Grad school as constrained optimization

December 6th, 2009 by ftobia

I had a thought while sitting in class the other day. (This is, in fact, less common than you might imagine.) In loose terms, graduate school can be cast as a constrained optimization problem. Students have preferences over their classes, so that they prefer to spend time on the topics they enjoy learning about. I for one used to like microeconomics, but now I am leaning toward macro, for reasons to be discussed in the future. Students also prefer not to fail. So, other things equal, they will spend more time on classes that they’re doing poorly at.

I posit that, for whatever reason, not liking a class and not doing well in a class are correlated. For students who are sufficiently intelligent, and thus not close to failing any one of their classes, this doesn’t matter. They can spend the most time on the classes they like most. Those are good times.

But if you are up against the failure constraint, you will tend to be spending less time on the classes you like and more time on the classes you need to make sure you pass. It is all the worse if the classes you are doing poorly at are also those you do not enjoy very much. (This is probably the case: see above). Those are not very good times.

Here’s hoping my constrained optimization problem has a feasible solution.

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One Response to “Grad school as constrained optimization”

  1. Kat Says:

    I’m really interested in hearing why you’re leaning toward macro! (Macro seems like a black art to me…)

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