Two more years of college then Wall St....

titanboxer's picture
Rank: Orangutan | 268

I am in need of a little advice. This was covered a little while ago in an IB thread, but I wanted advice from some traders. My eventual goal is to end up on a trading desk at a BB or hedge fund, probably something with derivatives.

I was deployed with the army a couple years ago and, since high school wasn't a time that I studied a great deal, when I got back I started taking classes at the community college. Over the last two years I have been at community college attempting to transfer to a respectable school.

Finally, I have been accepted to transfer to Columbia, Cornell, and the University of Illinois. So I think that narrows it to Columbia or Cornell. The programs would be Cornell AEM or Economics and Operations Research at Columbia. At Columbia I would also be able to take classes geared toward, if not earn a concentration in, financial engineering.

The catch to this question is that since I had a break (for military) between college and high school, I was directed to apply for the School of General Studies at Columbia. I was under the impression that this was just geared toward nontraditional students that would earn the same degree and take the same classes as Columbia College students. However, I have been realizing that it may be looked down upon during recruiting.

In light of all this, I am wondering where the best place would be in order to have the best career prospects for a trading desk. Obviously I will be visiting the two and factoring financial aid, etc. But I would like to know the thoughts of anyone on a trading desk out there. Thanks.

Comments (9)

May 15, 2008

And I say that as a Cornell alum. For what you want to do (trading derivatives) I think OR with a concentration in financial engineering makes more sense. Plus, I believe Columbia School of General Studies students with prior fulltime work experience can earn an dual BA/MBA in five years through Columbia Business School. Plus you are in NYC, the financial capital of the world.

If you had been admitted to Cornell's OR major (which is in the College of Engineering, not CALS) I would change my recommendation. When I was in Ithaca there was not an independent financial engineering major, but instead it was a subdisipline of OR. Nonetheless it was regarded as among the best financial engineering programs in the country (along with Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon). Even the EE and ChemE majors regarded OR as serious business.

AEM on the otherhand (which used to be called ARME) was widely derided as the biggest joke major on campus (considering Cornell has both a hotel school and a school of agriculture thats saying something). It was the major where they stuck all the football players. That said, I've heard that AEM has really improved since I graduated, and become considerably more rigourous. BusinessWeek recently ranked it the #4 undergrad business program in the country. Still, the engineer in me can't shake the feeling that its a patty cake major.

Disclaimer: I am an engineer headed for an MBA in the fall and have not yet worked in banking so you might want to seek a second opinion.

May 15, 2008

Hello Slacker,

What's your opinion on the Johnson School of management at Cornell? I know its MBA, but maybe you know the reputation?

I will be enrolling in the Fall, hoping to get a high level trading or consulting gig at a top firm as a career switcher.


May 16, 2008

I'm a Columbia College (CC) rising senior interning this summer at a BB in S&T. A couple of my best friends are GS students. Yes, they are slightly looked down upon by other students academically, and by prospective employers as well.

However, as a GS student you have some great networking possibilities, and if you put some extra time into it, you can make all the connections that a Columbia College student would make. The only difference is, it is important to have a great GPA, as you did take a non-traditional path to the University.

GS and CC are pretty integrated already, as GS students take pretty much all the same classes that CC students take. Also, there have been talks about a GS and CC merger in the works... From what I hear from friends who are on the Executive Board, these talks have progressed significantly since this article, which was in the Columbia Spectator, was written. However, financial engineering and operations research are School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) majors, and I am not that knowledgeable about SEAS and GS integration. The OR and FE majors that i know (who are interested in banking and S&T), have had some pretty great success in obtaining internships. Furthermore, as a GS student taking SEAS classes, you are subject to the SEAS curve, which can be brutal. The bottom line is, as long as you are prepared to work hard, both academically and with networking, Columbia is a great place to be if you want to go into finance.

I would suggest taking economics classes with some of the "Rock star" professors as well if you do decide to matriculate this fall--they are all what they are cracked up to be and are a great way to start your Columbia experience... Most OR and FE majors have a minor or concentration in economics (SEAS does not have minors, but does have concentrations, while CC offers minors). GS students can major in Econ as well if you are interested, and an econ-math joint major is a great way to get a quantitative and markets background (just make sure to take market and finance based econ electives).

I hope this helps. Feel free to ask any addition questions as i check this site fairly often, but I absolutely would not hesitate in coming to Columbia because you would be in GS. The opportunities are there, as long as you have what it takes to work hard and forgo the typical college partying experience--though we still do party some :)

May 16, 2008

from the previous posters...dont know why Im actually surprised as I I think they are the result of the clearly written, detailed question of the OP. Sometimes posters dont get how important that aspect is to quality.

Anyway, I will leave the school comparisons to the students/alums and make the recommendation, based on m=my experience as a sell side trader, that you should go to Columbia AND leverage your time there to get an MBA.

Heres why on the school: Ive come in contact with many more columbia alumni across the street than i have vs the other schools you mention, combined. Columbias location and quality amount to a network in finance that is priceless. I would say Wharton and MIT ugrads round out our top three in trading for some perspective. And to me, the C ugrads tend to be more well rounded than the other two. Heres why on the MBA: Though this is largely b/c Im assuming you are 3+yrs older vs average ugrad? Firms do tend to like military backgrounds, but this sitchy is more of a challenge (legal no, reality yes). Here I think youd get better mileage and leverage with the mili story in an MBA pool. If were talking 1-2yrs, then it I think its generally a bonus (tho prolly one you needed to even things out, given your background) and youll ultimately be fine in the ugrad pool.

I think its awesome how youre refocusing your future. Just keep the grades up and network for opportunities. Good luck.

May 16, 2008

Thanks everyone for the great responses. Its strange that a lot of people are saying Columbia. When I asked in the IB forum, every single person said Cornell. I'm visiting both next week to get a good feel for the areas since I know they are opposites. I am also waiting on financial aid from both.

Thanks again and any other thoughts would be appreciated!

May 27, 2008


May 27, 2008

Congrats on your acceptances. However neither Columbia College nor GS students can concentrate in financial engineering. That is only available to SEAS students, so I'm not sure how that affects your decision.

Econ-OR and Econ-Math are both very popular, though the latter seems to be the easier one. You can definitely sneak into some financial engineering classes while not in SEAS but unforunatley you're not going to be allowed to concentrate in them.

I'm sure you're fine wherever you go. Ivy league education + military experience is just about a sure lock into finance.

May 28, 2008

Yeah, I figured the financial engineering concentration out after a little while. If I went to Columbia I would do Econ-OR. However, I think that I'm going to probably end up at Cornell. I think Columbia would be better for trading but GenStudies has too many disadvantages. It seems looked down on for recruiting, it costs more, and has minimal financial aid. If I need to do the FE thing later, I'll just have to get a masters. Unfortunately, I haven't had an internship that is related to trading so I can't say that it's what I want to do for sure. Hopefully I'll be able to make it happen from AEM if its what I decide to do. Either way I liked Cornell's campus more and the complete financial aid package is really nice.

May 28, 2008