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COMPARE Stanford MCF vs Princeton MFin

Stanford MCF vs Princeton MFin

  • Stanford MCF

    Votes: 21 36.2%
  • Princeton MFin

    Votes: 37 63.8%

  • Total voters
    58
Hello everyone,

I have been lucky enough to be admitted both to the Stanford MCF at ICME and Princeton MFin, but am stuck deciding between the two.

In particular, I am curious if anyone knows anything about career prospects from the Stanford MCF. Their website is quite lacking in this regard. However, they claim 100% placement and that students have had no trouble in the past getting jobs at sell-side or buy-side firms in NYC. To me, their curriculum seems well position to prepare someone for a career at a quant hedge fund, as it has a heavy emphasis on data science and programming. There's definitely less emphasis on stochastic calculus, options pricing, etc than at Princeton, so that makes me think Princeton may be better for sell-side stuff.

Stanford also seems to leave open the possibility of working in startups, fintech, data science, etc, especially given its location in Silicon Valley. I'm not sure about this possibility from Princeton. Personally, I am interested in quant (leaning buy-side), but also could see myself in startups, fintech, insurance technology, or another entrepreneurial career.

I've made this a poll, but I'd love to hear people's opinions about the programs. Thank you all for your help!
 
Probably true that both Stanford better for tech/fintech and Princeton is better for sell-side but on buy side it will be tough to see a big difference in practice. To be super frank and practical, when schools have reputations like Stanford, MIT, Princeton, Harvard etc. you are going to be able to get interviews at top places no matter which you choose and there is just not a lot of differentiation between them for the average finance job in terms of getting your foot in the door--the real question is which will prepare you better and give you maximum optionality. But that is more about what you want and are aiming for specifically. If you are really interested in buy side, then the main questions are going to be which program will give better financial programming skills and which offers and will let you take the best ML courses because these are skills used pretty consistently at quant shops (ML depends on which hedge fund specifically and which part but not a bad skill set, computing pretty necessary everywhere). I know Stanford has reputation for being super CS and ML heavy (I mean what is ICME lol), but obviously Princeton also has a good CS department and a certificate in machine learning. Personally, I like the idea of nice weather in Palo Alto and having an out to a chiller industry/set of industries, but its really a matter of personal preference.
 
Probably true that both Stanford better for tech/fintech and Princeton is better for sell-side but on buy side it will be tough to see a big difference in practice. To be super frank and practical, when schools have reputations like Stanford, MIT, Princeton, Harvard etc. you are going to be able to get interviews at top places no matter which you choose and there is just not a lot of differentiation between them for the average finance job in terms of getting your foot in the door--the real question is which will prepare you better and give you maximum optionality. But that is more about what you want and are aiming for specifically. If you are really interested in buy side, then the main questions are going to be which program will give better financial programming skills and which offers and will let you take the best ML courses because these are skills used pretty consistently at quant shops (ML depends on which hedge fund specifically and which part but not a bad skill set, computing pretty necessary everywhere). I know Stanford has reputation for being super CS and ML heavy (I mean what is ICME lol), but obviously Princeton also has a good CS department and a certificate in machine learning. Personally, I like the idea of nice weather in Palo Alto and having an out to a chiller industry/set of industries, but its really a matter of personal preference.
Thank you for such a detailed response!
 
Stanford grad here. Caveat - I have not been on campus for quite a while and it is possible that some of my impressions are dated but -

Princeton is an outstanding program, but so is Stanford. Both have very strong brands. And the people you meet at either school will be extraordinary. It must be difficult to decide on the basis of the programs, but have you also considered quality of life?

Stanford is built on Leland Stanford's former farm. It is like a country club. If you have time off, there is always something interesting to do.

Weather. When I was there it seems that it only rained from November to February and not much then

Do you enjoy sports? Stanford just this week won the national championship in women's basketball. Not only that. in the early 1990s, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (or something with a similar name) established an award given annually to the university whose athletic teams had performed the best. In the inaugural year, Stanford placed second. Since then, it has won every time, more than 25 years.

If you like running or biking, it is a great place for either.

I know people who could not wait to graduate, only to wish six months later that they were back at Stanford.

I do not know a lot about the life outside of studying at Princeton, but Stanford's out of class lifestyle is spectacular.
 
Stanford grad here. Caveat - I have not been on campus for quite a while and it is possible that some of my impressions are dated but -

Princeton is an outstanding program, but so is Stanford. Both have very strong brands. And the people you meet at either school will be extraordinary. It must be difficult to decide on the basis of the programs, but have you also considered quality of life?

Stanford is built on Leland Stanford's former farm. It is like a country club. If you have time off, there is always something interesting to do.

Weather. When I was there it seems that it only rained from November to February and not much then

Do you enjoy sports? Stanford just this week won the national championship in women's basketball. Not only that. in the early 1990s, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (or something with a similar name) established an award given annually to the university whose athletic teams had performed the best. In the inaugural year, Stanford placed second. Since then, it has won every time, more than 25 years.

If you like running or biking, it is a great place for either.

I know people who could not wait to graduate, only to wish six months later that they were back at Stanford.

I do not know a lot about the life outside of studying at Princeton, but Stanford's out of class lifestyle is spectacular.
That’s a very good point and definitely something to consider. Thank you!
 
Consider most of the interviews happen in the first semester of school, so internship opps are more a function of how well you are prepared. Given your admissions, sounds like you have your stuff together, but still.

I'd take the Princeton side of the trade. The program's pedigree is stellar - the Bendheim center was set up by Bernanke and a few others. They're much closer to NYC, and COVID aside, I think you want to be close to a money center when studying. Makes internships / networking easier; the school having a strong connection to Wall Street is a good thing. With Princeton, you also get a strong connection to fiscal and monetary policy makers. Stanford clearly has the tech edge, so maybe consider which sphere of influence you'd like more exposure to.

Total champagne problem - congratulations! You must have worked quite hard to reach this point.
 
Consider most of the interviews happen in the first semester of school, so internship opps are more a function of how well you are prepared. Given your admissions, sounds like you have your stuff together, but still.

I'd take the Princeton side of the trade. The program's pedigree is stellar - the Bendheim center was set up by Bernanke and a few others. They're much closer to NYC, and COVID aside, I think you want to be close to a money center when studying. Makes internships / networking easier; the school having a strong connection to Wall Street is a good thing. With Princeton, you also get a strong connection to fiscal and monetary policy makers. Stanford clearly has the tech edge, so maybe consider which sphere of influence you'd like more exposure to.

Total champagne problem - congratulations! You must have worked quite hard to reach this point.
Thank you! I appreciate your detailed response!
 
Dude, we're posting on a quant finance discussion group about MFE programs. We live for this shit.
Lol okay here goes. While both are great programs, Princeton seems a lot more dedicated to its students that Stanford. The impression I got from speaking to multiple students at each program was that at Stanford, students take classes across multiple departments, with lots of other students, and oftentimes will be in classes without anyone else from their program. Also, the MCF is housed within the greater ICME and hence you really become a part of a much larger program. In addition, career services at Stanford are really left on the backs of the students, and having experienced an undergrad like this I wanted a masters that takes career services more seriously, i.e. Princeton. In addition, the community and alumni base from Princeton seems much more tight knit, which is obviously useful for careers but also just for building strong relationships with people who have similar interests. Finally, I chose Princeton because of the flexibility of curriculum. At Stanford, the curriculum seems great for quant jobs or data science, but not as much else. Obviously Princeton provides for both of those careers. However, I like that Princeton also has the option of taking more corporate finance, PE, monetary theory, etc classes if I decide that I don’t like quant as much as I thought I would and want to switch to a career in another financial sector. Stanford definitely is in a great location and has a really cool entrepreneurial culture, but for me the program fit of Princeton was just much stronger.
 
Lol okay here goes. While both are great programs, Princeton seems a lot more dedicated to its students that Stanford. The impression I got from speaking to multiple students at each program was that at Stanford, students take classes across multiple departments, with lots of other students, and oftentimes will be in classes without anyone else from their program. Also, the MCF is housed within the greater ICME and hence you really become a part of a much larger program. In addition, career services at Stanford are really left on the backs of the students, and having experienced an undergrad like this I wanted a masters that takes career services more seriously, i.e. Princeton. In addition, the community and alumni base from Princeton seems much more tight knit, which is obviously useful for careers but also just for building strong relationships with people who have similar interests. Finally, I chose Princeton because of the flexibility of curriculum. At Stanford, the curriculum seems great for quant jobs or data science, but not as much else. Obviously Princeton provides for both of those careers. However, I like that Princeton also has the option of taking more corporate finance, PE, monetary theory, etc classes if I decide that I don’t like quant as much as I thought I would and want to switch to a career in another financial sector. Stanford definitely is in a great location and has a really cool entrepreneurial culture, but for me the program fit of Princeton was just much stronger.
Oh come on! This was not boring at all, and I am sure will be appreciated by a lot of prospective applicants. Congrats on your final choice.
 
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