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The Claremont McKenna Master in Finance program is one of the best in the country and the top West Coast program at this time. With small class sizes and impressive placement results the CMC program should be tops on anyone’s list.

Here is a recent student review of the program. It confirms much of what I’ve heard from others and reinforces how impressive the program is. I hope it helps all of you interested in applying.

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1) Why a Master in Finance in general? Why the Claremont McKenna Master in Finance in particular?

I made the decision to apply to a range of Master in Finance programs during my junior year summer. Despite majoring in STEM and maintaining a near-perfect GPA, I had great difficulty in securing summer internships at reputable financial firms; this was largely due to my lack of accounting coursework and the lackluster network available through my non-target university. I contacted one alumni who was a Partner at Goldman Sachs GIR in London to inquire about his path and his primary suggestion was “apply to a good graduate school” (he had attended U. Chicago). I knew I was interested in applying my technical background in finance but I did not know in what capacity so I chose to apply to a variety of programs including:

  • LSE MSc. Finance and Economics
  • WUSTL Master in Finance (Quantiative Track)
  • Boston Univ. MS in Mathematical Finance
  • HBS MBA 2+2
  • Claremont McKenna Master of Arts in Finance

I was admitted to all but Harvard Business School and thus began my evaluation of each program. Coming from a STEM background I was intrigued by the coursework offered at LSE and WUSTL, however my end goal was securing a job as I had become somewhat disenchanted with pursuing a career in academia (a common path for LSE/WUSTL grads). I called around to talk with practitioners about what sorts of topics were essential in their day-to-day to get an idea of which program would offer appropriate coursework. I made sure to call both quant and non-quant professionals and the general feeling I got was that most quants felt pigeon-holed and commoditized whereas the analysts at Investment Banks and Hedge Funds described a work-environment that really appealed to me: collegial but competitive, meritocratic, investment thesis discussions, etc. (granted I recognize some quant jobs maintain these facets, but I felt them to be more pervasive elsewhere).

Therefore, I decided AM/HF/IB would be my objective. Looking at network, placement, and coursework, CMC was the clear winner. In addition, CMC would be significantly less expensive since most students are awarded ~50 percent scholarships to attend (this in comparison to the near-100k cost of LSE). I had some hesitation in turning down LSE (as did others who attended CMC along with me), but the exposure CMC provided via networking trips, career development, and other extracurriculars made my decision final.

2) Pros/Cons of the degree and Claremont experience?

I’ll start off with the cons. CMC is first and foremost a liberal arts college and the Master’s program is the sole graduate degree available. A quick Google search will likely reveal that there has been some reluctance from alumni of the undergraduate college, as well as professors, in accepting the program as it is perceived as a deviation from the core mission of the school. This inevitably leads to some awkward conversations during the networking process as alumni are unfamiliar with the program/don’t always perceive the graduate students as being apart of the same institution they hold dear. (Note: these experience are few and far-in-between, but just one can be cause for doubt in a students mind as to whether or not they made the right choice in school). Furthermore, MBB are VERY averse towards interviewing the graduate students because of the programs specific emphasis on finance. This is likely true of all programs, but I think it is something to keep in mind.

On the flip-side, the program starts off with an incredible two week boot-camp in August to prepare students for the recruitment process in September/October. The boot-camp includes a hands-on modeling/valuation (LBO, Comps, etc.) course taught by Training the Street. Training the Street also brings in an interview coach to guide the students through a typical IB interview. Upon completion of the boot-camp we went straight to San Francisco for a networking trip that included visits to Citadel, Wells Fargo, PiperJaffray, McKinsey, Partnership Capital Growth, Del Monte Foods (actually one of the best visits as they talked a lot about their commodity trading jobs), Cowen, Harris Williams, PayPal, and Morgan Stanley. On each trip there is typically an alumni dinner where students drink and interact with alumni living in the city. One alumni worked at SilverLake and was very open to helping students. The networking trip New York followed two weeks after an included visits to Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, BGC, S&P (President’s kid goes to CMC), OchZiff, Sterne Agee, Barclays, the Fed, Wells again (the President of WFS is CMC alum), and Deloitte. While most of the jobs secured did not come from these visits, the experience of constantly networking and talking with the alumni/professionals at these firms really helped build confidence for the interview season.

As for the coursework, it is mostly cased based with lecture in-between to develop the technical skills. The Advanced Accounting class is phenomenal for those looking to work as analysts at MF/HF or any AM firm. The Corporate Finance class is also taught by a former HBS instructor who has written most of the cases and students get A LOT out of class discussions. I could go on but I think you get the idea…

As for recruiting, the career services professionals that work explicitly for the graduate students are top-notch. They pass resumes a long and constantly attempt to put you in contact with alums. In my first month I had already been contacted by 3-4 IBs solely via career management passing my resume along (and later completing the obligatory resume drop online).

3) Who would you recommend a Master in Finance to?

I would recommend the CMC MSF to any student looking to develop the skill-set of a HF/IB analyst. While the admissions requirements on pretty tight on the quant side, the program is very case-based (technical skills are assumed). Some students were looking to transition from audit or trading into corporate finance roles and the program allowed them to gain specific financial economics exposure they would have otherwise had to select from a group of electives at a more-expensive MBA program.

The program is also great for students from non-targets looking to build their network and gain the extra summer internship. This was the case for me and I could not be happier. However, the CMC program really demands outgoing people as is the culture of the school. Students who prefer to work independently and shun social situations should not attend CMC.

4) Anything else. Feel free to talk about recruiting, groups you were involved in, job search, etc. Anything you want.

I think I covered most of this above, but one thing I cannot emphasize enough is the summer internship prior to recruiting season. If you are serious about working in IB/HF/AM DO NOT take the summer off. Some students did this because they had to fulfill prerequisites for the program but I would encourage every student admitted (to any program) to engage in some form of internship. I took night classes to fulfill the requirements while interning through the week and the summer experience as huge in attracting potential employers in the fall.

Here is a link to the Claremont McKenna Master in Finance program