How to Get Into a Master in Finance Program

Three Parts:Taking Pre-Application StepsApplying to ProgramsAvoiding Application Pitfalls

A Master of Finance (MFin) degree focuses on the finance component of business, unlike its broader and more well-known counterpart, the MBA. This specialized degree has a variety of benefits and is attractive to employers, potentially making you a more desirable candidate for finance-related jobs. If you’ve decided that this is the degree for you, there are techniques that will help you get accepted to the program of your choice.[1]

Part 1
Taking Pre-Application Steps

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    Decide if an MFin or an MBA is right for you. While both business related, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is fairly different from an MFin, and you should acquaint yourself with the benefits and drawbacks of both.[2]
    • MFin degrees are typically for people just out of college with little to no related work experiences, whereas an MBA is typically for people with some field-related, professional experience on their resumes.
    • MFin programs are usually about eleven months long. MBA programs take 18-36 months, depending on whether you attend full or part time.
    • MFin degree holders will almost always earn less than their MBA counterparts.
    • MFin degrees prepare graduates to work in finance fields. MBA degrees are broader, and put graduates on a leadership track.
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    Consider what career you want. While an MFin focuses on the finance aspect of the business world, there are a variety of potential careers available to MFin-degree holders. Each MFin program has different strengths and opportunities, and having an idea of what you would like to do with your degree will help you select programs to which you’ll apply. Career options examples are:[3]
    • Investment banking
    • Real estate
    • Financial planning
    • Corporate finance
    • Insurance
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    Research MFin programs. You need to research your program options before you do anything else. There’s no need in wasting the time, effort, or application fees applying to programs that don’t ultimately meet your needs or help you obtain your long-term goals. You might make a spreadsheet with specific criteria that you need a program to meet and schools and how they meet those criteria, which will help you easily see what programs are best for you.[4] Criteria might include:
    • Program ranking – where you get your MFin may determine your chances of securing the career you want.
    • Financial assistance – if you require financial assistance, it’s good to know up front what sort of packages programs typically offer.
    • Class times – are the classes held during the day or at night? Will this be doable for you?
    • Job placement – programs should be able to provide you data on how many of their graduates place in jobs, how long after graduating they secure those jobs, and what positions they’ve secured.
    • Program emphasis – every program has its strengths. What strengths do the programs you’re looking at have? Will they help you achieve your career goals?
    • Length of program – some programs have an accelerated pace while others are part-time and taking much longer.
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    Pursue at least one internship. Master in Finance programs typically don’t require work experience, unlike their MBA counterparts, but they do usually want to see that applicants have successfully completed one or more internships in the field before applying.[5] Internships give you hands-on experience and show the admissions committee that you’re committed to working in the field.
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    Work on your prerequisites. Before you apply to MFin programs, you should already have a good idea of general prerequisites you’ll need to be a successful candidate. It’s best to start working on these before you graduate with your bachelor’s degree so that you’ll have an advantage over other applicants. You can typically find prerequisites on individual program pages.[6] Some examples of prerequisites include:
    • Good grades. Many programs will say that they require a “B” or 3.0 grade point average. More realistically, you’ll want at least a 3.5.
    • Work experience. To supplement your grades, some programs ask for internships or work experience. They may simply say that either are encouraged.
    • Extracurricular activities. Demonstrating to admissions committees that you can earn great grades while actively engaging in your academic and geographic communities reflects favorably on your application.
    • The correct bachelor’s degree. Many programs do not require that you hold a business-related undergraduate degree for acceptance to an MFin program, although some do.[7]
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    Take required tests. Every program will require test scores as part of your application for admission. Pay particular attention to which tests they call for and their deadlines. Also, test scores must almost always be taken before your application will be considered complete.
    • International students will likely be required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam[8]
    • Typically MFin programs will require that you take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) before you apply. Most programs will require a minimum score of 650.[9]
    • Some programs require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) instead, and some programs even accept either test.[10]

Part 2
Applying to Programs

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    Pay attention to application deadlines. Every program has their own application deadlines, and you’ll need to be mindful of the deadlines for every program to which you’re applying. As a general rule of thumb, most MFin programs have a deadline of December 1.
    • The deadline is for your application and all supporting materials. Make sure that you allow plenty of time for documents that you’re not providing, such as your official transcripts and letters of recommendation.
    • Incomplete applications will be automatically rejected.
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    Update your resume. Your resume provides the application committee an overview of your work experiences and skills. The resume also allows you to highlight particular skills that you believe the application committee will value and this document needs to be clean, informative and concise. Some skills that you’ll want to highlight are:
    • Computer skills
    • Programming experience
    • Statistics competencies
    • Language fluency
    • Any finance or math-related experiences
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    Write a solid statement of purpose. This essay is your opportunity to speak to the admissions committee, and paint a picture of why you’re an ideal candidate for their program. In the statement of purpose, you’ll talk about what led you to choose this career path, or where you see yourself going with your degree in hand, for example.[11]
    • Avoid clichés in your writing
    • Don’t be melodramatic or over-the-top
    • Let them know why this program is right for you and why you’re right for the program.
    • You’ll be giving them transcripts and a resume, so don’t waste this valuable essay going over that information again.
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    Get your letters of recommendation. Every program will ask you for letters of recommendation in which people are more or less speaking on your behalf or vouching for you. Who you ask and how you ask them is important, and these letters can play a role in your getting into an MFin program.[12] Ask former professors or other relevant people that know you well, but not family members or friends.
    • Don’t wait until the last minute to ask so that you give them ample time to write the letter.
    • Make your letter request in person, rather than in email, and don’t assume they’ll say yes.
    • It helps any letter writer if you can share copies of your statement of purpose and resume so that they may refer to them when writing your letter.
    • Thank them after they have submitted the letter.
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    Ensure that you’ve submitted all supporting materials. Every program to which you apply will require several materials from you, such as your application, your resume or CV, your transcripts, your test scores, letters of recommendation.[13] Almost all programs also have everything online now so that you can view your application’s progress and verify that all supporting materials have been received.
    • Verify that everything is received by the school.
    • Verify that you’ve submitted all documents correctly, such as the right file formats, or official vs. unofficial transcripts.
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    Follow up. You will hear differing advice on whether or not you should follow up with professors or the admissions committee after submitting your application. Some experts say that this follow up shows interest and effort and is well worth it. Others say that the committees are busy and that you should not contact them or faculty unless they reach out to you first. If you’re unsure which option you’d like to choose, don’t be afraid to ask someone in the admissions office what their preference is.[14]
    • If you are asked to interview, always send a hand-written thank you note to the committee or faculty that interviews you.
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    Join professional organizations. Become a member in professional organizations that relate to your field. This shows that you’ve taken time and initiative to learn about the professional aspects of the field and are thinking longterm.[15]

Part 3
Avoiding Application Pitfalls

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    Research the school and program. Failing to research the school and program is a common pitfall. You should be able to provide, at any point in the application process, information about the program and school that you find appealing, as well as faculty that are doing work that you’re interested in. Being able to provide this sort of information shows that you have a strong interest in their MFin program and did not simply apply to the program as a last resort.[16]
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    Avoid a poor personal essay. Essay requirements vary by program, but you can expect that you’ll be asked to write at least one (some ask for two or four, even). Because this is your chance to sell yourself as a great candidate, you need to make sure that your essay is essentially perfect. Plan to revise your MFin essay several times, ask others to look over it for you. A poorly-written essay will have:[17]
    • Typos or other egregious errors.
    • Restatement of what is already included in the supporting materials.
    • A lack of elevated vocabulary and field-specific jargon.
    • An overall lack of organization and conciseness.
    • A lack of stated goals.
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    Make sure that you get strong letters of recommendation. There is a difference between a letter writer that writes bad things about you and a letter writer who writes an ineffective letter. Unfortunately, both of these types of letter writers exist and they are both damaging to your application. If you have a tenuous relationship with a professor or received a mediocre grade in their class, consider asking someone else.[18]
    • You may wonder why a professor would agree to write a letter if they have nothing nice to say about you. It’s possibly because they felt uncomfortable saying no. Always give them a non-confrontational opportunity to say no.
    • If you simply ask for a letter and leave it at that, you will receive a generic letter, which will do you no good. Instead, let your professor know why this field appeals to you, what you plan to do, why it is that you think they’re the best person to recommend you, and some of your strengths.
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    Don’t show off poor writing skills. Simply put, if your application or supporting materials have typos or poor grammar, diction, syntax, organization, or formatting, you will give the impression that you’re underqualified for the program. Remember, unless you’re called for an interview, your committee only knows you through text. Another writing pitfall is overly-detailed, tedious writing, which may bore your committee.
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    Don’t attempt to impress the application committee and fail. Be weary of name dropping to the admissions committee, and don’t speak poorly of your undergraduate institution. Committees won’t be impressed by either, and may see you as someone who is unable to succeed without riding the coattails of others, or as someone who is overly critical of given opportunities, rather than a team player looking to find opportunities even in adverse conditions.[19]


  • Subscribe to finance-related periodicals so that you’re up to date on current events in your field.

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Categories: College and University Study Techniques