CMU MSCF A day in the life of a CMU MSCF student

Andy Nguyen

This is a series by students in the CMU MSCF program who shares what their day is like. Each post is written by a different student. If you like to write an article about your day as a quant master student or professional, you can send it to us. Click HERE


Since August when I started my Computational Finance program at Carnegie Mellon University's New York campus, life has not been the same. 24 hours a day just does not seem to be enough.

2AM: Went to bed.

10AM: Woke up. I got to get my 8-hour sleep a day to push my body through the long day ahead. Otherwise, I would feel tired during those long evening classes.
My breakfast consists entirely of fresh fruits I usually cook some simple lunch at home because there aren't any decent eating places near my place in Jersey City, but there are many nice eating and affordable places near CMU’s downtown campus.

11AM-Noon: Spent the first hour checking emails and reading Wall Street Journal. CMU subscribed hard-copy of WSJ to us, but I prefer reading the online version. As part of the subscription, we have username/password to access WSJ online.

Noon-12:30PM: Spend the next half hour making some trades on CMU's simulated trading competition (lasting about 20 days during the month of Nov). This is an internal competition sponsored by Deutsche Bank. There will be a dinner hosted by DB in Jan to conferring the prize to winners. The prize is not much in monetary terms, but lots of students find it a compelling way to prove to future employers that they are interested in trading.
You can see the pictures of the last competition's reception held in Jan 6th, 2010 Shutterfly

12:30PM-2PM: Watched the remaining recorded lecture on Multi-Period Asset Pricing. Since CMU uses a tele-conference system to broadcast the lectures to the other campus, the recordings will be available online immediately. You can watch the video feed in real time as you sit in either campus. Many students watch the recorded lecture more than one time to understand the material well. It should be noted that previous year's lectures are not accessible.
So far, I love every class that is challenging because I thought the whole purpose I came to CMU to study is to learn the financial models and quantitative methods, such as those found in stochastic calculus or multi-period asset pricing.

2PM-4PM: Reviewed and practiced the sample questions for the Fixed-Income mid-term later in the day. For most courses, the professor will post some past-year questions for review. Of course, there will be "new" questions in actual exam.

4PM-5PM: Get ready to travel to CMU's classroom at 55 Broad Street in downtown NYC.
Door to door, it takes around 40 minutes to reach the class from Jersey City via PATH. I usually read some e-books on my iPod Touch on the train or just listen to music to relax.

5:30PM-7PM: Took mid-term test

7:30PM-8:30PM: Continued the lecture after the test. The classes in NY campus are all from 5:30-8:30PM. Only a few classes have mid-term tests. All classes have weekly homework though.

9:00PM: Got home.

10PM: Started working on homework and assignments that are due in a day or two. All HWs are posted by professors. Some HWs allow work in group, but most of the HWs are individual-based though the professors encourage collaborations among students.

1AM: Checked financial news update from Asia on my iPod Touch on my bed before I go to sleep, and get my 8-hour sleep, for another day.

The above is just a typical day on my life as a CMU MSCF student. While not busy studying, I attend MSCF Speaker Series and company presentation. Networking events as well as the Trek to companies in NYC have been very useful in preparing me for my internship search.

Andy Nguyen

This second article is a contribution by a first year CMU MSCF student. If you like to write an article about your day as a quant master student or professional, you can send it to us. Click HERE

7:30 am: I am NOT a morning person but I am trying to be one. My schedule would be so much different if I wrote this few weeks ago.

8:00 am: Started working on my Fixed Income homework. It will be due in two days and I heard that it is super very long, so I'd better not wait until the last day. I like to wait until the very last day to do my homework because it's when I work most productively. Also, that's how I get time to do other stuff that I want to. I used to do my homework as soon as I can and check/discuss with classmates over the week about it. Eventually, I found that homework was controlling my time.

11:00 am: I got bored, so I went to WSJ, Bloomberg & SeekingAlpha to check the news. I normally do not have time to read all the articles that I want to. Also, I know that I would not remember the details anyway, so I just skimmed over the titles and read those articles that sounds very interesting.

12:00 pm: Lunch & some music

12:30 pm: Back to my homework. It normally takes me 7-8 hours to finish the homework of each class. I like this mini-semester better than the previous one since classes covers totally new materials, making me feel that I am learning a lot more.

2:00-3:30 pm: Read an Options book that was recommended by a second year in one of our interview preparation sessions. One thing I like about CMU is the coopertation between first year and second years students. Ever since I got into the program, the second year students have been trying to be helpful. I know that they are super busy, but we (the newbies) know that whenever we need help with anything, we can go ask them easily. However, they are graduating soon, so we will be on our own from next semester.

3:30-4:15: Going to school

4:15-5:30: Discussing homework and/or hanging out with classmates. The small campus makes us so close to each other. We have three classrooms, 3 study-rooms, 1 leisure room & dining area. A lot of people just leave their computers, books & notes on campus. It does not feel like a normal campus, but it is kind of cool that the whole area is dedicated to MSCF students, so we can do whatever we want with it.

5:30-8:30: class time. It is hard to be focused in 3 hours, but I attempt to because it's most convenient to ask questions in class and it would take a lot more time to re-watch the video online (all lectures in the program are recorded and available students any time)

8:30-9:30: going home

10:00-11:30: job-related things. Read the news, do some brainteasers & read finance books.

11:30: go to bed.