Thoughts on University of Chicago FinMath program (current)

Right now is around the time people are getting their acceptance letters to quant programs (actually bit early..), but I thought i'd share some thoughts on the Uchicago FinMath program - the one that's 1.5 year for people that are thinking of enrolling.

-Not that flexible: The program is very quant orientated, so if you are half way though the program and you are like maybe i don't want to be an options trader, you may be thinking...i should have done Booth. It's VERY hard to mold the program into something that it's not targeting...you'll have to get creative yourself.

-Lectures: I think everyone has his own learning style. i.e. Roger Lee is pretty succinct and he kinda expects you to do some digging/study on your own to fully get what he's saying. He will not be inundating you with examples. Mark Hendricks talks a lot about real life examples and he belabors all his points. (Personally, I feel like I am gaining more from that type of teaching). Paulsen is very friendly and very willing/available to explain things. I've been through other schools in my academic career and I have to say the teaching quality overall is good, but not sure if it's worth the money compared to a top public school.

-Job placement : It's still not very good. The finance industry overall has had some layoffs, so maybe a tougher year. I only see two types of people getting "internships" or "jobs" and they are native english speakers with some finance related work experience or top notch students.

-Career services: All nice and super willing to help people but weak as the key advisor doesn't have any finance work experience. I don't think you can advice people well if you have never written a resume for finance industry jobs yourself. I have a lot of disagreement with the advice received. And yes- Booth will tell you loud and clear that you are not part of them and not welcomed to their events (unless it's open to the public). HOWEVER, I do want to give the advice here that leverage the Uchicago name as much as you can. There are a lot of different services provided by the school that will help you land an amazing job. Don't be knocking only on the finmath advisor's door - that will most likely not lead you to your dream job.

- Misc. advice: PLACE OUT OF THE C++ PROGRAM. the lecturer is a nice guy, but he sure can not teach. I don't understand why they keep him there....people have asked him why you code a certain way and his answer was " you came to my class to learn how I teach yeah?" -_- honestly, i've seen MUCH better teaching at community college with self taught C++ programers. Take your money else where or just put it all on red...it'd be much better spent than the 3 C++ classes.
Also - Chicago is an amazing city with a lot of finance opportunities. If you are not into NYC (they'd have to pay me A LOT of money for me to move to NYC), then Chicago is going to be a great choice.
 
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Regarding the career office, the resume format was developed in conjunction with individuals that worked in the finance area. There are many head hunters that have never worked in finance that recruit candidates for finance roles. In addition, there was another advisor in the office with nearly 20 years of experience in the finance industry that was at your disposal. That being said, you are correct, I did not have any finance experience so now that I'm gone, I'm sure you are receiving the correct advice from the finance professional that is assisting you now. At the end of the day, it's easy to critique but there were many success stories during my tenure, sorry you weren't one of them.
 
Regarding the career office, the resume format was developed in conjunction with individuals that worked in the finance area. There are many head hunters that have never worked in finance that recruit candidates for finance roles. In addition, there was another advisor in the office with nearly 20 years of experience in the finance industry that was at your disposal. That being said, you are correct, I did not have any finance experience so now that I'm gone, I'm sure you are receiving the correct advice from the finance professional that is assisting you now. At the end of the day, it's easy to critique but there were many success stories during my tenure, sorry you weren't one of them.

When I wrote this, I was torn.

I wanted people who are looking to spend money on this program to hear some of my opinions because it's not a cheap program. (Particularly if people are going to quit their job and do this full time, which I have seen.) Also, I have tried to find more info about it from QuantNet before I entered and I think there were only 3 reviews of this program years back.

At the same time, I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings or have this interpreted as an attack.
I am really sorry I made you feel unpleasant, but I think, when I wrote the review, I had to use some of the strong languages to show people how I perceived it.

I want to reiterate (as I have stated in the initial post) that you and the C++ professor are very nice and always willing to help. A lot of current students talk about how appreciative they were of you responding them back with an email on a holiday or at midnight. Thank you. But many of my peers also shared my frustrations. Therefore, I want to tell people in the post what I have found to work or not work for me ,because it is tough in this market and opinions (regardless they are right or wrong) can be helpful.
 
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Right now is around the time people are getting their acceptance letters to quant programs (actually bit early..), but I thought i'd share some thoughts on the Uchicago FinMath program - the one that's 1.5 year for people that are thinking of enrolling.

-Not that flexible: The program is very quant orientated, so if you are half way though the program and you are like maybe i don't want to be an options trader, you may be thinking...i should have done Booth. It's VERY hard to mold the program into something that it's not targeting...you'll have to get creative yourself.

-Lectures: I think everyone has his own learning style. i.e. Roger Lee is pretty succinct and he kinda expects you to do some digging/study on your own to fully get what he's saying. He will not be inundating you with examples. Mark Hendricks talks a lot about real life examples and he belabors all his points. (Personally, I feel like I am gaining more from that type of teaching). Paulsen is very friendly and very willing/available to explain things. I've been through other schools in my academic career and I have to say the teaching quality overall is good, but not sure if it's worth the money compared to a top public school.

-Job placement : It's still not very good. The finance industry overall has had some layoffs, so maybe a tougher year. I only see two types of people getting "internships" or "jobs" and they are native english speakers with some finance related work experience or top notch students.

-Career services: All nice and super willing to help people but weak as the key advisor doesn't have any finance work experience. I don't think you can advice people well if you have never written a resume for finance industry jobs yourself. I have a lot of disagreement with the advice received. And yes- Booth will tell you loud and clear that you are not part of them and not welcomed to their events (unless it's open to the public). HOWEVER, I do want to give the advice here that leverage the Uchicago name as much as you can. There are a lot of different services provided by the school that will help you land an amazing job. Don't be knocking only on the finmath advisor's door - that will most likely not lead you to your dream job.

- Misc. advice: PLACE OUT OF THE C++ PROGRAM. the lecturer is a nice guy, but he sure can not teach. I don't understand why they keep him there....people have asked him why you code a certain way and his answer was " you came to my class to learn how I teach yeah?" -_- honestly, i've seen MUCH better teaching at community college with self taught C++ programers. Take your money else where or just put it all on red...it'd be much better spent than the 3 C++ classes.
Also - Chicago is an amazing city with a lot of finance opportunities. If you are not into NYC (they'd have to pay me A LOT of money for me to move to NYC), then Chicago is going to be a great choice.

I have to weigh in here...

"Not that flexible" - I tend to agree, but this is expected for a couple of reasons:

1. The curriculum is on the MSFM website, so this shouldn't come as a shock
2. This is not a 2 year masters program. Given the length of the degree, it is hard to thoroughly cater for all areas of quantitative finance. MSFM (or any MFE/FinMath program for that matter) will go by before you know it

The MSFM Program does add flexibility through cooperative industry projects (companies like IMC, Belvedere Trading, Milliman, CME, Eurex, Alvarez & Marsal, hedge funds) and an improving range of electives. 100% of students who wanted to do one of these projects were placed for at least 1 quarter. The fields that I think are done particularly well are: options, investments, coding, trading strategies.

"Job placement" - Not sure what you're implying here...

Your class had (from my knowledge) two native English speakers (the demographic is predominantly Asian), which is a small sample size. Also, if one cannot speak/read/write in English well, then yes; there'll be a problem getting a job in the US. Some of these students will return to their motherland and find a job.

Your class has had some solid success so far, but not everyone has landed a job yet. People have interned over the summer and gotten offers from places like Goldman, Barclays and Citi, as well as top-tier trading firms, asset managers, exchanges and hedge funds.

"Career services" - Could have been stronger, but it's easy to criticize when only seeing a snapshot instead of the whole progression thus far. The MSFM Program was originally geared towards PhDs who wanted to pivot their career paths into finance. Career services were non-existent until 2010, I believe. What I'm trying to say is, I think it has come a long way. ELarkins was great. It's also going in the right direction. I'm confident though that places like Carnegie Mellon and Columbia offer better career services.

"Misc. advice" - The curriculum has now changed so that Python is taught as one of the three Computational Finance classes. I'm interested to see what the whole Computational Finance series will be like this year. Personally, I liked the C++ classes. The notes were great, but there are some improvements that have to be made.

My advice

The University of Chicago is dominant in the Chicago job market. Chicago has a LOT of proprietary trading firms, hedge funds and exchanges. People interested in quantitative trading and/or research should strongly consider the MSFM Program. The MSFM Program is by no means perfect, but if you think you have what it takes to succeed, this program will position you to do just that.

J
 
I have to weigh in here as well...
I'm a current student enrolled into the program since 2015 Fall. I guess it is fair for me to comment on this.

"Not that flexible" : It is not as flexible as other top programs like CMU. However, the program is trying very hard to make it better. I personally asked Mark to consider opening a Machine learning class into the program earlier this year given the popularity of this topic. And now the program is offering a machine learning in finance with Python. This is how quickly this program is able to adjust its curriculum to fit students' need. There a few classes that are unique here. Market Microstructure by Professor Yuri is an amazing class. There are tons of High Frequency Trading stuff with hand-on opportunities in R.

-Job placement : Sorry Yvonne, I believe you did not get the full picture which leads to some bias. To my knowledge today, people have summer internship with Goldman, Citi and Barclays and some of us landed an offer from it. For full time, people have full-time offer from Goldman, IMC, CTC,TransMarket and many more. There are common features among people who ended with good job offers. 1. solid programming skills ( C++,Java, Python,R,Matlab) 2. solid internship/experience. Please don't bring in native English speaking feature here. To the offers that I mentioned above, no one is native English speaking.

-Career services:
It is so easy to critique a career services. Our career services might not be the top ones , but it is good enough to put you in a good spot. The program is trying very hard to improve their career services experience.(Although I dislike the fact that Edonna left)

-Programming : One can critique his teaching style whole day. However, his lecture notes and examples are very organized. If you put in enough effort in studying this C++ class series, you will end up with solid programming skills which are enough for most of the quant interviews. Personally, I came to the program with little programming background. However, I spend 70% of my time coding for my work in C++ and Python with high confidence. The lecturer is also adjusting his way of teaching for a better learning experience. At the end of the day, it is just programming. Some people love it while some people hate it no matter who the lecture is.

-My Advice : The job market in Chicago is solid. If you are interested in quant trading, hedge fund, option trading or risk management, this program is a good place to start. Not to mention the fact that the program is offering project labs every quarter for students to get hands-on experience in big companies with interesting projects.

S
 

Daniel Duffy

C++ author, trainer
At the end of the day, it is just programming.

This is typically what freshly minted (pure maths) graduates say. You are in for a big shock when you leave the ivory tower ;)

If you don't like/accept programming, then finance is not for you.
 
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