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Ivy League PhD Finance Programs

Hi all,
I'm pondering the idea of applying to some PhD Finance programs this upcoming Fall, but am unsure what my chances are/how competitive the top programs are. I'm enrolling at UNCC this Fall to complete a masters in Mathematical Finance and my BS is from Cornell (I had a 3.6). I have a GMAT score of 780. I'm looking to apply to Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Penn, and Columbia. Anybody have any input on my chances? And what can I do to increase my chances of admission?



Joy Pathak

You have a good profile. I am surprised you are not going to a better school for your Masters. You would have possibly got into several other places possibly Cornell too. Weird.

What is your undergrad in..

PhD Finance is one of THE MOST competitive programs in the world. The acceptance rates at the school you listed are 1-2%. You do have a strong chance of getting in no doubt if you have all the math courses and great letter of recs.

Fall 2011 applications will be in Fall 2010 so I am not sure they will get to see your UNCC achievements-grades.

Apply to some safety schools and hope for the best.

Do some research with professors to make your profile better.

---------- Post added at 12:56 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:50 PM ----------

Admission Statistics PhD Finance

Here. Maybe this will help with the acceptance rates.
I agree with Joy Pathak, do some research to increase your chances. One of my professors used to be on the admission committee at one of the Ivy Leagues' programs said that they place huge weight on people who have done research.

Good luck
My Bachelor's is in Industrial and Labor Relations (not very quantitative). That's why I didnt think I had a shot at top MS Financial Engineering programs. I'm actually still completing the math prereqs, but UNCC let me in without these being complete.

Thanks for the input.

Joy Pathak

Yeah. Good call. You need all the math before you can think of applying.

I will be applying for Fall 2012 possibly at those schools too in addition to several others.

Compared with the other schools you have listed, I'm not sure you'll find much of a focus on Finance at Harvard; indeed that institution doesn't formally offer a Ph.D. in "Finance." The closest you would get at Harvard is a Ph.D. in "Business Economics," which is a joint program between Harvard Business School and the Department of Economics in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

If you're really set on a Ph.D. in Finance you ought to add to your list those schools such as Chicago and N.Y.U. which have an especially strong focus in that field. As you are going to be in North Carolina this fall you might want to have a look at Duke as well.

A suggestion in terms of selecting schools to include on your list is to start reading the top academic journals in the field:

Journal of Finance ,
The Journal of Financial Economics , and
Review of Financial Studies .

Find the articles on topics which are of greatest interest to you and note the institutions with which the authors of those articles are affiliated. Remember that when writing your statement of purpose you will, in most cases, be asked to indicate which faculty member(s) you are interested in working with. Understanding how your prospective research interests mesh with theirs and being able to discuss this coherently on your application is crucial.

The key thing to understand is that any of the top-tier schools will be only be extending offers of admission (which generally include stipends and full scholarships) to those prime candidates who demonstrate to the admissions committee that they are genuinely dedicated to careers in academic research. Any sense that your ultimate goal is actually a lucrative career in industry and your application will not receive serious consideration at these institutions.

Note also that at Business Schools (where the Finance degree is offered) the number of students admitted annually is quite small -- usually between 3 and 5 students form a typical cohort. At the top schools, the number of applicants vying for these places may be 100-300.

At many (but not all) universities, in addition to applying to the Business School you may be permitted to simultaneously submit a separate application to the Department of Economics, which is usually part of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. At the top schools the competition for admission is similarly fierce, but the entering cohort in Economics may be 20-30 students (not all of whom are expected to complete their degrees) out of 700 applicants.

Once there you could choose a specialization in Financial Economics, where you would ultimately cover much of the same material as you would in a business school Finance program. Be aware, however, that the financial support offered by such a program may range from a tad less generous than that offered by the business school, to none initially -- if you are on the lower rungs of the ranking of candidates that program is willing to admit. (If you don't hear from a program until shortly before April 15th, then you are in such a position.)

Best of luck.