BC MSF ($$) vs. Duke MMS ($$) vs. Vandy MSF

Hey guys,

I just got accepted to three programs and am struggling to make a decision. I recently graduated from a semi-target with a 3.6 gpa and have several PE and VC internships. I worked as an investment analyst in an angel group for around eight months, but got laid off because of the pandemic. I reached out to my network and was told that my experience is good, but they're not hiring until the end of the year. I'm not interested in IB and am actively seeking asset management/research positions. These are my thoughts on the three programs.  

BC MSF Pros: 

  • Received a $15K scholarship
  • Online reviews are fairly positive, and Boston is a huge investment management town. Additionally, BC alumni are extremely loyal, which should make networking a lot easier.

BC MSF Cons:

  • The list of employers is quite impressive, but they don't have any placement stats. Lack of transparency is rather concerning. 
  • The BC brand is fantastic in Boston, but not particularly great anywhere else.

Duke MMS Pros:

  • Received a $10K scholarship
  • Duke has the best overall brand out of all three schools and OCR is great (not really worried about competing against undergrads because I think my resume stacks up well).
  • Duke's Accelerated MBA option for MMS grads is a very attractive feature.

Duke MMS Cons:

  • Online reviews have been mixed with some calling the program a cash cow. However, the employment report looks pretty decent. 
  • Studied finance in undergrad, so the MMS courses won't contribute to my technical skills, as they're not very quantitative. 

Vandy MSF Pros:

  • The program has an excellent reputation and strong placement stats.
  • Supposedly the best career center out of all the MSF programs (including MIT).

Vandy MSF Cons:

  • Feeds almost exclusively into MM/boutique IB, which is not what I want to do. 
  • Heard rumors that in recent years employment prospects have declined. Apparently the reason is Blake Gore left, but not sure how accurate those rumors are.   

I know this is a pretty long post, but would greatly appreciate any insights on what program to select. Also let me know what you think about my pros and cons for each program. 

 
Most Helpful

Vandy or Duke. I have similar career goals as you and I ended up choosing Duke (will attend next year). At the beginning of the application process, BC was my first choice and I was looking for a reason not to go since I want to work in investment management in Boston. 

I got a $15k scholarship and teaching fellowship as well from BC but turned it down. You're correct in that Boston is a huge investment management town, however, after looking into MSF placements I could find less than 3 MSF grads in investment management gigs. The rest were in jobs that you frankly don't need an MSF for and could get fairly easily (BO jobs at small companies, retail jobs, and I also found a few grads that were domestic students still unemployed from the MSF classes of 2018 and 2019). Additionally, I found that all of BC's strongest recruiting events, clubs, and conferences were all tailored for UG's (you won't be able to participate). 

I asked career services to put me in touch with a graduate of the MSF program working in investment management (gave them a list of 10-20 firms all in Boston Fidelity, Wellington, MFA, SSGA, etc.) and they couldn't even put me in touch with a single person. They list one person as placed at Wellington Management and when I asked if they could put me in contact with her they said she switched jobs and is now at a hedge fund in NYC. I stated that I still would want to talk to her and I never heard anything back from them or even got a name of who the person was so I could reach out myself (couldn't find her on LinkedIn either). The fact that they also don't post-employment reports doesn't exactly inspire confidence and they're the only MSF I'm aware of that doesn't do this. 

Outside of that, I spoke with people working in investment management in Boston and NYC that told me to take Duke over BC almost unanimously. I also spoke to a BC MSF grad who told me to go to Duke because the placements in the BC MSF program were less than stellar when he was in the program not too long ago (nobody was getting FO jobs according to him).

I have no ill will against BC, really liked everyone I spoke with in admissions, and even have a family member doing his UG in finance there next year but ultimately all of these data points told me that the BC MSF program doesn't exactly pass the smell test. 

I ended up choosing Duke mainly because of its strong buy-side network (especially within the credit space). The MMS program does have its faults for sure and I spoke with multiple people currently in the program who eased my concerns. Ultimately what I think gives the MMS program its reputation as a cash cow is that they admit candidates with no work experience who seek jobs in IB, PE, VC, and Consulting. These fields are incredibly competitive to land entry-level roles and most people just walk into the program thinking they'll be able to get an IB job or consulting job off Duke's brand name alone. When they realize that they don't have the skills to do these jobs (no prior experience or can't articulate traits for why they'd be successful in IB), haven't networked, etc. they have to pivot. This didn't concern me because coming into the program I'll have multiple IB internships and a yearlong internship at a HF in Boston which will be as much and in all likelihood more relevant work experience than all of the people I'll be competing for jobs with.  

Some advice that I got that pushed me towards Duke from an MD at a BB (MS/GS) in NYC was that if you didn't do your UG somewhere people think in terms of MBA programs when hiring (since MBA's are the most popular business degree and a lot of people aren't fully aware of MSF/MMS programs). The MSF from Vandy is a stronger program and it may be easier to break in from that program, however, 3-5 years down the line is where the Duke brand name will outshine Vandy and BC. A family friend whose a VP at the same BB (MS/GS) told me to choose Duke because in NYC he sees far more Duke guys than BC or Vandy guys. 

Something else I should add is that I've spoken with 2 people from the current MMS class that both got into the Vandy MSF (one even enrolled but backed out a few weeks before Vandy started) and both ended up getting IB offers at reputable banks. They both said that attending Vandy or Duke isn't going to be the difference between you getting an offer or no offer at the end of the day.

If you decide Duke is the right place for you I would ask for more $. I petitioned my first scholarship award and am now going to attend for half off. 

The Vandy MSF is a great program though and if you choose to go there I think it's a strong choice. What I think Vandy does better than Duke is its P3 program in preparing students before they walk onto campus. Duke has offered some materials in that light (preparing resumes, tips, etc.) however I don't believe it's as strong as what Vandy is offering. Considering you have PE and VC experience you know how the game is played and how to network so I wouldn't necessarily make a decision solely because of the P3 program.

The bottom line is if you don't break in from Duke you probably wouldn't have broken in from Vandy either and vice versa. Happy to chat offline as well and if you end up choosing Duke I'd love to connect. 

 

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