Claremont McKenna Director of Graduate Admissions Interview

I was privileged enough to speak with the Director of Graduate Admissions for the Robert Day School of Economics and Finance at Claremont McKenna. He was gracious enough to answer questions that I and other individuals had pertaining to his program. Below are his answers and his contact information for anyone interested in learning more about the great program they have at CMC. Thanks once again Kevin, both myself and the members of this site appreciate your time and effort!

Here is a link to the Claremont program for those interested in reading further. 

1)  Future of the program. Our first class of 20 students matched our admission target and our second class of 17 reflects even greater selectivity than in the first year.  While we intend to slowly grow the class size each year (Class of 2012 will be between 20 and 25), we very much value the small class experience and will manage the admission process accordingly.  We are confident that the future success of the Master’s program in Finance rests with enrolling exceptionally qualified students and providing a great one-year experience that includes a first-class education and dedicated career management support.

2) MAF v MSF. The inclination to expect a Master of Arts degree to be less quantitative than an MSF degree is understandable.  Our curriculum, however, is more quantitative than most and that is reflected in the admission process.  Our standardized test (GMAT or GRE) quant scores are higher than most MSF programs and higher than many MFE programs.  In addition to excellent quantitative test scores and course grades, we have, to date, required undergraduate courses in econometrics and advanced coursework in calculus for admission.  Approximately one-quarter of the students in the first two classes have undergraduate degrees in math, engineering or physics.  The successful decision-maker of the future must understand the tools that he/she will employ in order to be successful, and to understand many of those tools requires a solid quantitative skill set.  With all that said, every successful person who has spoken to either our graduate or undergraduate students has emphasized the value of ‘people skills’ and leadership.

3)  Relationship building and career service support. The decision to develop and offer this degree program was initiated by the landmark gift of $200 Million dollars by Claremont McKenna College (CMC) alumnus Robert Day.  The undergraduate foundation on which it is built, however, includes the largest and arguably most productive economics faculty at any liberal arts college and a campus culture that reflects CMC’s motto of Crescit cum commercio civitas – “Civilization prospers with commerce”.  CMC has only 10,000 alumni, but enjoys a reputation of success in and outside the financial industry with one out of every eight alum holding senior leadership positions in their organizations.  Both the CMC Board of Trustees and Robert Day School of Economics and Finance Board of Advisors are active supporters of the master’s program while many serve in leadership positions throughout the financial industry.  Even in today’s market, CMC undergraduates and graduate students enjoy access to all of the major U.S. financial firms as reflected by success in internship and full-time placement rates.  19 of the 20 students in the inaugural class had full-time positions (2 chose PhD programs) within 30 days of graduation and the 20th is employed but looking very selectively at this time.  Graduate students are supported by a full-time, career management expert dedicated to career planning, skill development, networking and placement.

4)   Leadership – is more easily said than done, but we think we know what we are doing.  The admission process strives to answer the following two questions: 1) Is this program a good fit for you? and 2) are you a good fit for this program? Leadership features in the answers to both these questions.  We seek applicants who have demonstrated leadership potential and confidently communicate the desire to be a decision maker and leader in the future.  We share an expectation of future success in the ‘front office’ as opposed to the ‘back office’.  Leadership potential can be evidenced through participation in undergraduate sports, clubs and student organizations or through leadership positions in community organizations.  Internship and/or work experience should reflect an ambition to learn and succeed.  References are expected to validate both academic and leadership potential.  Leadership potential is also a major part of the face-to-face interview that successful applicants conduct with a CMC alum prior to any offer of admission.  Academically, we require a course in organizational behavior/leadership be completed prior to attending the graduate program or as an overload in the spring.  The Master’s program curriculum includes emphasis on case-based study and decision making, to include inherent ethical questions.  With a small cohort of students in classes taught by experienced and committed faculty, there is no ‘back of the class’; students are challenged daily to step up to responsibility for both individual and group work.  Our co-curricular activities are well resourced and planned with developmental workshops on a variety of communication skills, along with regular small group discussions with current leaders of industry.  Networking trips (at no additional expense) introduce students to decision makers in leading organizations in and outside the United States.

5) Internships. Internships provide the opportunity to experience real-world working environments and to prove one’s ability to succeed in those environments.  Successful internships can result in full-time job offers or a significant advantage in the pursuit of a future full-time position.  For these reasons, we expect applicants to have pursued summer or semester internships where possible prior to applying to the Master’s program in Finance.  This emphasis extends to those students offered admission to the program to intern, if possible, during the summer prior to starting classes in mid-August. The Director of External Relations, Michelle Chamberlain, engages admitted students as early as possible to discuss career goals and assist in obtaining such internships.  Thus far, every student able to complete an internship during the summer prior to the start of classes was successful in doing so.

6) What makes CMC’s program distinctive? While we are new to the graduate community, CMC is not new to success in the financial industry.  The unprecedented $200M gift that supports this one-year program ensures first-class faculty, staff and resources.  Each of the students in the first two classes of the program received at least half-tuition, merit-based scholarships with awards averaging nearly three-quarters of the cost of tuition.  Expectations are very high from the completion of the application through graduation.  The co-curricular activities are an integral part of the overall educational experience.  Dedicated career management support has already enabled short term success with placement and will support long-term success of all of our graduates.  That this all takes place in southern California, less than an hour from beaches, mountains and deserts makes CMC a great place to live and learn.

I welcome further questions or thoughts:

Kevin Arnold

Director of Graduate Admission

Robert Day School of Economics and Finance

Claremont McKenna College

(909) 607-3347


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