Explaining my Academic Performance

In labour economics, the problem of asymmetric information (whereby the potential employee knows more about their ability and competencies than the employer) is often a problem for employers. One of the ways to get around this has been signalling – using formal qualifications of the employee as a signal of their ability. I have two qualifications thus far – a three-year Bachelor of Business Science degree from Monash South Africa (MSA) and a one-year Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) degree from Rhodes University (RU); but my performance may be perceived to be mixed/inconsistent by the potential employer. Whereas I graduated with a second class lower from MSA, I earned a first class at RU. It is important that I explain this disparity. I would like to explain this paradox so that the signal may be less mixed.

In my undergraduate years, my interests proliferated beyond the economic orthodoxy taught formally, and into political economy, heterodox economics, philosophy, theology, and psychology which I studied, to some degree, independently. Unfortunately, this affected my study time and intensity for the degree programme, as I was ‘productively diverted’ into other fields of inquiry. Yet, aside from my extracurricular engagements (dance, fiction writing, leadership, and volunteering) which have contributed to my personal and artistic development, intellectual development occurred, as I was intellectually prolific during these years, and wrote down a cumulative 722 pages (though currently 1058) worth of personal ideas (ranging from economics to philosophy and theology) in a series of personal journals.

The relatively high performance (and lower performance variance across courses) in my one-year honours programme is due to the fact that the courses I took had significant political economy content – which is what I am interested in –, were more dynamic, had greater breadth, and had a ‘big picture’ logic (which is the best way I learn things retentively and comprehend intensively) than those of my undergraduate years. Thus, my personal ‘journalism’, strong interest in political economy, and learning style were all aligned to my degree, enabling better performance.

My low performance in probability theory, advanced quantitative methods and introductory econometrics is due, I must confess, to my weakness in pure mathematics (and the fact that I had little previous exposure to calculus and mathematical statistics, and therefore grabbed at the opportunity to take the first two courses immediately they were introduced by the school – unfortunately the semester sequence was such that I could only take advanced quantitative methods, rather than the precursor quantitative methods course first, given that I had only a semester left – ), which is precisely the reason I took those courses as electives. I knew I had to improve my mathematics and theoretical statistics knowledge and skills in order to strengthen my quantitative skills for further study or employment in a quantitatively-demanding position– despite knowing that they would likely drag down my Weighted Average Mark.

I, however, enjoy applied statistics and applied econometrics, as demonstrated by my high performance in business data modelling in MSA and econometrics at RU, as well as practical applications during my time as a volunteer secondary school teacher after graduation, and even in the application of econometrics to a theological subject (submitted to the Theology and Science journal). Generally, I like to analyse data and think of day-to-day occurrences in statistical terms. I even once tried to quantitatively assess how much time I spend proactively doing something productive per month – the answer, for 2015 is about 14% of total available time.

Lastly, combining my Honours year results with my first degree results, using the online Monash WAM calculator and standardizing the Rhodes credit points to the Monash system, the outcome is that my joint WAM (Weighted Average Mark) for the two degrees amounts to 73.743 – a second class division A/upper.

Nevertheless, in order to demonstrate my capability for analytic reasoning and research, I had, in 2015, a paper published in the 2015 Volume 14 Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal. My research Honours degree research project was scored a distinction, and I have submitted a paper in theology to a peer-reviewed academic journal. I am also conducting independent research on a comparative political economy topic. This particular paper is conducted under the African Finance and Economic Association mentorship programme (intended for submission to its Journal of African Development), and is actually a first attempt to solidly link the varieties of capitalism approach to development theory and policy for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Unfortunately, being a recent graduate, I do not have professional working experience in a skilled role for a potential employer to infer my professional competencies. Nonetheless, the closest thing to ‘professional working experience’ I have is my previous role as Arts and Culture Officer of the student representative council, MSASA, at MSA. In addition to the recommendation letter issued to me by a staff member who oversaw my tasks, I won the Top Achievers Award (cultural category) in the MSA 2015 annual awards – though the way the award is structured, I fail to see how a person who is not the cultural officer can possibly earn that award, thereby making me a winner only by default.

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