Ok, well I am going to do some real blogging now that my mass onslaught of MSF schools have been posted.
The MSF is a great degree, but it is also a unique degree. I think the first thing you have to do when you decide you want to get an MSF is sit down and decide what your ultimate goal is.
Why do I say find out what you ultimately want to do? Because MSF programs are regional. Villanova places almost entirely in a tri state area (NY,NJ,PA). Vanderbilt places very well down south (as well as elsewhere) and BC will place well in Boston and NYC.
So if you want to work in Florida and you are planning on going to UIUC or Purdue you might want to re think your plans.
The second thing is really find out about the program. You don’t want to go to a program that is 100% made up of foreign students. Nothing against international kids, but you need a mix. You learn from your peers as much as from your professors.
Additionally, foreign students are tough to place in this economy because of sponsorship issues. A large amount of your class not getting placed means a weak alumni base and no recruiting presence. Not a good thing. Also look to see if the program pulls all from the undergraduate program or is there is a mix of schools. This is not an absolute rule, but I think it adds something to an MSF program to have a variety of undergraduate institutions represented. To each their own though.
This leads me to the third thing. Placement. Unless you are just a perpetual student or want a PhD you’re going to want a job sooner or later. That means recruitment. Look into how many people are placed each year and try and find out who comes on campus. As far as I know not too many places had dedicated MSF recruitment so start by looking at undergraduate recruiting. If the program you go to has a solid MBA program check out their recruiting also. A lot of companies, especially in the corp finance space, look at a MSF the same as an MBA so you might be able to get an MBA position without that extra year of school.
Also, check out the alumni base of the school. I am a devoted alumni to both Syracuse and Villanova and can attest to how helpful they are. I think it stems from the sports program and strong student spirit on campus. Regardless, wherever you go you want to know that a cold email to an MD will be replied to because he loves helping out his alma mater.
Finally, look at the cost. If you want to break into corporate finance you probably don’t need to spend a fortune. If you want to break into investment banking then spending 80K at MIT might be a worthwhile investment. We are finance people. Think ROI, break even, opportunity cost, PV/FV. I love school, but if you are getting into debt to go back you sure as hell better make sure you can get a return on your investment.
After all, that is what school is, an investment in yourself!
Good luck and happy hunting.