How Lucky Was I?
By Bryan Caplan
When I talk to economists who earned their econ Ph.D. in the 70s and 80s, they paint a grim picture: 70 hour workweeks, followed by truly comprehensive exams where everything’s fair game and lots of students fail.
When I talk to economists who earned their econ Ph.D. in the 00s, they paint a different but equally grim picture. Near-impossible admission hurdles, followed by grueling labor (though probably more in the 60 hour range).
My experience was totally different. In 1993, Princeton accepted me from Berkeley with a 3.8 GPA, GREs in the high 90s, and a few strong letters of recommendation from semi-famous economists. No publications, no research experience, no extra-curriculars. During my time at Princeton, I never worked more than 40 hours per week, and I finished in four years.
All of which leaves me wondering: How lucky was I? Could it really be the case that I wandered into grad school during a brief golden age of easy admissions and light workloads? Or are my seniors and juniors simply exaggerating to raise their status?