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Thread: Finance | Profile evaluation

  1. #1
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    Finance | Profile evaluation

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    Hi, everyone! I'm glad to be posting for the first time in this nerdy place . I'm from a South American country and also have Italian citizenship (bringing this up, 'cause if you think my chances are higher at an European BS -say, Bocconi or Swiss Finance Institute-, feel welcomed to say it).

    I'm really dubious about my possibilities of being admitted at a T20+ PhD in Finance in the US. I invite you to check out my profile:

    Test Scores: TOEFL 107/120 (all above 20). GRE is due on Nov 28th.
    Undegrad GPA:7.77/10 1st in my class among 1500+. Financial Accounting degree. Latin American Public University. Top 3 in the country.
    Graduate I GPA: 8.5/10. 1 year Master in Financial Accounting. Specialization: Credit Risk Modelling. Thesis about structural credit risk models compared to Altman Z-Score. Same UN than undergrad.

    Graduate II GPA: 8.3/10. 2 year Master in Finance. Specialization: Quantitative Methods. Thesisabout a jump difussion model for local equity futures volatility. Latin American Private University. Top 1 in Latin America in Finance. Research Experience:RA for 2 years in the Department of Statistics and Mathematics (Multi Attribute Methodology applied on Finance). RA for 2 years in the Center for Financial Research (sovereing debt curve modelling -NSS, Moench-, Consumer Economics, Inflation Expectations, extrapolating risk-neutral probability distribution for commodities futures from their options pricing, etc).
    Teaching Experience:
    more than 9 years being teaching assistant in undergrad and grad courses on Macroeconomics, Public Finance, Portfolio Theory, Derivatives. Earned a higher position by competition in Public Finance (Profesor Auxiliar, don't know the translation of this title).
    Work Experience:
    more than 3 years for an international hedge fund located in Madrid, working exclusively in quantitative/research trading of CME interest rate derivatives. Almost 2 years working on the top local hedge fund doing quantitative trading, statistical arbitrage and the automatization of these strats.
    Relevant Math/Programming Courses: Algebra (A), Calculus (A-), Financial Calculus -Baxter- (PhD level, A), Financial Math undergrad(A), Financial Math MsC level (B+), Operational Research (A), Stats I(A), Stats II (A), Stats for Research (PhD level, A), Probability and Statistics MsC level (A), Dynamic Optimization for Finance in Matlab (A), Derivatives Mathematics (A), Applied Econometric Models for Finance (A), Advanced Econometrics (A), VBA Programming (B-, :/), Computational Finance in R (A), Machine Learning in Octave (Stanford - Coursera, certified). The latest is the only online course, the rest of them are in-class.

    Relevant Econ Courses: Macro I(B-), Macro II(A), Micro (B+), Public Finance (A), Public Finance II(B), Economic Policy (A-), Economics History (B+). Concentration Applying to: PhD in Finance or Econ, Financial Economics. I thing the first is much more difficult to enter to, since they're smaller programs and much more selective. Planning to apply T20-50. Not picky geographically, but of course if it's California or the East Coast I would be grateful. Research interests: Asset Pricing (ideally, on derivatives and fixed income), focused on the Fundamental Theorem of Asset Pricing (discovering value through non-arbitrage conditions). Also interested in market microstructure, price discovery. Econometrics, time series analysis. Number of programs planned to apply to: 10-15
    Dream Schools:
    Anderson (UCLA) or UCLA itself, Marshall (USC), UCSD, CUNY, Urbana Champaign, Booth, Penn State, Tepper (Carnegie-Mellon), Foster (Washington- Seattle). All comments are welcome! Thanks in advance, guys!


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    Re: Finance | Profile evaluation

    Incentive: the most complete answer gets access to a full Magoosh account by March 1st, 2019. Operative until May 31st, 2019. Given that complete is a subjective concept, I will let you decide. We'll vote and decide who gave the best answer. Thanks in advance.

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    Re: Finance | Profile evaluation

    The reason people have not responded to your original post is that very few of us are familiar with Latin American Universities, and the few who are, are in marketing or accounting, not finance.

    Quickly looking over your profile, assuming your GRE Q is >= 166 and your LOR's are strong you should be competitive at US top 50's. Without knowing more about Latin American schools and programs I can't be more specific. You mention that you are applying to schools in the 20-50 range but anyone strong enough to be competitive at top 50's should apply to at least 2 "dream" programs in the top 15 or even top 5. Admissions in finance are random enough that you should give yourself a chance at those schools. You included Booth which is a top 5 and UCLA Anderson which is a top 15 though you should look around a little more.

    The biggest factor for you is LOR's. While LOR's are extremely important for all applicants, for those coming from foreign universities that adcoms might not be familiar with it is even more critical. If your LOR writers are finance faculty who have published in the top finance journals - specifically JF, JFE, RFS, you will be in much better shape than if they publish in lower tier journals. Also ask your LOR writers where (if any) students from your programs have gone on for a PhD in finance. This would give you a good idea of the type of school you would be competitive at.

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    Re: Finance | Profile evaluation

    Thank you very much for your answer!

    You made a very strong point there with the LOR's. The reason I left out the TOP10 BS is that I figured I had no chance at all at those. I don't want to push back in time this, I really want to maximize the probability of successfully enter a 2019 program.

    I'm very grateful for your time. Count on me if you need help as well.

    Cheers!

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    Re: Finance | Profile evaluation

    Yeah, I zshfryoh1 did good by explaining why you didn't get more answers. I saw your profile, but I didn't feel I was knowledgeable enough to provide a good answer.

    I'm Brazilian, so also from Latin America (but we know Latin American countries can be very different from each other). I'm a Marketing PhD student, but my background is mostly in Finance (my master's was in Finance, not Marketing, for example), and I take courses in the departments of Finance and Economics too. So, I have some knowledge, but certainly not a the level that you would really need.

    But, after reading this thread, I think I should at least point some things out, to make you think deeper. Please, don't trust anything I write here, but at least think about it. It's going to be a combination of opinions I've heard, feelings I have, and a lot of speculation.

    It's easy to feel that we are not strong enough, that we are not competitive enough, and there are some very good reasons for that. I was also very worried about my weaknesses. But it also depends on how you spin your application.

    I think that, for many schools, accepting an applicant like you may be considered a risk. They probably do not have much information about a lot of things, like the professors who are recommended you, the grading system of your university, etc.

    Then, why would someone choose a risky alternative? Because the expected return is high enough. Make them think more about the expected return, not the risk. With that in mind, I made a list of things to think about.

    - Sometimes, the best schools may be the ones that are more willing to take a risk. If they accept someone like you, and you disappoint them, what harm is really done to the school? Probably none. But if you do a great job, it looks good on them. Lower ranked schools may be more risk-averse (or loss-averse), and want to be sure that they get the best applicants they can, because they cannot risk failure (a failure is potentially much more damaging for a lower ranked school than a top one).

    - Top schools want to stand out, compared to the crowd. They will not be able to do that, if all they do is get the standard, typical applicants. They need more than that. They are leaders, and for good reason. They should be able to see past things that may look like weaknesses, but really aren't. Letters of Recommendation from Latin America are expected to look weaker, because research over there is "weaker" or at least follow different standards. The "weakness" of your LoR is more related to the weakness of your country of origin, not necessarily an indicator of your own weakness.

    - Even some of the very best finance researchers in Brazil do not publish often in top journals. And in many cases, they don't care. A lot of issues in the Brazilian economy or the Brazilian capital market are very specific to the country, so it's better to aim top Brazilian journals, not international journals.

    - But that doesn't mean people here in the US think Brazilian researchers are bad. From what I've seen, Brazil has a strong reputation, and draws a lot of interest among people in Economics and Finance here in the US. People say: "Brazil is strong in Economics, and Finance studies", and I don't think that's because of publication in the typical top journals.

    - People here seem to know that the extremely complex situation of Brazil stimulates the development of great researchers. There is too much going on there, how can we not do something interesting? And that can provide amazing opportunities for research. In the US, researchers can feel much more restricted, because there are much more control over things that happen, and we have lots of researchers with access to the same data sources. But, given your background, you probably know about data sources that researchers in the US are not so familiar with, or other resources that may make schools think you have something good to offer, that is not so easy to find.

    - Schools may know more about your university, your country, and your recommenders than you think. There are many Latin American researchers here. And even if they don't know much, often they know about ways to find out. They can just call a researcher from your country that they know, and ask: have you ever heard about university X, or professor Y?

    So, what I'm trying to say is that maybe you are right about forgetting about top schools because of your weaknesses. But what about the possibility of focusing on your strengths, and show them that you may be worth the risk?

    I have a professor here who follows a very interesting strategy for his papers. He clearly shows, in the beginning, all the problems that his papers have. And then he shows that he is able to get excellent results despite all those problems. It is much more impressive than a paper that has no problems.

    If you can show that you are an applicant worthy of consideration despite your origins, despite your weaker recommendations, etc, you may be perceived by some as a very impressive applicant, and someone the university should place the bets on. And, from your profile, I think there is a possibility you can pull that out (I'm kinda assuming here that you can do really well on the GRE/GMAT too, of course).

    PhD and research is a lot about overcoming the problems instead of looking for perfection. We try to not let our problems hold us down, and the same may be true with your application. I agree with zshfryoh1, you probably should think about at least a couple of top schools. It's high-risk, of course, but also a possibility for high-reward. Don't sell yourself short.

  6. #6
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    Re: Finance | Profile evaluation

    Thank you very much, Brazilian friend!

    Your observations are very sharp and it's very refreshing to read things that, otherwise, wouldn't come to my mind. I guess that's why you're into a PhD in Marketing!

    Let me know if I can be of any help.

    Warm regards!

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