Being amazing is just a qualification for the Princeton University Master in Finance program. But if you qualify, get admitted (about 30 out of 600 applicants do), and choose to attend (about 25 out of that 30), I believe you enter heaven.
• All your classmates are not just extremely bright and passionate about finance; they also represent experience from across the industry – and they are chosen in part because they can communicate their insights from that experience.
• There is 100% recruitment for summer internships at the most desirable institutions, and almost 100% post-graduation employment (2014). These internships/jobs span the globe—Mexico City, Singapore, Hong Kong, London, and various cities in the US as well as NYC.
• A curriculum that is intensive and deep; following the core you can either develop your own study program or pursue 1of 3 course tracks: Financial Engineering and Risk Management, Quantitative Asset Management and Macroeconomic Forecasting, and Financial Technologies.
• Career “boot camps” where alumni, industry experts, and academics help you formulate a career path that is meaningful to you and productively employs your skills, talents, interests.
• World-renowned faculty (think Alan Blinder, Paul Krugman) from multiple disciplines who don’t just teach sophisticated skills but who engage passionately in ideas, thereby helping you become a thought leader in the field.
So what’s the ticket to heaven?
Academics – A high GPA and a transcript that reflects a strong quantitative component – many applicants have degrees in subjects such as mathematics, economics, and engineering, but it is not required and they have admitted people from a range of disciplines (though there are certain math requirements). A grad degree is “a plus but not required.”
Standardized tests – Both GMAT and GRE are accepted; the median quant GRE score is 167 and the average quant GMAT score is 49.5. That said, a high quant score doesn’t make up for weak quant coursework. If your undergrad school was not taught in English (or if it was taught in English in a non-English speaking country), either the TOEFL or IELTS is also required.
Interviews are by invitation only, and selected applicants will be notified. Others are discouraged from seeking interviews.
Experience – Professional experience is not required; however the adcom wants to see some practical industry exposure via internships at least – they note that potential employers look for this experience. So the program is open to new graduates who have had an internship or two – but make sure you have something substantive to say based on your experience; your competition will.
Qualitative factors – You may be surprised that in the adcom’s eyes it is the qualitative factors that “set applicants apart”! The adcom specifically looks for strong communication ability, expecting its students to contribute within a highly intelligent cohort and to become leaders in the industry. More than anything, it seeks passion for finance. Even if you’re a quant geek, don’t think there’s a formula for this passion – it must be expressed through application contents holistically. The adcom members will know it when they see it.
Finally, be sure this is the right degree for you. As the website states, it’s not the right program for people pursuing corporate finance or investment bank M&A; but the MiF “is becoming the preferred degree in the trading and asset management areas of the I-bank.”
By Cindy Tokumitsu, author and co-author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports, including Why MBA and Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her fifteen years with Accepted.com.