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Win or Go Home, A Quant student blog

"Everything negative - pressure, challenges - is all an opportunity for me to rise."– Kobe Bryant

I chose the above quote for my introductory post because it will set the tone for what I hope to accomplish in this blog. I will be attending Fordham University’s MS in Quantitative Finance program this fall. The program was maligned in its first year when a student posted a non-flattering review of the program, and the criticism spread through the QuantNet and Wilmott forums. Since that time there hasn’t been a word out of anyone in that program, so nobody knows if the program has improved or if the same issues are still prevalent. Part of this blog will be directed at giving a firsthand account of the program.

I chose the program because quite frankly it was the only one that accepted me. I limited my MFE applications to only those in New York City— Manhattan specifically. My fiancé and I moved here three years ago from our hometown of Reno, Nevada, and we are not ready to leave. I didn’t think another year or so would have improved my MFE applications, so I decided to take the admissions offer and attend Fordham.

There are many passionate posts in the QuantNet forums about the “second-tier and below” MFE programs and how they are not worth the money. I definitely see the point our posters are trying to make, but only around 100 applicants will make it into a top tier program on any given year. That means a lot of good, worthy candidates will be denied. Does that mean I should just give up on my dream and my desire to be a Quant?

This is where the Bryant quote and the other focus of this blog come in. Not everyone will make it into their first, second, or even third choice. That doesn’t mean that you can’t compete with the top-tier students. It just means you have to work harder and push yourself more to overcome the “stigma” of not attending a top-tier school. Supplement your MFE education with more outside individual learning. I will use those rejections as fuel for my determination and desire until I’m sitting across from the job interviewer and can look him in the eye and say, “Yes I understand that the program I attended is not held in as high esteem as other programs, but I’ve worked harder than those other students. I’ve taught myself skills over and above what my program taught me and that is why I belong here.” I hope I inspire you to do the same.

About me:
I originally started as an Electrical Engineering major at the University of Nevada, Reno. After a few false starts, sinking my GPA, and some soul searching I ended up majoring in Finance. Life as an aspiring Quant would be so much easier had I stuck with Electrical Engineering. I am an avid NBA fan and a devout Lakers fan. When not reading or studying for certifications, I can be found playing video games on Xbox Live under the Gamertag MasterPhu1.
4) Get a PS3 instead.

Just kidding. Rich is correct. You shouldn't have time for these single bachelor-type fun if you want to take your study seriously (the tone of the post suggested that you do).

You know better how time-consuming video game can be. Sound like you are engaged and maybe married soon so throw these stuff away, games, TV, etc.

All you need is books and a laptop to study.
Richard this is a great post. Nice to hear from a person on the inside of a program that has not been given the best reviews in the past. I know what its like coming from a "second tier" school and trying to make it in the Finance industry in New York. Although it is very hard, it is doable, perseverance is the key! I look forward to reading your future posts.
You can game and still be successful. Hell, I'm an avid PC gamer (mostly RTS though) and I'm going to Cornell to study Financial Engineering with scholarships being chucked at me from all sides.

Some of us are actually good at time management. But yeah don't spend too much time on that Xbox, and NEVER think about playing WoW.
"Reporting from inside North Korea"??? That's really telling that you choose North Korea as analogous to a non-first-tier program.
Ahh, makes more sense. I thought because this post had such a focus on the necessity of describing lesser-known programs that you were applying the NK label in that regard. But yes that does make much more sense in regards to media black out, which is definitely not exclusive to any type of program.
Thanks for the comments everyone.

Makaveli, I've gotten sucked into WoW before. I finally quit for good sometime last year. That's why in the past year I've applied to an MFE program, sat and passed the CAIA Level I exam in March (studying for Level II in September), and just recently sat for the CFA Level II exam. I felt I needed to make up for the time wasted on WoW. I'm much better at moderating my gametime now.

Rich, video games are just a form of entertainment and it's what people like Makaveli and I do for leisure. Personally I can think of lots of things I consider time wasters that others prefer to do for leisure (playing golf, reading fiction, watching tv and movies, rebuilding classic cars, tasting wine, etc). To each their own.

Yike Lu

Finder of biased coins.

I've only taken the level 1 exam so take this for what it's worth.

The pass rates are below 50% for nearly all 3 levels of the exam. Some people are so scared they don't even show up. Some leave mid-test.

That said, nobody with quant-level brains should be scared of it. The information is pretty easy and basically if you read the material and do the practice problems you will pass. It is just a ton of material.

If you don't understand the big picture of finance/economics and how they relate, it's worthwhile. You get all the easier skills that most FE programs don't teach but that still make a difference. Things like economics (demand curves, push and pull inflation), accounting, and corporate finance - getting these under your belt helps you visualize how your job fits into the grand scheme of things. You won't necessarily use everything on the job, but it helps to have a basic knowledge so you can pick it up rapidly should you be required to.

After I walked out of the exam, I heard people discussing how difficult they found it. A few people said it was much harder than the CPA and even much harder than the BAR exam. I went to a dinner later on and one person mentioned that the level 1 is about equivalent to a bachelor's level knowledge of finance.

I had to hold back a smile as I had finished the test, checked it over twice, and had enough time to calculate a confidence interval based on how many questions I was unsure about.
Hey Richard. I enjoyed reading your posts. Keep it up. I'm actually applying to Fordham MSQF this month. Any advice you can give me?