Getting into MSF programs with a low GPA/GMAT

calikid3820's picture
Rank: Orangutan | 250

I was talking to Anthony the other day and we were talking about people constantly asking about getting into MSF programs with low gmat scores and/or low GPAs.

As Anthony posts most of these topics I figured I would chime in and help out.. I am matriculating now at one of the well talked about MSF programs.. I was accepted into a couple of the top programs with a gpa WELL below 3.0 and a 660 GMAT. I was even offered some scholarship money at one of them (I was a full point below the class GPA average).

I will say that I have almost 2 years of experience as an analyst going into the program so that helped my profile. I was a triple major undergrad, 2 sport athlete, prez of the frat, and have passed half my CPA.

It is important to remember that the MSF in the US is not like the MBA there is no formal ranking system so schools still have more freedom to admit people with different backgrounds or some weaknesses in their profile. Now if you are applying overseas expect a much stronger and more stringent process as they are more structured and are basically MBA substitutes.

If you have any questions I STRONGLY recommend you contact Anthony or the program administrators directly. Anthony basically LIVES on gmail and replies to every email, he runs msfhq.com and is in constant contact with every admin of every MSF that has been mentioned on this forum

This is my first attempt at writing something useful/productive on this forum so please disregard the choppy nature of the writing.. I prefer bullet points to essays.

Comments (42)

Jul 30, 2013

Thanks for the info. You probably answered a lot of questions just by describing your background for us; I know you certainly provided me with useful info.

I'll likely consider the MSF in a few years, and I fit a similar profile to what you described.

You didn't mention if you were at a target undergrad, though? Semi-target? Non-target?

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Jul 31, 2013

Yeah he is super helpful

Jul 31, 2013
Kassad:

Thanks for the info. You probably answered a lot of questions just by describing your background for us; I know you certainly provided me with useful info.

I'll likely consider the MSF in a few years, and I fit a similar profile to what you described.

You didn't mention if you were at a target undergrad, though? Semi-target? Non-target?

The most non-target of non-targets... total enrollment under 2k. Honestly if you are over 2 years of experience you really need to know going in what you want to do and understand what you are getting into as most of the people in the programs are fresh out of undergrad.

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Jul 31, 2013

Calikid good post. What made you decide msf instead of mba? You mentioned you had 2 yrs of work exp

Jul 31, 2013

Calikid, do you know which programs, among the more well known, might be more "flexible" in terms of either low GPA or low GMAT or both?

Also, do you know if being an older applicant to a MSF program hurts you more than being an older applicant to a MBA program, i.e. will having alot of relevant work experience hurt or help your application? I think there are some programs, at lease in EU, where you cant apply if you have more than x number of years of experience.

Jul 31, 2013

Calikid, I would assume your experience is in consulting. With an MSF, are you looking to stay in consulting?

Jul 31, 2013

Who is Anthony?

Jul 31, 2013
Matthew Kim:

Who is Anthony?

The man, apparently.

Jul 31, 2013

Hahah love it.

Thanks for the shout out. Always happy to help.

Jul 31, 2013

You are definitely right about getting into an MSF program in Europe. Very well structured and highly competitive. I am trying to get into one right now and right off the bat they require a minimum GRE score of 160.

Chill

Jul 31, 2013
TNA:

Hahah love it.

Thanks for the shout out. Always happy to help.

This is Anthony and yes he is the man

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Jul 31, 2013
Nico91:

Calikid good post. What made you decide msf instead of mba? You mentioned you had 2 yrs of work exp

For those hoping to get into "high finance" where you get your MBA is EXTREMELY Important and as I had a no name undergrad and a poopy gpa an MBA would not help me at this point in my career. This way I have the option of doing an MBA in the future if I need to. I actually had to explain that rationale to a couple programs and after my little speech they all agreed

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Jul 31, 2013
calikid3820:
Nico91:

Calikid good post. What made you decide msf instead of mba? You mentioned you had 2 yrs of work exp

For those hoping to get into "high finance" where you get your MBA is EXTREMELY Important and as I had a no name undergrad and a poopy gpa an MBA would not help me at this point in my career. This way I have the option of doing an MBA in the future if I need to. I actually had to explain that rationale to a couple programs and after my little speech they all agreed

I'm right there with you. Almost identical situations (only one year experience) and I'm debating an MSF, MSRE, or MBA at the moment too for a year or two from now.

Jul 31, 2013
Inception:

Calikid, I would assume your experience is in consulting. With an MSF, are you looking to stay in consulting?

I mean I was told to put consulting as my background... I worked in Pub Fin but with a Financial Advisory company. I worked essentially in IB Pub Fin but not at a bank.. I was talking to another guy from my old company on here and he was told to put consulting so I did the same.

My roommate is actually looking to get into consulting after the program. I am still trying to pursue a couple different things. Possibly IB, Pub Fin, PE(Dreaming), DCM/Lev Fin, or something Mezz

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Jul 31, 2013
CRE:
calikid3820:
Nico91:

Calikid good post. What made you decide msf instead of mba? You mentioned you had 2 yrs of work exp

For those hoping to get into "high finance" where you get your MBA is EXTREMELY Important and as I had a no name undergrad and a poopy gpa an MBA would not help me at this point in my career. This way I have the option of doing an MBA in the future if I need to. I actually had to explain that rationale to a couple programs and after my little speech they all agreed

I'm right there with you. Almost identical situations (only one year experience) and I'm debating an MSF, MSRE, or MBA at the moment too for a year or two from now.

I was reading your post last night about the commercial broker day in the life. I think I saw that you are in LA? It is an AWESOME time to be doing real estate there as there is a bunch going on in the downtown area in terms of development and redevelopment. I would try to get in now as the longer you wait the less of a MS candidate you are and the more of an MBA candidate you become.

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Jul 31, 2013
calikid3820:

I was reading your post last night about the commercial broker day in the life. I think I saw that you are in LA? It is an AWESOME time to be doing real estate there as there is a bunch going on in the downtown area in terms of development and redevelopment. I would try to get in now as the longer you wait the less of a MS candidate you are and the more of an MBA candidate you become.

Lord, I wish I was in a city like LA haha. (Although I would prefer NYC.)

I'm in a much smaller market. I think what you caught was that one of my major clients is based out of LA.

Jul 31, 2013
pelle01:

Calikid, do you know which programs, among the more well known, might be more "flexible" in terms of either low GPA or low GMAT or both?

Also, do you know if being an older applicant to a MSF program hurts you more than being an older applicant to a MBA program, i.e. will having alot of relevant work experience hurt or help your application? I think there are some programs, at lease in EU, where you cant apply if you have more than x number of years of experience.

I mean there are definitely some programs that have a minimum threshold in terms of minimum GPA and GMAT in terms of their candidate pool and its hard to get around.. Anthony can provide more light on those programs. But in general since the programs aren't officially ranked admissions looks at the full profile. For me I think it helped that I had Analyst experience in a front-office role and progress made on the CPA.

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Jul 31, 2013
CRE:
calikid3820:

I was reading your post last night about the commercial broker day in the life. I think I saw that you are in LA? It is an AWESOME time to be doing real estate there as there is a bunch going on in the downtown area in terms of development and redevelopment. I would try to get in now as the longer you wait the less of a MS candidate you are and the more of an MBA candidate you become.

Lord, I wish I was in a city like LA haha. (Although I would prefer NYC.)

I'm in a much smaller market. I think what you caught was that one of my major clients is based out of LA.

Oh okay. Ya I just know I saw LA somewhere. That is where I am from originally.

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Best Response
Jul 31, 2013
calikid3820:
Nico91:

Calikid good post. What made you decide msf instead of mba? You mentioned you had 2 yrs of work exp

For those hoping to get into "high finance" where you get your MBA is EXTREMELY Important and as I had a no name undergrad and a poopy gpa an MBA would not help me at this point in my career. This way I have the option of doing an MBA in the future if I need to. I actually had to explain that rationale to a couple programs and after my little speech they all agreed

What are my chances of getting into the BBs? I'm really only focused on Goldman, but I'd be willing to step down to the CS or BAML level if they bump my base pay to 80-90K.

'Before you enter... be willing to pay the price'

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Jul 31, 2013
BepBep12:
calikid3820:
Nico91:

Calikid good post. What made you decide msf instead of mba? You mentioned you had 2 yrs of work exp

For those hoping to get into "high finance" where you get your MBA is EXTREMELY Important and as I had a no name undergrad and a poopy gpa an MBA would not help me at this point in my career. This way I have the option of doing an MBA in the future if I need to. I actually had to explain that rationale to a couple programs and after my little speech they all agreed

What are my chances of getting into the BBs? I'm really only focused on Goldman, but I'd be willing to step down to the CS or BAML level if they bump my base pay to 80-90K.

You would be better off at the Harvard 2+2 so you can leverage the Harvard admit to get a better group at Goldman

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Jul 31, 2013

How about HBS right after MSF? Couldn't get into 2+2... do you think I have a shot at GS associate level after HBS? Also thinking about getting that JD too...

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Aug 1, 2013
pelle01:

Calikid, do you know which programs, among the more well known, might be more "flexible" in terms of either low GPA or low GMAT or both?

Also, do you know if being an older applicant to a MSF program hurts you more than being an older applicant to a MBA program, i.e. will having alot of relevant work experience hurt or help your application? I think there are some programs, at lease in EU, where you cant apply if you have more than x number of years of experience.

What is your profile? Most MSF programs are understanding as long as you can offset a strength with a weakness. I'd really have to know how low or weak one aspect of your profile is to give you a better gauge.

MSF programs tend to be for more junior people, but there are some that cater to experienced applicants. They tend to be PT programs and more of an MBA substitute. As long as you aren't trying to break into investment banking then they can still be valuable.

Shoot me a PM if you want to discuss this off line.

Aug 1, 2013

Florida is tough. If you get a high GMAT you could look at Miami or say FSU. U Florida is closed to non Florida ugs.

GMAT is going to be key. You might even consider taking some extra classes or a cert to give yourself a GPA bump.

Aug 1, 2013

Thanks for the quick reply TNA.

Does Miami place relatively well into any IB/AM/PE firms? At least regionally or in smaller boutique firms? Ideally I would not want to go into corp finance.

FSU seems to place mostly in corp finance with some banking/investment, at least up to 2012. Have their placements been the same the following years?

Aug 1, 2013
Mlozano:

Thanks for the quick reply TNA.

Does Miami place relatively well into any IB/AM/PE firms? At least regionally or in smaller boutique firms? Ideally I would not want to go into corp finance.

FSU seems to place mostly in corp finance with some banking/investment, at least up to 2012. Have their placements been the same the following years?

Miami is brand new so no placements. FSU is OK I guess. The issue is there isn't a lot of MSF programs in Florida so you're limited. You could look at say Auburn, Alabama, George state, etc if you wanted to expand regionally.

Aug 1, 2013

Thanks TNA.
Any idea when info on Miami's first round of placements would be coming out?
Also, what type of certs would you recommend me looking into?
Are schools only looking at finance WE? I did work full-time during most of my UG, just not in a
finance role so idk if this would work in my favor when applying.

Aug 1, 2013

So Chicago and Columbia don't really have MSF programs. They're more financial engineering focused (for quants). I'm not sure if that appeals to you. I would say that you're competitive at all of the other schools mentioned, even MIT. GMAT is the primary variable, which you killed, and you can explain away your low GPA. I would say for you the deal breaker will be your story.

  1. Come up with a very good story for your low GPA
  2. Stress that your high GMAT proves that you're intellectually capable
  3. Show enthusiasm and interest for finance
  4. Stress that you're flexible in terms of employment (would accept IB/Bval/AM) and open to opportunities.
  5. Register for CFA level 1
Aug 1, 2013

Hey Esuric,

What would you say one's GMAT should be to compensate for a low GPA. Mine is a little higher than the OP's (2.99) so I was wondering what is the lowest that I can get to be able to get into top programs like USC.

Also how would you spin off a bad GPA story. It seems that everyone has a "reason" for one, but I think it's all BS. If you want to succeed you should account for the worst. I had a buddy who was going through a life-threatening disease and he managed to survive and do well in school. I was thinking of owning up to my mistakes and say that they have made me into a stronger person. What do you think?

Aug 1, 2013

GPA does matter a lot, at least for the first few years after graduating college.
Some employers do look at grades as one of the most important factors. (Sometimes they have a 3.50 cutoff GPA)

As far as MSFs having grade inflation it would really depend on what program you attend.
MIT MSF will likely be much harder than one at a low ranked state college.

Aug 1, 2013
phoenixfire:

GPA does matter a lot, at least for the first few years after graduating college.

Some employers do look at grades as one of the most important factors. (Sometimes they have a 3.50 cutoff GPA)

As far as MSFs having grade inflation it would really depend on what program you attend.

MIT MSF will likely be much harder than one at a low ranked state college.

I'm not at a low ranked state college? Also, Why do you think they hold MSFs to 3.5 standards when anyone can figure out that the grad school material is much faster paced and quantitative? Any idiot should be able to figure out that a 3.0 MSF is smarter and/or harder working than a 3.5 BBA. They get four years to take a hard class or two one semester and add a lot of fluff in between, not to mention how little their final exams and midterms count. Or are MSFs just seen as life screwups unless they're 3.9+GPA?

Aug 1, 2013

So GPA matters a lot for MSF grads, at least relative to MBAs. With respect to grade inflation, at least from my experience, getting a high GPA is very difficult due to the nature of the program (fast paced, quantitative) but getting a very low GPA is just as hard. Everything is curved and there's usually a lower-bound (typically around a C). In other words, in order to fail or get a D in a class, you need to severely underperform your peers.

Aug 1, 2013

There are semi-targets in PA? Why didn't you drop the 2 courses you were failing? How does failing two courses demolish your GPA?

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Aug 1, 2013

I came from a French International school and did not know what a late drop was . It is unfortunate because I would have late dropped these two classes but I ended up with 2 F's on my transcript which led to a 1.3 gpa my first semester

Aug 1, 2013

CMU Pitt?

it sounds like, you will be fine without MSF. just hide your GPA from your resume, whenever asked, then spill the beans and like you did, Take the responsibility and show a progression of growth.

not that many MSFs are useful for semi-target undergrads. I would suggest that MMS or MSF will give you access to some similar recruiters, but the GPA pain will come back either way. so it's just buying time for another OCR basically

Aug 1, 2013
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Aug 1, 2013