# DISCUSSION on second rated MFE programs

#### rawger

Hi ANDY-
You have provided some really good information over here. And by internships at Kent I meant projects which provide industry experience. I believe that this part is true. I have heard from a lot of people that the 24-28 students which get selected for Kent are all given projects. The students apply with their resumes and their areas of interest and then the network of Alumni( and it is quite a good list with Goldmann Sachs and ML on the list) select these students for internships and other opportunities.
However I was not thrilled to see the images of people trading on the floor http://business.kent.edu/msfe/pdf/07ResumeBook.pdf.
I guess I was just intimidated. I am just an undergraduate about to graduate with a BS in computer engineering and a minor in Math. I was expecting a more office like job. But I guess floor trading is just a part of MFE is it not??

#### Andy Nguyen

I'm changing this to "What you need to know about MFE programs"
I hope this make sense because we provide helpful information for prospective students so they can make an educated decision.

I'm making this thread a sticky so it always stays on top of the forum.

#### QNJob

Hi ANDY-
You have provided some really good information over here.
First off, I want to say that I don't have inside/first hand/second hand info about the Kent program. I haven't visited their website until now. Everything I said is directly from their website, poster. I don't have first hand info about any other program either.
rawger said:
And by internships at Kent I meant projects which provide industry experience. I believe that this part is true. I have heard from a lot of people that the 24-28 students which get selected for Kent are all given projects. The students apply with their resumes and their areas of interest and then the network of Alumni( and it is quite a good list with Goldmann Sachs and ML on the list) select these students for internships and other opportunities.
Most programs will define it as a process where students compete for and gain a short term (3 months) full time job during summer with pay. Other programs may just define it as a assigned project. I think Fordham and Kent are in this second group.
This is directly from their resume pdf book
Industry-Based Project (Internship)
An industry-based project is assigned to each student as part of a required field experience. The project involves direct interaction with a contributing firm. Each student will undertake a ten- week internship to complete the required project with a firm from the financial community. The project will be presented to the program faculty for final evaluation prior to graduation.
rawger said:
However I was not thrilled to see the images of people trading on the floor
I guess I was just intimidated. I am just an undergraduate about to graduate with a BS in computer engineering and a minor in Math. I was expecting a more office like job.
Are you only interested in a mid and back office job ? You don't want a front office, trading job ?
rawger said:
But I guess floor trading is just a part of MFE is it not??
Few programs have a trading floor with live data where students can use. Baruch has a full-fledged trading floor with 40 trading terminals. It has been used for real trading by some firm after 9/11.
http://zicklin.baruch.cuny.edu/centers/subotnick/
Any Baruch student can use it but they are not allowed to do personal trading.
rawger said:
I don't have any opinion about it except that i read many posts where people seem to say that it accepts almost everyone and gives out generous tuition waiver. Is it good or bad, I don't know.

#### Tigga

I notice that notion of "top program" seems to go in and out in vogue. Since GD came out with that "ranking", UC Berkeley has been the top dog. And this year, the perception is that NYU is now the new top dog.

What interesting is that there is no significant improvements at NYU, UCB that prompts this changes in people perception. My guess is that the placement stat (or a perception of it) has been critical in everyone's evaluation this year. People have been more willing to give NYU the benefit of the doubt while many previous favorite programs fall out of favor (Columbia, CMU, etc)

Here is a quote by a UCB MFE graduate who goes by quantstud on GD
The market out there for jobs is really bad. We all know what happened to Bear Sterns and Lehman yesterday. From the personal experience of my MFE batchmates interviewing, it is virtually impossible to get a job in NY. Well, unless you are from Baruch
I am sure the placements are equally tough across all the 'top' programs, be it CMU, UCB or NYU. The CMU thread being referred was posted in Jan end and refers to the batch graduating in Dec 07. The present scenario is definitely worse. It is much more difficult to get a job in NYC now. My batchmates are going to Asia and elsewhere, in some very good profiles. Having said that, the placement statistics in UCB are moderate to strong so far (definitely worse than last few years). Roughly 75-80% people have either job offers or have accepted the jobs. The rest are either looking or are choosy in picking up what they wish to do.

Also, one should keep in mind that recruitment for internships and full-time is an entirely different ball game, especially in this scenario. While internship is a short term contract position with no obligations on the recruiting firm, full-time hiring requires stringent headcount approvals from the top management. We all know, NY banks are witnessing a hiring freeze, except for urgent headcount replacements.
Definitely location matters and it has its own advantages. But, we are amidst a financial crisis much severe than 'petty' location advantage. Without any first hand experience with the placement scenario of top NY schools (Columbia, NYU etc), I can bet students are finding it equally tough to get a position.

It's clear to see the problem has affected UCB in not a small scale. UCB usually has one of the best placement stats around since they students on average have more relevant working experience.

#### KML

##### KML
UCLA is starting a new MFE Program

UCLA recently announced it is starting a MFE program. It looks like it is modeled after Berkeley, probably because UCLA's faculty teach in the Berkeley program. The website said they will be having an info session in NYC, but the date is TBD.

#### Yuriy

##### MFE Alum
I notice that notion of "top program" seems to go in and out in vogue. Since GD came out with that "ranking", UC Berkeley has been the top dog. And this year, the perception is that NYU is now the new top dog.

What interesting is that there is no significant improvements at NYU, UCB that prompts this changes in people perception.

There are new courses offered at NYU compared to what was offered a number of years ago. It seems to me that NYU is keeping up with industry demands.

#### Tigga

As far as I know, Columbia is the only school that applies this method. Rutgers has 2 programs and I never heard of them doing this. Columbia is unique in a sense that it has 2,3 programs that competing with each other.

What's everyone opinion on it ? Is this a common practice among big universities ? Do you know of any other program where similar pratice used ?
Apparently, Stanford is the other program that does this. Here is from someone who applied there. Not sure how true.
At Stanford, if you don't make finmath, you can get your app forwarded to the MS&E program. You obviously wouldn't feel great about it, but it's still an excellent opportunity. Sure the university wants to make some money, but not everyone is qualified or lucky enough to make it to their top choice. They're really still just giving you another option.

#### Tigga

UCLA recently announced it is starting a MFE program. It looks like it is modeled after Berkeley, probably because UCLA's faculty teach in the Berkeley program. The website said they will be having an info session in NYC, but the date is TBD.
I have posted lot of info about UCLA new program starting from post #66 of this thread.
There are someone here who works with Linda Kreitzman - director of UCB MFE program so probably we will see some inside info soon.

#### Seanny

Hey All,

I have been a guest for a while, but decided to register so I can start posting.

Anyways, there has been a talk about the UCLA MFE and I would like to shed some light about the new program. There was an information session at the Anderson business school today, and I was in the neighborhood to go check it out. It was mostly an informal presentation by the Executive Director, Robert Mark, and then a Q&A session.

I understand Quantnet focuses on East Coast programs, but I don't think this will hurt.

Here are some facts that I got from the program:

1) Focus will be heavily placed on mathematical applications of financial theory and less on computer programming (they mentioned that they want to add a programming course to the curriculum but they haven't worked on it yet)
2) Top-Rated Finance Faculty
3) Program has been in development for 8 weeks and will still be changing around for the next 7-8 months until the start of the program in Jan 2009.
4) Expected 40 students for the first cohort and about 60 for future years (they said they won't accept people just to fill quota ... quality > quantity)
5) Interesting comment: 2 Essay questions and only 2 paragraphs per question. (essay is not that important apparently)
6) Most of the presentation was also spent going over the classes that they will teach and topics that will be discussed, but that can be found in the brochure.

The next few comments are my OPINION and should not be taken seriously. They simply reflect the feeling I got about the program:

1) The director mentioned that they will be one of the top 3 programs in the nation (at par with UCB). Obviously he is trying to sell the program but he placed a lot of emphasis on how the program is similar to the UCB program as far as curriculum, active placement for internship, and tuition is concerned.
2) This is a weird comment, but I also did not get a strong vibe from the director. I felt like he was a bit unsure and did not find his presentation very intriguing. The impression I got before leaving was that... "man... they probably just want my 50,000 bucks"
3) The last thing I can remember is the fact that they are still under development. I am not sure if all programs were like this their first year... but nothing is completely finalized it seemed.
4) A positive remark is that the program is going to be taught by top notch finance professors and that they are going to be really proactive for recruiting. That was their best selling feature.

After having said that, I would like to mention that I will not be applying to this program this year because of 3 reasons:
1) I can't defer my acceptance, which means I cannot apply to the other schools like NYU, CMU, Baruch, and Cornell (my top choices).
2) First year program... hesitant to trust, although it can be a really great program.
3) Afraid of my placement to be restricted in the LA area only. I ultimately want to work in NYC.

Alright, that is the all. Please don't take what I say to heart, it is only my thoughts. Let me know if you guys have questions.

-Seanny

#### MikeK

Seanny, that is some really good information. Thanks for sharing. Right off the bat, they seem to be placing little to no emphasis on programming, which I personally think is a big mistake. And I'm not sure how much it matters having top-notch finance faculty as opposed to top mathematics faculty. And the reality is, they may be entering the market at a really tough time, though that remains to be seen.

#### Andy Nguyen

Seanny,
Great info. If you read earlier posts by Tigga you would find that the program at UCLA has been planned several years ago. There were talks about a joint program with UCB but somehow it didn't happen.
If a program is called Financial Engineering, I would automatically think there is some C++ component. In this case, maybe Master in Math Finance is a better name ?
Also, I can tell you that every new program adjusts as it grows. Maybe the core courses stay the same but adjusted contents, more elective courses, etc. It has to change to keep up with what is relevant out there.

would be interesting to see what Dominic has to say when he sees no C++ in an MFE program

Seanny,
Did they go into any specific details as how they would go about internship, placement ? Their website indicates an integrated project as internship, etc. Is it a normal internship as we know it or the kind of project at Fordham ?

Here are some facts that I got from the program:

1) Focus will be heavily placed on mathematical applications of financial theory and less on computer programming (they mentioned that they want to add a programming course to the curriculum but they haven't worked on it yet)
2) Top-Rated Finance Faculty
3) Program has been in development for 8 weeks and will still be changing around for the next 7-8 months until the start of the program in Jan 2009.
4) Expected 40 students for the first cohort and about 60 for future years (they said they won't accept people just to fill quota ... quality > quantity)
5) Interesting comment: 2 Essay questions and only 2 paragraphs per question. (essay is not that important apparently)
6) Most of the presentation was also spent going over the classes that they will teach and topics that will be discussed, but that can be found in the brochure.

This has alarm bells going off in my head. Eight weeks to prepare the program? That isn't even enough to write the lecture notes for a course, let alone polish them, let alone make sure the course dovetails with other courses. They'll be "modifying it for eight months" means they'll use you as a guinea pig, and when they screw things up, "Oops, we're still in the developmental stage." "Less on computer programming" means they haven't a clue as to what programming is about and what the market requires. Maybe they're pure economics or math types. What are the names of the "top rated faculty?" Anyone we know? Like Rubinstein at Haas or Shreve at CMU? Quality > quantity is bollocks: they'll accept anyone with a pulse initially because it's all about moolah (money), and they're trying to use the name of UCLA to mint some gold.

The next few comments are my OPINION and should not be taken seriously. They simply reflect the feeling I got about the program:

1) The director mentioned that they will be one of the top 3 programs in the nation. (at par with UCB). Obviously he is trying to sell the program but he placed a lot of emphasis on how the program is similar to the UCB program as far as curriculum, active placement for internship, and tuition is concerned.

Yeah, heard that one before. Treat these promises and claims with utter contempt.

2) This is a weird comment, but I also did not get a strong vibe from the director. I felt like he was a bit unsure and did not find his presentation very intriguing. The impression I got before leaving was that... "man... they probably just want my 50,000 bucks"

3) The last thing I can remember is the fact that they are still under development. I am not sure if all programs were like this their first year... but nothing is completely finalized it seemed.

That means they're going to screw it up for at least a couple of years. And in a crowded and depressed quant marketplace like the one we have now and for the foreseeable future, this means career death for the grads of such programs. After a couple of years this half-assed program may not survive: the market is more than saturated, and there's no leeway for initial mistakes and problems. Even programs that hit the ground running will encounter big problems in getting students and placing them in jobs and internships.

4) A positive remark is that the program is going to be taught by top notch finance professors and that they are going to be really proactive for recruiting. That was their best selling feature.

They can claim anything they want. Caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).

#### Seanny

Andy: Though the info session lasted 1.5 hours... they spent little time talking about placement. This is what I remember: Basically, he mentioned how it is their responsibility to find each and every mfe student a job and how they have strong relationships with several companies who are very optimistic about the mfe program. In the brochure they gave me, they have a list of companies who are "Board Member Affiliations." They did not mention anything about integrated projects as internships so I am not sure about that.

BigBadWolf: A lot of information can be found in the brochure they gave me which can also be found online if you haven't looked at it. They have the list of the "top finance faculty" which he was talking about. http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/Documents/areas/prg/mfe/mfe_brochure.pdf

Also, I just remembered, for those who are applying... he mentioned that as of now... there are 37 STARTED online applications. Given that the deadline is June 30, 2008, I'm sure that number will grow at an exponential rate as they will have more information sessions in the coming weeks.

In my opinion, I don't think it's just the professors and curriculum that make the program "the top 3" but rather the students. For all we know, their first year can have the greatest students who get full time offers at top firms. I guess we will have to see.

#### Seanny

Also, when I said "less on programming" I didn't mean none at all. When a student asked if programming is necessary, he said that some classes may need C++ or Matlab knowledge. He also mentioned that they might place a preparatory C++ course prior to the start of the program or direct students to a community college to take the class. (surprisingly they haven't decided on that yet)

The reason I said "less" was that every time he talked about the classes, he always used the term "mathematical"... and he didn't dive into the programming aspects which is why I got the impression that they won't focus on it as much.

Again, they said everything is not completely fixed so it might change in the next few months.

#### Tigga

Seanny,
UCLA should be paying us for all the exposure we've given them

When you were there, how many people attended their info session?
What kind of questions did they ask? Do you have any idea the kind of background they are ?

It's interesting to hear that they will be top 3 and on par with UCB. Is it a 10 year goal or right off the bat ? 50K/year is right on par with those top 3 most expensive out there

We probably should give them the benefit of the doubt and see what kind of students they attract. I would be interested in seeing how they compete head-to-head with UCB and other program in the west.

In the world of higher education, UCLA is right up there as one of the top public universities. Their football and basketball teams are famous but MFE is another league where they are a new comer.
There are so much pressure to succeed when they jump into this crowded market. They can't afford to fail with all the world class finance faculty and resource behind them.

All the info I found earlier indicated that this program has been planned years in advance with UCB so I'm a bit surprised to hear that they haven't worked out all the kinks.

If they plan to recruit 40-60 students in the first year with 3 months to go, I don't think they will be that selective. Most students have already applied and decided which program to join in Fall 2008. Where would they find a few hundred people who are willing to pay 50K a year to be the first student. Shouldn't they go to a proven program like UCB instead ?

#### Seanny

Tigga:

When I attended, there was about 35-40 people. I know for a fact that there were undergrads and some mba students at the session. Some of the students introduced themselves before asking questions and I can say that some of them were CS or EECS working at tech firms and other people were math majors straight from undergrad.

I agree with what you have said. In my opinion, it has to be like a 10 year goal because obviously they cannot rank as high as UCB after the first year (i don't think it's possible).

Honestly, we cannot say much about this program as of now. Even after attending these info sessions, it's still a bit unclear as to how great of a program it will be. I feel like they will say anything to attract us.

If I were more interested in the program, I would do more research and call the director to ask more questions (he suggested we do that).

Lastly, I think they can easily find hundreds of people who are interested. I feel like the number of financial engineers are growing every year... didn't the number of applicants increase at a tremendous rate for many of the schools? This would lead to more rejects... who are qualified but simply not AS competitive... that may be interested in new programs that still have deadlines left.

#### Tigga

Obviously he is trying to sell the program but he placed a lot of emphasis on how the program is similar to the UCB program as far as curriculum, active placement for internship, and tuition is concerned.
I would be more interested in how it's different than UCB. For example, what are its advantages over UCB ?

This is what I remember: Basically, he mentioned how it is their responsibility to find each and every mfe student a job and how they have strong relationships with several companies who are very optimistic about the mfe program. In the brochure they gave me, they have a list of companies who are "Board Member Affiliations."
This probably the first time I read anywhere that a program comes out saying they are responsible for their graduates' jobs. I guess they don't mean the way you make it sound. Maybe they will help find jobs but don't guarantee it.
If they are really responsible for finding a job, are they responsible if their students can't find a job ? Are they gonna refund the tuition ?
As for the "Board Member Affiliations", it's a business school thing which probably won't help much with actual job placement. UCB has the backing of many Wall Street firms when it started the program and has much success until this year when their students have a hard time getting a job in NY.

#### Yuriy

##### MFE Alum
I think it is good that UCLA MFE administration wants the program to be in top 3. I would be surprised if they started the program to become just an average program.

The first couple of years will be difficult in terms of course selection and course content. Every program revises their course selection every n years to reflect market demands.

I have aso looked at their course selection. Many courses have titles '... markets'. Those titles seem very much like regular finance masters course titles. A question that I can raise is how quantitative is this MFE and how much different it is from a regular finance masters. No C++ is also pointing in the direction of finance rather than financial engineering.

#### Tigga

I think UCB, UCLA and those west coast programs probably won't have a problem attracting high paying students because there is a large number of engineers, IT professionals working in Sillicon Valley, Bay area. After the tech burst in 2001, many of them are trying to get back into a high paying profession.
Asking for $50K a year while pointing out the success of UCB is one way to get people to cough up the dough. Even Fordham was asking for$40K without saying it is modeled after any successful program.

Asking for $50K a year while pointing out the success of UCB is one way to get people to cough up the dough. Even Fordham was asking for$40K without saying it is modeled after any successful program.