Masters in Finance / Sustainable Finance Profile Evaluation

Some background:

  • I graduated from a non-target state school with a 3.15 GPA (B.S. Economics - had a dreadful start but recovered strongly in the back half of my degree)
  • Worked as an investment analyst intern for 1.25 yrs at my school's endowment (did some really cool in-depth work, lots of stories to tell)
  • Post-grad I worked briefly for a congressional campaign and then landed at a sustainable finance firm (basically a startup, the firm does corporate consulting and investment sourcing/underwriting)
  • Studied for a month & took the GRE a week ago: 165 Verbal 159 Quant. This was really tough as I had just started at the sustainable finance firm and had to juggle both things, but I'm proud of what I scored in the limited time I had allocated.

I'm in an interesting spot at the current firm I'm at, and I believe that I may have more than a short-term future there depending on how things go. Sustainable finance (huge umbrella term, I know) is something that I could see myself pursuing a career in, but I've noticed that a lot of the folks working in the space are ex-IB and ex-PE, having had the chance to hone their skills in a more traditional finance environment. I figure that a MSF degree might be able to fill in some gaps and so I'm applying to a few highly-regarded programs just to have that option should I be admitted. Time will tell, however, whether I eschew the masters degree and focus on pursuing work-based experience.

Below are the schools I plan on applying to. I'm aware that my GPA and GRE Quant are lacking, however I believe I have somewhat of a unique profile and would like to set my hopes high while keeping expectations realistic.


  • MIT Sloan MFin
  • HEC Paris MSF (2nd choice: MS Social Innovation & Sustainability)
  • EDHEC MS Climate Change & Sustainable Finance (Inaugural year for this program)
  • Vanderbilt MSF
  • UVA MS Commerce

Based on my background, any advice on how I would fare with these schools would be much appreciated. Additionally, if you knew of any other programs that might be a good fit (or any of these that would be a BAD fit) I'd love to hear those as well.


Comments (15)

  • Intern in HF - Other
Dec 31, 2020 - 10:34am

Not trying to be a downer just trying to give my honest opinion. 

You have no shot at the MIT MSF or the HEC MIF coming from a state school with those stats or work experience. 

Apply to Vandy if you really want to go to school there. I think its unlikely you'll get in, however more likely than both HEC and MIT. 

Forget the EDHEC program since its in its first year (the pandemic will only exacerbate the struggles of programs starting out IMO). 

Out of those options the UVA Ms Commerce is your best bet. Your GPA is lower than the middle 80% but your test scores should make up for it. Work experience may be a plus considering most kids are straight out of UG. 

If I were you honestly I would stay at your current shop unless you get into UVA and even then I'd consider staying. No school is going to teach you the IB/PE skill set no matter how many courses on the subject they teach. If you talk to most people they'll tell you 80-90% of what they learn is on the job. With that being said if you truly want the IB/PE skill set the only way to learn it is to do it. 

Dec 31, 2020 - 11:43am

I totally appreciate the honesty.

When it comes to UVA MS Commerce vs Vanderbilt (in a world in which I get into both), do you then think that Vandy would be clearly superior?

In regards to your last paragraph, you pretty much touched directly on the perplexity of my current situation. Working alongside some ex-IB/PE folk vs. leaving then going to school to go get their experience then... coming back to do the same type of work 5 years down the road?

I honestly wonder whether I'd be better off putting my nose to the grindstone where I'm at for the foreseeable future then entering a MBA with financial concentration... maybe at a point where career achievement might outweigh poor undergrad stats.

Anyway, I appreciate the advice. I was looking for a dose of reality - it's not easy to find that.

  • Intern in HF - Other
Dec 31, 2020 - 1:29pm

I studied finance UG and was ineligible for the UVA MS Commerce degree, therefore I didn't do extensive research into the program. My thoughts however are that whether you attend UVA or Vanderbilt will not determine whether you break into IB. Both are good enough schools to get you a seat at banks (won't be a BB in the majority of cases), however, if you don't place out of UVA you probably wouldn't have placed at Vanderbilt either. Therefore, if you get into both I would go to whichever program is cheaper. I should also add that no MSF or early career master's program is going to guarantee you'll get a better job or an IB offer. The reality is you could end up at the same firm or a worse job after a master's and that is something you'll have to be comfortable with if you attend one of these programs. If you attend one of these programs you should also at minimum get a boutique IB internship because having no IB experience heading into recruiting will hurt you. 

If you know sustainable finance is an area where you want to be long-term then stay. Coming out of UG I had a FT IB offer at a BB but after doing a few IB internships I was able to come to the realization that I wanted to be an investor so I declined my FT IB offer. The BB offered a safer path with more options after an analyst stint (PE, VC, HF, Corp Dev, etc.), however, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in investment management and was comfortable with the risks associated with going down that path. It definitely hasn't been the smoothest path, however, I was able to land at a MM HF and love the work I'm doing. Had I gone down the IB path I know enough about myself to know that I would be miserable and would be looking to head out the door to the buy-side the first chance I would get. 

Something else to consider is that wanting the IB skillset and wanting to do IB are two very different things. Most people think they want to do IB without having done it or understanding what a career in IB entails. If you're going to land an IB offer you have to be passionate about IB because many of the people you're competing against will be. There are going to be kids that go to extraordinary lengths to land IB offers (thousands of applications, hundreds of phone calls with bankers, etc.). Are you willing to dedicate the majority of your free time to studying technicals, improving your modeling skills, networking, etc.? If you don't go to pretty extreme lengths to chase down an offer you probably aren't going to land one because there will be a long line of people that want it more than you. 

Additionally, bankers aren't stupid, and if you seem more passionate about sustainable finance or something else other than IB they'll deduce you're here for 2 years for the skillset and are then going to bounce. There's nothing wrong with doing a 2-year analyst stint and bouncing, however, if there is any doubt about whether you're committed to IB for the long haul during interviews you won't get an offer.

In a few years, an MBA could be a strong choice, however, it will still be an uphill battle given your stats if you're aiming for an M7 school (in the finance bucket you're competing with IB/PE/HF/MBB Consultants, etc. who have stronger GPA's, test scores, etc.). 

Like I said before I'm not trying to discourage you with any of this and am just offering my two cents. I personally would stay in sustainable finance if that's where you want to be long term. A 2-4 year stint in IB may give you a leg up in your 20's and early 30's however isn't going to be what keeps you from being in the C-Suite vs Middle Management over the course of a 40 year career.

Jan 1, 2021 - 10:37pm

I saw your feedback and wanted to see if I could get your analysis on my resume as well, I applied to the MIT MFin program.  

I go to a non-target school in the middle of nowhere. Finance major, 3.9 gpa, summa cum laude. ncaa student athlete that founded the entrepreneurship club and is the portfolio manager of a student-managed fund (approx 180k value) that transitioned it into a full esg sustainability fund while beating S&p benchmark by >18%. 

Getting an internship was hard but I was able to land in financial services in NYC on an IR team and was lucky to do some independent projects on ESG that we're accepted into their formal post-2020 strategy plans. 

The only other notable things on my resume are that I've taken math up through Calc III, linear, got certified by AMT Training for DCF, LBO, Transactions and Comparables Valuations, got certified in python, and was recently approved to do a faculty-guided research journal for academic submission exploring the quantitative performance of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) focused investment decisions. 


I've seen the class profile and definitely tried to use an ESG niche in my application because my background definitely supports it. Do you think it'd be more advantageous as an applicant to do something that specific? I was kind of grasping for ways to stand out as an applicant. 

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