# DISCUSSION on second rated MFE programs

#### atreides

##### Graduate Student
Hi Andy,

I just came across this post and didn't realize you had sent out surveys to other schools with FE programs..Can you create a sticky with responses from all the schools you contacted if any.

I understand quantnet was started from the corridors of Baruch, and was a medium for collaboration and information dissemination. I believe now, it is becoming more of a defacto hub for FE related information, providing prospective and current FE students with more rounded and authoritative information on the various FE prograns out there.

Here is the first response to Quantnet survey from Wendell Collins (Director of Corporate Relations at Princeton University). We appreciate the prompt response to our survey.

1) Please provide us with your program's acceptance rate the last few years.
We had 650+ applicants this year and admitted 40 students, with a target enrollment of 20-25. Here is the information for last year's applications:

In 2006, we received 418 applications. We offered admission to 46 applicants (11%) and 27 enrolled (59%). In 2007, we received 459 applications and offered admission to 48 applicants (10%).

2) What is the job placement rate for your graduates in recent years?
Princeton University | Bendheim Center for Finance - Please see the FAQ for past years.

For 2008, we have placed 21 of 22 first year students in summer internships (the last student is still interviewing). For our 21 second year students, 19 have fulltime offers, and the remaining two are still interviewing.

3) How does the current market condition affect your program in term of internship and full time placement?

We have had perfect placement in the past, so we have seen the current market condition present more of a challenge than in past years. There are fewer positions available in traditional areas of popularity such as sales and trading. We have also seen firms' schedules for hiring interns pushed back later into the year than in past years, and some firms are just now posting for fulltime positions.

Therefore, we have expanded into new areas for our students -- students are branching out into risk management, asset management, commodities, foreign exchange, hedge funds, smaller quant funds, etc., plus we pursued more placements than in past years in Europe and Asia for our students.

Wendell Collins
609-258-9865 FAX 0354
wendellc@princeton.edu

#### Tigga

Reports have it that many students have turned down UCLA MFE admission for 2009 due to various reasons; chief among them the uncertain economy outlook and the program's lack of any kind of proven record.

#### bigbadwolf

but 50k for a brand new program is totally outrageaous

"Outrageous" has nothing to do with it; it's a question of what the market will bear; the market will no longer bear this. Some of these programs will totter and limp on for a couple more years and then they will dismiss their adjuncts ("industry professionals") and quietly close their doors. Diploma mills, essentially.

#### Andy Nguyen

Hi Andy,
I just came across this post and didn't realize you had sent out surveys to other schools with FE programs..Can you create a sticky with responses from all the schools you contacted if any.
We were planning to do just that until we realized that the official response of most schools we contacted when it comes to publishing their stats is "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".
Of the dozen of so programs contacted, only one or two responded.

#### JeffSmith

Having looked closely at the teachers and curriculum at UCLA, I think it is very strong and similar to Berkeley's. Francis Longstaff who was instrumental in starting Berkeley's program is now doing the same at UCLA. The faculty is great, with many notable professor's from the Anderson school of business which is renowned in the field of finance and some great professors from the Math department.

I also think the cost of tuition isn't that big of a deal if you are a full time student. The difference between 20k and 50k isn't that much over a career. For me, losing a year of salary is a much larger investment than the tuition.

The biggest question is UCLA's ability to help students land internships and jobs. As a new program, not in a financial center, its hard to gauge how they will perform in this area.

If UCLA had launched two years ago, this aspect of the program would not have been as important as jobs were plentiful. But in today's economy where jobs and internships appear to be scarce this is a big question mark compared to other programs which have established some track record in placing their students.

#### bigbadwolf

The biggest question is UCLA's ability to help students land internships and jobs. As a new program, not in a financial center, its hard to gauge how they will perform in this area.

If UCLA had launched two years ago, this aspect of the program would not have been as important as jobs were plentiful. But in today's economy where jobs and internships appear to be scarce this is a big question mark compared to other programs which have established some track record in placing their students.

You've hit the nail on the head. This is probably the single most important criterion today -- trumping even the strength of a program. In the hypothetical (but unlikely) instance where school A has an academically weaker MFE program than school B, but just has better connections and better placement record, it is clear where students will gravitate. UCLA has just been plain unlucky in its timing.

#### Sachin

I can actually back people turning down the ucla offer with some facts than the usual "hear-say route". I know 1-2 people personally who got admitted but decided not to even pay the confirmation fee.

#### Sanket Patel

##### i do stuff
Boston University Math Finance

Having read the experience a QN member had during his/her first semester at NYU, I feel compelled to share my experience at Boston University.

First, it seems the program admitted virtually anyone that applied. Sadly, there were students in the program who didn't know how to find eigenvalues, invert matrices and let alone solve an elementary differential equation. I am willing to bet that close to 95% of the students (if not greater) knew nothing of the field they were getting into.

We had 4 classes: Fundamentals of Finance, Probability, C++, and Optimization. Probability was decent, thought it seem the professor spent too much time on combinatorics and not enough on the more crucial topics such as limit theorem and convergence of random variables. Personally, I would have prefered some exposure to analysis as a precursor to stochastic calculus - the closest we ever came was a brief discussion of the Banash-Tarski paradox.

Fundamentals of Finance was pretty much a waste of time. The professor was obsessed with Mathematica and everything in the class revolved around it. The course was entirely too theoretical - there was little to no attempt made at any actual applications. Sure, the class mentioned what it means to bootstrap the spot curve but I guarantee majority of the class has no clue how to do it and I'm even willing to bet a good number of the students don't know what LIBOR is. It almost felt as if I was taking a financial theory course from the Economics department. The 'hand-on' portion of the class consisted of being given all the necessary Mathematica code and seeing what happened to price of a call as volatility increased. Speaking of options, the discussion of the Greeks consisted of being given the formulas and being told what exposure each hedged. There was however absolutely no mention of how to implement a delta hedge.

C++ was also quite sad. The professor very disorganized - even with 2 TAs, homeworks were often returned late. The 1st homework was simply to install Visual C++ Express. Most homeworks required little to no deep thought. Writing a simple date class was about as complicated as it got. The students cheated on the homeworks and exams like it was their job. I notified both the director and the professor, though nothing seem to come out of it. I especially enjoyed how the professor managed to cover finite difference methods, polymorphism, virtual function, abstract classes, and UML in a rather brief and hurried manner. The coverage of FDM consisted of taking everything from Wilmott's Mathematics of Financial Derivatives book and putting it on the board.

Optimization had the potential to be a great course, but unsurprisingly it fell miserably short. The course delved too much into the theory of convex analysis to the point where homeworks problems consisted of proofs involving elements of topology. Not to mention, the department decided to bring in a visiting professor from France to teach the course. The professor was clearly very intelligent but at the same time a terrible teacher. His English left much to be desired. Once again, the course revolved around Mathematica. We were almost always given all the necessary code and homeworks were a matter editing a few lines of code. Cheating in this class, both on homeworks and exams, was rampant.

Back when the IB Olympiads first started, I spoke to the director (also the finance professor) about the competition. I wanted to get his opinion on a few prospective strategies and such but he seemed very disinterested. Staring at his computer the entire time, he simply replied that I should keep activities outside the classroom to a minimum and concentrate on the coursework instead. At a later date, after reading of Doug's idea about the research paper discussion group, I approached the director in the hopes of doing something similar at BU but it was of no avail. I was greeted with much the same enthusiasm as before. Compared to what Dr. Stefanica does for his students, it seem the director at BU doesn't give a s*** about his students.

All of this paired with a ridiculous cost of over \$45,000 makes the program pretty much useless. The courses devote too much time to theory and little to no attempt is made at applications of concepts. The few times that were was any semblance of application consisted of "here is the price of call - find the value of the corresponding put" or "here is duration of a zero, find its convexity." I can keep going about the merits of the program but in the interest of brevity I've kept this (somewhat) short.

Unfortunately, I can't get back the 3.5 months wasted at BU. I am however looking forward to spending the next 1.5 years as a part of the Baruch MFE family.

EDIT:

Over on the GD website, I discouraged a student from applying to BU. Just today, I noticed someone had posted a reply defending the program. Given the way it is written, I have an inkling the post was made by the program coordinator or director.
http://www.global-derivatives.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=45&topic=5763.0

#### IlyaKEightSix

So let me get this straight, most MFEs only provide as much C++ knowledge as Savitch's book teaches you, with financial application?

#### Stefan Zota

Basically yes. However it is not an easy answer.

All MFE programs are pretty short so time trade-off is difficult. C++ is not ignored intentionally, just that time may be considered more valuable in other areas.

One proffessor may want to cover in significant detail a specific theory or model, another may want students to implement as much as possible. A third one, may want students to run testing and calibrate the model using a specific framework. Each approach may work just fine.

From my point of view it is essential to have a couple of clear goals and know which skills you need to achieve it. If the program maps to your goals then all is great and you become "marketable".
If not, then it was just a tour through a set of abstract math without any use ...

#### IlyaKEightSix

Gotcha.

Well, in terms of MFE, my school...is in painfully bad shape. Despite being an excellent engineering school overall, it's very new to FE and is being held up by the stochastic calc professor and my optimization professor. Job placement is a big goose egg, much to my despair.

That said, my optimization professor is PHENOMENAL. Utterly and completely PHENOMENAL. But she only teaches one MFE course here (I'm in it now!), and aside from stoch calc and random processes, the entire curriculum is a bunch of business courses. And the slow pace of the derivatives course is boring me very much.

That said, anyone that does a Ph.D with my optimization professor, if they actually get LOOKED AT by someone who can do more than thumb their nose at anyone not out of Columbia or CMU or one of those brand name schools, has as much a shot as anyone else, I'd venture to say.

#### Shlomi

##### SuperDerivatives
As I know the test scores cant be waived...You should take the test if you are interested in MFE.

#### Sanket Patel

##### i do stuff
S Bhargava said:
Hi...I am really interested to do the MFE course from baruch college but I have not given GRE/GMAT or TOFEL. I wanted to know if I am eligible to apply without the scores (can these requirements be waived off) and will I have a fair chance being chosen.....

Your application will be given a fair evaluation, just like all other applications. Your admissibility ultimately will depend on the strength of your background - specifically, your mathematical and programming background. As Shlomi indicated, you will need to take either the GRE or GMAT in order to apply to Baruch but preferably the GRE.

#### doug reich

##### Some guy
S Bhargava said:
Thanks for the info. Actually, as I have CAIA level II in March, timing is bit of a problem to prepare and give GRE before 15th April - last date of application submissions. I was hoping to get qualified to get a waive off. Also, I have done a lot of courses in the FE program in my statistics graduation (India) and was wanting to get that recognized, if possible - maybe by giving few internal exams or something. Who would be the right person to discuss this - any faculty member or senior student of MFE I can get in touch with.

Thanks in advance.

Go to the program web page, find the contact number, and place a phone call. Easily the fastest way to get your question answered.

#### Stefan Zota

S Bhargava said:
Also, I wanted to know if Columbia FE program also requires the GMAT/GRE scores as they have mentioned 'required but not compulsory' - Does it mean an application without the score would be fairly dealt.

Pretty much all MFE programs require GRE ...

#### yzia

Apparently JHU just launced a Masters in Fin Math as well - I was pleasantly surprised, it's also in the Engineering school there.

#### Tigga

Saw this on another board. Food for thoughts.

This is a mail I received from an existing Columbia student when I contacted him. Doesn't sound good people.

1) What has the placement been like this year ? How much help does Columbia provide in terms of career aid ? Does the presence of both FE and OR student hamper placements ? How easy it is to use recruitment agencies to try for jobs ?

Placements have been extremely bad! Out of 60 students hardly 8-9 have jobs and most of them are in IT that also because these students did there undergrad in Computer Science. Other are planning to get their degrees extended and pass out in Dec-09 but for that also you need some summer internship and even they are extremely difficult to find.

Here FE batch primarily comprises of three main communities Indians, Chinese and French. Indians and the Chinese are the ones who struggle for placements because of huge debt and visa issues; The french can always go back to London and many of them already have offers before coming to Columbia so it's really easy to play with the placement stats of Columbia. Columbia provides ABSOLUTELY no career aid!

Forget about OR there are 3-4 other grad programs which are run in parallel to FE and OR, all of them are competing for these financial sector jobs. So its like 300 resumes going for one position, and there 1st filter any recruiter applies is that of CGPA and because FE program is very competitive people don?t have very good GPAs. Also the career services provided by Columbia University (outside department) are primarily for Undergrads so you have to rely on you network and placement consultants to find jobs. Recruitment Agencies have been helpful in past but they are going to entertain your resumes only during the last 1-2 months of your graduation.

Berkeley and CMU placements are in the hands of their business schools so they have far better career services. Don?t expect same kind of services in Columbia and don?t extrapolate their placement stats. Apart from Berkeley and CMU all other good FE programs share same problems in terns of career services.

2) How is the program ? Are faculty people like Derman approachable and of any help in terms of recruitment ? How are the courses and classes in > general ?

Learning wise program is awesome and profs are really nice. Course is not easy for sure. But in the end you are making a 65K (equal to MBA fees for 1 yr) investment and you need to have a job!

3) Lastly, would you have any information regarding the number of people being accepted this year to the FE program ?

I don?t have any idea about this.

Please share this info with other people who are considering Columbia for FE. And ask to contact any us in case they have some queries. I am writing this mail in a hurry so there may be many typos.

#### jbgbgo

Temple MSFE

Does anyone have any info/opinions on the Temple MSFE program?

#### Andy Nguyen

A search for "Temple" on QN turns up empty so I'm afraid that program is not even heard of around here.