google jobs for economists JOE and you will find the AEA's listing of jobs. The job market starts in the fall, so you will see some jobs in Sept, a ton in Oct and Nov, and less in the following months. Check out the October or November lists for a good idea of what jobs are out there. Definitely figure out if these jobs are appealing to you before embarking upon grad school in econ! :)<br>
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
<p> </p>
<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>porcelina</strong> <a href="/community/t/1351671/considering-a-phd-am-i-crazy#post_16961475"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br><p>So to give you an idea of what jobs are out there for MA vs PhD economists, first, what is your field of interest (or do you know)?</p>
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<p>Obviously there are academic jobs in every area but you need a PhD for those. Nonacademic jobs in trade/international finance would be any of the international banks (World Bank, IDB, ADB, etc). Here the salaries are really high if you have a PhD, and you kindof need a PhD to get a decent job there. If you have an MA, you can get a job as a non-permanent consultant where you essentially do data analysis. You probably couldn't work your way all the way to the top, but could do really well for yourself, particularly in the operations area. Note these kinds of jobs require lots of travel. Nonacademic jobs in macroeconomics include the Federal Reserve, the CBO, etc. Jobs in labor economics (perhaps your interest, given the course you mentioned on women in the economy) are numerous, including research consulting firms (like Rand, Mathematica, Abt, MDRC), the World Bank, the Fed, CBO, etc. Here again, if you had an MA, you could work in most of the same places, but would just be lower down on the ladder. In some cases, you could work your way up to the equivalent position as a PhD, but not always. And then there are a ton of think tanks, if you are inclined towards a particular cause.</p>
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<p>Perhaps the best thing for you to do is to look at the job ads for economists. Google jobs for economists JOE and you will find the AEA's listing of jobs. The job market starts in the fall, so you will see some jobs in Sept, a ton in Oct and Nov, and less in the following months. Check out the October or November lists for a good idea of what jobs are out there. Definitely figure out if these jobs are appealing to you before embarking upon grad school in econ! :)<br>
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<p>Wow. Thank you so much. That is a lot of really great information there!! Labor economics does interest me (good call there, by the way - very intuitive), but I have yet to really decide for certain on a particular focus... securities regulation is also in the running (probably only because of my work history though - not necessarily because of a true interest). It never even occurred to me that Mathematica was an option (duh). That would be interesting. My high school boyfriend is a research programmer there now. LOL I definitely appreciate the advice and tips, and will take them to heart (going to look up those sources to bookmark them now for fall). A think tank or consulting firm is probably most realistic for what I'm looking for, so I will start my research with those. I'm also soliciting feedback from my professors, so we shall see what comes of that. One of them has made several good suggestions for coursework thus far.</p>
 

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<p>And one more point -- the main distinction between the MA level work for economists and the PhD level work is the level of autonomy and the nature of the work. MA-level work will be much more data analysis, literature review, etc. PhD level will be more at the conceptual level, with varying involvement in the data analysis, lit review, etc.</p>
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<p>And Mathematica is Mathematica Policy Research, not the computer program Mathematica (not sure if that is what you meant)<br>
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<p>And P.S., I just saw on the other post that you are getting help from TANF. I LOVE the idea of a TANF recipient going for a PhD. Awesome! That so defies all the ridiculous stereotypes some people have about our government assistance programs.</p>
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Good luck!</p>
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
<p> </p>
<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>porcelina</strong> <a href="/community/t/1351671/considering-a-phd-am-i-crazy#post_16961938"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br><p>And one more point -- the main distinction between the MA level work for economists and the PhD level work is the level of autonomy and the nature of the work. MA-level work will be much more data analysis, literature review, etc. PhD level will be more at the conceptual level, with varying involvement in the data analysis, lit review, etc.</p>
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<p>And Mathematica is Mathematica Policy Research, not the computer program Mathematica (not sure if that is what you meant)<br>
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<p>And P.S., I just saw on the other post that you are getting help from TANF. I LOVE the idea of a TANF recipient going for a PhD. Awesome! That so defies all the ridiculous stereotypes some people have about our government assistance programs.</p>
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Good luck!</p>
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<p>Hey thanks! I think the most important thing that I've gotten from all this, is that it's a good goal to strive for, but that if I should fall short of my own ideal that I shouldn't be too hard on myself for it.</p>
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<p>I didn't know there was a difference, but yes, now that I've looked it up, my old boyfriend works for Wolfram-Alpha, so it's not the same thing.</p>
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