12 Dec 2014

Where to study economics as an undergraduate?

GM emailed me from Peru, with a few questions:
First, what do you think are the best places to study economics? I don´t know in which field I will specialize but I know this: I want to focus in developing economies. Which path do you recommend I take? I will be relying on financial aid to get through college. I didn't even consider applying to the USA until a few months before finishing high school and I have a rather bleak application (Good scores, Good GPA, but no extracurriculars at all). I will apply anyway, but if I don't get in I'll strengthen my file and apply next year. I am still going through the list of universities ranked per aid for international students but I already have four unis to which I will apply: UChicago, Amherst College, Dartmouth College, and Princeton.

Second, do you know any research colleges that are not widely known and maybe not that good in general but have a focus in development economics or sustainable development? What colleges keep popping up in papers you read?
To this, I replied:
  1. Teaching at research universities is not always good for undergraduates. It may make more sense to get a good education at a liberal arts school (don't specialize too soon!) or LatAm school, especially when considering the high cost/difficulty with scholarships

  2. For development economics, it's important to know languages, history, politics and geography. "Context" matters much more than in game theory, for example.

  3. Don't rush. You need 4-5 years for a BSc/BA, then a few years of experience THEN more time IF you want to get a masters. Try to enjoy the process, but don't make too many goals. Yes, you may have a big impact by 25 years old, but there are many things to learn, people to meet AND barriers to change. etc.
Care to offer your opinion, experience or advice?


  1. Hi David and GM,

    those are sound advice, David. Development economics require so much more than economics, especially if you work on policy and with planners at the local level. I feel that sociology and history are really important to understanding human systems. GM, don't specialize too early and try to have a broad-based undergraduate experience AND extracurricular.

  2. If you're concerned about cost, maybe look into studying Agricultural / Applied Econ as an undergraduate. Lots of state universities in the US emphasize agricultural studies and have great Ag Econ programs. Those schools also tend to have lower tuition. It's not really my field but I think that the University of Minnesota and Iowa State both have well-respected Ag / Applied Econ programs.


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