What schools should I be looking at?

I’m an Indian engineering undergrad looking to get into an MSF/MSFE program in 2018 (or perhaps even after that, if that would improve my chances) in either the US or the UK. Ending up in PM/Consulting/Equity Research (in that order) would be great but I’m not completely averse to other options either. However, I’d probably like to come back to India after working for 4-6 years.

I’m from a top school with a really low acceptance rate (and one of the few schools from which MIT takes students almost every year for their MFin - a program that I’d really love to get accepted into).

I’ll finish with a GPA of 7.9/10 but my Mechanical Engineering major GPA would be 8.7/10 (It’s an MSc Chemistry + B.E. Mechanical dual degree course). The GPA in my last 4 semesters would be >9/10 - a significant uptrend.

Here are the other points on my profile:

  1. An A+ in LSE’s Summer School (Options, Futures and other Fin. Derivatives) - one of only 3 students to do so 2) 4-6 week internships in (a) Equity Research (b) Asset Management © FO boutique IB firms that are well known in India 3) A one year full time internship (with really great work and a good profile) at a well known American Index provider - which would most likely convert to a full time position in the next six months (P.S. the job requires technical proficiency in SQL and Python) 4) A research paper on Portfolio Optimization (with some C++ coding involved) which would likely make it to an international journal (if not, a domestic one) with an impact factor of ~3 5) A 1st place finish in one of Asia’s largest college tech fests for a project on wealth management 6) A 1st place finish in India and 26th overall in the BNP Paribas Ace Manager competition, 2015 7) Editor of the college’s Fin magazine and managed the college’s finance club’s investment fund 8) University level and district level Table tennis player and I’ve dabbled in social work 9) Passed my CFA Lv. 1 examination this December 10) Currently doing Berkeley’s pre-program MFE courses in Math, Stats and C++

I plan to give my GRE/GMAT in August 2017. (I’m leaning towards GRE; would GMAT make more sense?)

What are the universities that I should be considering and where would I be competitive? Also, since I have a year before I’m done applying for these programs, is there anything else that I can do to improve my chances at top programs?

Also, how big of a value-add would CFA Level 2 be, if I do plan to give it this June? Or would FRM Level 1 make my profile more well rounded? (I’m worried it might make me seem confused though)

Thanks in advance!

You should post on Quantnet. Congrats on the A+ in the derivatives summer course at LSE. I took the same one in summer 2010 and got a B+…so I hate you :slight_smile: Who was your professor? I think all of the things you mentioned are good for the MFE programs you are looking at (definitely be considering Columbia MFE, Berkeley MFE, MIT MFin, and NYU MSMF). I think Baruch has a decent MFE program as well but I like the four I mentioned previously the most. Take GRE because as far as I can remember only Berkeley takes the GMAT for their MFE (maybe more take it now). CFA L2 will help with Berkeley and MIT but not really with Columbia or NYU. The reason is that the Berkeley and MIT programs are in the business school whereas the Columbia program is in the engineering school and the NYU program is in the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. I play table tennis too. Really be proficient in C++, Java, Python, and R. Of course be proficient in VBA and SQL as they help with simpler assignments. I didn’t see you mention any MATLAB…be proficient with MATLAB as well. One thing I see lacking in your profile is math classes. What math classes have you taken? To be competitive you should have taken: -Full sequence of Calculus -Ordinary Differential Equations -Partial Differential Equations -Linear Algebra -Statistics -Probability Theory -Numerical Analysis -At least on course in Real Analysis (not as important but better if you take it) -Abstract Algebra (again not as important but better if you take it) I assume as an engineer you took the full sequence of Calculus, ODE and PDE, linear algebra, and statistics. Not sure if you’ve taken real analysis, probability theory, numerical analysis, or abstract algebra as these tend to be more for people who studied math rather than engineering. If not, consider taking them somewhere. Considering you said PM/Consulting/Equity Research, I am unsure why you are pursuing MSF/MFE…an MBA would make more sense for what you have said. The MFE would be great for quant roles…something like equity derivatives research. If you’re taking GRE, you’ll need a perfect score on the math section. Try as hard as you can to get a high score on the verbal section…while it’s not as important to admissions, it will be a differentiator among your other Asian applicants, which could catch someone’s eye. CFA L2 is better than FRM L1…but if you can do both, by all means.

Thanks for the reply! Much appreciated. :slight_smile:

Thank you, although these things tend to get easier as the years go by. Jean-Pierre Zigrand for the introductory part. And later on, Rohit Rahi.

No experience with R and ~0 with MATLAB. I’ve done a couple of college assignments using MATLAB. Is that something I should be mentioning? Or is it just too trivial?

Bang on. In college I’ve done everything but real analysis, probability theory, numerical analysis and abstract algebra. I suspect I may encounter a few of these in Berkeley’s pre-program Math and Stat courses though. (Doing them till March '17)

Like I said, quant roles aren’t something that I’d mind either. PM/Consulting/Equity Research are slightly higher in the preference list though. So, less quant-y programs such as MIT’s MFin would work great (It’d be great if there are any other such programs that you know of).

The issue with an MBA is having to wait for much longer (2 years atleast?) and it’d be so much tougher to get into the top programs. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Thanks again! :slight_smile:

Why not apply to all the top 5-7 MFE or MFIN programs, and see which you are admitted to? There is an off chance that you might be admitted to only one program. So, it would be in your favor to have as many shots as possible, especially since you are receptive to either type of program.

Based on my anecdotal experience, MFE job placement is more reliable and predictable than MFin job placement. After all, the more quantitative course is specialized to applicants with strong mathematical ability. The jobs might be more oriented towards quantitative work, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I’d say you have 85% chance of getting into at least one of Berkeley, NYU, Princeton, MIT, or similar, assuming your essays and recommendations are good. I also agree that these programs are better for your situation, given your lack of work experience, and difficulty you would have in India in obtaining work experience that would be valued in the US.

Great advice, ohai! Again, highly appreciated. :slight_smile:

So, which are the other programs in the same bracket as Berkeley, NYU, Princeton, MIT and Columbia? Also, any programs from the UK I should be looking at? (Although the visa and job situation is considerably worse there)


Maybe Baruch or Carnegie Mellon (although CM tends to focus more on computation, rather than math). Maybe University of Chicago if you like living in Chicago. That’s about it. If you can get into any of these, most other programs are probably not worth considering.

Jean-Pierre Zigrand, fantastic professor. The second was also taught by someone else but it was some french guy. You should be looking into building your MATLAB skills. So yes, if you prefer less quanty roles then MIT would be the best because you can also take other courses in the business school and as you mentioned the MFin at MIT is quant, but not as quant as the MFE’s. MBA and MFE top programs are both tough to get into but I think MFE takes more Indian / international students than MBA. Given your career goal though, it sounds like MBA is a better fit…but a quant role is not bad, it can pay well and the MFE programs have very targeted career placement. MBA certainly has more career avenues but the career placement will vary within each.

The problem is, he probably cannot get into UPenn or University of Chicago MBA as is, since he has no work experience, and what work he can get might not be attractive to US people. However, he can probably get into a good MFE program, as admissions to these programs rely almost exclusively on academics. 60% of people in MFE or MFin are foreign and fall under these circumstances.

I’m not gonna lie…it didn’t even click he had not graduated yet. Correct then, he will most likely not be able to get into a top MBA program.

Wonderful, so MFE/MFin all the way!

A couple of things:

  1. Stanford’s MSFM program and Cornell’s MFE - worth a shot? Also, any views on Oxford’s MFE? (Is it one of those less quant’y quant degrees?) Plus, are there any good programs that LSE or LBS offer that would fit the bill as far as my situation is concerned?

  2. I’ve gone through a couple of placement reports for the colleges mentioned and I found that a sizeable chunk of students place into PM/Research/Consulting/Valuation - what sort of roles might these be?

  3. I get the feeling that CFA Level 2 may not be the greatest investment of my time considering the programs that I am applying to. (Again, correct me if I’m wrong) Would I be better off trying to do something else instead? Say the Math/Stats courses that were mentioned earlier? Or a certification course in MATLAB? Or is there anything else that I could do that would make me more attractive to these schools?

Thanks for all the guidance! :smiley:

Why not try to work internationally first? Kill the GMAT while you still have good habits and apply for b-school within 5 years.

CFA L2 will look good to Berkeley…maybe MIT…as I mentioned. I don’t know what you can do to get good at MATLAB. If you take a numerical analysis course you should use MATLAB. I’m surprise it wasn’t used in any of your calculus courses or your differential equations courses. El Macca has a good point too. It seems like you could get a decent job somewhere. Kill the GMAT and apply before the GMAT score expires.

MFE helps a lot of kids who have zero job experience and decent grades who lack that X factor (character, personality, what have you) - they can’t get a decent job. It gets them started on a good job in the industry. Doing an MBA later on is seen as value destroying since you already have a masters and the payoff is lower. Some people do it for the career switch but if you plan on staying in finance it will look a bit wasteful to some.

My point is, the MBA is probably the best booster rocket you have and nixing it by doing the MFE now is premature. If you have a good profile and have opportunities, using the MBA rocket 5 years down the line may be the best way to maximize your life time earnings potential.

Of course, the counter is that the MFE may land you in a super job right after in a top tier city. I don’t know you so you’ll have to judge your own chances (and the school’s recruiting track record)

As much as I would like to plug for my alma mater, I would not recommend that you attend the Stanford Financial Maths program, if you can attend Berkeley or a similar MFE program instead. Stanford’s program is offered by a math department and focuses more on the academic side of quantitative finance, rather than preparation for a job in finance. It also does not have the recruitment relationships and alumni network that will be important to landing a job once you graduate. While the students in the Stanford classes are peerlessly talented and the school name is prestigious, the program is just not as strong in career placement as MFE programs at other schools, so I believe that it is not the program that would be most aligned with your goals.

Unlike the other posters, I don’t think it is worth it for you to meander around in your career before attending a master’s program. The wage difference before and after obtaining the degree would be quite large. You’d probably make $140k or so in the first year out of Berkeley MFE (assuming everything goes well), and this number will accelerate in growth for a few years. So, it would be in your favor to obtain this wage tier as soon as possible, rather than working somewhere else for a number of years, earning a fraction of that compensation.

CFA is generally worthless in terms of admissions. Everyone recognizes that it is a very easy test compared to master’s work at a high tier school. You’d be better off maximizing your other academic credentials, and only further pursuing the CFA program after you have a full time job.

As for job types - it could be anything. Trading, software development, sales, risk management, buy side analyst, indexing, or whatever. Each school has relationships with different employers and could send you to any kind of job. I have to say though - given your background, there is a strong chance that you will be stereotyped into computation or programming oriented positions. Just take that into account as you are applying for admission, and do not be offended when this happens.

I have sort of a lot to say about this topic, since I participate in a mentorship program and, given my background, have worked with a number of international people like you in transitioning into their first finance jobs. I believe that if you are intent on working in “finance”, you’re on the optimal track given your situation (which is hardly something I say to people on this forum lately, unfortunately).

@el_macca17 and Ramos4rm I see three major roadblocks to landing an international position in Finance:

  1. The work visa regulations in most countries

  2. My current work-ex is neither stellar nor extensive

  3. Although I come from a reputed undergrad college, but my degrees are still only in engineering and pure sciences.

That’s why I’m wary of venturing this path. Unless you think otherwise.

I’d be all for an MBA if it wasn’t for this^.

@ohai Thanks for the kind words and all the advice. :smiley:

If CFA Level 2 is out of the picture, online certification courses are the only things that come to mind when I think about maximizing my academic credentials. Or is there something else that I should be thinking about?

I’d welcome those computation/programming jobs with open arms. No issues. Less quant oriented roles would definitely be slightly more preferable though. Something I could do to stand a better chance in that respect?

I am by no means an expert on these issues, however:

  1. There are rumors on increasing the minimum wage of H1B visa to 130K, so unless your future job pays above this amount you may want to think twice about applying with the intention of landing a job here in the U.S and the company sponsoring your visa.
  2. You could start doing stuff like hacker rank challenges online to increase your programming experience knowledge,I am assuming you don’t have that much exposure to programming so the self taught path and then creating a portfolio of the stuff you have done via github maybe a good option.

Ohai’s point about earning at a higher wage sooner being better than later is true. I don’t know you so I can’t say exactly but if you are truly creme of the crop then absolutely MFE at a prestigious school is the optimal path. But if you are average, it may not be, some people graduate and aren’t able to find a good job, there are just too many variables that are unknown.

I didn’t think of your visa restrictions, and maybe the programs Ohai mentioned are international-friendly. If that is your only path to a “first world wages” job market then by all means dedicate yourself to that.

Wow, this was almost a year ago!

Passed those Pre-program courses from Berkeley, I’m a CFA Level 3 Candidate now, scored a 335 (170Q/165V) in my GRE, 119/120 in TOEFL, and started doing an ‘Applied Data Science with Python’ specialization on Coursera. Got some really interesting projects (including those involving statistical and mathematical applications in Finance) coming my way at work too. Got a project lead role in one of the bigger, cross-team projects too!

All in all, things are shaping up well. The only real letdown is that the paper I was trying to get published is still under review.

Already applied to Berkeley, CMU, MIT, Columbia and Oxford. Will be applying to Baruch and Georgia Tech in a couple of days and NYU, then. Got a hold status from Berkeley but I wasn’t really expecting much this year since I applied in the absolute final round (the space available basis one).

Fingers crossed for interview calls from the rest!

Georgia Tech was a very last minute decision - any opinions on where it stands compared to the other programs?

Also, how selective are these programs when it comes to interview calls? Does an interview call mean a 70-80% chance acceptance, or do colleges interview most of those who apply? I’m sure it must vary from school-to-school, though…

congrats bro

nice man. keep us in the loop. i like these kind of posts.