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Thread: Advice needed for PhD Finance applicant.

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    Smile Advice needed for PhD Finance applicant.

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    Hey guys,

    This is bit of a long post. I had a Bachelors and Masters in Business Administration from India (Not a lot of quant coursework). I got admit to a PhD Finance program at lower ranked (top 100) department in the US in 2016. I was there for 1 semester but due to a combination of factors (lack of good research opportunities, me not having clarity on what I wanted to study, and moving to be closer to my husband), I transferred to a Masters in Finance Program of a top 50 department and graduated with a lot of doctoral coursework (Probability and Stochastic Processes, Mathematics of Economics, Mathematics of Finance, audited Optimization, Theory of Finance all at the doctoral level) and a small research project under a tenured Prof. My research project did not turn out as well as I had expected it to (since I took it for just one semester) and I am not sure if I would be able to go to this Prof for an LoR.

    I have been working with a top financial analytics company in credit model validation and verification for almost two years now and I would love to get back to pursuing a PhD hopefully in 2021. I have matured more as a person, and have found the real reasons why I want to do research. I have never let go of learning - I have been taking up coursework in an Analytics masters program to get more hands on experience in research methodology and general data science which have been very useful.

    However, I am still not very confident of my quant skills and above all my ability to do Research. I was playing around with the idea of applying to PhD programs directly. However, I am concerned about:
    1. LoRs from my professors - it's been two years and I am not sure if they would remember me.
    2. Jumping right into a PhD after 3 years. I was wondering if I can gradually get my feet wet with a Masters.

    I would also like to expand the universe of schools to Europe, Australia, and Canada. I saw that some of these schools require a masters dissertation as a part of their application. Lately, I have been looking at schools that offer MPhil or MRes with both coursework and dissertation options which I frankly find attractive. I would love to beef up my quant and Econ along with getting some research experience. So far, I have come up with LSE, Bocconi, and Alliance Manchester. But some of these are so pricey. I was going through an older thread (here) where some people have said that there are departments with a track record of placing students in good PhD programs.

    I am honestly wondering how to go about finding a Masters degree that would be a good preparation for a PhD in Finance with a good mix of coursework and research. I am an international student and with already one Masters, I am now looking for a Masters program that is no longer than 1 year.

    So, my questions are:
    1. Can you suggest Masters programs that are good preparation for PhD in Finance? I humbly request you to specify which university and which department. I know an MA Econ or Statistics is good, but I am trying to see if I can get specific recommendations apart from the ones that I have already shortlisted
    2. I am 32 and while age is a just a number, numbers are everything where we are and I want to get some honest feedback on whether it even makes sense to go for another Masters or just bite the bullet and apply for PhD programs directly?

    Thank you!!

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    Re: Advice needed for PhD Finance applicant.

    As you are probably well aware, Business PhD admissions are tremendously competitive, and especially so for Finance PhD (even lower ranked programs with 5% or lower admission rates). They are going to be even more so now with the current situation. I think your biggest hurdle is going to be just answering for why you dropped out of a Finance PhD program after 1 semester. That would be a big red flag for an admissions committee. Especially reading between the lines which seems to indicate you did the Masterís because you likely felt the LRM PhD wasnít ďgood enoughĒ and you wanted to trade up to a better PhD program in the future. Which is fine but will likely eliminate a lot of lower ranked programs from consideration, and the higher in rank you go the harder its going to be to get an admit.

    I am not sure why you would now want to pursue an additional Masterís, unless you dropped out from your previous masterís program? I am in my early 30s as well, starting a PhD in the fall, and we arenít getting any younger. I would honestly just apply for PhD and not waste money on another 1-2 years pursuing a masterís. I would be prepared for lots of questions from anyone that would want to interview you as to why you dropped out of your PhD program. Pretty big hurdle IMO.

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    Re: Advice needed for PhD Finance applicant.

    Quote Originally Posted by phd2017 View Post
    As you are probably well aware, Business PhD admissions are tremendously competitive, and especially so for Finance PhD (even lower ranked programs with 5% or lower admission rates). They are going to be even more so now with the current situation. I think your biggest hurdle is going to be just answering for why you dropped out of a Finance PhD program after 1 semester. That would be a big red flag for an admissions committee. Especially reading between the lines which seems to indicate you did the Master’s because you likely felt the LRM PhD wasn’t “good enough” and you wanted to trade up to a better PhD program in the future. Which is fine but will likely eliminate a lot of lower ranked programs from consideration, and the higher in rank you go the harder its going to be to get an admit.

    I am not sure why you would now want to pursue an additional Master’s, unless you dropped out from your previous master’s program? I am in my early 30s as well, starting a PhD in the fall, and we aren’t getting any younger. I would honestly just apply for PhD and not waste money on another 1-2 years pursuing a master’s. I would be prepared for lots of questions from anyone that would want to interview you as to why you dropped out of your PhD program. Pretty big hurdle IMO.
    Thank you for the candid reply. A small part of dropping out was because it wasn't good enough, but I knew that even before joining. But in my first month of joining, 2 of the profs in the department moved to another university and there were no research opportunities even for 3rd years. 5th years were trying to postpone their graduation and in the last 4 years since I left, there has been 1 publication from the department in any of the finance journals. The school was ranked in the mid 80s when I joined in 2016 and now it has dropped to below 140 because of no work being done there. I have no regrets in dropping out and a big part of that decision was definitely the hope that I would move to a better department and do better work.

    I did not drop out of the Masters program. I graduated with pretty good grades. A big reason for me thinking about another Master's program is to get some research experience and honestly I am hoping to beef up my application enough to outweigh my dropping out of a PhD program. Because like you say I know it is a red flag that is gonna need some explanations in interviews. But I do want to have an application that is strong enough to make it to the interview rounds. Hopefully that makes sense.

    I also want to show them that even though I have been out of school for 3 years, I can handle the coursework and the research work required. And get more recent LoRs of course. But I agree with what you say. I am trying to weigh the benefits of spending time and money doing another Masters. I have been reading here that there are masters programs that have a track record of placing students in good PhD programs and I guess that's what I am looking for. If I can get into a good enough Masters program, then I would consider the benefits to definitely outweigh the costs in the long run.

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    Re: Advice needed for PhD Finance applicant.

    Bumping this up! Iím looking for good preparatory Masters programs for a PhD in Finance with a good mix of quant coursework and research!
    Thanks!!

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    Re: Advice needed for PhD Finance applicant.

    Quote Originally Posted by nrr2020 View Post
    Thank you for the candid reply. A small part of dropping out was because it wasn't good enough, but I knew that even before joining. But in my first month of joining, 2 of the profs in the department moved to another university and there were no research opportunities even for 3rd years. 5th years were trying to postpone their graduation and in the last 4 years since I left, there has been 1 publication from the department in any of the finance journals. The school was ranked in the mid 80s when I joined in 2016 and now it has dropped to below 140 because of no work being done there. I have no regrets in dropping out and a big part of that decision was definitely the hope that I would move to a better department and do better work.

    I did not drop out of the Masters program. I graduated with pretty good grades. A big reason for me thinking about another Master's program is to get some research experience and honestly I am hoping to beef up my application enough to outweigh my dropping out of a PhD program. Because like you say I know it is a red flag that is gonna need some explanations in interviews. But I do want to have an application that is strong enough to make it to the interview rounds. Hopefully that makes sense.

    I also want to show them that even though I have been out of school for 3 years, I can handle the coursework and the research work required. And get more recent LoRs of course. But I agree with what you say. I am trying to weigh the benefits of spending time and money doing another Masters. I have been reading here that there are masters programs that have a track record of placing students in good PhD programs and I guess that's what I am looking for. If I can get into a good enough Masters program, then I would consider the benefits to definitely outweigh the costs in the long run.
    If you already have a Masterís in Finance, what Masterís degree would you be pursuing next? Another...Masterís in Finance? I donít think another Masterís would make any sense unless youíre applying to some other PhD discipline.

    You have the sufficient educational background PLUS work experience to get into Finance PhD programs as-is, assuming your GMAT is good enough. I would just apply to PhD programs this cycle.

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    Re: Advice needed for PhD Finance applicant.

    Hi! Have you searched for pre-doctoral Research Assistant positions?

    You could gain both LoRs and research experience without spending money on fees.
    However, you will still need to show them that you know important tools and have some notion of research but from your post it seems that you haven't lost touch with the field. Moreover, in some cases you could provide professional references in these applications but that depends.
    I don't know how easy that may be under the current circumstances but it's definitely worth trying.

    disclaimer: I know almost nothing about PhDs in Finance, my suggestion is based on the research I have made for Phds in Operations/Decision Sciences.
    Last edited by tsot; 05-16-2020 at 06:58 PM.

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    Re: Advice needed for PhD Finance applicant.

    If you already have a Master’s in Finance, what Master’s degree would you be pursuing next? Another...Master’s in Finance? I don’t think another Master’s would make any sense unless you’re applying to some other PhD discipline.

    You have the sufficient educational background PLUS work experience to get into Finance PhD programs as-is, assuming your GMAT is good enough. I would just apply to PhD programs this cycle.
    Ok I see what you mean. You have given me much to think about. Continuing with that line of thought, assuming that I am applying directly to PhD in 2021, do you think I can do anything to overcome the fact that I dropped out of a PhD?

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    Re: Advice needed for PhD Finance applicant.

    Hi! Have you searched for pre-doctoral Research Assistant positions?

    You could gain both LoRs and research experience without spending money on fees. However you will still need to show them that you know important tools and have some notion of research but you haven't lost touch with the field and in some cases you could provide professional references but that depends. Moreover, I don't know how easy that may be under the current circumstances but it's definitely worth trying.

    disclaimer: I know almost nothing about PhDs in Finance, my suggestion is based on the research I have made for Phds in Operations/Decision Sciences.
    Thank you for the suggestion. There aren't too many such positions and I haven't been successful in the ones that I applied to. That is because I need work sponsorship and companies in the US aren't too keen to do that outside of software industry.

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    Re: Advice needed for PhD Finance applicant.

    Quote Originally Posted by nrr2020 View Post
    Thank you for the suggestion. There aren't too many such positions and I haven't been successful in the ones that I applied to. That is because I need work sponsorship and companies in the US aren't too keen to do that outside of software industry.
    I understand. Work permit poses a significant difficulty. I wish you all the best with finding the way to achieve your goals.

    Moreover you could try finding a position in Europe (in case you are an EU citizen) or in other geographical areas too. E.g. INSEAD in Singapore does not pose a restriction on work-permit at least for some roles as far as I know (of course getting an RA position at INSEAD is extremely competitive - I just state it as an example). However, since you have family you may not be willing to relocate for an RA job.

    I wish you all the best again!

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    Re: Advice needed for PhD Finance applicant.

    Quote Originally Posted by nrr2020 View Post
    Ok I see what you mean. You have given me much to think about. Continuing with that line of thought, assuming that I am applying directly to PhD in 2021, do you think I can do anything to overcome the fact that I dropped out of a PhD?
    I would explain and include in your personal statement the reasons why you dropped out of your previous program. Its still going to be a problem but if you have a strong enough profile hopefully a couple of admissions committee would overlook it. I would make sure to apply broadly across the rankings and not take for granted lower ranked programs that may admit you. You can do quite well with a PhD in finance even from a lower ranked program.

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