If you have the choices of brand-name programs without dedicated placement service, such as Columbia MAFN and NYU Part-Time, versus a not-yet-established program but with placement service like UCLA, which is a better choice?
Ask yourself an honest question: what do you pay this huge amount of money for?
A) To have a brand name on your resume
B) To have the knowledge useful at the start of your career
C) To use the program's career service to get a first job.
When you write this thread, it's obvious that the choices presented to you are not ideal. You will have to compromise a few things. Is a brand name worth all cost? Is the knowledge what you value most?
How you feel about going around saying "I'm unemployed with 100K in debt. But I did graduate from this famous program"?
I want to thank everyone for the input. To me, the ideal situation is to have both the brand name and the knowledge like UC Berkeley, but that's hard to get. The dilemma is when you can have only one of them.
I personally strongly believe(rightly or wrongly) that unqualified candidates from brand name schools will get more interview calls than qualified candidates from less-than famous schools. I am speaking from my experience because I am working now and am involved in the recruiting process.
I went to a decent but not-famous school. When I passed all the interviews to get my first job, the VP and supervisor told me that they didn't expect to find any qualified candidate from my school. So they arranged 3 rounds of interviews for me, as supposed to the normal 2 rounds. Of course whether one gets through all rounds depends on his/her skills. But brand name really helps in getting that first phone interview invitation, and having more first chances is a huge advantage.
I am not saying UCLA is not brand name or Columbia MAFN is not a good program. Personally, I much prefer the structured curriculum and faculty at UCLA over the math-oriented MAFN, but I think most people will agree that Columbia has a much bigger brand name than UCLA. Especially because it has a huge undergraduate population, getting into UCLA just doesn't seem impressive to any outsider who doesn't know its b-school is ranked #7 in finance. Even one of my recommender thinks Columbia is "far better" than UC Berkeley.
By the way, I am not picking on these particular schools, but just using them as examples.
The brand name is important in some cases. But there are others, not so much:
- working experience before/during the MFE
- interview comes as a recommendation of a professor/friend/colleague
- respective employer is looking for very specific skills