MSc Finance - Is my target out of reach?

Hi there, this is my second time asking for advice on my MSc Finance application. I know that this is a recurring topic but I am still not confident about my choices. Would really appreciate it if someone could give me advice. Thanks in advance!

My Profile:

Age: 21 

Coming from: Hong Kong

GPA: BSSc in Global communication, 3.25/4.0 (Expected) in a local target (world ranking around #40). I think this is where my weakness lies, a low GPA and a non-quantitative subject. 

Working Experience: Four internships in total. 2-mo ER @ small-to-mid cap Chinese broker, 3-mo Research at @ one of the big 4, 3-mo ER @mid-cap Chinese broker, 6-mo internship @ Investment department of a larger Chinese asset manager (AUM > 800B). Planning to find one more internship before I graduate. 

Qualifications: GMAT = 720, CFA L1 Passed, >90th percentile (does this even matters?), IELTS: 8.0, planning to take the FRM soon too, but probably would only be able to clear it after the application period.

Extracurriculars: Regional Chess Go player, college table tennis team member, community service director at college club, student ambassador of college faculty, one-year exchange in the UK, etc.

My Current Targets:

  • UK: LSE, Imperial, Warwick
  • Europe: ESSEC, ESCP, ESADE, IE, Nova etc. 

I wonder if schools like this: LSE, Imperial, HEC, ESSEC, ESCP, be too out of reach for me. I don't any preference for location/budget. Any advices? Thank you!

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Comments (12)

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Apr 25, 2021 - 4:40pm

You got a strong profile, and your "low" GPA is compensated with your GMAT + CFA. For reference, I know multiple people this year that got into HEC MIF and LSE A&F with very low 2.1 (61%) and with 690 GMAT and very limited work experience so 100% doable 

  • Prospect in PE - Other
Apr 28, 2021 - 7:04am

The GMAT is good. I would say you've got a decent chance for the continental programmes.

However, I think you'll struggle with Imperial and LSE as they'll likely apply a strict 2:1 cut-off (3.3 GPA) unless there are mitigating circumstances - same goes for any good UK university. This is harsh, but how it works. Imperial will likely be more difficult to clear coming from a non-quant background with that low GPA. Often programmes might have a "if you're below this but have unique circumstances, get in touch with us." That's what I'd do for UK programmes - try to clear the 2:1-equivalent hurdle in advance with admissions before applying. Both Imperial and LSE give out like 90% 2:1s now at undergrad. If you're HKU/HKUST then they'll recognise that as a near-equivalent academic standard, so if your 3.25 GPA was actually around the class median then it might  be fine. BUT speak to them first about it.

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Apr 28, 2021 - 12:25pm

That is really insightful stuff, thanks a lot! I am aware of my relatively low GPA so I tried my best to make up for it in other areas. I would definitely put more expectations and effort in applying to the continental programs.

I came from CUHK which adopts a curve grading system on a 4.0 scale (sometimes think this is a slight disadvantage as HKU/HKUST grades on a 4.3 scale haha) and I figure it is a 50/50 on whether I can get a 2:1 based on my current GPA because the cutoff varies for each year (only top 45% gets 2:1). Anyway, thanks for your input and wish you all the best!

  • Prospect in PE - Other
Apr 28, 2021 - 1:07pm

I hadn't actually heard of CUHK, but it looks pretty decent based on world rankings, so you should tick the "academic equivalent" mark easily. 

My advice to you would be to tell LSE/Imperial admissions that only 45% of CUHK people get 2:1s in advance, and basically contextualise your grade as much as possible. Any top 20 UK university now hands out over 80% 2:1s, and it is near impossible not to get one at LSE/Imperial/Oxford/Cambridge as you're basically advised to repeat the year or forced out. If you have any mitigating circumstances that you can claim it will help your case tremendously. If you can persuade admissions to effectively treat your grade as a 2:1 equivalent then I think you'll get in to at least one of them. 

Your GMAT is strong - above the average for both schools - and should allow you to compare favourably via the only standardised comparison for applicants. Supposedly for those who took the GMAT at Imperial the average for last year was 711 (considerably higher than for the MBA), but it's not mandatory - they recommend that a score above 650 with strong quant scores will "add weight." LSE seems to be 700-720 average and would usually be considered the more competitive programme, but I think Imperial might slightly penalise you for the lack of a quantitative undergrad. If you can learn some coding/data skills this would probably help you. Imperial specifically ask about what programming abilities you have and any maths modules you've done. 

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