Some truth about Columbia Programs

Kky

Member
I'm from Columbia and I would like to share some views about our school's programs. Now there are four relevant MS programs available: MSFE(IEOR), MSOR(IEOR), MAFN(GSAS),MSFE(Business School)

I don't know much about the Columbia Business School MSFE program, so I don't want to talk much about it. All I know is that the program is very small. Their required courses are mostly PhD oriented.

For the two IEOR programs, MSFE has much better placement record over MSOR. This is mostly due to the students they admit. IEOR knows very clear about what kind of students are more likely to land on a top firm. In the admission process, IEOR select out students that they believe to easier to place and put them in MSFE. These students typically already have internship or working experience in top firms in finance.

But actually the MSFE and MSOR shares almost the same resources. They take the same courses (There are some MSFE proprietary courses but this is hardly an advantage because of available substitutes for MSOR), taught by the same professors and share the same career service. This means: Although MSFE students have better placements on average, whether YOU go for MSFE or MSOR won't make much difference.

For Math Finance program under GSAS, they prefer students that are good at mathematics. Also, they recruit senior guys (Like students who already have PhD degree or master's degree) more than IEOR programs. From historical perspective, their placement was not as good as MSFE, have somewhat better placement records at top firms than MSOR.

Disadvantage of MAFN, if any, would be that required courses are more theoretical than practically oriented. Also, there are some great advanced courses are in IEOR department, but they only have the capacity of accommodating students in their own department. MAFN students would have little chance to get enrolled in these courses. Because of this, IEOR would be a better choice if you want to take more courses preparing yourself to be a quant. For MBA courses in the business school, MSFE, MSOR or MAFN students have the same accessibility.

Careers services for the above three programs are not good, especially when compared to Baruch and Berkeley. IEOR has too many students, and MAFN doesn't have much proprietary careers services. However, being located in New York would definitely be an advantage, as you have more opportunities for networking events and part-time jobs.
 
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IntoDarkness

Well-Known Member
of cos better students usually yield more robust placement...
in other words, if someone applying to msfe but redirected to msor, that person should just realize his profile may not be as competitive and need more hustle to get the desired job
 
Thanks so much for sharing! I've got some questions about the MSOR program here:
1. Is it a one-year program or 1.5?
2. A MSOR student could take any course in MSFE if he wants, right? Won't the course have limited seats?
Thanks!
 

Kky

Member
Thanks so much for sharing! I've got some questions about the MSOR program here:
1. Is it a one-year program or 1.5?
2. A MSOR student could take any course in MSFE if he wants, right? Won't the course have limited seats?
Thanks!
1. It's up to your choice. Most students choose 1.5.
2. The answer is no. FE required core courses and electives on the programming track are available only to FE students. I heard that other finance electives within IEOR are available for OR, and you will be able to get enrolled if you are from OR.
 
1. It's up to your choice. Most students choose 1.5.
2. The answer is no. FE required core courses and electives on the programming track are available only to FE students. I heard that other finance electives within IEOR are available for OR, and you will be able to get enrolled if you are from OR.
Thank you!
 

Jedison

Well-Known Member
Currently at Columbia and I agree for the most part. MathFin is highly theoretical. I'm in one of the core classes now and there are many phd students. I feel that this program is fantastic for the sole reason that it grants you access to graduate level courses at columbia. While you are alone recruitment wise, I'd venture to say your education from this program is among the best of all quant programs. The MSOR and MFE programs have become almost synonymous. The MFE was originally structured differently but now it seems that many students will take three semesters just as the IEOR students do. In fact, I might venture to say that IEOR is better in the sense that you are much less restricted in your course selection. Only real advantage of the MFE is that you have a dedicated placement team behind you. Very nice, but education wise the programs are basically identical.
 
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Kky

Member
Currently at Columbia and I agree for the most part. MathFin is highly theoretical. I'm in one of the core classes now and there are many phd students. I feel that this program is fantastic for the sole reason that it grants you access to graduate level courses at columbia. While you are alone recruitment wise, I'd venture to say your education from this program is among the best of all quant programs. The MSOR and MFE programs have become almost synonymous. The MFE was originally structured differently but now it seems that many students will take three semesters just as the IEOR students do. In fact, I might venture to say that IEOR is better in the sense that you are much less restricted in your course selection. Only real advantage of the MFE is that you have a dedicated placement team behind you. Very nice, but education wise the programs are basically identical.
Currently the quality of teaching in several Math Finance core courses are terrible. I'm not going to name the professors. Common sense among their students.
 

QuantHopeful

Active Member
Most of these schools have a name to protect. They admit students based on the expected placement after graduation.

Currently the quality of teaching in several Math Finance core courses are terrible. I'm not going to name the professors. Common sense among their students.
What makes the teaching terrible? If the program is geared toward PhD students, I wouldn't be surprised if the professor expects his students to learn most of the material on their own.
 

Jedison

Well-Known Member
Currently the quality of teaching in several Math Finance core courses are terrible. I'm not going to name the professors. Common sense among their students.
I haven't taken many of the classes but I was in another mathfin core course and dropped because it was a joke. I think it's hit or miss for the program, but Columbia's math and stat departments are both spectacular and you have full access to both if you're admitted. I think that may be worth it in and of itself.
 

ygmwy

Well-Known Member
There is a lot of misunderstanding here in my opinion:

There is a reason that MSFE has a higher placement rating. MSFE students have special career preparation seminars that MSORs don't know about. They also have a dedicated career placement officer whose sole job it is to get those 70 students jobs. Also, the MSFE brand is heavily marketed to employers, and usually, the MSFE resumes are the first ones employers see. Also, many employers specifically request to see MSFE resumes when they come to the department. I didn't have to lift a finger in the job hunt (although I still tried hard), but 9 times out of 10, it was the employer contacting me. In addition, the core classes taught at MSFE are just better than the MSOR classes, and have an order that makes a lot of sense. There's also a lot more support among MSFEs because everyone knows everyone even before the MSORs set foot on campus. Oh, also, many students in MSFE have absolutely no work experience at all, and are fresh out of college. There is no bias in work experience between MSFE and MSOR. My friends and I are good examples.

Also, IEOR career services does a good job not only of helping MSFEs, but also of helping all its students find a job. I get almost 3 e-mails a day about employers from all the major banks, startups, tech firms, consulting firms, and a good mix of locations from all over the world. Sure you have to apply to the jobs and get accepted, but you really can't expect the department to do everything for you... Many students, MSFEs and MSORs alike feel like career services should just hand them a job on a silver platter. Many students are not used to applying to jobs, and only used to applying to schools.

All in all, the MSORs can be just as good as the MSFEs, and many are. (In fact, some hard working ones are probably better). But MSFEs do have significant advantages. MSORs are unaware of them because the department tries to market to them that they have it just as good, but they have an uphill battle. There are about 180 MSORs.
 

fe app

Active Member
i know uve all spoke to this already, but trying to get an idea of the MSFE program, not against other Columbia programs, but against other school.

For career placement, i've read different things about the MSFE. Is it great or just so so...compared to a place like CMU where that's all they talk about?

I know people aren't given jobs anymore, and esp know that b/c of where I went to undergrad and worked my head off for a ft job, but having a great recruiting/career dev office is extremely important to me if I'm gonna shell out the cash to make a move in a career.

also @Jedison @wayoung @Kky where does ur info come from?
 

IntoDarkness

Well-Known Member
if the hiring companies actively reaching out to students for interviews, it shows how great the school's career service and reputation are already...
especially for kid like me who graduated from a non-target where nobody recruits, and had to get in the door through pure persistency and luck (non-stop networking, repetitive rejections, and finally somebody gave a seriously long shot at me)
 

Kky

Member
i know uve all spoke to this already, but trying to get an idea of the MSFE program, not against other Columbia programs, but against other school.

For career placement, i've read different things about the MSFE. Is it great or just so so...compared to a place like CMU where that's all they talk about?

I know people aren't given jobs anymore, and esp know that b/c of where I went to undergrad and worked my head off for a ft job, but having a great recruiting/career dev office is extremely important to me if I'm gonna shell out the cash to make a move in a career.

also @Jedison @wayoung @Kky where does ur info come from?
Almost all schools, including Columbia and CMU, tend to report better placement than it actually does. Both programs have very successful students who ended up in top firms, but it really depends on students' prior experience and personal network, and a lot, on luck.
 

ygmwy

Well-Known Member
@fe app I know exactly where you are coming from. I went to a non target school for Undergrad, and had no real way to get myself in front of employers. I know how it feels to feel on the outside looking in, so I sympathize completely. But @Kky is right. When comparing between to schools, career services doesn't matter that much. What matters more is you and your experience.

Far outweighing the career services factor is the educational factor, and this is where I believe Columbia is superior to CMU and Princeton--at least in the sense of teaching you what you need to know very quickly and not bogging you down with stuff you don't need to know. I went to take a test recently with other first year students from other top schools, and at the early stages (which count the most) Columbia students learn the most, the most relevant, and the fastest. Princeton's 2 year program aims to make Super soldiers that know everything, but most of the stuff you will forget anyway and don't need to know for interviews. CMU is equally slow and focuses on unimportant stuff like measure theory, which comes up on interviews less and less and is more of an academic thing. At Columbia, you zoom through stochastic models and stochastic calculus and cut out all the BS. This is a smart move by Columbia in my opinion because not everyone wants to be a professor. Columbia markets this as the "engineering approach" if academics is your thing, Columbia still has the best professors, and access to the best research in the field through the departments connections, and the faculty themselves. We get regular access to outside practitioners and academics alike through required MSFE programming. Columbia also has the largest department, and do attracts the most diverse set of professors and choose offerings so that students can specialize in the spring. An equity derivatives trader, a fixed income trader, a quant developer, machine learning expert, algo trader, and everything in between will find specialized to notch course offerings at Columbia. Honestly, no one else has that, and to me, that is a real edge.

In short, Columbia MSFE gives you a lot of freedom to spend time pursuing what you want to pursue, and the resides to do it. Of courseits upto you to do the work, but you really need that support in order to concentrate your job hunting efforts. Princeton and CMU are not bad choices, but I have found that I know more that my peers there in terms of quant interviews, and the programs are rather homogeneous in terms of courses. What Princeton and CMU generally have over Columbia is communication skills. But if you already have that, you will be a hot commodity at Columbia.
 

GoIllini

Market Crises= Gray Hair
I think all three programs offer similar flexible curricula. And my experience has been that Columbia quants are excellent communicators. I think the difference- and it's a very subtle difference- is confidence, especially in front office roles, often when dealing with high profile stuff. As the desk strat from UIUC on the trading floor, I'd notice a different body language when I saw a Columbia MFE greeting a guy with a nine figure net worth who appeared on CNBC regularly, or a Harvard PhD who worked at a hedge fund, than a Harvard undergrad or a Stanford MBA. He always looked a bit intimidated. I never knew why that was; you guys all went to amazing schools, but the guy from Columbia must have been less used to this situation.

Columbia quants are excellent communicators and are excellent when it comes to asset pricing. Please stop selling yourself short on that front.
 
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