Mod Note (Andy) - as the year comes to an end we're reposting the top discussions from 2015. This one was originally posted 6/30/2015.
I get a ton of emails and answer a ton of posts asking similar questions so I thought I would answer the most common ones I get here and allow others to post their questions so everyone can see them and the subsequent answers. Hope this helps.
Summer Analyst Eligibility
* The SA position is really structured for undergraduate students. The whole reason undergraduates go for a SA position is because they aren't ready to work full time. If you are in a one year masters program is really doesn't make much sense to try for an SA spot when you are eligible for FT analyst recruiting.
Now if you feel that you need internship experience in order to be more competitive then your best bet is to look for an unpaid internship or something off cycle. This will give youexperience, increase your knowledge and something you can do during the school year thereby not making you ineligible for full time positions.
Does this mean you can't apply for a SA gig? No.
Smaller banks might be more open to this and through networking you might be able to go over HRs head, but if you can go for full time recruiting I would advise you do so.
* I get this question at least 10 times a week. MSF programs are very different than MBA programs when it comes to admissions. You need to have the quantitative ability to succeed in the program and you also don't really get points for having diverse experience like you do in an MBA program. It is a specialized degree after all.
Low GPA (3.0 and below)
* Not a deal breaker. You need a strong GMAT (650 or higher). You need some finance internships and/or work experience. You need to explain when your GPA was low. You need to have a polish application. I've helped and know people with sub 3.0 GPA's get into all the main programs that everyone asks about.
Low GMAT (600-ish)
* Once again, not a complete deal breaker. You need to have a higher GPA, work experience, something to offset you. Lower GMAT will lower your shot at some MSF programs that tend to really focus on, but it isn't a deal breaker like it would be in the MBA world. You just need to really be able to sell the fact that you can handle the rigor of the program and get a job.
No work experience
* This won't hurt your application, but it could hurt your recruiting. You really want to have some type of work/internship experience on your resume. There are so many things you pick up from having to show up to work and work with other people that can't be replicated in school. Get some experience, somehow.
What program should I attend?
* The million dollar question. You need to ask yourself where you want to work, do you need an internship, what type of career you are looking to get into, do you like the campus/surrounding area/program, etc. This isn't a math equation. Villanova is very different than Ohio State. WUSTL is very different from Claremont McKenna. Dukes MMS program is very different than UT Austin. MSF's are very regional and place as such.
Different programs also provide different internship opportunities throughout the school year. They are also set up differently. Some have a cohort where everyone takes the same classes together. Some have a hybrid program. Some have students take MBA level finance classes.
And why do I say you need to decide this yourself? Because if you can't figure out where you are most comfortable and what you want to do once you graduate you are going to have trouble regardless of where you go. Indecision is probably the biggest thing working against MSF students because of the tight timeline everyone is working under.
You need to know what you want to do and how you are going to go about doing it before Day 1 of class. And this includes knowing basic questions about yourself and career which easily narrow down which school you want to attend.
* There are none. A lot of stuff is ad hoc and puts MSF programs into tiers or whatever, but the degree and schools offering the degree haven't reached the level of the MBA degree. Even within the MBA you can't just look at pure rankings without factoring in career aspirations and local. Best thing you can do is look at placements and program locations and choose accordingly.
MMS vs. MSF
* MMS is a great degree and has some overlap with the MSF so it is often seen as a competitor. The main thing to consider is that the MMS is basically an MBA for students without the required work experience. It is ideal for those students who have liberal arts undergraduate degrees and are looking for a general, business overview. While it can place you into a financial role, I think too many people pursue it simply because of brand value which I feel can be a risky bet.
CFA vs. MSF
*CFA is great, but is a poor comparison. Many MSF graduates get their CFA and many students who have L1-L2 completed pursue an MSF. Both are great, have value and should be considered independently.
MSF vs. MBA
* Same advice as above. MSF is more of a mini reset button, allowing students another year in college to pursue their goals. MBA is for experienced individuals looking to rebrand, change careers or advance in their current industry.