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Are you a genius or an optimiser?

This is a topic that has intrigued me for a while now. My estimates are subjective so please dont take offense.

Basically, I hate categorizing people, but throughout my MFE studies, I have come across the following type of students:

1. Gifted
2. Talented
3. Work-hards
4. Try-hards (not meant derogatory - it's just for sake of argument)
5. Optimisers

Let me elaborate on the categories above:

Gifted
Gifted ones are basically those who are mathematical geniuses. A new concept/ theory is being taught in the lecture and those guys pretty much understand and know thoroughly by heart what it is about.

Over a course of a semester, these guys would spend like 2-3 hours per week on top of lectures (eg a total of say 30-36 hours a semester for a course spanning 12 weeks) and totally ace the exams, eg score somewhere between 3.7 and 4.0. My experience is that you'd find 5-10% of your class fall into that category.

Talented
Talented ones are those types who can follow the lectures at ease. They are very comfortable with what is being taught. If they'd put as much effort into their studies as the gifted, they'd probably score around 2.5 to 3.0 on exams. They do however have to work a little harder for grades above the 3.0 marks and if they wanted to match the gifted, they'd have to spend at least 5-7 hours per lecture to prepare for an exam (eg for a 12 weeks course 60-84 hrs of exam prep at least). Usually there are quite a few of those in an MFE course, I'd say probably around 20-30%

Work-hards
These guys are those who really have to work hard for their grades. They'd do OK without studying much, but if they really wanna crack that exam, they do have to study hard. I am talking at least 12-25 hours a week for every lecture to score somewhere between the 3.2 and 4.0 mark. Work-hards usually make up the majority of an MFE program - probably around 40%

Try-hards
Try-hards do have a tough time. If they didnt put a lot of time and effort into their subjects, they'd struggle passing exams. For them to get close to the 3.0 mark, they'd have to spend 6 hours or more every day (about 10-15% fall into this category).

Optimisers
Now, these guys are interesting. They typically are a mix of talented and work-hards and usually aim for a particular average GPA to be just interesting enough for potential employers while minimising their time spent on study. The advantage that these guys have is that they know exactly how many hours/ days to spend on study in order to achieve the grades they are aiming for. This is very different to the talented and work-hards.

What are your experiences in regards to above categories and yourself and your classmates? How would you classify yourselves? Personally, I'd classify myself as an optimiser (with considerable standard error though :D).
 
I think you exaggerate with the amount of time spent studying. Now I'm not sure about MFE, but in terms of statistics, I have to say I try to work hard, so to speak, except there's not much work to be done, and I do understand the lectures quite a bit. So I have to say I fall somewhere between hard worker and talented, depending on what aspect of applied quantitative subjects I'm learning. I am not arrogant enough to say I am gifted, by your definition.
 
This applies to just about anything in life. My view is that the gifted and talented eventually peak and are forced to either learn to work hard or remain at their peak.
Work hards and try hards become optimizers as they muscle their way along.
 

GoIllini

Market Crises= Gray Hair
I think that once you get just a little past the quantitative power it takes to be a decent engineer (in any discipline) you're into the realm of relative strengths within the quantitative areas. There are people who are good at discovering patterns. There are others who are quick learners. There are people who can apply one concept to a completely different one with ease. There are people who can understand common but relatively complicated ideas with ease and then there are people who can understand incredibly difficult ideas with a little more work. Everyone is different.

Everyone who gets into a top-ten financial engineering program is going to have relative strengths and weaknesses.
 
What about the equivalent of a top 20? I probably could have made it to Rutgers MSMF, but I instead wanted to learn how to crush tons of data rather than price exotic options (and didn't want an MSMF/MFE on my resume for fear of getting laughed out the door by D.E. Shaw/RenTec if I do get a PhD)
 
What about the equivalent of a top 20? I probably could have made it to Rutgers MSMF, but I instead wanted to learn how to crush tons of data rather than price exotic options (and didn't want an MSMF/MFE on my resume for fear of getting laughed out the door by D.E. Shaw/RenTec if I do get a PhD)

I really don't think you'd be laughed out for having MFE on your resume.
 

atreides

Graduate Student
What about the equivalent of a top 20? I probably could have made it to Rutgers MSMF, but I instead wanted to learn how to crush tons of data rather than price exotic options (and didn't want an MSMF/MFE on my resume for fear of getting laughed out the door by D.E. Shaw/RenTec if I do get a PhD)

After all is said and done, it is the value you'll be adding to the bottom line / table that will be recognized and not what degrees you have.
 
'Optimizers', hah that's a glass-half full description of those types of people. So might just call them unmotivated and lazy, lacking drive to succeed. Just good enough, or 'just the minimum' doesn't even fly at flingers!


There are geniuses that can't apply themselves in certain settings (Einstein for example), and those without natural gifts that can excel in other environments. It's funny trying to classify people into 5 (highly subjective) categories based on a small sample size, when a major component of the MFE is on probability theory :p
 

Bastian Gross

German Mathquant
I'm a "Talented Student"!
 

GoIllini

Market Crises= Gray Hair
After all is said and done, it is the value you'll be adding to the bottom line / table that will be recognized and not what degrees you have.
Oh, the naivete!

In the real world, this is almost as optimistic as saying, "If you work hard and play by the rules, things will work out well for you!"
 
'Optimizers', hah that's a glass-half full description of those types of people. So might just call them unmotivated and lazy, lacking drive to succeed. Just good enough, or 'just the minimum' doesn't even fly at flingers!


There are geniuses that can't apply themselves in certain settings (Einstein for example), and those without natural gifts that can excel in other environments. It's funny trying to classify people into 5 (highly subjective) categories based on a small sample size, when a major component of the MFE is on probability theory :p

Please read more carefully. This is exactly what I said in the introduction. The purpose of this post was to get a feel for what the general, call it, effort/reward ratio of a MFE student is.

I don't think you'd be interesting to potential employers with grades that reflect being just good enough. Usually employers set their bar high in terms of academic credentials. That's the experience I have made.

In regards to optimisers, some students are between 35 and 40. Have a full-time job and a family to feed. On top of that two young children to look after. Those are the ones who dont have as much time as someone without these commitments. With the minimal amount of time they have available, they try to maximise their grades such that they are still viewed as serious candidates in the job hunting process.
 
I read carefully, I just thought it was funny, regardless of the caveat. My office space reference may indicate the level of seriousness to be attributed to my post. Enjoy.
 
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