Ivy League Certifications? A second shot or a scam

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Finance is getting more and more competitive making it hard to break into any field, especially when you don't have a target school on your resume.

Now, Ivy League schools like Columbia, Harvard, NYU, etc are offering certifications in finance, and while this may seem like a second chance at getting that prestigious name on your resume, it may have the opposite effect.

Multiple recruiters have said that this appears "desperate" and that having internship experience is 10000% more valuable.

What's your opinion? Is a 700$ certification from a target school a SCAM

Comments (40)

Apr 16, 2019

I know a guy that did one from Harvard and now his Linkedin has Harvard Business School on it and he tells people he went to Harvard. Such BS. He's not the only one I have seen play that game with those certifications. Not sure how much weight they carry but those people lose credibility with me once I see it is a certificate. Wharton has a set of classes on Coursera that earns you a certificate. Doesn't mean you went to Wharton but as you mentioned it is competitive and people will spin anything to stand out in the crowd.

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Apr 16, 2019

I know that some Ivy League schools offer online degrees or alternative degrees, but to me that holds a lot more weight than a certification. I agree that it is sneaky, and I thought about getting one myself and a bunch of recruiters told me it looks bad so I decided against it

Most Helpful
Apr 16, 2019

I really think it depends on why you are taking it on how you are "selling" it afterwards.

When I was being asked if I wanted to start moving into a corporate development role at my prior company some years ago and before going to B-School, I had very little formal finance education. I was working with financial statements, doing modelling and such every day but given my educational background I had never taken a formal accounting or a finance class.

So my company as a part of my transition sent me to Wharton for one of their 1 week ish classes. It is not a certificate or a degree but it is in person at Wharton with some great professors (I think price is closer to 13K than 700usd though)

The class did give me some great tools and a way to structure my own learning going forward, it also opened up a broader spectrum to me, realizing that M&A was way more than just financial modelling but that it is truly a cross functional complicated exercise.

  • Did it help me in my job in Corporate Development? yes it did, not as a stand alone, but if you prepare well and continue learning after then it was great.
  • Did it help me break into IB after business school? I doubt it, but given how many of my interviewers went to Wharton it at least meant that we could talk about the bars around campus and it felt like we had something in common. Also it was easy to show that my interest in finance started before I went to B-School, so it did help my story.
  • Would I ever claim to have a degree from Wharton? certainly not! I did list it on my resume, as i think it tells my story, but I am very clear to state that this was a non-degree program!

It is a great program and if you are in my position or if you are in a industry role and all of a sudden gets asked to be a part of M&A for your company then it makes a lot of sense!
Adding it to your resume straight out of undergrad on the other hand will in my opinion not really add any value. If you wanted finance classes in Undergrad then why did you not take finance classes?

I see all of these non-degree or certificate programs this way: If you feel like the content will help you, then it is great! but I would not do any of them as a resume booster and especially not right out of undergrad.

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Apr 16, 2019

Thank you for the very informative post! That seems a bit more like a workshop so I definitely see value in terms of collaborating with professors directly and adding skills.

Great that you also didn't list it as your school. Many people are doing this nowadays and it's a huge problem.

Sep 7, 2019

In my opinion, as long as you list it in the certificate section of your resume and NOT the degree/education section all is well.

Apr 18, 2019

Brand yourself with truly meaningful experiences (internships, volunteer work, genuine scholastic accolades). These are 100% a scam and will make you seem either desperate or (worse) insecure. Anyone who has taken the classes will know that they don't give you a valuable learning experience. Thus, it reflects poor judgement to drop the expense you need to pay for enrollment. I had a VP who was obsessed with these - he's the type of guy who will tell you he went to an ivy league when asked where he went to school, but only for his MBA.

Be proud of where you went to school. If you ask someone who went to Princeton UG and Harvard MBA where they went to school, they won't tell you Harvard. Don't be the guy from the state school who still feels as though they have to compensate for this.

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Apr 18, 2019

I am getting really mixed feedback on this, but it seems like the majority of people advise against it. It is one thing to do a workshop, but its another to pay for a cert.

Also, I agree with your assessment on state schools. I go to a state school and wish I would've given a damn in highschool (but I didn't) so it was my only option. I think I can definitely prove myself with my GPA and jobs though.

Getting caught lying is far worse than saying you went to a nontarget.

Apr 18, 2019

I embrace the hell out of my non target (arguably semi, but I think this is a stupid, qualification seeking distinction anyways). On that note, I would personally rather be seen as the gritty, intellectually curious work-horse than the entitled WASP. Obviously a lot of personalities in between, but I wouldn't trade anything for my background.

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Apr 18, 2019

.

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Apr 18, 2019

One of my biggest inspirations is my friend who finished school right when the crash happened. He moved to India and worked in IB for like 4 years and then came back as a trader and ended up doing amazingly well. We all just have to find our way to make it work. Gladly the new generation is more accepting of non matching the exact criteria than the older one

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Apr 18, 2019
isa2130953:

Finance is getting more and more competitive making it hard to break into any field, especially when you don't have a target school on your resume.

Now, Ivy League schools like Columbia, Harvard, NYU, etc are offering certifications in finance, and while this may seem like a second chance at getting that prestigious name on your resume, it may have the opposite effect.

Multiple recruiters have said that this appears "desperate" and that having internship experience is 10000% more valuable.

What's your opinion? Is a 700$ certification from a target school a SCAM

I am 100% on board with an MBA or research-oriented graduate degree. Where you actually quit working and attend for a couple years and make a bunch of friends along the way and hopefully learn some stuff.

I am not on board with paying for these branded certificates. You should have your own brand, not some school's.

My brand is that I'm thrifty, I'm fifth generation Dutch Calvinist. I drive a Rusty Honda and I enjoy Hang Gliding. And if you can't figure out how I made it all the way from a state school computer science degree to being a statarb quant researcher at a hedge fund pulling a Sharpe of 2 with some serious capacity, that's your problem, not mine.

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Apr 18, 2019

Thanks I agree! It seems like everyone feels that way, so I am glad I asked before I made the investment. It seems like it actually has the opposite effect on recruiters, and not one wants to seem desperate.

Apr 18, 2019
isa2130953:

Thanks I agree! It seems like everyone feels that way, so I am glad I asked before I made the investment. It seems like it actually has the opposite effect on recruiters, and not one wants to seem desperate.

1.) If you need a credential, I'd give some thought to the CFA exam.
2.) Your first job, or your next job, is probably not your last job. Patience tends to pay off in the long run.

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Apr 18, 2019

If I'm reviewing a resume and some one tries to sneak something like that into the full blown education section - to me that's a major major ding. It's so obviously just bs and the goal is to be misleading. Pretty much an auto ding for me.

That said, if you find the classes useful and will help in learning/story go for it. I'd react way more positively if it was under an "other" type section. Like just a random bullet point: Complete X certificate in finance from Harvard's extension program to develop finance skills or whatever. Then in a cover letter / interview you can talk about how you wanted to learn more so did an this course. But the fact that its from an Ivy is irrelevant, its more so you did the work to gain experience.

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Apr 18, 2019

I agree, I think this is the best way to introduce it on a resume or CV. It's crazy to me that some people pretend it's their bachelor's.

Of course you are going to end up getting caught........ or at least I would hope so.

Apr 18, 2019

It depends who your target audience is. Anyone in high finance won't care and may even ding you. On the other hand, these programs may help you with commercial (business) loans or with obtaining government contracts, or they may help you show academic ability for a master's program admissions when you didn't perform particularly well as an undergrad. So, audience always matter.

Sep 7, 2019

A Harvard Extension School degree or credential does have a certain value or positive effect anywhere OUTSIDE a 100 mile radius of Boston/NYC where many know the huge difference between HC and HES or the office of someone who actually went to undergrad at HC. You'll never hear the end of it if you're caught trying to bait and switch.

Apr 18, 2019

When I'm helping people with their resumes, I typically put stuff like this (and certifications from non-university institutions, like Udacity for coding) in the skills section. To me, the programs are at best a signal that you have a real interest in an area, nothing more.

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Apr 18, 2019

Right. They have some merit, but only if they are used more as a tool or extra than promoting an ivy league for your resume.

Apr 18, 2019

Not sure scam is the word I'd use, but yes I'd say it's mostly a bad idea. IMHO it's helpful to understand how we got to this point.

The role elite schools play in the economy has gotten more ridiculous over time, and now it's jumped the shark like every once-great TV show does in its final seasons.

The schools used to be about educating people, and that worked as long as the customers (students) viewed it the same way. But over time, the customers started viewing top schools as branding factories; you go there to get a piece of paper and that's basically all of the value. That cynical view of the business model didn't immediately ruin education, because the schools didn't jump on board with the customers right away. The last ~2 generations of students may have thought they were just buying a degree, but the schools stayed focused on their mission and actually tried to teach some things.

But now the schools are on board with the new money-for-credentials model, and you're seeing this play out with examples like these weak certifications and a proliferation of online masters programs and so forth.

When I was in college, I saw DeVry advertise on the subway. Then some years later, it was University of Phoenix. Now it's Columbia. This is to say nothing of the various non-college degree programs . . how many certifications are out there now? It used to just be CFA, now there seems like 15 different sets of letters you can buy.

I'm not sure how long this silly trend will last and how it will all end, but I am confident the money and time is not well spent for the customers.

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Apr 18, 2019

Great analysis! They are most definitely a brand just like anything else that wants to send their name off one whatever.

I am not opposed to online degrees however, but I think a cert online is a waste for sure. Especially for how pricey they are PLUS most of them don't even test you nowadays. They just assume you read all the material and boom you are certified.

any opinions on this? https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/airlines-th...

Funniest
Apr 18, 2019

I heard now you can write "#BlackLivesMatter" hundreds of times on your application essay and get into Stanford. I doubt this would work for me due to how much "white privilege" I have; maybe if I wrote it 1,000 times it would carry similar weight...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp...

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Apr 18, 2019

im not white but i definitely dont want anyone to pity me or think the only reason i got a job was handouts. my parents came here and worked their asses off and now i do the same. i wish everyone would stop saying why they matter more or why they are just as good as everyone else, and just prove it instead.

racist ppl are clearly uneducated so i dont take offense when i hear things...... mostly because ik those peoplewon't go anywhere in life lol. really tho, i have never met or heard of an intelligent successful racist

i just wish everyone saw it that way

Apr 18, 2019

Still upset about that hispanic LGBT kid that got that internship over you? Lol

Work hard, work clean, & most of all do not give up.

Apr 18, 2019

This reminded me of an amazing book I read a few years back. I recall feeling jaded by this system of nepotism. However, once you've made it outside the well-trodden path, you realize the people around you from institutions such as Harvard and Stanford were the small fish in their respective universities. The true elite were reforming the way you consume and finding cures for diseases while the supposed elites came up with the genius idea of using leverage to buy companies and roadshowing bond offerings.... Anyways, book below:

Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life
https://www.amazon.com/Excellent-Sheep-Miseducatio...

  • ^ irony
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Apr 18, 2019

i will definitely check it out. i grew up in a very elite area and genuinely didn't understand the value of money...... and then my dads company went bankrupt and we were homeless. it was a slap across my face, and a huge one to my parents.

i am so glad we had that wake up call bc i would've been a lot more short-sighted and ignorant if i hadn't. i have so many friends still sucked in that oblivion that i was lucky enough to escape, and guess where they go...... not state schools i can tell you that much

Sep 7, 2019

Sir your voice sounds familiar, have you called before?

Apr 18, 2019

NYU isn't an Ivy...

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Apr 19, 2019

How do people feel about Ivy visiting programs (studying domestically as opposed to abroad)?

Just from my observation - people LOVE (strong emphasis) to see study abroad on a resume when we all know well and clear that it's just a semester of consequence-free partying in some warm and touristy western European city, most frequently done right before turning 21 during the spring semester for us in colder states. A buddy of mine took a wine tasting class that actually fulfilled some undergrad requirement back at our school. He also said the classes were total jokes, he'd skipped several weeks in total that semester to go to festivals and other touristy cities, didn't learn anything, and got a 4.0 that all transferred back.

Wouldn't a visiting semester at an Ivy demonstrate more merit?

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Apr 19, 2019
eyebee-throwaway:

How do people feel about Ivy visiting programs (studying domestically as opposed to abroad)?

Just from my observation - people LOVE (strong emphasis) to see study abroad on a resume when we all know well and clear that it's just a semester of consequence-free partying in some warm and touristy western European city, most frequently done during the spring semester for us in colder states. A buddy of mine took a wine tasting class that actually fulfilled some undergrad requirement back at our school. He also said the classes were total jokes, he'd skipped several weeks in total that semester to go to festivals and other touristy cities, didn't learn anything, and got a 4.0 that all transferred back.

Wouldn't a visiting semester at an Ivy demonstrate more merit?

Isn't the most common grade awarded at Harvard an "A"?

Apr 19, 2019

Maybe... grade inflation is real though, I agree. I think their trick is making an A count as 4.3 or something to offset the A- and Bs.

Although, still a more difficult and "real" learning experience than everyone's panty dropper - "studying" abroad, no?

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Apr 19, 2019

I agree with the recruiter that internships (I'm talking freshman and sophomore summers) are essential. I went to a target and virtually all of the people who secured junior summer analysts positions at top firms like Goldman Sachs and Evercore had sophomore investment banking experience.

You could major in international relations, english, art history - it doesn't matter. If you go to a non-target or semi-target, however, it's almost required that you're a finance major. But at a target, whether you think it's justified or not, your major or any certificate program isn't that relevant. They just care that you have the internship experience.

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Apr 21, 2019

This Fall I will be taking a Harvard Extension School course and plan to take a couple more after.

Granted its not a certificate course like the HBX ones it's an actual, full, for credit course that is applicable to my non-target finance degree. I have yet to add them to my LinkedIn but when I do it will state exactly what I took and where from. For example, Harvard Extension School: Courses: Principles of Finance, Macroeconomic Theory...etc GPA: x.xx, Project details..... This for me is most important because I get to learn from some of the best lecturers like Rand Ghayad.

No way is it a good idea to sell yourself as a target school graduate, but it should not diminish the education quality you get.

Item 4 - Mine Safety Disclosures. Not applicable.

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Apr 21, 2019
35noidea:

This Fall I will be taking a Harvard Extension School course and plan to take a couple more after.

Granted its not a certificate course like the HBX ones it's an actual, full, for credit course that is applicable to my non-target finance degree. I have yet to add them to my LinkedIn but when I do it will state exactly what I took and where from. For example, Harvard Extension School: Courses: Principles of Finance, Macroeconomic Theory...etc GPA: x.xx, Project details..... This for me is most important because I get to learn from some of the best lecturers like Rand Ghayad.

No way is it a good idea to sell yourself as a target school graduate, but it should not diminish the education quality you get.

I would strongly recommend against adding that to your Linkedin. If you're doing it for the learning experience then more power to you, but keep it off your resume or Linkedin. You will look ridiculous if you add it on.

Apr 21, 2019

Thanks for the advice. I won't add them.

Item 4 - Mine Safety Disclosures. Not applicable.

Apr 26, 2019
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