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Chance? UCB MFE or CMU MSCF?

Hi!

I am a Chinese international undergraduate student at the Univerisity of Michigan, who double-majored Financial Mathematics and Honor Statistics and minored Computer Science, with my current GPA being 3.98/4.0. I have had two two-month summer quant intern experience in China, and I am going to have another one next summer(also in China). Also, I am doing undergrad research under the guidance of one of my math professors to attain the "Honor Stats" degree.

I can graduate either on Dec 2021 or May 2022, so I am a junior/senior-ish student. Due to this time management issue and my determination to work as a Buy-side Quant in Hong Kong/Shanghai in the future, I wonder:

1) What is my chance of getting an offer from UCB MFE(I saw that Linda K really prefers current workers rather than fresh undergrads)? What about CMU MSCF?

2) I heard that CMU is more about coding/Data Science and Sto Cal asset pricing. Are these two topics sort of the cutting edges of CMU MSCF? What is the advantage of the UCB MFE program?

Thanks to anyone who can kindly offer me some advice on this. I am self-entangled with these two issues.

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Also, update: now, I have 333 in GRE (V163+Q170).
 
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Have you thought about getting a phd degree in stat or operation research or machine learning? I think that your background is strong from the academic perspective.
 
Have you thought about getting a phd degree in stat or operation research or machine learning? I think that your background is strong from the academic perspective.
Thank you for replying!!! I am not curious enough about scholarly things: a practical job that offers challenges from real society interests me more.

Perhaps, after a few more years in the Quant industry, when more questions that I am interested in but unable to answer show up, I may want to solve them by getting a Ph.D. degree. So far, I don't want to get a Ph.D. degree.
 
I am currently a PhD student in statistics, but when I applied for graduate school, I have searched and gathered some information about various MFE programs.

For Q1, indeed, UCB places a lot of emphasis on working experience, however, it seems that if you have solid internship (both in quality and quantity) experience and satisfies the course requirement on their website and get good grades, you can have a high chance in getting into it.

For Q2, nowadays, both UCB and CMU places great emphasis on data science, machine learning and programming. And this is exactly what buy-side quant looks for. Based on the information I have, the course material should be solid for both CMU and UCB in terms of Sto Cal and Data Science, and prepare you enough for the interviews. I suggest that when comparing UCB and CMU, the course material should not be a really important factor, as both are excellent.

In addition to the above content, there is one more thing I want to point out. I have some experience in interviewing for investment banks, hedge fund, giant tech companies and have offers from a big IB as Quantitative Researcher and a tech as Machine Learning Engineer. I have to say that nowadays, both IB and HF place great emphasis on programming and all the interviews contain questions about Data Structures and Algorithms, at least at medium level. So I consider the training in programming should be seriously considered when applying for the programs.
 
I am currently a PhD student in statistics, but when I applied for graduate school, I have searched and gathered some information about various MFE programs.

For Q1, indeed, UCB places a lot of emphasis on working experience, however, it seems that if you have solid internship (both in quality and quantity) experience and satisfies the course requirement on their website and get good grades, you can have a high chance in getting into it.

For Q2, nowadays, both UCB and CMU places great emphasis on data science, machine learning and programming. And this is exactly what buy-side quant looks for. Based on the information I have, the course material should be solid for both CMU and UCB in terms of Sto Cal and Data Science, and prepare you enough for the interviews. I suggest that when comparing UCB and CMU, the course material should not be a really important factor, as both are excellent.

In addition to the above content, there is one more thing I want to point out. I have some experience in interviewing for investment banks, hedge fund, giant tech companies and have offers from a big IB as Quantitative Researcher and a tech as Machine Learning Engineer. I have to say that nowadays, both IB and HF place great emphasis on programming and all the interviews contain questions about Data Structures and Algorithms, at least at medium level. So I consider the training in programming should be seriously considered when applying for the programs.
Insightful advice indeed. I was originally assuming that UCB may have put more emphasis on finance topics since they have more renowned finance professors. Following your advice, I am determined to have a solid understanding of all things learned in my CS minor courses, and I will not hesitate to join either program if any one of them gives me an offer since they are almost equally perfect for me.

Again, many thanks!
 
Insightful advice indeed. I was originally assuming that UCB may have put more emphasis on finance topics since they have more renowned finance professors. Following your advice, I am determined to have a solid understanding of all things learned in my CS minor courses, and I will not hesitate to join either program if any one of them gives me an offer since they are almost equally perfect for me.

Again, many thanks!
The only other thing I’d add to consider between the two is the length of the programs. CMU is 3 semesters of school + internship whereas UCB is 2 semesters of school + internship.

I went to grad school to learn as much as possible and so 3 was preferable to me, but there is definitely an argument to be made for graduating earlier to start making money
 
The only other thing I’d add to consider between the two is the length of the programs. CMU is 3 semesters of school + internship whereas UCB is 2 semesters of school + internship.

I went to grad school to learn as much as possible and so 3 was preferable to me, but there is definitely an argument to be made for graduating earlier to start making money
Thank you for replying! My initial opinion about this is that a buy-side quant has to be versatile, especially working in a small group that manages a whole portfolio. Thus, graduating earlier is not about money but about learning more things by working. For example, compare one extra semester of learning at CMU vs. 5-month working as an apprentice under a portfolio manager in Citadel(whichever quant company). I am not sure if this way of thinking is optimal or not. I am open to all suggestions.
 
Thank you for replying! My initial opinion about this is that a buy-side quant has to be versatile, especially working in a small group that manages a whole portfolio. Thus, graduating earlier is not about money but about learning more things by working. For example, compare one extra semester of learning at CMU vs. 5-month working as an apprentice under a portfolio manager in Citadel(whichever quant company). I am not sure if this way of thinking is optimal or not. I am open to all suggestions.
I think that UCB is just a more compact design of the course structure, but the material is not omitted. It seems that for people who have work experience, a one year work is better for them to balance between family, study and work as they will not have regular income during the study period. However, for new graduate, it is not that different.

Indeed, I totally agree the key is to enter a good buy-side firm, join a good team and learn all the practical issues by doing the work and working with others, this is the most efficient way.

I am not sure whether Chinese firms have the similar type of interviews as in US, but I really suggest you to apply for internship in quant trader, quant researcher or even algorithm engineer in tech firm during your bachelor time. It is great if you have offers, which will add great value to your MFE applications. Even not receive an offer, the experience you gain during your interview at those companies can help you a lot when you apply for full-time work during MFE studies.
 
I couldn't agree more about your opinion about interviews. I applied to 20+ US quant companies this fall, and I even made it to the third round of Jane Street Quant trader intern interviews. The questions they ask are fascinating. Thus, the preparation process helped me a lot in gaining an insight into the industry and reflecting on what capabilities I actually need to be a "quantitative thinker".
 
I think a dope thing about Haas MFE is the eligibility for full-time CPT throughout the year as an international student. This is truly an unparalleled feature of the program. If you get to leverage the opportunity, I think you will have an edge over candidates in other programs. Visa type of issue is something that you might not be able to work around on your own. Meanwhile, there are tons of technical material available for you to self-study.
 
I think a dope thing about Haas MFE is the eligibility for full-time CPT throughout the year as an international student. This is truly an unparalleled feature of the program. If you get to leverage the opportunity, I think you will have an edge over candidates in other programs. Visa type of issue is something that you might not be able to work around on your own. Meanwhile, there are tons of technical material available for you to self-study.
Wait... I am not so informed about this Visa issue. Don't the other MFE programs(such as Columbia, CMU, Princeton, Baruch, Cornell, and NYU) provide full-time CPT? What do they usually offer? And, how does that make a difference?

Thank you for responding!!!
 
Wait... I am not so informed about this Visa issue. Don't the other MFE programs(such as Columbia, CMU, Princeton, Baruch, Cornell, and NYU) provide full-time CPT? What do they usually offer? And, how does that make a difference?

Thank you for responding!!!
There is a high chance that the programs you listed provide full-time CPT for summer only. And most of them does not provide part-time CPT during semesters. However, I think Haas does allow full-time CPT while you are taking courses in the normal semesters.
 
There is a high chance that the programs you listed provide full-time CPT for summer only. And most of them does not provide part-time CPT during semesters. However, I think Haas does allow full-time CPT while you are taking courses in the normal semesters.
Oh, so you are saying that having a full-time CPT will be great for post-graduation employment placement in the U.S. Did I understand you correctly? If that's true, then, great! I have one more reason to prefer UCB MFE over CMU MSCF.
 
Current UCB student.
1. UCB does have more percentage of experienced people, but it also has at least about 1/2 fresh grads.
2. UCB has courses targeting coding/ds/stochastic calc. I should say in terms of stochastic calc, cmu is stronger than ucb. But if you're targeting buyside, stochastic calc is not a main focus. Plus, both programs will prepare you well for interview questions about stochastic calc.
For coding/ds, from my standpoint it mainly bases on your experience and background, don't expect to improve much through a course or 2.
3. UCB has CPT throughout the year, but be careful for that as the course design is really compact and challenging so studying and doing internship together is really hard. (but possible)
In all, both programs are great, and well enough to 'send' you in interviews.
 
Current UCB student.
1. UCB does have more percentage of experienced people, but it also has at least about 1/2 fresh grads.
2. UCB has courses targeting coding/ds/stochastic calc. I should say in terms of stochastic calc, cmu is stronger than ucb. But if you're targeting buyside, stochastic calc is not a main focus. Plus, both programs will prepare you well for interview questions about stochastic calc.
For coding/ds, from my standpoint it mainly bases on your experience and background, don't expect to improve much through a course or 2.
3. UCB has CPT throughout the year, but be careful for that as the course design is really compact and challenging so studying and doing internship together is really hard. (but possible)
In all, both programs are great, and well enough to 'send' you in interviews.
Thank you for showing up!!! I have been waiting for the response of a UCB MFE current student for so long. I went over many resources of the curriculum of both schools, and I can definitely see that CMU gave students a really rigorous lesson on Sto Cal, which I am not really interested in. Does UCB have any cutting edge in its curriculum that is a bit better than its CMU counterparts? Are there any pros to be a buy-side quant in the future by starting from UCB MFE(perhaps, the finance courses offered by UCB is tougher)?

I think that, since CMU spends more time teaching Python Coding and Sto Cal according to its calendar, there has to be something that UCB is better at, but I just don't what that is specifically.

I can really use some of your views on this issue! Please share more info with me.
 
Current CMU student - also very much NOT interested in stocal. But I'm very glad I'm going through it, especially at CMU.

To @copechen 's excellent analysis, I would add my most surprising fact about grad school - You have to come ready to interview. Sell side recruiting starts in August. If you want to work on the buyside, especially at the caliber of firm's you mention, you really need to have prepared extensively. In order of priority:

- Hackerrank, Leetcode
- Books like "A Practical Guide to Quant Finance Interviews". Stenfanica also has a new edition of his more technical and excellent interview book.
- Coding as much as you can handle
- Machine learning / coursera as much as you can handle

It's possible you could recruit directly into Citadel / Chicago prop shops right now - they do recruit out of UofM.

All else equal, I would opt for spring graduation, taking as much time as you can to prepare. If you can take heavier courses, even better. Think about coming to grad school as prepared as you possibly can.

Also, there is a strong case for going right to industry. I think that might be more limiting medium to long term, but I could be mistaken. Careful with statements like no "StoCal on the buyside". That was mostly true 10 years ago and maybe 5 years ago. Right now, there's a lot of convergence of problems and models between the buyside and sellside. See Attilio Meucci's "P vs Q" for an excellent summary of this trend.
 
Current CMU student - also very much NOT interested in stocal. But I'm very glad I'm going through it, especially at CMU.

To @copechen 's excellent analysis, I would add my most surprising fact about grad school - You have to come ready to interview. Sell side recruiting starts in August. If you want to work on the buyside, especially at the caliber of firm's you mention, you really need to have prepared extensively. In order of priority:

- Hackerrank, Leetcode
- Books like "A Practical Guide to Quant Finance Interviews". Stenfanica also has a new edition of his more technical and excellent interview book.
- Coding as much as you can handle
- Machine learning / coursera as much as you can handle

It's possible you could recruit directly into Citadel / Chicago prop shops right now - they do recruit out of UofM.

All else equal, I would opt for spring graduation, taking as much time as you can to prepare. If you can take heavier courses, even better. Think about coming to grad school as prepared as you possibly can.

Also, there is a strong case for going right to industry. I think that might be more limiting medium to long term, but I could be mistaken. Careful with statements like no "StoCal on the buyside". That was mostly true 10 years ago and maybe 5 years ago. Right now, there's a lot of convergence of problems and models between the buyside and sellside. See Attilio Meucci's "P vs Q" for an excellent summary of this trend.
True. Also, I was thinking about buy-side firms other than those "big names". However, I wonder: are buy-side firms mostly big ones?

I can never deny the importance of Sto Cal. I just think that my time can potentially be spent elsewhere worthier.

I thought directly going to a firm after a college degree is for geniuses. hahaha..... I think I am not good enough for that option.

I have finished reading the book "A Practical Guide to Quant Finance Interviews", but, honestly, just like you have said: coding, interview prep, machine learning, and etc are all useful tools Quants should grab. To be truly versatile as a Quant, more than 4 years of undergrad and 2 years of grad education should be done. Thus, it is a balance between preparation and in-field exploration(either grad school or work). So far, my opinion is that UofM does not have enough intriguing courses for my Quant pursuit after Dec.2021 according to my course planning, and an immediate transit to UCB would be optimal for me.

Thank you for your input on solving my personal dilemma!
 
Thank you for showing up!!! I have been waiting for the response of a UCB MFE current student for so long. I went over many resources of the curriculum of both schools, and I can definitely see that CMU gave students a really rigorous lesson on Sto Cal, which I am not really interested in. Does UCB have any cutting edge in its curriculum that is a bit better than its CMU counterparts? Are there any pros to be a buy-side quant in the future by starting from UCB MFE(perhaps, the finance courses offered by UCB is tougher)?

I think that, since CMU spends more time teaching Python Coding and Sto Cal according to its calendar, there has to be something that UCB is better at, but I just don't what that is specifically.

I can really use some of your views on this issue! Please share more info with me.

Honestly, I don't know much about CMU course, so I'll say only from ucb's perspective:
1. UCB is strong in financial mathematics courses like empirical analysis in finance, rates modeling and numerical analysis in finance. In other words, relate technical stuff with finance.
2. All the courses are organized well. This is pretty important as most programs now have 'fancy' courses like ML, HFT... but some of them are just 'fancy names'. but in UCB MFE, all the courses are organized pretty well in contexts, exercises, etc, especially the first 2 terms.
3. UCB has industry projects, which enhance the background of international students who don't have experience in the US, before looking for internships.
 
Honestly, I don't know much about CMU course, so I'll say only from ucb's perspective:
1. UCB is strong in financial mathematics courses like empirical analysis in finance, rates modeling and numerical analysis in finance. In other words, relate technical stuff with finance.
2. All the courses are organized well. This is pretty important as most programs now have 'fancy' courses like ML, HFT... but some of them are just 'fancy names'. but in UCB MFE, all the courses are organized pretty well in contexts, exercises, etc, especially the first 2 terms.
3. UCB has industry projects, which enhance the background of international students who don't have experience in the US, before looking for internships.
Thank you!
 
One of the things to consider for UCB is, it starts in Spring. If you are planning to go to Masters after undergrad graduation in spring, it is a problem to fill the gap. I also prefer 3 semester program, just to spread out and steep in with more with academic learning.
 
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