Advice for Princeton MFin Applicants

IlliniProgrammer's picture
Rank: Human | 19,688

All,

Over the past two months, I have seen several threads asking for advice on applying to Princeton Bendheim's MFin program, what the school is looking for, and many other questions. People on the forums have pointed to me because I go to school there, and they think I have some clue as to how the admissions process works. I have done my best to answer their questions with what little additional insight that being on campus gives me.

Lately, people have asked me to do a more complete write-up. I figured that since it is August and people are starting to think about grad school applications, this may be a good time for a post on general advice for applying to Princeton's MFin program, especially since there seems to be a dearth of information on applying to competitive MFin/MFE programs in general.

All of the opinions expressed in here are my own and not the school's and probably not also the majority of students'. I don't want this to turn into some sort of fiasco, so it's important to remember that this is just a post by IlliniProgrammer talking about what he thinks could be helpful for getting into the program. This could be as disconnected from reality as IP's view that everyone needs to be thrifty. (I honestly don't think either is disconnected from reality, which is why the analogy works.)

ABOUT THE PROCESS

Every year, somewhere between 700 and 1000 smart and successful people submit applications to the Bendheim Center. The admissions process, which involves Bendheim Center faculty members, staff and the Graduate School, has to get this number down to 30-50 admits. The size of each class varies from year to year but is generally smaller than other programs, which is intentional. I've heard from the staff that the admissions committee bases the class size on a variety of factors, including the job outlook for prospective students, classroom space, and room in the graduate dorms.

Roughly the top 100-150 applicants will be extended an offer to interview with Princeton. You'll typically get asked questions about your academic accomplishments, career and research interests and what you did at your prior job or internships. There are rarely technical questions although there is always an opportunity to showcase your ability to explain a complicated technical issue in simple terms. While everyone is offered the opportunity to conduct their interview in-person on-campus, many students opt to skype in. In any event, the interview is very important. According to the staff, most people who are admitted to the program have a very strong interview and it can be a deciding factor in the admissions process (all other qualifications and scores being equal). However, not everyone who gives a great interview is accepted.

According to the staff, the admissions committee is made up of the program director, a number of Bendheim faculty members, the corporate relations director, and Deans of the Graduate School. Princeton asks for a personal statement and three letters of reference. They also ask for GRE or gmat scores and a resume. An optional additional essay is available, but most admitted students I have spoken with did not submit one (although some did.)

HOW TO MAKE A STRONG APPLICATION

Princeton's Master in Finance program has a fairly competitive application process. This isn't a top four Econ PhD where you have 500 applicants and 4 admits, but they do have to whittle 800 very accomplished applicants who are largely from Wall Street or Wall Street-bound- down to 30-50 admits. So by one measure, this makes the process more competitive than the most selective business schools.

My educated guess is that the admissions process starts like one for an MFE program, that there may be a bit of a research program component to it, and that it ends like the admission process for an MBA program or a top tier undergrad.

For some background, I'd like to believe that Princeton thinks of its MFin graduates as being financial engineers and strategists who can also go head to head with M7 MBAs (at least within finance) on the soft skills- and for the most part, I believe that is the case for the students I've seen on campus. We are the closest thing Princeton has to an MBA program, and Wall Street wants people who can understand and solve complex quantitative problems, communicate effectively in plain English, and help lead and manage the bank. I think we have the right combination of quantitative ability and personal skills to help lead in finance- and the program may be trying to look for that in its admits. So I have a feeling the admissions process is going to move from an MFE-like filtering process at the beginning to a more MBA-like or competitive undergrad-like admissions approach at the end.

There are a lot of great programs out there that banks should look at for hiring Associates and Quants; I'm just glad we're on that list and that we're a little less expensive than some of the MBA alternatives.

THE PERSONAL STATEMENT & RESUME

Princeton asks for a 1000 word essay as part of the admissions process. It's not an MBA essay. We don't give you a theme, and there's not a lot of advice and commentary out there on what to write. The MBA and grad school admissions consultants will tell you that to get into a top MFE program, you need a top GRE or gmat score and good math grades, but that only helps the program whittle things down to probably the top ~20%-50% of applicants. So getting down to the top 5% requires more work.

If you can, try to find a theme to start the essay with and to tie back into every once in a while. If your life is all about water or all about changes or ideas and you can keep going back to that theme in an interesting way that isn't corny, this could be a good way to structure your essay. It would show you're a great writer as well as a great financial engineer. Your goal is to get- and keep- the reader's attention while also selling them on how interesting you are as an applicant. To that end- I suggest three goals for any good application:

1.) Get them interested in your career
Many students admitted to Bendheim have some sort of front-office experience- either full-time or as an intern. Either way, Princeton generally gets a 90-100% placement rate every year. Having our placement rate drop to 75% would be nearly as big a disaster as having our main building burn to the ground overnight. Since Princeton only gets 30-40 students per year, even one student missing an offer changes our placement rate 2-3%, and I'm sure the admissions committee spends a lot of time making sure that the final list of admits can all land jobs.

We take a lot of bright people without work experience. Many of them probably could have landed a Front-Office offer at a bank, or a Finance/Econ PhD admit at a top ten school, without our help.
Therefore, part of your application needs to convince Princeton that you are already capable of landing a good job at a bank, hedge fund, PE firm, or prop shop, and that a full-time admission to the program would still benefit your career further. Talk about your career goals, be realistic about how your current background would play into a potential job upon graduation, and basically set a tone that you WANT Princeton and would really LIKE Princeton, but you do not NEED Princeton.

2.) Get them interested in your academics and research
Every year or two, Princeton MFin sends a few students on to get PhDs, and the graduate school that we live in happens to largely be research-oriented. We don't have a Medical School, Law School, or Business School. We only have a few Master's programs, and many of them are more about preparing people for academia than industry. To top it all off, you will be living with mostly PhDs and grabbing beer with them in the graduate dorms. We are a research-oriented campus and these essays are being read by research-oriented professors. Many MFin students complete a research project their second year, and some eventually wind up getting published in a significant (not necessarily Big Three) finance journal.

So, if you have worked on published research, or you have some research idea that someone with a Finance PhD agrees is interesting, it can't hurt to mention that in your essay. It's also important to mention anything challenging you've done academically, particularly if it involves math, statistics, or finance.
Please note that research isn't required. I had some research ideas but no formal research experience, and it's certainly less helpful than a front office internship or full-time experience. But I think it helps to mention something academically interesting in your personal statement.

Most full-time students came in with at least something close to the traditional engineering math sequence. That typically means Calc I-III (Multivariable), Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, and Probability. Some came in with much more; a few came in with a little less. This is a fairly quantitative program at its foundation- with core courses that build on linear algebra and calculus-based probability, so it's difficult to see us admitting someone who did the bare minimum math requirements for a typical undergrad finance or liberal arts degree.

3.) Get them interested in you as a person
The one common trait among Princeton MFin students is that they all have something really interesting about them that is completely unrelated to finance. One of our students worked for NASA and to my understanding was on track to be part of their astronaut program before the space shuttle was cancelled. Another runs marathons and recently came in 1st in a 10k hosted by Princeton Theological Seminary. Another runs his own successful startup (in addition to working as a financial engineer). Another is an amazing soccer player.

I'm not sure hang gliding helped me get in, but it certainly didn't hurt. (It's also a lot easier to be at the top of the stack in a certain interesting area that few people do than it is to be an excellent marathon runner.) And I was sure to mention that in my essay and my resume. If you're not essentially being hired by the university to do research (such as with a funded PhD program), Princeton wants you contributing to campus in some other way.

Therefore, the goal here is to show that you're the very best applicant in a certain area related to finance (such as quant development), as well as the best applicant at (or near the top of the stack in) two or three other completely orthogonal areas to finance. Best runner? Best soccer player? Best wingsuit skydiver? Best cave diver?

This is sort of what I'm talking about with the later filtering looking more like undergraduate admissions or an MBA program. Princeton usually winds up with many more exceptionally qualified candidates than it has spots to fill, but a campus filled with people who can only talk about work and academics- and don't have interesting stories to tell and interesting things to get friends involved in- is going to be boring. So if you can talk about going two hours into an underwater cave in Florida on a rebreather, and send students on campus off to your tech diving instructor for a PADI Tec 50 course, you're really adding something to campus and ultimately making Princeton a more interesting place to attend grad school.

To be clear, this shouldn't be the core of your essay and your application- the core should be about academics, career, and perhaps research. You should probably devote most of your personal statement to those parts. But it's good to work this in somewhere. Like the MBA programs, we want interesting people on our campus and in our program. And it's possible that this is what helps you make the final cut.

IF YOU ARE APPLYING NEXT YEAR (FOR A 2015 ADMISSION), YOU ARE PROBABLY AT A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

You should always be looking for opportunities to make yourself a more interesting person and expand your horizons- and it's best for this stuff to happen naturally- but the issue is even more pressing if you're thinking of applying to grad school soon. So if you're not applying to an MBA or MFin until next year, the stuff you do now is going to be more natural and more genuine- and look that way in the admissions process- than doing something four months before you submit applications.

Try to be creative- your goal is to have something interesting and attention-getting that no other applicant has. Certainly for an MBA program and perhaps for an MFin program, it is going to be tough to be the best soccer player or (American) football player in the applicant pool. But we need people who can play water polo (actually we have a lot of intramural sports). We need people who are into some of the crazier sports out there. We need people who've volunteered in interesting places. If you've already worked on Wall Street, all of this makes it harder to cut you in the final rounds. It is probably more difficult to reject someone who's volunteered as a tour guide at the Chicago Art Institute than someone who has worked at a volunteer mentoring/tutoring organization largely populated by MBA-bound individuals. Both are very successful, accomplished people- one has something which is a little more interesting than the other.

So the social and the personal dividends- and the stories you collect- should be enough to make you want to seek out opportunities to be more interesting- but if that hasn't been enough, it might be enough if I told you it could help with B-school or MFE admissions.

As mentioned above, your career is more core to your application than any interesting hobbies you may have. If you have at least 18 months before it's time to apply, that may also be enough time to try and land a better job. Princeton is probably going to evaluate people as potential admits based on their work experience if they are more than a year or two out of school. Obviously the program is going to try to find smart, hard-working people wherever it can, but certain jobs probably make you easier to find than others.

IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED, TRY, TRY, AGAIN

I didn't get into Princeton Bendheim on my first try.
My first time, I was a fairly competitive candidate. I worked in Credit Analytics at a major bank, which wasn't indisputably front-office but certainly wasn't back-office. I rode motorcycles and occasionally raced them on the track at the time- I also did some waterskiing. I got an on-campus interview from them, but not an admission. I was accepted several other places, but at about the same time, I got an internal transfer offer to Options Sales and Trading, which I took.

Getting rejected felt bad. It was cold comfort to know I was in the company of the 95% of the other students who applied and it reinforced my view that after a point, the final cut gets pretty random. But it did make me determined to prove that the rejection didn't matter, and that (at least for the next 21 months) staying in industry was better for me than getting an MFin there.

Two years later, I applied again. I enjoyed where I was working, but wanted a change of pace and felt school was the best way to do it. My circumstances had materially improved this time- I was clearly in a Front Office group, I was a USHPA rated hang glider pilot, which I practically had stamped all over my application, and my sense was that it was a fairly narrow miss last time.

I really don't know what happened, but reapplying with a materially stronger application two years later earned me a fresh, second look, and it also could have validated the arguments of the people who were fighting for me the first time (somebody probably had to have supported me in order for me to get an interview). Princeton has a relatively small final round- about 100 students, and I think there's a strong possibility people will remember you if you came close before and reapply within a few years. (This may also be true with MBA programs and MFE programs)

So, if you get rejected, don't feel bad. It's probably more random than you think. And if it was a reasonably close decision (you'll know this if you got an interview), and you come back a year or two later with a materially stronger application, you actually have some of the best chances out of anyone (except the Polytechnique stochastic calculus ninja) at an admission. You already have a few people there rooting for you, you've now provided validation to their original argument, and this is the admissions committee's chance to make the right decision this time.

FINAL THOUGHTS

There are a lot of great MFE/MFin programs out there. NYU (which I believe had a placement at DE Shaw this summer- rare for people with finance backgrounds), CMU, Cornell, Stanford, Columbia, Berkeley, and Princeton are all on that list. If you're good at math, enjoy finance, and aren't sure about an M7 MBA, I'd encourage you to apply here or to some of the other MFE programs mentioned. There are also likely several other schools that I left out which deserve to be on that list.

The admissions process at any top MFE program is going to be a bit random at the very end, and if you're a reasonably successful person, you shouldn't take acceptance or rejection as some sort of validation or lack thereof. (If it makes you mildly annoyed and gives you something to prove, more power to you.) CMU may reject you and Princeton may admit you, or it may be the other way around. Instances like these seem to show it really is a dice roll and that it's really best for hiring managers to take which school you're from with a bit of a grain of salt.

The students you'll meet here are very smart, very hard-working, and somehow pretty humble despite that. They also know how to have a good time when they aren't running proofs on covariance matrices, solving an interest rate model or building a multithreaded pricing application. The graduate dorms literally look like a castle, have a bar in the basement, and we have an awesome Halloween party. So if you are great at math, enjoy amazing parties, but you also enjoy getting something fundamentally academic out of $80K (not $120K) worth of graduate tuition, Princeton might be a better place for you than a top tier MBA. I think the ideal student for a program like Princeton is the Wall Street trader, quant, researcher- or some other worker with a fairly technical job- who is on the fence about an MBA or MFE program- or even a Finance PhD program, but knows he wants to stay in finance. We're basically the quants and strategists with the polish, leadership, and occasionally connections of the M7 MBA- just with $40K less debt.

My observations and advice above only capture a small, incomplete, and biased snapshot of the information that professors and other students hold. Moreover, most people associated with the program and its admissions process can figure out exactly who an MFin student with the username "IlliniProgrammer" is and just how clueless he is about what really goes on. So a lot of what I've written above is a mildly educated guess that's only a little better than what the average applicant can surmise. Still, it fills in a few gaps in the FAQ and gives you a place to start thinking about your personal statement.

So please take this with a grain of salt. Obviously if anything I've said conflicts with what you hear from our staff, our professors, or what other MFin students are pretty sure of, or certainly anything you see on our website (below), I'd defer to that.

http://www.princeton.edu/bcf/graduate/faq/

Thanks and good luck if you decide to apply!

Comments (166)

Aug 14, 2013

If I could give you 10 SB's I would for this

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... Ask away!

    • 1
Aug 14, 2013

Good post.
Just curious, how is UChicago's program when compared to the others on your list?
Do you think recs are actually important or just something to check the box?
Does Princeton and/or other programs like it limit you to purely quant roles afterward, or if not what percentage go into roles that aren't super-quant and what kind of benefit does the program provide then?

Best Response
Aug 14, 2013
Going Concern:

Good post.

Just curious, how is UChicago's program when compared to the others on your list?

I think UChicago has its strengths and weaknesses. Naturally it's part of the best Math and Economics program in the country. But from what I was hearing from student posts a few years ago, the program wasn't very flexible and it was hard to get attention from instructors. That may have changed and there are a lot of UChicago students who can probably fill you in on what is happening on campus right now.

Do you think recs are actually important or just something to check the box?

I think they have to be important. I think they are tougher to read in the first passes than undergrad GPAs and GREs and resume line items, but when you have several people scrutinizing 40 tentative admits, you can rest assured that everything on that application, including references, will get read carefully.

Does Princeton and/or other programs like it limit you to purely quant roles afterward, or if not what percentage go into roles that aren't super-quant and what kind of benefit does the program provide then?

No. We have guys who go into PE, Consulting, IBD, Credit Research, and Equity Research roles, although trading and hedge funds are more the norm. I wound up working in a portfolio strategy role this summer.

If you've done IBD and want PE, you can do it through this program- it's been done before. I'm not going to say it's a sure thing since there aren't as many data points as there are at, say, HBS or Wharton.

    • 2
Jan 2, 2014

Curious. Isn't getting a Princeton MSF and going into a non-quant-heavy (i.e., non-quant-focused-HF role) like bringing a Kalashnikov to a snow ball fight? What could you possibly use that degree for in those fields? It just strikes me as akin to getting a Masters in Engineering for a non-quant-heavy Wall Street job.

Oct 15, 2015
Marcus_Halberstram:

Curious. Isn't getting a Princeton MSF and going into a non-quant-heavy (i.e., non-quant-focused-HF role) like bringing a Kalashnikov to a snow ball fight? What could you possibly use that degree for in those fields? It just strikes me as akin to getting a Masters in Engineering for a non-quant-heavy Wall Street job.

Hi Marcus. I think I missed this question. I'd argue that Princeton MFins have the quant education and a smaller network than the MBAs but it's tighter knit... you were up to 3AM solving math problems with these people and you know they bring a hard-core fundamental value. People who start as quants don't always wind up as quants either and a number of my classmates are now running successful startups, as well as a few others on the buyside. Perhaps that's also true of MBA programs; I think we get the networking benefits for the 40 people you knew best in your MBA program, but the network is a bit narrower and more time was spent on problem sets than partying.

Free Consultation

Vantage Point MBA's clients are accepted to the top MBA programs at a 3x higher rate than the average acceptance rates. Request a consultation with their team to learn how they can help you gain admission to your dream schools. Learn more.

Aug 14, 2013

I am asking this for a friend. She has an MSF from one of the better schools (WUSTL/Nova/Vandy). She is interested in more quantitative work. Would the MSF disqualify her from applying to the Princeton MFinn?

Aug 15, 2013
Kiron:

I am asking this for a friend. She has an MSF from one of the better schools (WUSTL/Nova/Vandy). She is interested in more quantitative work. Would the MSF disqualify her from applying to the Princeton MFinn?

I really don't know.

I suspect it could hurt more than it helps (everything being equal between undergrad and grad school), although we do have students with prior master's degrees in stats and econ.

Bendheim does have students as old as 35 right now. A few are married with children. The greater the distance between your friend and the MSF, the less the MSF will be a factor.

We always need more women in MFE programs, and I think the program puts a little more effort into having a balanced class than some of the other programs out there. I'm not sure being a woman will help her, but it certainly won't hurt.

Make sure that your friend has done something on the order of the engineering math sequence. We are talking Calc I-III (Multivariable), Differential Equations, Linear Algebra, and Calculus-based probability. Probability and Linear algebra are probably the most important items on that list. Having taken a basic imperative programming class (IE: Java, Python, or C++) would also be helpful.

If she doesn't have them, I'm not sure you can take these at a community college, but I think most reasonable schools would be satisfied with B+'s or better at a Baruch, UIC, or UCLA, or some other primary state university for a city. Enrollment as a non-degree part-time student is often pretty straightforward at these schools. Just make sure you call whichever program you are ultimately applying to and ask ahead of time. I'm only giving you my hunch with Princeton, and I suspect MIT for instance could be a little more picky than we would be.

    • 1
Aug 14, 2013

an enjoyable read. nice perspective on a great program

Aug 14, 2013

Great post man. Thanks.

Aug 16, 2013
Betsy Massar:

If I could give you 10 SB's I would for this

i will wave my magic wso wand and get him 10 sb's for you :)

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

    • 1
Aug 16, 2013

thanks IP this is a great post, will homepage today at ~1pm

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Aug 16, 2013

Hey IP,

A little off topic, but what are your views on MIT Mfin program. I've been tentatively looking at their program, but am very confused. The program seems to be listed as a plain MFin program, however the prereqs (i.e. backgrounds) for their program seems very quantitative. They reccommend pretty advanced mathematic and programming backgrounds for the typical MFin program: http://mitsloan.mit.edu/mfin/admissions/suggested-....

Just seems to me to be more of an MFE than anything else.

Thanks!

Aug 16, 2013

Great perspective post. I printed/saved this right away for future reference.

Aug 16, 2013
Anihilist:

Hey IP,

A little off topic, but what are your views on MIT Mfin program. I've been tentatively looking at their program, but am very confused. The program seems to be listed as a plain MFin program, however the prereqs (i.e. backgrounds) for their program seems very quantitative. They reccommend pretty advanced mathematic and programming backgrounds for the typical MFin program: http://mitsloan.mit.edu/mfin/admissions/suggested-....

Just seems to me to be more of an MFE than anything else.

Thanks!

I'll let IP answer this further as he looked at MIT's program pretty in depth, but those math stats are maybe slightly more that most all MSF programs. I used all or most of those skills/classes at Nova's program which is a normal corporate finance focused MSF program.

Aug 16, 2013

Thanks. I guess I'm just curious about how people with more "vanilla" finance backgrounds from undergrad would ever be able to get into these types of programs.

I've done a few levels of calculus and basic economic stats, but have never really delved into linear algebra or probability (never had to! just did calculus out of pure interest/boredom with other finance classes being offered). Also, I have never had to do any programming (even our advanced math classes at my school take a more classical approach, i.e. all pencil and paper).

I guess it just seems weird that they can even call this MFin, when many MFE programs that I have seen require very similar skills, with maybe the exceptional inclusion of a differential equations.

Aug 16, 2013

Thanks. I guess I'm just curious about how people with more "vanilla" finance backgrounds from undergrad would ever be able to get into these types of programs.

I've done a few levels of calculus and basic economic stats, but have never really delved into linear algebra or probability (never had to! just did calculus out of pure interest/boredom with other finance classes being offered). Also, I have never had to do any programming (even our advanced math classes at my school take a more classical approach, i.e. all pencil and paper).

I guess it just seems weird that they can even call this MFin, when many MFE programs that I have seen require very similar skills, with maybe the exceptional inclusion of a differential equations.

Aug 16, 2013

Out of curiosity, do you think Princeton MFins or ORFEs place better? I know a lot of MFins take classes with the ORFE undergrads.

Aug 16, 2013

Probability isn't that hard. You'll pick it up pretty quickly. For a grad program in finance you're going to need to be able to gut through math up to a point. Just the nature of finance. Especially considering how much math goes into the core of many theories people use every day.

I wouldn't let it scare you.

Aug 16, 2013

This is a bit off topic, but did you always have a knack or mathematics? Or, do you have to study and practice really hard to excel in your quant courses.

The difference between successful people and others is largely a habit - a controlled habit of doing every task better, faster and more efficiently.

Aug 16, 2013
Anihilist:

Hey IP,

A little off topic, but what are your views on MIT Mfin program. I've been tentatively looking at their program, but am very confused. The program seems to be listed as a plain MFin program, however the prereqs (i.e. backgrounds) for their program seems very quantitative. They reccommend pretty advanced mathematic and programming backgrounds for the typical MFin program: http://mitsloan.mit.edu/mfin/admissions/suggested-....

Just seems to me to be more of an MFE than anything else.

Thanks!

I have some biases since I don't go there.

Look, it's a strong program with a high placement rate. I think that comparing the two programs without unfairly stepping on people's toes is tricky but possible for a sober IP who is not posting on a Friday night off of an IPhone.

Aug 16, 2013
mhurricane:

This is a bit off topic, but did you always have a knack or mathematics? Or, do you have to study and practice really hard to excel in your quant courses.

I got Bs in a few math classes. But I always did well on standardized tests, and I was always good with algorithms and threading problems as a programmer.

I had a knack for understanding stuff in the tough classes where studying was impossible and I had a more difficult time in the courses where executing perfectly - and canceling three negative signs- was more important. I am good but not amazing at algebra.

Aug 16, 2013

Great post. I'm starting at one of the East Coast programs you mentioned (NYU/Columbia/CMU/Cornell) and am looking forward to it.

Aug 17, 2013
TNA:
Anihilist:

Hey IP,

A little off topic, but what are your views on MIT Mfin program. I've been tentatively looking at their program, but am very confused. The program seems to be listed as a plain MFin program, however the prereqs (i.e. backgrounds) for their program seems very quantitative. They reccommend pretty advanced mathematic and programming backgrounds for the typical MFin program: http://mitsloan.mit.edu/mfin/admissions/suggested-....

Just seems to me to be more of an MFE than anything else.

Thanks!

I'll let IP answer this further as he looked at MIT's program pretty in depth, but those math stats are maybe slightly more that most all MSF programs. I used all or most of those skills/classes at Nova's program which is a normal corporate finance focused MSF program.

I get the sense that MIT is a pretty quantitative program. Many students at Princeton also applied to and were admitted at MIT.

MIT's main advantage is that it is a one year program. I'm a little surprised they're going for mostly undergrads because a one-year program that precludes internship opportunities is going to be better for people with lots of front office work experience and a large network. These are the kinds of people who don't need an internship.

Another big advantage for MIT is that it is a larger program, which means the recruiting process is going to be a little more systematic and organized. The disadvantage is that it's a little easier to get lost in the recruiting crowd and there is also the argument that MIT is less selective because of the larger class sizes and higher admissions rate. I'm not sure I buy that argument- at some point selectivity gives way to randomness, but you can count on the fact that the dumb money will buy it completely. (This may be the same dumb money that is making you get an MS at a Princeton or MIT or CMU to prove you could have gone to a target school.)

I do get the sense that it is a little closer to the MSF programs than MFE programs on the continuum than Princeton is.

I think it's a little annoying to some students that Princeton is 80 minutes from NYC. Meanwhile, MIT is across the Charles River from downtown Boston. Then again, I hate NYC, so I have no problem being 50 miles away (or 800 miles away in Chicago for that matter).

I think the person who could benefit more from MIT than Princeton is probably going to be an industry person with a large network who wants to get a Master's degree, but doesn't want to lose two years in the process. He did his undergrad at Baruch, he has become an amazing trader, has a track record, and a lot of people know and like him and want to work with him. But he is bored with work right now and wants to go back to school, but only for one year. (Not two- that would be too expensive). The opportunity cost of the extra year is a bigger issue than the cost of tuition at Sloan.

This, IMHO, would be the perfect candidate for a one-year program like MIT. However, MIT has been preferring people straight out of undergrad, so it may be more difficult for him to get in. MIT is a great program as it stands and gets something like a 90% placement rate. They'd be getting a 95% placement rate, especially for people without work experience, if they shifted that summer session to a 3rd fall semester and let students do an internship.

For programs of equal length, and for someone who has no preference on campuses or cultures, I think the standard advice is probably to choose Princeton. For someone who has a lot of work experience and was admitted to Princeton's two year program and MIT's one year program, the advice gets more complicated. I think it depends on the opportunity cost (are you earning $200K? $500K?), how much of a break you need from work, and how much stochastic calculus and econometrics you want to learn. I still think Princeton wins in many situations although MIT makes more sense in a number of situations. (Where the opportunity cost of an extra year is very high).

Even for a one year admission, a decision between MIT and Princeton is a bit like the choice between studying CS at Berkeley and Stanford. You have two campuses with very different cultures. Even the idiots out there know that Berkeley has a great CS program, but some of the idiots still think a kid from Stanford is smarter than a kid from Berkeley (probably not true). IMHO dealing with that minor annoyance is worth it if you really like the students at Berkeley and can't stand the students at Stanford.

I think the typical admission at Princeton for 75% of students who don't speak French and do not already hold a PhD is two years (somewhat negotiable), while MIT only lasts one year. This largely holds for experienced admits, too. This is an advantage for people who would not benefit from an internship in landing an FT job offer.

TLDR:

MIT is a great program and the decision between MIT and Princeton isn't all that straightforward. Some will claim Princeton is more selective and gets better placements, but the difference between the top 7% and top 4% of an applicant pool is fairly random. If you enjoy one campus and hate the other, that outweighs any difference between the strengths of the programs. Engineers can be more fun for quants to hang out with, and MIT is the best school in the country for engineering.

I think Princeton is a little more quantitative and gives you a few more opportunities to work in more quantitative roles. MIT's advantage is that you will be admitted to their one-year program. This advantage is less straightforward for students straight out of undergrad who could really benefit from an internship, while it's probably more helpful to students with several years of work experience and a broad network of former coworkers at multiple firms in front-office roles who can vouch for them.

I think Andy Nguyen and the crowd at QuantNet is really the place to go for better advice on this.

Aug 17, 2013
Anihilist:

Thanks. I guess I'm just curious about how people with more "vanilla" finance backgrounds from undergrad would ever be able to get into these types of programs.

I've done a few levels of calculus and basic economic stats, but have never really delved into linear algebra or probability (never had to! just did calculus out of pure interest/boredom with other finance classes being offered). Also, I have never had to do any programming (even our advanced math classes at my school take a more classical approach, i.e. all pencil and paper).

I guess it just seems weird that they can even call this MFin, when many MFE programs that I have seen require very similar skills, with maybe the exceptional inclusion of a differential equations.

I think Princeton gives us access to a lot of stuff that a typical MFE program doesn't. Sure, there is the stochastic calculus, the ICAPM, the ARMA models, the econometrics, the regression/prediction stuff. Princeton also requires us to take five finance electives, which includes everything from Behavioral Finance to Financial Crises. There are a lot of opportunities here to become not just a better quant but a better trader or better PM. Students take everything from entrepreneurship to negotiation to portfolio optimization their second year.

The first year, similar to a one-year program like Chicago, is about training financial engineers. I think the second year is about giving people a toolkit for if/when their responsibilities extend beyond pricing and basic prediction. That may not come for a while, but it's useful. I never thought I would use numerical methods in undergrad when they forced me to take it, and I didn't use it in my first job, but after I got my first promotion, I found myself using them a lot.

Aug 18, 2013

great thread IP

i read somewhere that the average age MIT MFin is 21.3
any clue about the Princeton MFin? or what was your impression?

also, how about yourself? (age range would be fine)
thanks!

Aug 18, 2013

alot of work and ass kissing to be a poor dad

alpha currency trader wanna-be

Aug 18, 2013
animalz:

great thread IP

i read somewhere that the average age MIT MFin is 21.3

any clue about the Princeton MFin? or what was your impression?

also, how about yourself? (age range would be fine)

thanks!

Average age for our class is probably 25-26.

Several guys between 30 and 35.

Youngest turned 21 a few weeks before entering the program.

Aug 19, 2013
IlliniProgrammer:
animalz:

great thread IP

i read somewhere that the average age MIT MFin is 21.3

any clue about the Princeton MFin? or what was your impression?

also, how about yourself? (age range would be fine)

thanks!

Average age for our class is probably 25-26.

Several guys between 30 and 35.

Youngest turned 21 a few weeks before entering the program.

thanks! much appreciated

Aug 19, 2013

Where do most folks from MIT and Princeton MSFin place? The reason I ask is that I have not seen any resumes from those folks looking for traditional IB positions or met anyone in IB with that background (I am sure they are out there, they just do not seem to be common).

Do most of them look to go directly to HF? Is ER popular?

Just wondering....

Aug 19, 2013

Well, only about 30-40 of us graduate every year, so that's 1/30th the number of students that graduate from Booth or HBS.

Many of us land at hedge funds. Some of us land at banks in research and trading roles- occasionally you'll see someone land in PE or IBD. A few who go into research will do ER; just as many will wind up in Credit or Quant Strategy. I'm currently aware of at least one student in my class who is interning in IBD (he is in London this summer). So a small handful are on the IBD/PE/Consulting track.

Oct 26, 2013

IP, I have two questions. The GRE writing portion went poorly; I didn't take it seriously. I know they don't look at it closely but a 3.5 is pretty damn low. Should I retake it? The important sections went well (167 Q/166 V). Also, the application asks for three recommendations from professors. Do you think it would be acceptable to have two from professors and one from a coach? Three from professors just seems excessive. Thanks.

Oct 26, 2013
phantom113:

IP, I have two questions. The GRE writing portion went poorly; I didn't take it seriously. I know they don't look at it closely but a 3.5 is pretty damn low. Should I retake it? The important sections went well (167 Q/166 V). Also, the application asks for three recommendations from professors. Do you think it would be acceptable to have two from professors and one from a coach? Three from professors just seems excessive. Thanks.

The GRE writing portion went poorly; I didn't take it seriously. Should I retake it?

I don't know. It seems pretty borderline. A 3.5 could be that you didn't take the exam seriously for that part (which is probably ok) or that there is a bit of a language issue (problematic, but will bear itself out if you get an interview) or that you suck at writing (not ok for working in finance).

If your application is borderline for an interview, retake the GRE. Otherwise, I'd let the 3.5 stand. Unfortunately, I don't know what borderline for an interview is in the context of an undergrad applying here. If you have a 3.8 GPA in CS from MIT, you are probably fine. If you have a 3.6 GPA in Physics from UW Madison, you don't want to give them an excuse to take your application out of the to-interview pile.

I think your other numbers are fine. And FWIW I applied with a 4.5 AWA. I suspect we have admitted students with much lower AWAs.

>Also, the application asks for three recommendations from professors. Do you think it would be acceptable to have two from professors and one from a coach? Three from professors just seems excessive. Thanks.

Hmmm. My last application round, I had two quants with PhDs (Not professors but with published research) and one manager write my recs.

You can probably go with a coach if the other two references are professors. At least one (ideally two) of those professors should be able to speak to your quantitative ability. However, if there is another finance person or a STEM/Econ/Finance PhD who is not a professor who can write a rec for you, I think that would help you more than a coach. If you are at a school with a competitive Finance or Econ PhD program, a senior PhD student would also work better.

Undergrad schools care about your dedication, discipline, yadda yadda yadda. Grad school doesn't care about that. They care about:

1.) How you are going to do academically
2.) Whether you are actually prepared to do this program
3.) Whether we can place you, and how well you will place (read: get one industry rec if you can.)

Oct 26, 2013

Ha, well he was an IB analyst at a BB but quit after a year since he hated it. I doubt that counts for much. As for the writing, I'm a native English speaker so that isn't the issue. Maybe I'm a terrible writer but I think in this case it's more related to the fact that I had absolutely no argument about one of the topics (fine art). Thanks for the input; it's tremendously helpful.

Nov 19, 2013

Hey thanks for this. Anyway I'm also asking about the quant portion of getting in. FAQs state that previous exp in quant degrees (CS, Math, Physics, Engineering etc) are preferred but not required. How true is this? Have you met anyone with a non-hardcore quant degree? I'm asking cuz my undergrad is in Accounting and Finance. Not super-quant but some of the finance and econs mods were pretty rigorous (relative to other programs).

Nov 19, 2013
G-izzo:

Hey thanks for this. Anyway I'm also asking about the quant portion of getting in. FAQs state that previous exp in quant degrees (CS, Math, Physics, Engineering etc) are preferred but not required. How true is this? Have you met anyone with a non-hardcore quant degree? I'm asking cuz my undergrad is in Accounting and Finance. Not super-quant but some of the finance and econs mods were pretty rigorous (relative to other programs).

There's some truth to this. The year ahead of us, we had a student who had studied graphics design at Berkeley and another who had studied performance piano at NYU.

But there are some serious math requirements for the program. You should have Calc I-III, Linear Algebra, and Calculus-based Probability. These courses (except maybe Calc 1-2) are typically not taught as part of an undergraduate Finance/Accy program in the US. (However, they are often taught as part of an econ or finance program in other countries.)

    • 1
Oct 13, 2015

Hi IP. Thank you so much for your sharing. I'm planning to apply for MFE programs, and Princeton is of my favorite for whatever reasons. I found your article quite helpful and I hope you can give me more advice on it. Here is my case.
I grad in Hong Kong in 2013, and had applied for Princeton but failed (not even an interview..). Then I worked for two years until now. I am a quant developer in a prop trading firm, which is quite profitable these two years. I just got certified for FRM. My academic was good. GPA3.7, first honor. GRE Q170+V156+AWA4.
However I find myself more interested in a PhD program, though I have no research experience at all. You said Princeton sent a few students to PhD. That is one of the reason I love this program. But because of my lack in research experience, do you think I should state my interest in this field, or I should just focus on my professional experience in the personal statement? What do you think my chance is, and in which way I could improve my chance?
Thanks a lot.

Oct 15, 2015

Hi John. You definitely have a shot although it's not a sure thing. Where you are applying from (EG Hong Kong or US) is going to make a difference in the level of competition for seats.

You need to find a way to distinguish yourself from the hundreds of other applicants. A quant developer job at a prop shop and decent grades/test scores is a good start but isn't enough. It may be helpful to find something that a quant geek would never do and highlight that on your resume. A lot of our admits ran marathons, did bicycle racing; some of them were in the French military response to the Haitian earthquake. Another was a professional guitarist. I was probably helped by hang gliding and motorcycle racing.

Jan Kozak is an example of a Princeton graduate who went to our program and is now doing an Econ PhD at UChicago. You may want to check out his profile on LinkedIn.

Oct 16, 2015

Thanks a lot for your advice. I'll try to contact Jan for PhD issue. BTW, I have taken GRE twice.
1. Q170(98%) + V156(71%) + AWA4(56%)
2. Q169(97%) + V162(90%) + AWA3(15%)
Which do you suggest me to use in my application? Do they consider writing skills?

Oct 18, 2015

AWA definitely gets looked at. At the very least Bendheim reports median and mean AWA numbers internally.

My take is that it isn't first order (unlike Q) but it can provide background. If you are applying from Asia your English communication skill will be looked at a bit more closely. A high AWA score could allay some concerns about your written communication skill. However it will raise expectations for your interview.

You asked a question that requires a lot of nuance to answer... nuance that I may not have. I'd stick with 1 for the higher Q (first order) and higher AWA (second order, at least for a foreign applicant), and not worry too much about the V.

Oct 19, 2015

Thank you so much. I'll take your advice.

Apr 14, 2016

@IlliniProgrammer
What would you suggest to catch up on the math prereqs for this program? (Where? If I have to catch up, is it worth ROI to time spent?)

I dropped out of med school. I haven't taken more than Calculus I, however my father was an Ivy League PhD in physics, who became an attorney (total Renaissance man). For this reason, I feel I could likely do it, though my dad is ah, unavailable. As you say, I could probably convince someone I "want" Princeton, but likely "don't need Princeton".

Can you speak more to the justification for this program and what you actually DO with it?
Where are the former graphic artists, piano performance students you mentioned now?
I probably have more in common with them than yourback office "nerd".
I have demonstrable talent in fine art and I speak a European language at the B1 international language standard, for example.
It is hoped I could get a front-office, client-facing position. I have experience micromanaging students.

If you have a better idea, I'm all for it.

*Particularly interested in perspectives from women.

Array

Apr 14, 2016

You also need Calc 1,2 + Lin alg + real analysis

Apr 14, 2016

Yeah, I was planning on those. I'll also be finishing up Probability, Econometrics, & Mathematical Methods for Economists(basic review of clac applied to econ). I know cal tech want you to have C++ programing but is it necessary for the Princeton program?

Apr 14, 2016
SomeGuy:

Yeah, I was planning on those. I'll also be finishing up Probability, Econometrics, & Mathematical Methods for Economists(basic review of clac applied to econ). I know cal tech want you to have C++ programing but is it necessary for the Princeton program?

I heard some good things about Harvard's MBA program as well, supposed to be a decent program

Apr 14, 2016

Hahaha. Good times on the forum.

Apr 14, 2016

I like the Princton program alot. Most Harvard MBAs cannot add, but the Princton program gives a nice background in stoch calculus and other quant areas that might be useful for trading/research. On the other hand, they also have the soft classes if your more into corporat finance or whatver.

I applied but did not get in. Check out the profiles of th students....many have phds or were physics majors at MIT or something. The MS finance program at vandy is also strong.

Apr 14, 2016

The MFin is a kick ass program. If you have the mathmatical aptitude you should pursue it like a champ. I would love to do it but I just don't have the math.
Similar Programs:
Oxford has a MSc in Financial Econ
Cornell has a MEng in Financial Engineering
Cambridge has the MSc as well
Berkeley has something too

Apr 14, 2016

Cambridge actually has an MPhil Finance, not a MSc, but the difference seems to be minimal (basically just means it's easier to stay on for a PhD if you want to).

I'm currently on the program and can definitely recommend it - stellar placement in London (essentially everyone who wanted an IB job got one; mostly front office IBD with the big names as well, we've got quite a few guys going to GS, MS, Greenhill) and as you get to chose your modules you can make it as technical as you want to, ranging from pretty much no maths whatsoever and mostly management courses to hardcore financial engineering if that's your thing.

The Princeton masters seems strong as well, I guess it's more of a decision to be made based on Ivy League vs Oxbridge or US vs UK.

The MFE at Oxford is generally more technical, much more expensive and seems to place more students into second tier banks than the top ones - we actually have students here at Cambridge who did the MFE last year but didn't manage to find a job and are now getting a second masters instead.

Just PM me if you're interested in more info about the Cambridge MFin, I'd be glad to help out.

Apr 14, 2016

I just applied to a whole bunch of these programs this past year. The best are (in no particular order): NYU, Columbia, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, Berkeley, U of Chicago, U Toronto.

I don't know what the averages are for Princeton but I got in with a 3.8 GPA (math major) and 800q 790v GRE. All the info you could ever want about admissions to these programs is actually available at www.global-derivatives.com

Cheers

Apr 14, 2016

Thanks. These comments have been enlightening.

Apr 14, 2016

The Princeton MFin is a powerhouse program. There is no question about that. If you have the math you should pursue it. I think they want linear alg and real anaylsis at a minimum. I would love to do it, I just don't have the math.

Apr 14, 2016

that program looks hard as balls

Apr 14, 2016

most of the courses in the program are co-listed with the undergraduate economics courses...some are hard, some are not

Apr 14, 2016

it's a solid program, but i'd only do it if i couldn't get into the industry from undergrad

Apr 14, 2016

Could you just take the math courses at your local school (say, tufts univ. or something) if you don't have the math requirement and want to go?

Apr 14, 2016

don't think you would have to be intimidated by the math if you really want to do it...surely it's more rigorous than an MBA but it doesn't seem to be very hard. just write a nice statement of purpose where you explain that you have read all the math (and of course you have read it otherwise you're lost!), being very specific!this MIGHT work...be warned though that the program is supposed to be very selective...(look at their website)

Apr 14, 2016
GreekGod:

(and of course you have read it otherwise you're lost!), being very specific!this MIGHT work...be warned though that the program is supposed to be very selective...(look at their website)

you mean 'read' as in you understand all the basic math concepts, otherwise you aren't going to thrive. i ask that because the website mentions kids who have been turned away because their mathematics wasn't up to snuff. but, i noticed there was a harvard j.d. grad and few liberal artsy majors thrown in with the chinese and indian engineers. it appears that there is definately a bit of room for flexibility.

Apr 14, 2016

from the FAQ it doesn't look like real analysis is a req... just multivariable calc and linear algebra. besides, i doubt a masters program like this would delve that deeply into measure theory/If-algebras anyway, so i wouldn't get too caught up on how "intense" it's going to be. then again i've met kids who have trouble with basic integrals, so you never know

Apr 14, 2016

look...I've heard they teach some stochastic calculus (Asset Pricing II),...(material close to Shreve-Stochastic Calculus for Finance, or Hull the last chapters)...so this assumes you can grasp the concept of a If-algebra or measure quite quickly and then you have a strong calculus background to understand Ito integration, stochastic differential equations, tilting a measure etc... So it is almost necessary that you are what people call "mathematically mature", in a sense comfortable with mathematics...

Apr 14, 2016

The site says the MFin program is for both students with a math/science background and students with a business or social science background. It also suggests that it takes between 2 to 4 semesters to complete. My guess is that the math-oriented people will complete it early, while the others will be taking the required math courses (and any remedial work) during the program, making it longer for them.

Apr 14, 2016

Well I have a bachelors in electrical engineering physics and a minor in mathematics; don't have 3.8 but I have a 3.7 and I am the only student that finished with honors in electrical engineering or physics... i am going for it...

Apr 14, 2016

How is the program compared to the Harvard MBA?

Apr 14, 2016

it's one of the best finance programs in the US, very tough to get into. They gnereally come out offers equivalent of people who come out of top MBA programs, and similar pay (in the finance field of course).

Apr 14, 2016

A "quick and dirty" masters from Princeton?! Hahahah. This post defies all belief. You have no chance in hell of getting into that program. Only 46 students (11%) were admitted. Generally, to get in this program you need to be a 3.8-4.0 Engineering or Math/Finance major with a previous summer internship with a major bank or institution. All I can say is good luck...

Apr 14, 2016

Quick and dirty because you dont need 5 years work experience to get admission, I wasnt referring to the quality of the program itself.

I saw the stats on the Princeton homepage, if ppl are so annoyed by the 'what are my chances' posts, they should stop volunteering their unsolicited 'what are your chances' comments, unless of course someone on this forum works on the adcom and has already reviewed my app.

Maybe my original post came off as flaky because of the way 'quick and dirty' was interpreted, but it is preliminary prospect, and Im doing what I should be doing, which is asking people who know better for their opinions/experiences.

Schumacher:

A "quick and dirty" masters from Princeton?! Hahahah. This post defies all belief. You have no chance in hell of getting into that program. Only 46 students (11%) were admitted. Generally, to get in this program you need to be a 3.8-4.0 Engineering or Math/Finance major with a previous summer internship with a major bank or institution. All I can say is good luck...

Apr 14, 2016

this kid's a 3.7 finance major... he's got a shot no?

Apr 14, 2016

probably not....people who get into princeton are generally not as "clueless"...no offense really, it's princeton for gods sake...and he's from a non target.

Apr 14, 2016

Everybody has a chance. We are all special in some ways, and they don't give a shit if you are from a target or not. Get an amazing gmat score, and I hope that the rest of your application is good. Oh another thing if you did your undergrad in FInance or some other subject like that, then yeah you might have a hard time getting in. If you have a lot of math in your background then you might be able to cut it.

Now I just hope you are very special because no matter what that is the only thing that really matters. (I dunno if you have any job experience, if you don't than I might have to agree with some of the people who posted previously saying you don't really have much of a chance)

ANyways good luck, it costs you only a few dollars to apply, and considering how low the dollar is right now think about it as the equivalent of buying a bag of peanuts in London.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Remember, you will always be a salesman, no matter how fancy your title is. - My ex girlfriend

Apr 14, 2016

elan,

As someone who grew up in Princeton, I can vouch that it is a very difficult program to get into (and a tough program overall), but I will say that if you haul ass, and even network some, nothing is impossible. Recommendations from the right people as well, can definitley improve your chances - I know this from personal experience. That said, these kids come out working for Blackstone and all the top guys - you can easily go to a less competitive program and still have a great job.

Good luck

Apr 14, 2016

I don't know anything about MFin, but Princeton's site has resumes of most of their class posted and viewable to the public if you want to compare.

What leaps out to me most are the undergrad GPAs. Almost everyone is 3.8+... some guy got 5's on 20 AP exams.

Also, most of these guys seem to have little work experience.

Why not get an MBA at a place like Wharton? Or are you deadset on becoming a superquant?

Apr 14, 2016

did you get a 51q?

Apr 14, 2016

Probably pretty good, except at Princeton where no-one has a good chance. It may be different for other programs, but MIT refuses to consider the GRE math subject test, so don't spend too much effort on that. I am at MIT MFin now if you have any questions.

Apr 14, 2016
Dr Joe:

Probably pretty good, except at Princeton where no-one has a good chance. It may be different for other programs, but MIT refuses to consider the GRE math subject test, so don't spend too much effort on that. I am at MIT MFin now if you have any questions.

What has the job placement been like for MIT MFin students? Are most going to banks, or do hedge funds also recruit from the program?

Apr 14, 2016

GPA's definitely way too low for Princeton MFin.

Apr 14, 2016

Why not MBA? too old for an mfin

I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

Apr 14, 2016

I know a guy at Princeton MFin with a background nearly identical to yours. As long as you got a 51Q on the GMAT, you should be competitive.

Apr 14, 2016
yourdreamtheater:

I know a guy at Princeton MFin with a background nearly identical to yours. As long as you got a 51Q on the GMAT, you should be competitive.

Really? You know a guy with 3.5 GPA?
Every GPA I saw on their resumes was high.

Apr 14, 2016

A 3.5 gpa seems low for princeton masters finance. Basically every resume i saw from that program had 3.7+ gpa, with the median probably around 3.8. And they also tilt younger than other programs. You have a good shot at berkeley/uchicago/columbia/carnegie mellon. But princeton/stanford/nyu will be tough.

Also, what's your career goals? Unless you're dead set on being a quant on a sell-side trading desk or a prop firm, you should do an MBA at a top school. Your numbers and work experience are more than sufficient for business schools. And getting an MBA from a M7 program will open way more doors than a finance masters, which is very limited in scope.

Apr 14, 2016

Sorry to break this to you mate, but you don't stand a chance for Princeton MFin:
1) Way too low GPA!
2) No real finance experience.
Even if your consulting gig was from MBB it wouldn't be of much help. Most of the Princeton guys have stellar finance experience, i.e. S&T at BB, Central Bank or HF.

The financial math programs at Columbia or Stanford are even more geared towards quant-programming.
Why not MBA instead? Your skill set is much more geared towards an MBA and with your gmat score you should have a good chance of landing Wharton/Booth/Kellogg.

The big question is: Why do you suddenly want to become a quant when you've worked for 4 years in Management Consulting???

Apr 14, 2016
primus:

Sorry to break this to you mate, but you don't stand a chance for Princeton MFin:
1) Way too low GPA!
2) No real finance experience.
Even if your consulting gig was from MBB it wouldn't be of much help. Most of the Princeton guys have stellar finance experience, i.e. S&T at BB, Central Bank or HF.

The financial math programs at Columbia or Stanford are even more geared towards quant-programming.
Why not MBA instead? Your skill set is much more geared towards an MBA and with your gmat score you should have a good chance of landing Wharton/Booth/Kellogg.

The big question is: Why do you suddenly want to become a quant when you've worked for 4 years in Management Consulting???

I agree with this. The OP is a very strong MBA candidate. With his stats and work experience, provided he gets good recs and writes solid essays, he should be able to get into booth and columbia and a very strong shot at Wharton. Business schools love consultants from top firms.

Apr 14, 2016

Your profile seems to be better suited for HSW MBA than for Princeton MFin.
If you want to go the quant route go to UC-Berkeley.You will get better placement from there.
Princeton is packed with young super-smart kids.

Apr 14, 2016

When I was applying to MFEs, I applied to CMU, Columbia, NYU, Cornell, and Princeton MFin.I got in everywhere except Princeton. It's brutally competitive. The year I applied, they had 1100 applications and made 27 offers. My GPA was a lot better than yours but I didn't take the GMAT. Did the GRE instead (800Q, 660V). I'd put your chances at 50% for Princeton, and a lot better for MIT.

Apr 14, 2016
manbearpig:

When I was applying to MFEs, I applied to CMU, Columbia, NYU, Cornell, and Princeton MFin.I got in everywhere except Princeton. It's brutally competitive. The year I applied, they had 1100 applications and made 27 offers. My GPA was a lot better than yours but I didn't take the GMAT. Did the GRE instead (800Q, 660V). I'd put your chances at 50% for Princeton, and a lot better for MIT.

Princeton MFin never had 1100 applications
http://www.quantnet.com/mfe-admission-numbers/
This year they have 729 applications, all time high.

Apr 14, 2016
qwerty1234:

Hey,

Quick question on chances for an MFin or MSF at a top Uni (Princeton/MIT). Am also interested in MS financial math programs at Columbia or Stanford. I know they're competitive, but there's not much information out there so maybe if you have done it or know people who've done it, you could give your input.

I'm a US citizen
3.5 GPA in physics/math from an Ivy
4 years in management consulting for financial companies at a top 10 firm (think Booz/Oliver Wyman/Monitor/etc.)
780 GMAT

I'm planning to take the GRE subject test in math as well (the kind for people trying to get a PhD), as a way to sort of negate my so-so undergrad performance and prove that I can actually do the quant stuff.

What do you guys think of my chances at a top master's program?

Hello there

Your chances look good academically.Although make sure you balance your application well and your academics, beyond academics and work experience is highlighted in the best light. Make sure you follow the 'show rather than tell' principle so that the admissions committee could really understand your strengths and differentiating factors."

For any further details feel free to mail me at [email protected]

Thanks

Kavita Singh
FutureWorks Consulting

Apr 14, 2016
FutureWorks Consulting:
qwerty1234:

Hey,

Quick question on chances for an MFin or MSF at a top Uni (Princeton/MIT). Am also interested in MS financial math programs at Columbia or Stanford. I know they're competitive, but there's not much information out there so maybe if you have done it or know people who've done it, you could give your input.

I'm a US citizen
3.5 GPA in physics/math from an Ivy
4 years in management consulting for financial companies at a top 10 firm (think Booz/Oliver Wyman/Monitor/etc.)
780 GMAT

I'm planning to take the GRE subject test in math as well (the kind for people trying to get a PhD), as a way to sort of negate my so-so undergrad performance and prove that I can actually do the quant stuff.

What do you guys think of my chances at a top master's program?

Hello there

Your chances look good academically.Although make sure you balance your application well and your academics, beyond academics and work experience is highlighted in the best light. Make sure you follow the 'show rather than tell' principle so that the admissions committee could really understand your strengths and differentiating factors."

For any further details feel free to mail me at [email protected]

Thanks

Kavita Singh
FutureWorks Consulting

lol

Apr 14, 2016

.

Apr 14, 2016

why get a MFin when you can almost certainly get into M7 MBA?

Apr 14, 2016

No; your gpa is too low. Average gpa at princeton mfin is 3.8.

Apr 14, 2016

Go ask IlliniProgrammer

Apr 14, 2016

Will it help me if i say that spanish is my first language and it was really hard to study in german?
ps. i can also play the piano :D

Apr 14, 2016

the resumes of every Princeton MFIN student are on their website. look at them and see how you compare.

you're probably not going to get into the program without work experience

Apr 14, 2016

I think that the work experience would be the deal breaker. Your GMAT is high enough to compensate for your GPA, especially if you can successfully pull that spanish vs german story through.

Apr 14, 2016

I wouldn't consider your GPA low considering the major and it is from an Ivy. What is going to hurt you is the lack of experience. I'd probably focus on finding some work now which shouldn't be difficult.

Ask @illiniprogrammer. He will be able to give you a better idea as he went to Princeton.

Apr 14, 2016

Your professional athlete experience will make you stand out in the MFin pool. GPA is low by princeton mfin standards but not a dealbreaker, assuming it's from an elite undergrad. Aside from whether you can handle the rigorous coursework, they're going to be concerned about whether you would be able to get a top front-office job coming out. The program leans older, so you will be competing against applicants with multiple years of finance experience.

    • 1
Apr 14, 2016

I think ANT and MBAvsMFin got it mostly right.

Pretty sure you have all of the math prerequisites; not sure you have the programming prereqs. Princeton will look for some sort of C++ course/experience.

If you were born in the Americas or Africa, you are at an advantage for admission. There are a lot of Asians and Europeans trying to get into this program. Sadly an American who is decent at math is an underrepresented minority. Princeton does try to create a balanced class with at least 30% of students from the Americas. I believe a typical MFE program is often 80-90% foreign.

I think you have a shot; I think you may have a better shot with two years of experience at a bank, or if you had an internship.

Apr 14, 2016

No shame in a 3.5 STEM GPA, especially from an athlete. And if you're at a school known for grade deflation (Georgia Tech, MIT, UIUC, Harvey Mudd, Cooper Union, Berkeley, and so on), your GPA would actually be pretty good.

Apr 14, 2016

Thanks for the responses. I know a 3.5 in physics isn't bad in the grand scheme of things, but compared to a lot of the people applying to Princeton it's on the lower end. I'll definitely toss my hat in the ring then and hope for the best. Few other questions - how well regarded is the Rutgers MSMF program (I know it's a different curriculum from the MFin)? Their math grad school is a top 10. Also, IlliniProgrammer, what is the workload like? I saw that your first assignment was something like a 15 page proof in stochastic calculus. Is it along the lines of med school where you only have time to sleep and eat meals?

Apr 14, 2016

If you beef up on your programming skills and get a solid finance job for 2 years or so, you have a competitive application. As I said earlier, your sports credentials is a huge plus, so you should really leverage that.

FWIW, I was dinged at princeton mfin after an interview with a 3.78/780 GMAT from a top 5 college, econ major, 4 years of bulge bracket trading, and tons of extracurriculars. I'm just telling you this to let you know what the competition is like. Princeton mfin this year only accepted 4.5% of its applicants.

Also, what are your career goals? Do you want to be a trader/quant at a prop shop, bulge bracket, or a fund? Or are you also open to less "quanty" roles within finance? If the latter, look at MIT MFin as well since their coursework is a lot less rigorous.

Apr 14, 2016
phantom113:

Thanks for the responses. I know a 3.5 in physics isn't bad in the grand scheme of things, but compared to a lot of the people applying to Princeton it's on the lower end. I'll definitely toss my hat in the ring then and hope for the best. Few other questions - how well regarded is the Rutgers MSMF program (I know it's a different curriculum from the MFin)? Their math grad school is a top 10. Also, IlliniProgrammer, what is the workload like? I saw that your first assignment was something like a 15 page proof in stochastic calculus. Is it along the lines of med school where you only have time to sleep and eat meals?

The workload is not terrible. I would put it on par with UIUC CS undergrad. We're not exactly MIT but we are probably at least as tough as Princeton or Cornell CS/Engineering. I'd imagine a Physics undergrad at Princeton has it about the same.

There will be some nights where you will be up until 2AM working on stochal or econometrics. And the econometrics homework can sometimes be a real doozey. I think my comment was about the behavioral finance course, which is an elective but worth it IMHO. The second year is generally easier. (If you graduate from school with three stochal courses under your belt, you can graduate in one year, but most are admitted to the two year program.)

You will have time to hang out with other students in the bar that we have in the basement of the grad school.

You will not have time to drink very much on weekdays (however we do get Fridays off, and DBar is usually crazy busy on Thursdays. )

You will have time to spend a day going hang gliding in Ellenville or take the motorcycle out to Poconos to race.

You will have time to make a lot of really interesting friends in the program. Friends who already earned PhDs. Friends who compete in and occasionally win marathons. Friendd who worked for NASA. Friends who are paying for the program with cashflow from their own startups. Really interesting people and fun to grab a beer with.

In terms of getting in, my sense is that the admissions process starts like an MFE program but ends like an MBA program, and the evaluation process is done by a bunch of professors who are also admitting people for research programs. Our corporate relations/recruiting head is also involved in the process.

If enough people are interested, I can do an OP on all of this (I rarely do original posts, but this could be interesting enough to start a thread). The professors and staff really keep a lid on the admissions process, but when I applied there was a complete dearth of information on how to put in a good application. Since us students at least know what essays worked and what the program looks like and we have a few suspicions and pieces of anecdotal information on the admissions process, it may be worthwhile to do a quick article on how to approach the application and what you should be trying to sell Bendheim on with your candidacy.

Apr 14, 2016

FWIW MBAvsMFin I think it's a bit random once you get to having a 40% shot at admission. I got dinged once at Bendheim before reapplying two years later. I'd imagine I might have gotten dinged at Wharton on a similar dice roll.

I do think that Princeton is probably roughly as competitive for admissions with experienced people as H/S/W MBA programs. There's probably a little more emphasis on quantitative skill (IE math prereqs) and probably a little less emphasis on leadership.

Apr 14, 2016

IlliniProgrammer - an OP would be great. What you've said so far has been pretty enlightening.

MBAvsMFin - I think I'm most suited for a prop shop. However, most aspects of finance interest me so I'm sure I would be satisfied in a "less quanty" role in corporate finance, etc.

Apr 14, 2016

Hi everyone. I've given a basic rundown here for anyone interested:

http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/advice-for-p...

Apr 14, 2016

Um...I hope you know that the Princeton MSF program is pretty quantitative.

Apr 14, 2016

IlliniProgrammer will hopefully show up to answer questions about Princeton's MFIN program.

IP is far and away one of the smartest commenters here on WSO, but he's probably one of the least impressive Princeton MFIN students. This is an extremely competitive, math-intensive program. Take a look at the student resumes they post on their website.

Apr 14, 2016

One of the schools on that list do not belong with the others. HINT: it's in new jersey.

Apr 14, 2016

Wasn't aware how quant-focused their program is. No surprise how great it is.

Apr 14, 2016

So Princeton has a number of Econ and occasionally finance undergrads in addition to being ~70% STEM, but most of them have completed 80% of the following courses:

-Calc I-III
-junior/senior level stats.
-Calculus-based probability.
-diffyqs
-linear algebra.

Rough rule of thumb:

If you're two standard deviations above average at a STEM or quant econ program (you can take off 0.5 sd for top 10, 1 sd for top five), you're probably a good candidate.

A 750 GMAT is probably sufficient. Under the old GRE system, we typically had a median Quant score of 800.

An FO internship or work experience is really helpful for getting into this program.

This is not an easy program. It's easier than working in IBD, but don't expect a vacation.

Most people without PhDs or French engineering degrees are admitted for two years. If you're French or if you have a Math or Engineering PhD, you can complete the program in one year.

Apr 14, 2016

What's so special about the Ecole grads? Are they better then IIT/Tsinghua grads?

Apr 14, 2016

...princeton cmon

Apr 14, 2016

...princeton cmon

Apr 14, 2016

Since this thread is resurrected I would love know what WSO users thoughts about OP question.I know Princeton is on a whole different level. I know CMC has a done great job in terms of placement. But other than that I have not found much difference between the rest. Vanderbilt, WUSTL has a better brand value and probably are little better but still looking at placements I don't see too big of a difference between them and Nova, UTA and SMU or even in between Nova, SMU and UTA.

Am I right to assume:

Tier 1-CMC
small gap
Tier 2- WashU, Vanderbilt
small gap
Tier 3- UTA, SMU, Nova

Apr 14, 2016

Paging IlliniProgrammer...

Apr 14, 2016

@illiniprogrammer

Apr 14, 2016
Apr 14, 2016

Do you mind sharing your profile?

Apr 14, 2016

.

    • 1
Apr 14, 2016

So, as you've read, it's a pretty low-key interview. Technical questions are rare. Wendell is the head of corporate relations. Her primary responsibility is to make sure everyone gets placed, and everyone gets placed well.

As it stands, you are in a pretty elite group. ~700-1000 self-selecting people apply every year; 100 people get interviews; 20-40 people get admitted. Most of the 60-80 candidates who get turned away deserve to be in this program, but there is simply not enough room. So the cuts at this point are more about the program than they are about you; please don't read too much into them either way.

Also, to anyone who later reads this and got rejected after an interview, don't take it personally. Someone on the admissions committee was pulling for you. Due to confirmation bias and group dynamics, you'll have double the ex-ante odds of an admit if you reapply a year or two later with a materially improved application/backgroun.

That said, here is my advice:

1.) Get exercise the night before. Lots of exercise. 6.5 minute/mile (4-5 minute/km) pace kind of exercise.
2.) Even if it's skype, wear business formal. And don't conduct the interview in your bedroom. If you are in the NYC area, catch an early train and give yourself at least 90 minutes of leeway in case NJ Transit runs into delays or snow/weather. (This is common in winter.) Also, business formal includes a business-formal leather belt and business formal leather shoes of the same color as the belt.
3.) Don't sell yourself short in the interview, but don't be arrogant, either. Focus on the tangible accomplishments.
4.) Have a good reason for wanting to get an MFE, and then have a good reason for wanting it Princeton. The key word here is "wanting", not "needing".
5.) Have a few good stories to tell about yourself as a leader, and some really cool thing that you do for fun, if possible. You want to convince Wendell that you are an interesting person and a great fit for campus.
6.) The MFin only lasts for two years. Have a good idea of a front-office job you'd be perfect for upon graduation. It doesn't necessarily have to be a job you'd love- it just have to be a job you could honestly say you'd "want" (that is probably the case with most front-office jobs) and even under the most conservative of circumstances, could easily land perhaps even without Princeton's help.
7.) If you haven't already mentioned it in your application, be sure to mention your upcoming internship at the BB. However, there may or may not be a good opportunity to do this, depending on where the interview goes. Don't hit Wendell over the head with the hammer of bragging, but if you are able to mention it with some subtlety and couthe in the regular course of the interview, it can't hurt and can only help.

I've given you a lot of advice and it may seem daunting to juggle all of this. If you can follow 1,2, and 3- the basics for any interview- and then at least two and a half of 4,5,6, and 7, you're going to do an excellent job of selling yourself in the interview. Whether Princeton fills up all of its slots for Canadian students with IBD experience or not will then depend on Princeton, and you will have done everything you could possibly do to land an admit this year.

Apr 14, 2016

IlliniProgrammer Thank you so much. This is really helpful.

Apr 14, 2016

How many years of experience do you have?
What sector of work were you in before?
What sector of work do you want to be in after?
What location would you prefer to work in?
Whats gonna be the total accounting cost to you (Tuition - Grants & Scholarships).
economic cost is irrelevant here because the assumption is the same in either case.

Which program did you like better or felt as if you fit in better when you visited?

And finally, why did you post this question twice?

Apr 14, 2016

Suggest you move this over to b-school barrage where @IlliniProgrammer might have something to say

but are you saying that you got into Harvard Law? Or that someone said you had a good chance ? Who?

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... Ask away!

Apr 14, 2016

duplicate

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... Ask away!

Apr 14, 2016

I believe the average admission to MIT MsF is around 730 and half the class is international. They try to take very smart but very interesting students, do you have a story that makes you unique?

"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."

Apr 14, 2016

Pre-Law advisor at my University informed me of my chances.

Apr 14, 2016

I need to find out more about your math background and hobbies to give you an honest opinion here. On the one hand, I'm sorta jealous- my first job out of undergrad was Analytics and I later made it into S&T at a BB. You've already made it into IBD. On the other hand, I'm worried that as a political science major you haven't taken all of the math classes you're going to need- and that the admissions committee is going to be worried, too.

The Princeton grad school is an awesome experience. We have a bar in the basement. the Graduate College (graduate dorms) looks like a castle, comes replete with a tower that you can climb up, a gigantic dining room that everyone says looks like Hogwarts, and a golf course/country club as our neighbors (that can be a lot of fun after dark). We throw an awesome Halloween party. And you'll meet some really awesome people there who will turn into lifelong friends.

I think you'd be a very strong candidate at MIT. My brother went to MIT- he was an Accy major, also at UIUC. IIRC they require a calculus-based statistics course, but the program is a lot lighter on stochal and econometrics. (They just covered Ito's Lemma and avoided Girsanov's Theorem/ Feynman Kac- the abominable snowmen at the top of Quant Mountain).

I suspect you are in our league. If not Princeton MFin, then MIT or Harvard Law.
I suspect you'd make an awesome Princeton grad student. If you're not a great fit for the MFin program, my suspicion is that you'd be a great candidate for another program like Woodrow Wilson, which IMHO is just as elite (maybe moreso).
I suspect that if you're not a good candidate when we make our decisions in ~ Jan-Feb 2016, you'll be a good candidate a few years later. (I actually have a story about that)
I know you'd have a lot more fun either as an MPP or MFin at Princeton than at Harvard Law.
I don't know what your math background looks like. I need to see some A's in tough math classes. Calc III and Calculus-based stats are practically required and Real Analysis would be pretty darned helpful. (Although I didn't have Real Analysis). If you have Stochal, that's just icing on the cake. I'm just a bit concerned that you're asking about MFin programs and not MFE programs- most Princeton admits could get into an MFE program of some sort.

You're young and your career is a blank slate. And for some reason, you chose to study political science. So that's why I'm going to plug the MPP program a bit more, which is an interesting cross between economic policy and political science. I'm not going to say the banks or hedge funds are the bad guys (they're not), but if you land at the Federal Reserve, Department of Treasury, SEC, or the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, you're clearly working for the good guys. These guys pay fairly well- at least enough to live comfortably, and your student loans (if any) from undergrad get forgiven. The MPP program is free IIRC if you work for the state or federal government when you graduate, and a number of them go on to be pols and congressmen. I think they even pay you a stipend.

All else being equal, the country is a better place if the smartest financial minds are working for the regulators and helping to set policy, rather than working to circumvent it.

I think MPP and MFin are probably mutually exclusive applications at Princeton, but you have the entire summer and at least several weeks after your internship whether you want to work for the Feds or in industry. I'll admit I'm pushing you in a certain direction, but that's because the only information I have about you as a person and your passions is your choice of major. And you'll have to decide this summer whether you like the people you work with, whether you think the people working in industry are happy, and whether that can be you.

Feel free to PM me if you have questions.

About me: Attended Princeton MFin program and wrote the first public guide to applying that wasn't from the university. Have reviewed (all for free) a number of essays for applicants, including two admits. Friends with several MPPs and a few Woodrow Wilson PhDs- lots of crossover classes, and lots of really smart, elite folks in that program who are committed to the public interest.

    • 1
Apr 14, 2016

Did they really admit 5 people from Peking University in this year alone? As far as I know, the Princeton MFin class is reaaaaally small (like, 50 max), so 5 people from Peking University alone is actually a ton.

@IlliniProgrammer might be able to give you good advice here. Think he did the MFE, though.

Apr 14, 2016
Angus Macgyver:

Did they really admit 5 people from Peking University in this year alone? As far as I know, the Princeton MFin class is reaaaaally small (like, 50 max), so 5 people from Peking University alone is actually a ton.

@IlliniProgrammer might be able to give you good advice here. Think he did the MFE, though.

I was under the impression that he did the Mfin. In fact, it seems that Mfin and what you're referring to (MSE) are actually two different degrees:

https://gradschool.princeton.edu/academics/fields-...
http://www.princeton.edu/bcf/graduate/
I could be wrong, though.

Anyway, IP will definitely be able to give you some good advice.

Apr 14, 2016

Thanks for the reply!

According to the 19 resumes they published on their website for the class of 2017, 5 students are from Peking University. So I am wondering if my chance would be like winning the lottery.

Apr 14, 2016

Bump!

Apr 14, 2016

Bump!

Apr 14, 2016

Well, they took me so apparently we're not that exclusive, and my rusty Honda did not completely stick out in the grad student parking lot either. :). In truth there is a lot of randomness to the admissions process and most of the people who could do well at Princeton could do just as well coming out of Berkeley, CMU, Cornell, or Columbia. In fact your undergrad experience is already proving that school doesn't matter so much when it comes to landing in industry.

I would not worry about being from Australia. If anything I think it strengthens your odds.

Princeton does seem to have a preference for Tsinghua and Peking over other schools in APAC. It also seems to have a preference for Wharton or Harvard over UIUC or UVA but that didn't stop a crush of state schoolers with relevant experience in my class. Your GPA and industry experience matters, but don't obsess (or worse, develop an inferiority complex) about which school you went to. I would focus on getting amazing recs- particularly from industry- and just murdering it on the personal statement.

I really hate to say it but the admissions process is not about you, it's about the program. When Princeton gets 800 applicants and can only admit 30, the only signal admission sends is that you were in the top ~25% of a bunch of highly qualified applicants and the only thing denial signals is that you weren't extremely lucky.

Apr 14, 2016

Thank you for your kind reply and sorry for my late reply :)

I will try my best to focus on the recommendation letters and my personal statement. I sincerely appreciate the encouragement that you provided!

Apr 14, 2016

Princeton's Master of Finance is a quantitative degree, yes.

Apr 14, 2016
Comment
    • 1
Apr 14, 2016
Apr 14, 2016
Apr 14, 2016
Dec 4, 2016
Dec 4, 2016
Mar 15, 2017
Jun 29, 2018