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University of Chicago - Master of Science in Financial Mathematics

University of Chicago - Master of Science in Financial Mathematics

Type
Full-time, part-time
Location
Chicago, IL
Currently the Program offers 15 months of accelerated, integrated coursework that explores the deep-rooted relationship that exists between theoretical and applied mathematics and the ever-evolving world of finance. To assist our students with applying theory to practice, we offer Project Labs with area employers to help build out our student's skills and knowledge about the quant industry. Our Program, with its unmatched student body and highly accomplished faculty, works hard to uphold the University’s core values by creating an atmosphere that encourages intellectual collaboration and growth.

Lastly, students of the MSFM Program at the University of Chicago enjoy a world-class education. Courses are taught by a combination of established academics and industry professionals. Beyond academics, the MSFM Program offers students the opportunity to grow both privately and professionally. Networking events are held regularly to encourage communication and professional growth.

Our mission is to equip our students with a solid foundation in mathematics, and in doing so provide them with practical knowledge that they can successfully apply to complicated financial models. Our students become leaders in their field; program alumni have gone forth to find success at companies like JP Morgan, UBS, and Goldman Sachs

Interested in learning more? Request information by going to: The University of Chicago | Financial Mathematics and someone from our admissions team will follow up with you shortly.
Author
Meredith
Views
30,405
First release
Last update
Rating
4.56 star(s) 16 ratings

Latest reviews

I graduated from UChicago's MSFM program in December 2020 and I'm an incoming Quantitative Trader of a Chicago-based prop trading firm. Overall, to rate this program, I'll definitely say this program gives me so much help in studying and job hunting and it's totally worthwhile to choose this program to strengthen yourself in all kinds of perspective if you wanna dig more into this area.

My Background
I learned math and economics during undergrad in the states. Honestly I don’t see myself as a typical candidate for MSFM (lack of related intern experiences and was not sure if I really wanted to be a quant in the future etc.). I mainly focused on applying for stats/biostats/applied math graduate programs during application season and I managed to get into big names such as Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Duke etc.

Why MSFM
I’ll definitely say UChicago has always been my dream school. I’m a math and economics student and without any doubt UChicago is like heaven to me. When doing all kinds of researches, I looked into the curriculum of this program and found out that all of the courses are pretty useful for my future study/career. To be a quant, you need to be good at math, coding, machine learning and also all kinds of financial products. MSFM offers a bunch of good courses in all those aspects (Python, C++, Machine Learning, Options, Fixed Income, Matrix Decomposition etc.). At that time, I was intrigued by those courses and also those well-known professors (Lawler, Roger Lee etc.). Besides what I mentioned above, the Project Lab also attracted me. I didn’t really have that confidence while applying since I’m not sure if I’m gonna secure an offer after graduation so being able to attend the project lab is a secure move and I thought it would add more colors into my resume.

Workload
I’ll admit that the workload of this program is pretty huge, which is a good thing for me. At the first quarter, we got four compulsory courses (with a log of dues, exams and projects) and all kinds of workshops to attend in order to prepare ourselves for job hunting. In the meantime, it was the hiring season and with tons of interviews coming, it was crazily busy at that time. But all the courses did teach us useful stuff which could be encountered during quant interviews. After the first quarter, we got much more time to free solo by our own and this is the time for us to choose free elective courses that we’re interested in.

Project Lab
Definitely shed some light of how this industry works. If you’re someone who doesn’t have much experiences in quant trading, project lab is a perfect starting point. Every project lab has a supervisor and several teammates (your peers) and you guys will report weekly or biweekly to the company and there will be a final presentation at the end of each quarter. This is a good chance to face the real challenge in this business (messy data, unclear information, bad communication etc.) but once you conquered all those trouble, you’ll definitely learn a lot.

Course recommendations
Roger’s Options and Numerical Methods (those two are my favorite, such clearly-illustrated and useful courses), Seb’s Python (super useful but huge workload), Brian’s Regression Analysis (good chance to practice coding, project-based, huge workload), Tsay’s Time Series (good professor, super useful course), Lim’s Matrix Decomposition (useful and important linear algebra course, love it)

Career Office
Emily is definitely the sweetest and the most supportive and helpful person of this program!!!!! I love her so much and she’s always so nice, patient and definitely offers the best career service ever. I’ve heard that some schools’ career offices offer no help at all but at MSFM, they do everything they can to help you. Before officially enrolled in the program, you’re required to send resume and cover letter to them for several versions of revision. And then, during September review, they’ll organize a tons of workshops for preparing interviews and networking. Also, before every interview, if you talk with them, Emily will give you some questions that other alumni encountered before to help you prepare and they would love to mock interview with you. Emily follows up with my job hunting during the whole 15-month program and I’ll say, without her support, help and encouragement, I would never be able to truly believe that I could slay those interviews and got my offers.

Summary
Definitely worth your time. Appreciate everything I gained from this program.
Overall:
I graduated from the program in December 2020 and absolutely loved it for multiple reasons. The program is strong academically and rigorous yet is ultimately very rewarding.

Background:
I joined the program straight from undergrad where I studied applied math and statistics so I only had internship experiences prior to starting. In general, students join with very different backgrounds (economics, engineering, physics, math, stats, finance, etc.) and some at different points in their careers so I would not say anyone is really at a disadvantage or wouldn’t be able to succeed in the program given their background (assuming program requirements are met). In fact, the finmath (UChicago financial math program!) faculty do a great job helping all students catch up and review any important material during September Review (prior to Fall quarter).

Application/Decision Process:
The application is fairly straight forward. You need letters of rec, an essay (why the financial math field? why uchicago?), and a video interview recording of you answering some questions (this is also nothing to stress over and although I don’t remember the exact questions asked, they were fairly general and nothing out of the ordinary, more or less something along the lines of “why do you want to join this program?”).

I was ultimately deciding between a few different programs and UChicago. While I obviously chose UChicago, I never once regretted it. I think a few important things to think about if you are applying or deciding are 1) prestige (I hate to say it but it’s true in this field) 2) location 3) experience visiting or meeting students or faculty from the program. For me, UChicago covered all these three categories fairly well and I can confidently say this after graduating as well as after experiencing the application and interview process for internships and full-time positions. The University of Chicago itself has a great reputation and the Financial Mathematics program even more so, so applying pretty much anywhere gives you a leg up. Furthermore, the program being in Chicago is great since there are numerous trading firms (who hire many students) there and also a great chance to actually see some of these firms in person as the finmath program organizes “field trips” for students to meet quants and traders at these firms. One thing to note, given many firms/banks in this field are in NY, the fact that the program is not in NY is a question that has come up quite a bit when I have talked to prospective students. I have never seen this as an issue or as a disadvantage when applying to jobs or going through the interview process with companies in different states. I guess the only downside is you might have to hop on an extra flight for an interview but that’s not always so bad. Finally, the actual experience when visiting or talking to students/faculty is crucial! I had some questions prior to accepting and Meredith who is the director of student and faculty services at finmath along with some current students at the time did an amazing job guiding me through these which gave me a great sense of what the culture of the program would be like. This is also important because after all, these are the people you will be going to for help with career advice, course work, research, etc. so I would say that these interactions should be a top factor in your decision making.

Courses/Program Structure:
The courses offered at the program are very thoroughly planned out and designed to help you succeed. For instance, the first quarter of the program you take core courses in options pricing, stochastic processes, portfolio theory, and python. These are important because this is exactly what most interviews cover so you jump into the program really just being fed information that you will then be asked about in an interview. Fall quarter starts in early October or late September which is a bit unfortunate since that is the peak of the recruiting season for internships. However, finmath does a great job dealing with this since the career development office starts interacting with students during the summer with study tips, resume and cover letter review appointments, etc. pretty much getting you ready for September Review. September Review is an additional part of the program that while is not mandatory is STRONGLY recommended and for a good reason. Almost every day in September there is a review session or workshop (technical and non-technical) that is helpful in preparing you for classes and interviews. During this month, many activities are also organized that allow you to meet your fellow classmates, alum, or even quants or other professionals from different firms. These are all great opportunities to network and possibly learn more about where you want to apply. Fall quarter I would say is the most hectic as you are trying to juggle courses along with applying to jobs, studying for interviews, and finally actually interviewing which can all be a lot to handle together. If you are deciding between programs, I can confidently say that this is probably true for all students regardless of the school, so choosing a program where you think you can get the most help and support in this process is vital. I think what’s really helpful at finamath is that the career development office and faculty know and understand this which makes everything slightly easier to maneuver (Meredith is also a great cheerleader for everyone in this process throughout the entire year!!!) . Furthermore throughout the program, it really feels like the faculty is there to help you and really want the best for you which is a great environment to be in. I won’t go into too much detail about other courses, but some of my favorites or those that I found to be very helpful aside from the first quarter courses I mentioned are: FINM 33150 - Regression Analysis and Quant. Trading Strategies, FINM 32700 - Advanced Computing for Finance, and FINM 32000 - Numerical Methods.
Finally, project lab is definitely one of finmath’s selling points. Project lab is an opportunity for students to join a project each quarter (most students only do 1-2) with a partnering firm. This is kind of like a group project (4-5 students) in internship format that occurs during the quarter. I know students who have loved their projects and those who have not so I think it’s definitely a hit or miss depending on what firm you choose, how engaged the professionals from the firms are while working with finmath students, and of course, the topic of the project lab. However, it's a great experience to add to your resume or even get a paid summer internship /full-time job from. Lastly, many of the finmath faculty are working professionals. This means they bring a lot of what is being practiced in industry to the classroom. They are also all a great resource for questions regarding careers and research projects or really anything you may be curious about.

Career Development Office:
AMAZING. I really couldn’t even imagine how helpful a program’s career development office could be prior to attending UChicago’s finmath program. Students are paired with one of three finamth counselors at the start of the year and this is the person you can go to for everything career related. It is really easy to get appointments when necessary so if I ever had questions prior to interviewing somewhere, I could always schedule an appointment with my counselor. The CDO is more of a network that keeps growing every year, learning more and more about other companies, the interview process, and gaining valuable insight that they then share with students. Furthermore, they organize countless workshops throughout the year that help with interview prep. A common example of such workshop is a faculty member (often times Roger Lee or Mark Hendricks) going over brain teasers or interview questions that UChicago students have seen during interviews at top firms.

Weaknesses:
While there aren’t many weaknesses I that I can think of, I think that a few of the electives offered are not taught in the most practical manner or could be updated. Furthermore, the programming courses (other than those taught by Sebastien D. - Computing for Finance in Python, Advanced Computing for Finance) could be improved and some more advanced techniques (ex: advanced machine learning techniques) that are currently used in the field should be introduced. However this may be the key difference between financial engineering and financial math programs so I guess a matter of preference.

Random things I wish I knew about the program before joining:
- Financial Math at UChicago literally has its own building which is very cool! Inside is a lecture hall (where you take most of your courses throughout the program), study rooms, a computer lab, and offices of most of the faculty.
- Most courses are during the evenings! Usually 6-9 pm so it’s definitely something to get used to but also gives you time to interview, work, or do other things during the day.
- Not a lot of information is given about September Review but it essentially is an entire month of different events ranging from company talks, socializing events, and finally most importantly review of different topics that students should be refreshed on prior to starting.
Chicago is a very fun city to be in so definitely a great place to go to grad school.
- I think every single finmath student will tell you this but buy the green book ("A Practical Guide To Quantitative Finance Interviews”) in the summer prior to starting this program or any other financial math/engineering program and start going over questions and brainteasers from it. This will save you so much time during Fall Quarter and make your life so much easier.
1. Background
I am a December 2020 graduate from the University of Chicago’s Financial Mathematics (MSFM) program. Before joining the program, I had a BS in Actuarial Science/Statistics from UIUC. Then I worked in banking and risk management for a few years. The main reason that I applied for the MSFM is that I want to switch my career to a more challenging and rewarding job. I learned about the program from some of my UIUC classmates, who attended the program after graduating from undergraduate.

The program officially starts at the beginning of September each year, and you will go through a month called 'September review', where you will be given reviews in subjects, including Math, Statistics, python programming, and data analysis. In the meantime, Career Development Office will organize a lot of job search-related training, including networking, interview skills, communication skills. It is gonna be very INTENSE!!! So be prepared.

After the sep. review, normal classes will begin. Life is still very tough from Oct. to Dec. as you will need to take classes (hw, exams) and search for next summer internship (apply jobs, interviews prep.). If you are lucky enough to land an internship, life will be easier for you during the winter and spring quarters (Jan. - Jun.). Your last quarter starts in Oct. and the full-time job search should start around Aug.

My overall experience in the program is very positive. I have achieved my goal by attending the program. I currently work as a bond trader after graduation. I would highly recommend the MSFM program at UChicago to anyone who is planning to pursue a career in the quantitative finance industry or any positions that require quantitative skills

2. Courses
The curriculums of the program are well designed and cover broad ranges of topics with the goal to train people to become well-rounded quants.

My favorite classes are Roger Lee's Mathematical Foundations of Option Pricing and Numerical Method, Chanaka's Computing for Finance in C++, and Seb's Advanced Computing for Finance in C++

3. Career Development Office (CDO)
One of the biggest advantages of the program and UChicago is its location. The city of Chicago has a huge Job market and is a trading harbor. There are many prop trading firms, hedge firms, asset management firms. In addition, most of the firms maintain close connections with the program and they will host info. sessions on campus (some companies even invite students for an office tour).

I have to say CDO is doing a superb job at helping students with job search, resume and cover letter reviews, networking with employers and interviews, etc. CDO will offer tons of workshops to cover every aspect and step you need to take to land a job and help you practice interview questions. In addition, CDO advisors are super helpful and always available when you need help.

If you never have experience searching for jobs and doing interviews, I think you will benefit the most by attending the CDO workshop and make sure you participate and practice your communication and interview skills with CDO advisors.

4. Final advice
If you have 3-4 months free time before Sep. Review (start of the program), you should use this free time wisely to study Green Book and practice programming questions on Leetcode to get ready for technical interviews. Once you start the program, you will have very limited time studying those time-consuming materials.

Be mentally and physically (make sure you sleep well) prepared for this intense adventure. It is a marathon, so stay positive and keep working hard. You will eventually get through!
I graduated Dec 2020 from Finmath program. Best program ever.

The curriculum setting is simple and straightforward, unlike other programs offering tons of courses from other department and confuse people on deciding the curriculum structure, UChicago Finmath does a great job on building up a practical schedule for students.

The most IMPORTANT PART is that courses we learnt are really practical instead of purely theoretical. They involve LARGE side of coding and computational practice which would be useful not only in academic side but also in your career side. There are also practices related to courses for interview questions alongside each class and we find them truly useful in career season.

On the other hand, we have one-to-one career advisor services that help each student with their resume/CV/career goal etc. Workshops and labs for interview/networking/working culture are also brilliant in helping student get into the career path. CDO officers are nice and warm with encouragement to us. They followup regularly with our daily school work and job fair to make sure we have everything on the right track. Tons of career fair and company tour opportunities were offered during the first month and that was a great experience.

Overall I truly admire the system UChicago Finmath has built for students. Everything we learnt are PRACTICAL and useful. Employees and professors all care about students with all their efforts.

I'm glad that I get al l sources of help from this program and I'm proud to be in finmath cohort. :)
Overall:
Graduated in Dec 2020. Currently a trader in credit market making. Will recommend this program for students who are interested in quant research, options marking making, or just want to open a career in Chicago
.

Strength:
1. Some coursework are solid. Meaning if you take them seriously and work hard, then will be able to learn a lot. My favorite: Options related courses by Roger Lee.

2. To my own experience, the Career Service (CDO) director is very helpful. She was my advisor and gave me big helps in internship & fulltime job searches. Note: CDO service experience is unique to each individual. I only speak for my experience. CDO will provide the resource/connection for you to work on, ultimately you are responsible of your own career.

3. Target school for Chicago based options market making prop shops.

4. Project labs with companies: Give you the chance to work with hedge funds/trading firms on projects. Project labs are time consuming but they can be fruitful. Choose the right one and really spend time & effort on it.


Weakness:

1. If you just want to have a career at the BB banks then NY schools or CMU may be better fits.
2. Some coursework are not practical enough. Choose what to take wisely.
Overall
I am December 2019 graduate from University of Chicago’s Financial Mathematics (MSFM) program. This program has transformed me and helped me achieve my goal of breaking in the [quantitative] finance industry and has given me the tools I need to succeed in the workplace. I want to thank all the faculty, students and other professionals I have worked or networked with along the way. For that, I cannot give the program anything but 5 stars for a rating. Although there are areas that need improvement, if you utilize your resources wisely, you will succeed in the program and ultimately start (or continue) a successful career path. This is an extensive review meant for prospective students to consider when choosing a program and also for current students on what they should look out for when attending. Feel free to reach out if you have questions on my review or on the program.

Background
US Citizen; white male; BS Mathematics from a state school in NY (SUNY); 1 year of full time experience as a pricing analyst for an engineering company. Even though I had a limited finance background, the pricing analyst job was important in the sense that I got comfortable analyzing data via Excel but also being able to communicate esoteric analytics to stakeholders and clients. A big reason why I got admitted, despite the non-financial background, is because of the interest and willingness to undertake quant-related projects and learning how to code before starting the program. Moreover, I took several actuarial science courses, albeit unrelated, that showed my interest and ability in applied math.

Did you get admitted to other programs?
I got into a few programs but my next best option would have been Columbia: Mathematics in Finance (MAFN). It was a difficult decision for me but ultimately I chose Chicago and it ended up being the right decision. At the time, Columbia was much less transparent and had difficulty communicating with me and answering my questions via E-mail or phone (even after I had been accepted). On the other hand, Meredith Muir (Assistant Director for Student and Faculty Services for the program) was very extremely helpful with any concerns or questions I had. To me the program seemed more intimate in the sense that it felt more like a community. Columbia was also more expensive. There were a few other programs I got accepted to but turned them down.

Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?
See above answer. To add on, I would say that UChicago has a great reputation and brand and this holds true even for masters or PhD programs. Granted, the undergraduate ranking has the true “elite” reputation but the prominence is still applicable to higher education. Even though the feeling eventually fades, stepping on UChicago’s campus and being surrounded by its architectural beauty, is a humbling experience. Industry heavyweights like Eugene Fama, Myron Scholes, Milton Freedman and other Nobel prize winners have been here to study, conduct research or teach. Lastly, growing up and having attended school in NY all my life, I was keen on moving out and expending all my energy on a new start in a new city (Chicago is definitely a fun city to spend ~1.5 years in).

Application process
Standard GRE/GPA evaluation along with an essay and video interview. The programs selection process is holistic in nature and they will give you a chance if you show them that you have interest and potential. You can find out more information through Meredith. I’m sure if you reached out to her she will answer any of your application related questions.

Course selection
The course selection I would say is relatively standard in the sense that the main toolkits you need in quant finance will be gained: option pricing, numerical methods, Python, C++, stochastic calculus, and portfolio management. The downside however is the lack of diverse electives. I was quite disappointed that the electives were either too specific (e.g. Multivariate Data Analysis via Matrix Decomposition) or too concentrated in one area (e.g. multiple courses on Market Microstructure or Algorithmic Trading). I understand that Chicago is a trading hub but not everyone who graduates from this program wants to be a trader. Moreover, the timing of these courses is somewhat inconvenient -- there were some electives I wanted to take in the Spring but I was too preoccupied by the required courses. Looking back, I would say the bulk of what I have taken from the program is from the required coursework.

Quality of teaching
Before I list out the faculty and their strengths and weaknesses, I want to emphasize that the core course professors are also involved in the management of the program and wear multiple hats (e.g. Roger Lee as the options pricing professor and the Director of the program, Mark Hendricks as the portfolio theory professor and Associate Director of the program, etc.). This means that you will spend more valuable time with these people outside the classroom and gain exposure in many different ways than just coursework (e.g. technical interview labs, clubs, career/employer events, etc.). I am going to give an in-depth review of the required courses professors and give a brief review of the other notable ones.

Roger Lee: FINM 33000 - Mathematical Foundations of Option Pricing. This course is the highlight of the program and the reason why you should attend this program. There is not a more qualified person to teach such an introductory, yet vital course such as this one. Put it this way - for my first project on the job post-graduation I had to read multiple research papers for the model I was working on at the bank and his name came up multiple times in the references section of these papers and even directly in the model my firm built. His teaching style is relatively slow paced but it is the reason why Roger is unlike anyone else. He takes his time to teach and makes sure everyone understands and explains extremely thoroughly. I don’t think there was ever a time he was unsure of what he was talking about. He’s a leading industry expert with many research publications. I still to this day, for my job, refer back to his notes and lecture videos. Roger also teaches FINM 32000 - Numerical Methods, which is a great course that has important topics. For some reason, I wasn’t able to get that much out of it at the time but now that I work more closely with some of the things he mentioned, I was able to go back to his notes and found it helpful. The homework’s are a combination of Python exercises and written examples. For both courses, Roger’s homework assignments are extremely well written, thought out, and useful.

Mark Hendricks: FINM 36700 - Portfolio Theory and Risk Management I. To start, Mark is a great guy - very personable and understanding. He is engaging in the classroom and is always willing to help. This class is of utter importance to anyone who wants to manage a portfolio or trade (even if this is not your job in the short-term, anyone in quant finance will eventually need to understand risk-return dynamics to either make money for a firm or for themselves). Aside from it being great course content-wise, I would like to add that Mark also served as our Coach for the McGill International Portfolio Challenge (another good way to get exposed to portfolio management in UChicago). He was there to guide us with our approach on the case study even though this was outside the bounds of the program - this is what I meant by saying that the professors wear multiple hats earlier.

Sebastian (“Seb”) Donadio: FINM 32500 - Computing for Finance in Python. I don’t think you can find a better programmer than this guy - he also teaches at Columbia for the Financial Engineering master’s program. Seb is an extremely interesting and funny guy who has many hobbies outside of finance which makes his course more fun to sit in on. Although Seb’s course gives you much opportunity to learn Python (“you will eat Python!”) with what seems like an unlimited amount of homework and exercises, to me it was a bit of a quantity over quality kind of class. You do get better at programming, but for a beginner like me at the time, it was tough to really grasp anything. For example, he would have multiple slides on commands found in the Pandas package (this is easily Google-able and people will always utilize StackOverflow for these while working when unsure), whereas the main important points of what DataFrames are used for, examples found in practice, and why it’s important to manipulate the data inside would be more valuable information. His written exams were a pain (although now his course has changed to HackerRank so you won’t have to deal with this). My Python skills progressed more in due time with other courses that came after this course and most quickly while working during my internship or full time. So, although it gives you a lot of time to go through exercises, for me the course kind of just passed me by and I haven’t used any of his course resources after the class (unlike Roger’s course materials which I use very frequently even after graduating).

Steven Lalley: Stochastic Calculus. Very smart guy but the course was extremely mathematical (Lalley is from the pure math department). For me, as a math undergrad, it was relatively interesting but a lot of people found it intimidating or just not useful. It was required at the time (now an elective) and most people had to pass fail this course. This course is a combination of theory and applications but felt more heavily geared toward theory which can be daunting and unrelated if you are not going for your PhD.

Yuri Balasanov, Lida Doloc, Jeff Greco: FINM 33601 - Fixed Income Derivatives. I, and others will probably tell you, that this course was pretty much a waste of time and money (to put it honestly and bluntly). The only semi-valuable thing gained from this course is the lecture notes which can probably even be found better written in other papers or online. The course was too disorganized and nobody seemed to know what’s going on in class or was really attentive to the material. The labs utilizing Bloomberg data and doing some calculations in Excel were just pointless. The homework assignments was re-used from previous years and had little practical application - a lot of formula derivations. There was one however useful discussion and homework exercise in Python on PCA - probably the only thing that really stood out to me in the class. This course has so much potential and to me it seemed like the program blew it. My recommendation for the program is to revamp this course by spending less time going over every little thing and spend more time on one vital and focused application for each lecture. For example, you can spend a whole lecture discussing how one specific exotic derivative is priced or replicated and then do a homework on building a pricer by running a Monte Carlo or PDE, test for errors and convergence rate, etc. -- things actually done in practice instead of just giving us all the formulas for floors, caplets, swaptions etc. (these things are easily found online). Then this idea can be carried over to other derivative products.

Niels Nygaard: FINM 33160 - Machine Learning. Fun Fact: Niels is the founder of the program. He is a very bright person and I found him to be helpful for questions related to HW or outside projects that are coding or ML related. The downside was that I found his class to be kind of monotonous as he would go through code line by line. Not sure how else to teach ML though but for what it was I can probably re-use the lecture notes or the actual code in the future.

Materials used in the program
I liked mbeven’s answer: “a computer and a brain” so I will go with that.

Projects
-McGill International Portfolio Challenge. I got a chance to travel with my fellow students to Canada to compete and numerous hours in the lab working on this outside of whatever I had going on in my courses. See MIPC website for more info.
-Project lab: I’m sure you have heard from others by now what this is so I will not describe it but I had to chance to work with a bank on a credit curve modeling project. I even traveled to NY to present to the team but most of the work was done remotely via biweekly phone conferences. It was an interesting and relevant project but was tough to grasp for me in the autumn quarter as I have not dealt with this material before but overall it was a good experience to get exposed and have on my resume. I would recommend if you are more experienced to take project lab after Autumn quarter so you do not get swamped with courses. If you have limited experience it will be better to take an autumn project lab to have something relevant to discuss for an internship superday (as was the case for me).

Career service
If I can give an MVP award to any person I met along this program it would be Emily Backe - Director of Career Development! (I would also give Meredith Muir one for being the life of the program). Emily and others (Alma Ceballos and Danny Michael) are there to guide you for any career advice you seek. This goes beyond just resume writing or interview tips. Emily was literally there for me when I had to make life-changing decisions - such as choosing or switching jobs). It’s really hard to find someone as committed, passionate and enthusiastic in their job as Emily. I highly recommend you utilize what Career Services has to offer - there is inherent value in this program just from the career services, especially if you had limited experience like me. There is a downside, however, associated with the career services -- see below section on
“Suggestions for the program to make it better”.

Student body
Everyone was very friendly and willing to help - I initially thought this was going to be a cutthroat program when I walked in but that was definitely not the case. We had multiple parties throughout the year completely outside the program to get to know each other or just enjoy our time in Chicago. Student life for me was important because I served as the Student Board President where my team and I organized many events our program sponsored to come together as what felt kind of like a family - Chinese New Year dumpling making event, Super Bowl party, ice-skating events, a few pub nights, and best of all: an all-inclusive booze cruise on Lake Michigan. The student body is not too diverse as the majority of students are Chinese natives but this is the case for most quant programs. There were a few other international students in my graduating class from places like Mexico, Spain, Canada, and Singapore.

What do you like about the program?
All the positive aspects mentioned in the above answers. The main point to get across is that the program helped me get a good job after graduating. Other pros include: Bloomberg terminals in the lab; taking the Time Series course by Ruey Tsay (he wrote the book on time series analysis) from the Booth School of Business; numerous behavioral/technical interview labs; getting a solid general finance background which motivated me to pursue some standardized finance certifications; the network you gain from meeting people in the industry or faculty; huge bonus is that all the lectures are recorded so if you miss or cannot attend you can watch online - I mentioned earlier that I re-watch Roger’s lectures when I need understanding in some options area for work.

Suggestions for the program to make it better
-See section on “Course selection” where I discuss electives.
-See feedback on “Quality of teaching” section where I discuss some cons of the coursework.
-Although Career Services is helpful by preparing your resume or prepping you on the behavioral component, the job listings they send you and the Career website resources available (FinMath Connect) post lackluster or outdated jobs. In that aspect, you’re expected to just apply to as many positions as possible. It would be much more helpful if they were more active on personalizing the experience for each student and helping students connect with more alumni or industry professionals to tap into a warmer network. And one more point on the career services - although I had lots of phone interviews, it was hard for me to close out some “superdays” and get an offer. I understand this is my responsibility but some more guidance or training on final rounds would have helped me.

What is your current job status?
Quant at a bank.
I graduated from the MSFM in 2019. Overall, I am very satisfied with the program. Despite it has some things to improve, all the staff is working hard on it based on the comments of the students.
Curriculum:
The coursework is very solid. Starting from the September review where you get a refresh of the basics in theory and Python programming, and later in the first quarter getting deep into the quant courses with Options pricing and Portfolio Theory. Once the program starts there is a mix of required and elective courses, all of them very useful for later in the industry. Now you can shape the program depending on the career path you want to take. My favorite courses were Options Pricing, Python and Corporate and Credit Securities.
Faculty:
The program has a lot of great teachers, I particularly enjoyed Roger Lee, Mark Hendricks, Sebastien Donadio and Steven Lalley. All the teachers are always willing to help you, not only with the class, but also preparing for interviews and their main goal is your learning.
Career and Student Services:
The career services Team (Emily, Alma and Danny) is great, they work very hard to grant your success getting an internship and later in the job search. You can schedule as many appointments as you need in order to practice behavioral interviews; they give you feedback, help you with your resume and cover letters. They also do technical interview labs with professionals from different sectors in order to practice and receive feedback from experienced people. In addition to that, a lot of firms come to the campus specifically to recruit people from the program and they also organize visits to the trading firms offices in Downtown. If you are really doing your part, you will surely get a summer internship and a job after graduation.
On the Student Services side, Meredith Muir is amazing. She is always there for the students, helping with any course related issue including the registration process or accommodation for exams if any of your interviews overlaps. She is very involved with the class and is always trying to relief the stress of the students.

Project Lab:
The project Lab is a research project for a firm. It allows you to be coached by experienced people in the industry in projects that are important beyond the academy. It adds a lot of value to your resume whether you have experience or not, but if you are part of the last group, being enrolled in PL will help you with the internship search.
After graduating from this program, I would definitely recommend it to everyone considering a further study in quantitative finance. Curriculum is well designed and all the faculties are really helpful. Thanks to this program, most of the students including myself are well prepared for the job market.

- Background

Bachelor’s degree in finance from Mainland China. In capacity of a sell-side equity trader for nearly three years. Now working as a quant in a BB. Most of the students in my class have a degree in math, engineering or finance.

Why did you choose this program (over others, if applicable)?

Because of the brand, curriculum, the location of Chicago and the career service.

- Curriculum

Before the start of the first quarter, there is a September review. All the important knowledge in math, statistics, finance and computer science is reviewed and emphasized during the one-month time. Some greatly honored professors in The University of Chicago, such as Fefferman and Lawler, will give classes to you. That is awesome!

The course covers topics in both sell-side and buy-side quant. It gives you deep insights into mathematics that works behind finance. Every class is recorded and videos are uploaded in the website so that students can review the lessons easily in case they have an interview and cannot attend the class in person. Even though the program is admittedly difficult, professors as well as classmates are always there to help. Option pricing and Numerical Methods are fabulous courses to handle sell-side interviews. I was asked lots of questions that were covered in this two classes. Roger (the director of the FinMath Program and the instructor of the two courses) is really good at turning complicated math concepts into simple dishes for us to digest. I enjoy each one of his classes very much. He also gives class on brain teasers during interview seasons, which will benefit a lot. Besides, Portfolio Theory taught by Mark covers nearly all of the models and risk management methods widely used by mutual fund and hedge fund. The homework for this class is real case study which allows us to apply theory to practice. When I interviewed with a Mutual Fund, 80% of the questions had been discussed thoroughly in this class. Moreover, students can select courses from other departments and schools, such as Booth and Statistics. These courses are super good.

For most of the courses, coding in Python is greatly emphasized. This technique will be taught in the class called Computing for Finance in Python by Seb. I picked up the Python skills solely from this class and practiced it throughout program. Some of the classes also require you to have knowledge in C++, Matlab and R. All these coding skills will be covered specifically in the class.

Project lab is a great feature that distinguishes this program from its counterparts. Each quarter, students have opportunities to work with outside companies (including assest management, trading firms, banks, etc.) and participate in the project that solves real world problems. Some students even got their internships and full time roles via Project Lab. I did not have any experience in quant before. After completing a Project Lab project, I accumulated some knowledge in machine learning which was crucial for me to prepare a quant career. This is a great experience for us to learn and to put on the resume when hunting for internships and full time jobs.

- Career Service

Chicago is a trading harbor. There are countless prop trading and market making firms here. The FinMath at Uchicago is a target program for all the recruiters. They like to interview students coming here.

Our Career Development Office (CDO) is doing a great job. Two months before the start of the program, CDO begins collecting resumes from prospective students and help them revise it. Then they make resume books which include the information of each student and send the resume books to recruiters. This early action takes the first step to make the students well prepared for the job market.

During the quarter, they organize lots of networking events with employers and alumni. I also enjoy the technical question workshops where I can get instructions on how to solve tech problems. Whenever you need a mock interview, CDO is always there to help. They will provide constructive suggestions on your answer, the way you present, the gesture you make, your accent and tones. Emily, the director of the CDO, is caring and helpful. I had countless mock interviews with her before my superday and she did give me very useful suggestions. During my summer internship, she talked with me a lot in the phone about how to prepare for a success in my career. Whenever I had problems and became struggling, she always gave me encouragement and helped me out. She cheers me up. Alma keeps a close relationship with companies and help contact employer when we have a problem. Danny will send out hiring information every day and let us become well informed of the opening positions. CDO as a whole is trying to offering as many resources as they can to make us succeed.

However, one cannot fully rely on CDO service to guarantee a job position. They will definitely help you, but they cannot attend the interview for you. One should never assume a job will automatically fall on your head once entering into this program. Students themselves are supposed to work hard and stay active during the recruiting process. Job hunting is somehow time consuming and torturing. After you insisting and conquering all the difficulties, everything will be ok. Most of the students in my class end up in super great positions.

- What DON'T you like about the program?

A few classes are theoretical, need to be more practical. Some classes should change the way of teaching, trying to simplify the complicated knowledge and make it more understandable. Do not squeeze in too much knowledge one time.

- What is your current job status?

I am now working as a quant in a BB.

As a whole, I will recommend this program and I will never regret coming here.
  • Anonymous
  • 5.00 star(s)
To echo some of the other sentiment on this forum -- there are certainly minor issues that need to be addressed, but ultimately the program as a whole is fundamentally solid. The curriculum is put together cohesively, and for the most part, the quality of teaching is superb. Faculty and staff are all incredibly friendly and caring -- in particular, the student services administrator, Meredith, is great. The program is admittedly pretty difficult. I came from a Math background and sometimes still had trouble on problem sets. Coding in Python is emphasized throughout most courses.

I'll skip all the small details and focus on the most important things: relevance of coursework, quality of teaching, and career advancement services.

Relevance of Coursework:
I think Roger (the director of the program) works really hard to construct a curriculum that follows a rational progression, and overall I agree with most of his choices. The best courses are Portfolio Theory, Options Pricing, and Numerical Methods. Project Lab, a course that allows you to work with outside companies, is an added plus because it gives you exposure with real-world problems. You can also take courses from Booth or the Statistics department -- these are really good.

Having an intermediate-level Probability and Statistics course during the first quarter would be godsend for recruiting; I know there is one in place right now, but it focuses too much on theory.

Quality of Teaching:
For the most part, the quality is pretty good, but there are definitely some courses that could be taught better (I think the program is fully aware of which ones). Roger Lee and Mark Hendricks are fantastic. Sebastien Donadio (the instructor for Python) is pretty good, although I would argue that while you learn a lot of Python in his class, you do it inefficiently. From my personal experiences, I think there are more efficient ways to teach coding than to bombard students with a heavy amount of coding assignments (some useful, some not). I'm not sure if this has changed since I graduated. But if you want to learn a lot, Seb is your guy.

Career Services:
If you want to do trading, the location is an added plus because Chicago has a high density of prop trading/market making firms.

The career services people are friendly and helpful, but one has to realize there's only so much they can do. They do a good job of putting together and coordinating workshops, and try to provide as many resources and references as they can, but it ultimately depends on the students to actually prepare for recruiting. Recruiting is more a matter of diligence and mental fortitude than anything else, so job placement ultimately depends on the individual more than anything else. New students shouldn't expect to walk into the program and assume that they have a job locked up after graduation, but if you put in the effort you should be fine.
I recently graduated from the FinMath program in Dec 2019.
Overall Experience:
I was very satisfied with the teaching, career services, and professional opportunities provided. The program is majorly taught in Python, and a few classes are in C++.

Things that can be improved: The program can improve on adding more electives, and improve some of the existing ones (namely Machine Learning). Maybe we can have some more advanced classes being offered as electives outside FINM.

Courses: Stand out courses are Option Pricing, Portfolio theory, Quant Strategies. Another advantage is some of the electives offered are cross-listed with the Business school, or Statistics departments, so you can fine tune the course to your requirement.

Project Lab: One of the best experiences to work with companies (HF,AM,Banks) on real problem that they want explore and solve.

Career Services: We had plenty of networking events, company events and alumni dinners to network. I believe the career office is doing a fairly good job.
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