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Thread: Profile Eval - Finance PhD - Prof Says Don't Worry about 160 Quant GRE?

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    Profile Eval - Finance PhD - Prof Says Don't Worry about 160 Quant GRE?

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    Test Scores (GMAT/GRE): Q160 78%, V161 88% (Yep, quant is low...)
    Undergrad GPA: 3.2 at a Harvard, Yale, Princeton. Liberal Arts major. (Didn't discover my love for finance until a few years after college so wasn't terribly motivated. Also played a varsity sport.)
    Graduate GPA:
    3.75. Top 10 MBA with a Finance Concentration. Received award given to students with above 3.85 in Finance / Accounting courses. Finalist for the top finance student in graduating class (four finalists out of 300 students in the class).
    Research Experience: Limited but I did an Independent Study under the tutelage of a well-known professor my second-year of business school. He gave me the equivalent of an A and seemed to love the work I did. He's one of my LOR writers and is well-known in the field.
    Teaching Experience: None (unless you count being an officer in the Marines...?)
    Work Experience: Worked in Investment Banking at a bulge bracket bank for two years post-MBA. Did mostly M&A work -- lots of financial modeling, valuation, etc. Prior to my MBA, I was a Marine officer for four years. (My recommenders seem to think the military experience will help me stand out -- I'm not sure as I'm still concerned about the GRE score)

    Concentration Applying to: Finance
    Number of programs planned to apply to:
    Atleast 10
    Dream Schools:
    I don't think I have a shot at a top 10 with my current GRE score -- but NYU or Columbia if we're dreaming. Targeting Maryland, George Washington, George Mason, Arizona State, University of California-Irvine. Really just wondering what's realistic for me and where I should be aiming.


    Other Questions: Don't have a lot of higher level math courses or any programming experience -- I have nine months of free time until I start a program so I can spend as much time as needed building a strong foundation here. I've started taking MIT's math curriculum on OpenCourseWare (starting with single variable calc and working my way up to applied math). Is this the best use of my time to 1) show I'm dedicated to improving this part of my profile and 2) prepare myself for the quant-heavy courses at the PhD level? Anything else I should be doing in the meantime?

    What made you want to pursue a PhD? Absolutely loved my finance courses / professors in business school and want to dive deeper / learn more. It was the first time I ever really felt incredibly motivated academically. Couldn't stand the life of a banker and missed the opportunity to do research behind theories on asset pricing / valuation / etc.

    Questions or concerns you have about your profile?
    My main concern is obviously my Quant GRE. I see a lot of programs with a "minimum" of 160 and I'm right there. My recommenders -- all highly-regarded, well-published finance professors at my T10 MBA program -- all seem to think it shouldn't be an issue given my strong academic performance in business school (which they say they will attest to in their LORs) and the "uniqueness" of my military background. I'm not so sure, so I'm interested to hear others' experience with Finance PhDs and low quant scores. Also lacking a lot of high-level math courses and looking for ways to pro-actively address that over the next few months and convey that in my application

    Any additional specific questions you may have: What range of schools (T20, T30, etc) should I target? (Assuming I don't retake the GRE)

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    Re: Profile Eval - Finance PhD - Prof Says Don't Worry about 160 Quant GRE?

    ... continuing our conversation from Reddit... lol

    Yeah, your GRE score is kinda low, especially for Finance. I recommend you to really prepare for the GRE, then retake the exam. And/or try the GMAT (I did both, the GMAT worked better for me).

    Your letters of recommendation should help you a lot.

    I'm much less certain about your military background. It may be unique, it's probably a good thing. But by itself I don't think it means a lot for PhD applications.

    About rankings and range of schools, they are always an issue here. Rankings for PhD can be dangerous. Rankings for PhD are very different from rankings for MBAs. A lot of factors are usually more important than ranking, like research fit. A lot of important factors are often ignored by rankings, like the quality of job placements. A lower ranked school can be much better than a top one, depending on your profile and goals. Your advisor can matter more than the school ranking. It's not so rare to find top researchers actually preferring lower ranked schools, since they can have more power, more influence, and more freedom. A school that is amazing for me may be awful for you.

    So, there are many problems with the use of rankings to choose schools. I think the best solution is to develop your own ranking. That takes time and effort, but it should help you to increase your chances, and also to write better statements of purpose specifically tailored for the schools you chose.

    But, in general, for PhD any top 20 school is usually considered insanely competitive, and a crapshoot. MBA programs can get lots of new students every year, PhD programs get only a few (for Finance, less than 5 new students a year per school, I guess). Even very strong applicants try a wide range of schools, typically you won't see people recommending to target only top 20 around here.

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    Re: Profile Eval - Finance PhD - Prof Says Don't Worry about 160 Quant GRE?

    Thanks very much for the advice. I'm actually not concerned about rankings at all, its much more important to me that I get into a program where I feel I'm a good fit. I'm applying to a range of schools across the spectrum of competitiveness (though I think any finance phd program is probably very competitive given the reasons you cited and the low number of accepted students)

    On the GRE, do you know if schools consider scores submitted after the deadline? My current plan is to submit my applications with my current score so I have complete applications by all the deadlines and then I could potentially schedule a retake sometime in February / March to give me a chance to boost my quant score a bit. I'm not currently working so I think a few months dedicated solely to GRE math would allow to me get a few more points to get in the 165/90th percentile range.

    Alternatively, I was planning to use this time to take a bunch of math courses online to build a solid foundation that will actually be useful in a finance phd program (unlike mastering the tricks of the GRE). I just don't want to get shut out of some of my target because of a low GRE score that I feel isn't really reflective of my ability to succeed in graduate school math classes (my professors already plan to speak to this point in their letters which is why they said not to bother with a retake)

    So will schools accept a retake of the GRE after their deadline and is it worth it to do so in my case?

    Thanks!

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    Re: Profile Eval - Finance PhD - Prof Says Don't Worry about 160 Quant GRE?

    Schools may accept scores after the deadline (hard to be sure if they will, of course). But they should get the scores before they review the applications. February/March is too late for that.

    If you really would be able to get a much better score, then it's really a shame. You should have taken care of that in advance, it's not something to do so late in the game. I guess now you gotta trust that the plan of your professors will work.

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    Re: Profile Eval - Finance PhD - Prof Says Don't Worry about 160 Quant GRE?

    Quote Originally Posted by BrazilianPhD View Post
    Schools may accept scores after the deadline (hard to be sure if they will, of course). But they should get the scores before they review the applications. February/March is too late for that.

    If you really would be able to get a much better score, then it's really a shame. You should have taken care of that in advance, it's not something to do so late in the game. I guess now you gotta trust that the plan of your professors will work.

    If a school's deadline is January 1st, will they have reviewed every application by February 1st? Suppose I'm waitlisted somewhere -- I guess I'm thinking that it takes 2-3 months for schools to finalize their list of accepted students with interviews etc so I could submit a new score in that time period.

    I could always apply next year if it doesn't work out (I'm not in a position where I need to go Fall of 2020 though I would prefer to). And I don't see why a school would put more emphasis on my GRE quant score than my grades in actual finance classes at the graduate level. But I guess we'll see what happens

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    Re: Profile Eval - Finance PhD - Prof Says Don't Worry about 160 Quant GRE?

    "If a school's deadline is January 1st, will they have reviewed every application by February 1st?"

    Not necessarily so, but they should be very advanced in the process, since things start to heat up just after that. So, if you send the scores and the schools receive them (since it can take some time for schools to get the score after you send) still in the beginning of January, maybe they could take that into consideration.

    And remember that applications do not go straight to the people who evaluate them. Some other department will get all the stuff from your application, get it organized and send to the people in the department of Finance who will evaluate your application. Even if you send a new score, it does not mean that they will update it straight away to the department of Finance, especially if it's after the deadline. Some schools seem to be very slow to update.

    "Suppose I'm waitlisted somewhere -- I guess I'm thinking that it takes 2-3 months for schools to finalize their list of accepted students with interviews etc so I could submit a new score in that time period."

    If you get waitlisted, it means you have been approved, they just don't have room for everyone they liked. For example, they approved 5 applicants, but can admit only 4. So one gets waitlisted. Thus, at this stage, your GRE scores don't matter anymore, they have already made a decision about you. They just have to wait for a reply about the offers they extended, to see if they can still make an offer to you.

    About the time they take, after the process start they are usually pretty fast. Surely they can't take 3 months.

    I'll tell you about my case, so you can have an idea about the timeline. My school has a deadline of January 10 for applications. By February 13, they had already reviewed the applications, and wanted to interview me. By February 21, I had already been interviewed by 2 professors. I got my offer on February 26. I accepted the offer on March 15. The deadline for all of us to accept or reject an offer is April 15.

    "And I don't see why a school would put more emphasis on my GRE quant score than my grades in actual finance classes at the graduate level."

    It's not about emphasis, it's about the role each factor plays. The advantage of exams like the GRE is that they allow schools to compare very different applicants.

    It's hard to compare the grades that you got in finance classes with the grades that I got in finance classes, for example. Your school, your country, your grading system, your professors, among other relevant factors are different from mine. An applicant who comes from an easy school may be able to show straight A's, but that's not because the applicant is strong, it's because of grade inflation. My Graduate GPA is actually better than yours (I did a Masters in Finance), but that doesn't mean I'm stronger than you in Finance. It's hard to judge, it's hard to compare. Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. Who knows?

    But GRE and GMAT are standardized tests, developed to allow comparison between very different people. So, it's not the most important factor, but it's usually an important first factor. A rule of thumb, a quick way to see which applicants seem to be weaker, which applicants seem to be stronger.

    Each school does that in a different way. Just as an illustration, a school may expect scores in the 90's, believe that applicants in the 80's can still be great for the program, but doesn't want to go as low as the 70's. Then, applicants in the 70's are automatically rejected. Those the 80's and 90's survive the first cut, and will now be compared with each other in a more detailed way, not only based on the GRE scores. That's when your grades in actual finance classes will become more relevant.

    But remember that often other applicants will also have great grades in actual finance classes, so your grades will not help that much. They only want a few students, among applicants from all around the world. It should be quite easy to find people with great scores + great grades. Between an applicant with scores in the 80's and another in the 90's, the one in the 90's is still winning if both have great grades in finance classes.

    To me, it seems like the factor that can make you stand out from the rest is the strength of your letters of recommendation. Because that's hard to get, for many applicants.

    Grades and GRE/GMAT are like a starting point. To see if you started this race ahead or behind. No matter how strong your grades or GRE/GMAT scores are, they will not be enough to make you win the race. On the other hand, if you start the race behind a lot of other people in the competition, you need something big to be able to surpass them. Grades and GRE/GMAT scores are often quite similar when you look at the strongest applicants. But letters of recommendation, research experience and statements of purpose shouldn't be.

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