non-target school junior - what to do and MFin programs advice?


I am an upcoming senior (international student from Mainland China) studying mathematics with a specialization in actuarial science at the University of Minnesota. My current GPA is 3.643 and I am planning on graduating with magna sum laude or cum laude next spring.

Over the last three years of studying, it has become more and more evident to me that Actuarial Science/Quant Finance is not something that I want to pursue, and a degree from UofM is not going to take me where I want to go. I've tried really hard to reach out to UM alumni in the past two years, but the results were pretty discouraging. The career service at the university has not been very helpful either.

My original plan was to work for 1-2 years after graduation to get some more experience related to Finance, so I would have a better chance of being accepted by some top Mfin programs. As of right now, without any internship experience related to Finance, it would be very hard for me to find a full-time position after graduation, so I will have to apply to Mfin programs this year while keep trying getting a job.

FYI: I'm very sick of the middle-west as of this very moment and would love to relocate to an urban city, like Hong Kong, NYC, or London.

GPA: 3.643, planning on graduating with magna sum laude or cum laude
Major: Actuarial Math
Status: International Student (willing to relocate)
Exam sitting: CPA I - December 2014; GRE - August 2014
Award: 4-year partial tuition waiver scholarship
Leadership: Board Member of Actuary Club and one other culture-related club
Work Experience: been working as an administrative assistant at a health department for two years; will work in Hong Kong this summer on an appointment-scheduling optimization project
Language: can speak English and Mandarin Chinese fluently
Experience: I am well-traveled and enjoy doing new things. I do not want to be stuck in one place for the rest of my life but can definitely start off from doing the basics to learn more and gain more experience.

My question: What would you recommend me to do? What are my chances of getting accepted by top MFin programs like MIT or Oxford.

Any comments would be greatly appreciated!


Comments (13)

May 6, 2014 - 3:16pm
demtor, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You have not said anything about your career goals except that you don't like actuarial finance and wanna be a big city. So, what are your career goals?

May 6, 2014 - 3:38pm
SQ21, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hello Demtor,

Thanks for your response and I apologize for the confusion. I would love to work for a role that's related to fixed income/equity and IB. Ultimately I plan to get a MBA in my 30s and explore the opportunities in management positions.

May 6, 2014 - 3:48pm
demtor, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Well without a GMAT it is very hard to say if you are gonna get into MIT or Oxford. It is hard to imagine you couldn't find a better internship than something that will help to avoid scheduling errors. Minnesota is a good school, you have a solid GPA and major. I would actually network harder, better and smarter before thinking about grad school. You might not be able to reach IB but you can definitely get ER or Big 4 valuation roles. If you want to grad school then you should widen the field to a few schools other than Oxford or MIT.

P.S: Oxford degree is not a MFin, it is a financial economics degree. It would theoretical and academically intensive.

May 6, 2014 - 11:58pm
Ghosh, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Not being in the business school is the big problem. You should have changed majors when you realized you did not like math. But what's done is done. As demtor mentioned it is almost impossible to say where you can get in without a gmat score.

If you want to work in HK, you should look into Imperial and LSE. They are both targets. With your math background you could easily pursue an MFE but I think you said you are not interested in them. Just make sure that not all of your schools are of the caliber of MIT.

May 7, 2014 - 1:33am
SQ21, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Hello Ghosh,

I, indeed, made the wrong decision by not switching to a business major earlier but if I switch right now I would have to stay in college for one more year. I don't think the time being wasted would justify the potential benefits. Honestly at this point, I just want to finish my degree at Minnesota and move on.

In fact, I would prefer to work in NYC or London and use Hong Kong as a backup plan (just a personal preference after having visited NYC and London for a couple times and lived in Hong Kong for some while). I did some research and found the MFin program at Imperial is highly quantitative and that's not something I would like to do. What kind of GRE/GMAT would you consider to be competitive in an application pool at, for example, MIT; and what other school would you recommend me to take a look at?

Thank you!

May 7, 2014 - 2:04am
Ghosh, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Having a math undergrad is by no means a wrong decision. I don't know much about the MIT Mfin degree but with 720+ you should be a solid candidate for it. Other schools to consider in the US would be CMC, WUSTL, UVA, Vandy. For these school you should be a strong candidate with a 700 GMAT.

Why are you shying away from quantitative programs?

May 7, 2014 - 2:49am
SQ21, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I understand that the technical background provided by a math degree is essential and that's one the reasons why I chose this major in the first place (with a business-related specialization of course). I am just a little discouraged after trying so hard to land a job in the business world with a math degree and getting no results. The fact of being an international student in the middle-west makes things even harder (by no means am I bashing the middle-west, this kind of live-in-one-place-forever lifestyle is just not for me). And I think this is the time for me to make some changes and move forward. I'm blessed, in a way: although I am not putting that much effort into studying, I have a comparably okayish GPA in a difficult major.

Two reasons why I am shying away from the quantitative programs: 1. although I can do math, I don't enjoy it; 2. I've networked with people who graduated with MFEs from Minnesota and most of them are hiding in the middle/back office assessing risks and writing codes, and that worries me. As a very socially-skilled introvert (we are all walking contradictions, aren't we), I enjoy the rush of solving various new tasks and facing different challenges.

I am going to take the GRE/GMAT (haven't decided which one to take but leaning towards GMAT) in August for the first time and CFA I in December. Hopefully I could do well on those two exams and get some good news.

May 7, 2014 - 4:39am
Ghosh, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Sounds like you have a solid plan. Stop saying middle-west just makes you sound more foreign. It is just the Midwest or the great lakes area.

Being international does hamper job search in the US. One of the things to consider when you are aiming FO jobs is that you have to have language, communication, and social skills which would be comparable to a domestic student. And then you have to have better quantitative ability to get that IBD job you seem to be pining for. Imperial Msc is a little on the quant side but most end up FO roles than risk.

CFA I is good and shows that you know what you talking about as a college kid but it will not help to land the job. CFAs are also useless in IBD.

Best Response
May 7, 2014 - 5:16pm
Esuric, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Honestly, there's really no reason for you to pursue the MSF route here in the U.S. It most likely won't do anything for you. The Visa situation, along with the cultural differences (the fact that your socially introverted, by your own admission, doesn't help), are major hurdles and the monetary costs are huge. The programs in the U.S. really don't care about international students, especially those from China, and basically use them to pad their stats in order to make the program more attractive to domestic applicants.

I know one girl that graduated with a near 4.0 from Fudan University, has a CFA level 2, got a 770 on her GMAT, that sent out around 200 applications and simply isn't getting interviews. In all fairness, the Wash U MSF program for the quantitative track still has a semester to go, so this may be premature and overly pessimistic, but at this point, it seems like 95% of the international students will return to their country of origin.

My advice to you, for what it's worth, is to look for an MSF program outside of the U.S. with truly strong international recognition. You may also want to consider returning to China for your graduate studies and building a network there.

“Elections are a futures market for stolen property”
  • 3
May 7, 2014 - 7:38pm
thurnis haley, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You can always work in finance for IBM in Minnesota. They'll take anyone with a pulse and it's as far from quantitative as finance can get.

May 8, 2014 - 3:10am
demtor, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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