Frequently Asked Questions
Master in Finance program
The Admissions Process
Majors and Prerequisite Coursework:
GRE and GMAT Scores and Preparation
Work Experience and Career Placement:
Master in Finance Degree and Other Degrees
Coursework and Logistics of the Program
Tuition and Aid
Can I still apply after December 1?
The application deadline for the Fall term 2014 was December 1, 2013; applications are no longer being considered. Applications will be available online starting in September 2014.
Can I change a recommender after I have applied? Can my recommender still submit a letter?
All information and questions regarding your electronic application need to be referred to College Net: The CollegeNET Help Desk is available 7:00 am - 5:30 pm PST They can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please allow 24 hours for a response. When contacting the Help Desk, please include the following information: User Name or Order ID Number, Full Name, Email Address, Phone Number.
Can you check that you have received all of my application materials?
I see that my GRE/TOEFL/GMAT has not arrived?
Please keep checking the application status website. If you suspect a problem with your application, please contact Educational Testing Services directly: http://www.ets.org/gre/contact
Can I still submit GRE/TOEFL/GMAT test scores after the deadline?
Due to turnaround time, any test taken after December 1 is not guaranteed to arrive in time to be considered with your application.
What can I do to improve my chances for admission to the program?
As we also note later in this FAQ, the strongest candidates for admission to the Master in Finance program have a breadth of strengths. At the minimum, their test scores and grades are exceptional, their personal statements and recommendations are excellent, and their language skills topnotch. But what sets apart the strongest candidates from the rest is a passion for finance, strong communication skills, and in many cases prior work experience in the finance industry. Other helpful experiences might include internships in finance and/or previous work experience in areas such as engineering and technology. We have also found that candidates with PhDs in the areas of engineering, mathematics and the sciences have been well-prepared for our program.
Does it help my admission's chances to contact faculty or staff to make my case?
To maintain the integrity of the process, the work of the Admissions Committee is confidential and its members remain anonymous. You can rest assured that the committee carefully reviews each application individually.
Contacting individual faculty or staff members in an attempt to bring attention to one's application never helps. No one on the admissions committee will be able to meet with an applicant before he or she is offered admission.
We contact applicants individually if elements of their application are missing. We also contact applicants individually if and when we schedule an interview. Please refrain from contacting the office to request an interview. Such requests are never granted.
Otherwise, please be patient and wait until March 1 for a response from us.
What are the typical ranges of majors in college for admitted students?
Typical undergraduate degrees include applied mathematics, economics, finance, engineering, physics, and computer science, but we have in the past admitted strong candidates with any undergraduate major. A graduate degree in any of these areas can be a plus, but is not necessary.
What courses should I take as a future applicant?
A solid math background is required, see the prerequisite knowledge listed below. While we are often asked to recommend specific courses for a potential applicant to take in order to fortify an admission application, we cannot make specific course recommendations, as the curriculum varies widely from one undergraduate institution to the next. While reviewing an application, the Admissions Committee does not base its decision on any one factor. The entire application is taken into account. The committee will look at the degree of difficulty of the courses you have taken as well as the grades for your courses. The committee also looks for strong letters of recommendation from your professors who can attest to the type of student you are and can speak to your potential for a graduate program.
What prerequisite knowledge is required?
At a minimum, we expect applicants to be familiar in mathematics with linear algebra, multivariable calculus, differential equations and with probability and statistics at the level of an intermediate undergraduate course. In addition, we offer incoming MFin students a two-week refresher course in mathematics and probability prior to the beginning of classes in the Fall semester. This course is required.
Are there minimum test scores required?
No, except for the English language tests (see below). This said, it is obvious that, ceteris paribus, the higher your standardized test scores, the better your chances of being admitted. Our entering classes have had a median GRE score of 167 on the quantitative part (you may take the exam more than once, in which case we consider your highest score). The average quantitative GMAT scores are 49.5 or 95%. More generally, we pay particular attention to your mathematics background (courses taken in college, grades, scores on the quantitative parts of the tests, etc.). One common reason applicants are not admitted is that their mathematical background is not strong enough to allow them to benefit from our program.
How about work experience?
While the program does not require formal work experience as a requirement for admission, prior work experience provides an edge in this very competitive job market and more context for studies while in our program. At a minimum, we expect applicants to have completed one or more internships (for instance over the summer while in college).
Is it possible for you to pre-evaluate or pre-interview applicants for admission?
Due to the high volume of applications, we cannot pre-evaluate an applicant's chances of admission, or pre-interview them before the applications are received. Until you apply and we have your complete file, we are unable to assess informally how competitive your application will be.
We interview a subset of the applicants based on their test scores, grades, previous job experience and/or relevant degrees, coursework taken, personal statement, and letters of recommendations. Please refrain from contacting individual faculty members or staff to request an interview. Such requests are never granted. We will contact you if we decide to interview you.
The work of the Admissions Committee is confidential. No one on the committee will be able to meet with an applicant before he or she is offered admission. Members of the committee will remain anonymous.
What type of career help is available?
The MFin program has a dedicated placement officer and administrative support to provide extensive career advice, help locate job opportunities, prepare you one-on-one for job interviews and help you negotiate job offers. The program also works very closely with Princeton University's Career Services department, which offers tailored services and workshops for graduate students. The strong connections we have established with our Advisory Council, Corporate Affiliates and other industry contacts are very helpful at placement time: our placement record speaks for itself.
In addition, we organize in September for every incoming class a three-day "boot camp" with industry professionals where various career issues are reviewed and help is provided (including resume-writing, one-on-one videotaped interview sessions, etc.), in addition to an ongoing industry speaker series, job shadowing visits and career-related workshops.
How about Summer internships?
Students completing the program in two years are required to complete a Summer internship at the end of their first year, unless they are returning to a previous employer such as a central bank or ministry of finance, in which case there is the flexibility to do research or work on a project for their employer. This requirement will be satisfied in most cases by being an intern at a financial institution or, in some limited cases, by being a research assistant for a research project supervised by a faculty member. In all cases, students are paid, with compensation for a three-month Summer internship at a financial institution typically in the $15,000 to $20,000 range in large cities such as New York City.
Students completing the program in one year who are not returning to a previous employer generally have worked fulltime or have been in an internship prior to joining the program.
As discussed above, the MFin program provides extensive assistance to help locate suitable internships.
How do I apply?
Application for admission the following Fall are due by December 1. The graduate School's official admission notification date is March 15, but admitted applicants will receive a congratulatory email from the Center a few days before the official deadline. We expect to notify candidates by March 1.
Due to the large number of candidates, it is not possible for us to inform applicants if their applications are incomplete, or give other information during the review process. Please be patient and wait until March 1 for a response from us.
Online application forms are available from the Graduate School admissions website. You must apply online. The application fee is $90. Please include a curriculum vitae, personal statement and undergraduate/graduate transcripts as part of your application. The GRE or GMAT is required. If your native language is not English and you have not completed your undergraduate studies in an English-speaking country, you are also required to take either the TOEFL or IELTS exam. GRE or GMAT scores must be less than five years old, TOEFL or IELTS scores less than two years old by the time of the application due date of December 1.
Please plan to take the tests in plenty of time for the scores to be received by the Admissions office by December 1. When you register for the tests, you must specify that your scores be sent to the Princeton University Office of Graduate Admission (2672 for the GRE, WC1-L5-59 for the GMAT). Please make sure that all application materials are received before December 1, including transcripts, letters of recommendation and test scores. We sometimes need to contact applicants if some information is missing, so please include a working email address, but remember that it is your responsibility to make sure that your application is complete and received by the deadline of December 1.
More questions? Please see the admission website.
Do you interview your applicants?
Yes, we select a subset of applicants based on the written application and interview everyone in that subset before making final admission decisions. We carefully select a group of students and want to make sure that we can devote individual attention, both academically and when the time comes for job placement, to each one of them. Please refrain from contacting individual faculty members or staff to request an interview. Such requests are never granted. We will contact you if we decide to interview you.
How many people apply? How many are admitted?
When do classes start (math refresher course, Boot Camp, etc.)?
MFin students starting in the Fall of 2014 should plan on arriving in Princeton in time for the Monday, August 25, 2014, starting date of the Math Refresher Course.
- Monday August 25: Welcome breakfast and Introduction
- Monday August 25 - Friday August 29: Math Refresher Course
- Week of August 25 - Grad School processing of I-9 Forms
- Monday September 1: Labor Day, Public Holiday
- Tuesday September 2 - Friday September 5: Math Refresher Course, continued
- Monday Aug. 25 – Wednesday August 27, late afternoons: Individual meetings with Director of Graduate Studies Rene Carmona (you will sign up for these appointments soon on a separate website, the WASS system)
- Monday Aug. 25 – Friday September 5, late afternoons: Individual resume review and career development meetings with Wendell Collins, Director of Corporate Relations, and photos scheduled with Melanie Heaney-Scott
- Wednesday, September 3 - Online Graduate student registration and course sign-up begins
- Saturday September 6: Boot Camp (all day) and Welcome dinner for Incoming MFin Students (evening)
- Monday, September 8 - 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., Graduate School Orientation
- Monday September 8- 11:45 a.m. through Tuesday 5:30 p.m. September 9: Boot camp, continued
- September 2, 3 and 9th - English Language Proficiency Testing
- Wednesday September 10 afternoon : Graduate student online registration closes
- Wednesday September 10: First day of classes
- Friday September 12: Final resume due
What degree is granted upon completion of the program? M.A.? M.S? M.B.A.?
None of the above. The degree is a Master in Finance (MFin).
How does Princeton's MFin compare to an MBA?
Unlike an MBA program, we teach only finance and the related prerequisite disciplines (such as statistics, accounting, etc.). This allows us to do so at a much deeper level than in an MBA, and to incorporate all the interdisciplinary aspects of modern finance, such as financial mathematics, financial econometrics, computational finance, behavioral finance, corporate finance, etc.
You should be aware that our courses are more demanding, and more quantitative, than a typical MBA course. In general, MFin graduates will not be as attractive as MBAs in the corporate finance and M&A areas where the non-finance parts of an MBA curriculum are useful. In fact, if that is where you really want to work, you would probably be better off following an MBA course of study.
However, if you are interested in other areas encompassed within the modern investment bank such as quantitative asset management, risk management, derivatives pricing and trading, fixed income analytics and other areas where a quantitative background in the theoretical and practical aspects of modern finance is essential, we think our program is being recognized for both the quality of the students and the quality of the learning experience here at Princeton.
We also note that the world of finance is much broader than the traditional investment banking firms, with opportunities in insurance, commercial banking, commodities and energy trading and risk management in traditional industrial companies to name only a few. Our graduates are able to compete very effectively for these types of careers.
A recent article (.pdf) posted on this site describes some of the relevant differences between our program and an MBA program.
How does Princeton's MFin compare to mathematical or computational finance Master programs?
Unlike mathematical or computational finance Master programs, we teach all of finance. This means for instance that we teach accounting, corporate finance, behavioral finance, etc., in addition to stochastic calculus, derivatives pricing, financial engineering, etc. We believe that our broad multidisciplinary approach to finance is an important advantage of our program, and that our placement record reflects it. Our program offers a broad variety of elective courses, and access to courses taught by all Princeton departments, so it is possible to design a course of study within the MFin program with as much emphasis on pure quantitative tools as desired by the student.
How does Princeton's MFin rank in comparison to other programs?
Quantnet ranked the various programs in groups of five, listing the programs alphabetically within each group. The MFin program was ranked in the top group, 1-5.
Advanced Trading assembled a board of Wall Street veterans charged with selecting the top 10 quant programs, based on Wall Street recruitability -- the programs from which Wall Street firms recruit and the programs that produce the best quants. Advanced Trading listed the top ten programs alphabetically, and the MFin program was part of that group.
While we are pleased with these rankings, applicants should note that it is not possible for any formulaic ranking to capture the distinctiveness of a program or to determine whether any program is the best choice for an individual student. We encourage students to use a variety of resources to find the best match for them.
How long will it take me to complete the program?
The curriculum is designed to be completed in 1 or 2 academic years: this flexible format allows well-prepared students to complete the program in as little as 2 semesters. Admission letters will specify the expected length of study based on the applicant's background, experience and prior exposure to the subject.
What courses do you offer? What is a typical schedule?
Students who complete the MFin program in two years take the 6 core courses and select 10 electives courses. Students who are allowed to complete the program in one year take 10 courses.
The subset of courses for one-year students is determined individually based on the student's background and interests. Individual meetings between the student and the Director of Graduate Studies will determine which of the 16 core and elective courses need to be taken and which will be waived to arrive at a total of 10.
Typical courses of study are as follows:
For students completing the program in one-year
- Fall: FIN 501, FIN 505, choose 3 electives
- Spring: FIN 502, FIN 503, FIN 504, choose 2 electives
For students completing the program in the normal program length of two years
- Fall Year 1: ECO 362, FIN 501, FIN 505, choose 1 elective
- Spring Year 1: FIN 502, FIN 503, FIN 504, choose 1 elective
- Fall Year 2: Choose 4 electives
- Spring Year 2: Choose 4 electives
See the requirements page for the program rules governing the selection of elective courses.
Can I complete the program part time?
Generally, no. The program is designed to be completed on a full time basis. Our classes are taught during the day and full-time students take four or five courses per semester. Given the logistics, the only possibility for part time enrollment would be for students who already work in the Princeton area and would be able to attend courses during the day. Part-time students are expected to take a minimum of two classes per semester, and a maximum of four years (eight semesters) to complete the program.
Must I select a course track or can I be flexible?
You can be flexible. The Course Tracks -- Financial Engineering and Risk Management, Quantitative Asset Management and Macroeconomic Forecasting, and Financial Technologies -- are a general guideline for students in selection of their elective coursework. Elective courses can be chosen according to either individual needs and preferences or to conform to one of the suggested tracks. It is not necessary for a student to designate or complete a particular track to satisfy the Master’s requirements, as the tracks are merely illustrations of coherent courses of study that students might choose.
Is there financial aid available?
Grants or fellowships that you obtain from outside sources can be applied towards the tuition cost. As you contemplate the cost of the program, keep in mind that students typically go on to pursue successful careers in the financial industry immediately after graduation (see our placement record above).
The program offers a small number of need-based fellowships which typically cover a fraction of the tuition costs. In some cases, it is also possible for MFin students in their second year to serve as teaching assistants.
For loans and assistance, see here.
Are there ways to defray tuition without financial aid?
There are ways to offset tuition and rooming costs through TA positions and Resident Graduate Advisor positions… please see here for details on TA positions: http://www.princeton.edu/gradschool/financial/assistantships/
Students can apply for positions as Resident Graduate Students during their second year of study, in which room and board are provided in exchange for onsite support in the undergraduate residential colleges. 2014 applications will open in late November/early December, and the application can be found here
Could I use GMAT scores or are GRE scores required for my application to be considered?
You can submit your GMAT scores instead of GRE scores. When you register for the test, you must specify that your scores be sent to the Princeton University Office of Graduate Admission (Princeton's code for the GRE is 2672, and WC1-L5-59 for the GMAT; we do not use department codes). It takes four to six weeks for scores to be released to the Office of Graduate Admission following your request. See here for more information.
Would you recommend taking the GRE over the GMAT?
It depends on whether you are focusing on an MBA or a Master in Finance degree. MBA programs tend to favor the GMAT, but if you are focused on our Master in Finance or similar programs, the GRE is less expensive, more frequently offered, and is our preferred test. The two tests differ in a number of ways: http://www.bellcurves.com/gmat-vs-gre
I've been working for the past few years. Do I still need to submit GRE or GMAT scores?
Yes. And your GRE or GMAT scores must be less than five year old. This applies even if you already have an advanced graduate degree (such as a Ph.D. in Physics for instance).
How should I prepare for the GMAT or GRE?
It’s important to be aware that the GRE general test is changing as of August 2011 – here is information from the GRE test on the changes: http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/know
Here are free sample tests to take -- http://www.ets.org/gre/general/prepare
There are a number of reputable test preparation programs online. In the US, Kaplan and Princeton Review have the longest track record, and Princeton Review and many other firms have offices throughout the world. Many books are also available for self-study.
Do I need to take the TOEFL or IELTS exam?
All applicants whose native language is not English and who have not received their entire undergraduate education in an English-speaking country must submit scores from one of two internationally recognized assessments of English language proficiency, the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
Non native English speakers who graduate with an undergraduate degree from an institution whose language of instruction is English but not in an English language country must also submit scores from either of these tests. All requirements are based on your undergraduate education regardless of any graduate education. Please see the Graduate School website for more information on the English proficiency tests.
Students who wish to demonstrate English proficiency through the IELTS test should visit this website, for information about the administration of this test and how to have test results reported to Princeton in a timely fashion. Normally tests results are mailed out in two weeks from the date of the IELTS administration.
Educational Testing Service administers the internet-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (iBT TOEFL), the English proficiency test that most international applicants take. When registering for TOEFL, you must request that your scores be sent to Princeton University, Office of Graduate Admissions (institution code 2672, no department code is required). Allow four to six weeks for your scores to be released to the Office of Graduate Admissions. For more information, visit Educational Testing Service's website.
Proof of English profiency is a University-wide requirement set by the Graduate School and the MFin program cannot waive this requirement. If you feel you have a basis for an exception to this requirement you must receive a waiver from the Graduate School - for more information please call 609-258-3034, but note that waivers are very rarely granted, and only in exceptional circumstances.
What should I do to build my English language proficiency?
International students who want to study English in the USA will find a great variety of quality English language programs in the American Association of Intensive English Programs (AAIEP). Nearly 300 AAIEP members offer intensive English language programs located in university and college settings or city centers across the USA. http://www.aaiep.org/ features a comprehensive list of programs around the country.
What is the program tuition?
If I am admitted, when do I have to respond?
Admitted students need to respond by April 15. On-campus housing will be guaranteed only to students whose completed housing application has been received by the University by the reply deadline of April 15.
If I am admitted, may I defer my admission for personal reasons?
If you apply and are admitted, this offer is valid for one time only, so you cannot defer your admission (except for medical reasons). You will need to reapply, and because of the very competitive nature of the program, your file will be reconsidered with the new pool of applicants. If you reapply the following year, you can ask for your original file to be re-activated; if you were not admitted and wish to reapply, you must pay a new application fee. In any case, you are required to submit two additional letters of recommendation, not using the same letter writers as before, to cover the period from the first application to the current application date. Finally, an updated statement of purpose, CV and any new information covering the period since your first application (such as transcripts if you have been taking courses) are also required.
If I am denied admission, how do I proceed in re-applying?
All admissions decision are final and there is no appeals process. However, you may reapply in the future. Applicants who applied the previous year may ask for their file to be reactivated the following year for admission. Reactivated applicants should complete a new admission application. In addition, they must submit official transcripts of any academic work accomplished since the date of the last application, at least two new letters of recommendation, and a revised personal statement. All materials, including the application fee, are due by the application deadline.
I was not admitted. Can you tell me why?
Many applicants, most of whom are well-qualified, write asking for an explanation and suggestions if they are turned down for admission. If an application is denied, it is not possible for us to go back and review applications to justify the denial or offer advice on improving a future application. All materials are returned to the Graduate School by the department once the admission decisions are made, and are not available for further review. But, in many cases, the only answer is that we are unable to offer admission to many qualified applicants given the desired size of our program.
What is the relationship between the Master in Finance program and the Master in Financial Engineering?
Prior to 1999, Princeton offered a one-year Master in Financial Engineering program as part of the Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering (ORFE). In order to avoid duplication and confusion, this program was transitioned into the Master in Finance (MFin) when that program was introduced in 2000. While MFin students have an opportunity to focus primarily on financial engineering if they so choose, the MFin program covers all of finance, not just financial engineering.
What if I have more questions?
If you have general questions regarding the program (e.g., is this for me? careers after graduation? etc.), contact us at this e-mail address. If you have questions concerning the application process, please review the Graduate School website, and if you are experiencing difficulties using the online application process, contact the office of graduate admissions.
If you have already submitted your application, you will receive a response from us by March 1. Due to the large number of candidates, it is not possible for us to inform applicants if their applications are incomplete, or give other information during the review process. We contact applicants individually if elements of their application are missing.
We also contact applicants individually if and when we schedule an interview. Please refrain from contacting the office to request an interview. Such requests are never granted. Contacting individual faculty or staff members in an attempt to bring attention to one's application never helps. No one on the admissions committee will be able to meet with an applicant before he or she is offered admission.
Otherwise, please be patient and wait until March 1 for a response from us.