By Arial Starks
No Master of Finance program you come across will necessarily be easy, but there are factors that can determine the level of difficulty one may experience while pursuing a degree. We sat down with Maura Clark, Director of Admissions for the Vanderbilt Master of Science in Finance (MSF) program, who shared where students may run into challenges and some ways to overcome them while earning a Master of Finance degree.
How difficult is the coursework?
It varies from person to person. The degree of difficulty can depend on several factors, including a student’s prior financial experience and education, as well as their capacity for hard work. Clark discourages students from letting their undergraduate majors hold them back from applying to the Vanderbilt MS Finance program. She challenges candidates to determine how to use their strengths to their advantages while recognizing their weaknesses.
“If I have a fantastic candidate who did really well on the quantitative section of the GMAT and they’ve always been a math person, but they don’t have quantitative courses from undergrad, I can work with them. I’d have them take a few courses through their current university, or sometimes online prep courses with Vanderbilt, so they are better prepared for the program curriculum,” she says.
The Vanderbilt MS Finance coursework, taught by world-class faculty members, gives students a solid foundation in finance through accelerated curriculum in areas including statistics, economics, and accounting over the course of 10 months. Clark notes that at Vanderbilt, every student is carefully selected for the MS Finance program to ensure they can handle the academic requirements of the program.
“We spend a lot of time during the admissions process getting to know each candidate. If you are admitted to the program, it’s because the entire admissions committee is in agreement that you can be successful academically, professionally and personal at Vanderbilt,” she said.
What is the time commitment required to pursue a Master of Finance?
Time commitments can vary based on format, but for full-time programs, most students treat the pursuit like a full-time job. Students spend several hours a week attending classes and even more time outside the classroom working on individual and group assignments, presentations, and exam preparation. It is not recommended for students to pursue a degree in a full-time program while trying to maintain a full-time job, as the requirements are challenging and demanding. Clark notes that students are often surprised at the amount of work they have to do outside the classroom while in the Vanderbilt MS Finance program.
“Most students are on campus by 8AM to go to class; they break for lunch and then spend the rest of the day working on assignments outside of class until around dinner time. In the evenings, students are often still spending a couple hours working on assignments for their internships or group work and/ or presentations. When students are done with full-time recruiting and have a job offer, their schedule typically lightens a bit. Those initial couple months can be the most intense,” said Clark.
What support do Vanderbilt MS Finance students receive?
It’s vital that students feel supported and have resources to help them through challenging programs. At Vanderbilt Business, the relatively small class sizes allow for 1-on-1 time with faculty members and help students avoid slipping through the cracks when challenges arise.
“Our program has about 80 students on average, which is a good size to ensure no student gets lost,” says Clark. “If a student is having a hard time at the start of a new class, they can reach out to faculty very quickly and get a lot of individualized attention to ensure they receive the academic support they need to do well for the rest of the year.”
Vanderbilt MS Finance students also have access to helpful resources like academic coaching, career development workshops, mock interviews through the Career Management Center, and the network of faculty, peers, and alumni who are willing to answer any questions and give advice to help current students succeed. “Being at a hands-on program where there is a lot of focus on personal scale and personal attention is key. Vanderbilt is a good place to be if you’re feeling like you have a lot on your plate,” Clark says. “The students are going to feel stretched and they’re going to feel challenged in new ways, but Vanderbilt offers a very supportive environment for them.”