Carnegie Mellon University

Admissions FAQ

We are looking for candidates who are able to demonstrate their potential for success both academically as well as professionally.  The only commonality amongst all candidates is a proof of success academically in a depth of mathematics coursework as well as a demonstrated understanding of the field of quantitative finance and clear goals therein.  Beyond that, we seek candidates who can express their ideas clearly both verbally and in writing, have the motivation to be successful in the rigors of the MSCF program and beyond and are able to work well in diverse teams.

The admissions process is very holistic in nature.  We take a close look at all components of the application to make our decisions and any one area of weakness may be balanced by another area of strength.  While the class profile can serve as a guideline for candidate’s to assess his/her background, the only way for us to fully assess one’s candidacy is to submit a complete application!

Each year, starting in August, the MSCF program offers our four-week MSCF Prep Program.  As part of the MSCF Prep Program, matriculating students will have the opportunity to take courses that focus on probability, math and programming skills which are specifically designed to help prepare students for the rigors of the MSCF program.

All incoming students will be required to take and pass the MSCF Probability Prep course and will have the option to take one of the other two prep courses – Math Prep or Programming Prep.

The MSCF Prep courses are only open to students who are admitted to the MSCF program that are matriculating this August.  There is no additional charge for the course for entering MSCF students; however, students will be responsible for purchasing any reference texts or materials.

No, the MSCF program does not accept transfer credits.

A GRE or GMAT score is required for all candidates.  You are required to submit an official copy of either your GRE scores directly from ETS or GMAT scores directly from Pearson VUE. You must have taken the test within five years of submitting your application. While the MSCF program accepts either the GRE or the GMAT, if you have yet to take either, we recommend that candidates take the GRE. When you take the exam, select the appropriate code as follows:

  • GMAT Program Code -  MSCF Program (Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business): 69H-XH-17
  • GRE Program Code - Carnegie Mellon University Masters in Computational Finance: 7383

If you hold a Ph.D. from a U.S. institution in a related discipline at the time of application AND are able to submit a photocopy of the GMAT/GRE that was part of your original Ph.D. application, you may not be required to submit a new, valid copy of the GMAT/GRE test results. Additionally, we will extend this for candidates who are expected to complete their Ph.D. studies at a U.S. institution by July 31, 2018 for students applying to the program for the fall 2018 entering class. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the MSCF Admissions Committee. If you meet BOTH of these criteria, you can request that your application to be reviewed with previous, non-valid test score.  You must submit the following THREE items: 1). submit a completed application; 2). include a statement requesting consideration of your previous test score in the optional essay section; and 3). submit a scanned copy of your previous test score report with your optional essay. We will notify you only if you have not been granted the waiver.

You may be contacted by email to arrange an on-campus or virtual face-to-face interview via Skype before a final decision is made on your candidacy. Interviews are granted at the discretion of the MSCF admissions committee after an initial review of your application. Therefore, requests for interviews will not be granted. Interviews can take place at any time in the application process.      

The TOEFL and IELTS scores apply to any prospective student who does not have English as their primary language. Candidates are required to demonstrate a level of competence in English to meet the admissions requirements of the university. You are required to take a TOEFL or IELTS exam unless:

  • You attended an undergraduate institution, for two or more years where you earned a bachelor degree (or will earn a bachelor degree by July 31, 2018 for the fall 2018 entering class) and the sole language of instruction was English. Although not required, we do recommend that you take the English Language Proficiency exam.
  • You earned a graduate degree that was taught in English. Although not required, we do recommend that you take the English Language Proficiency exam. 

Candidates who are required to take the TOEFL or IELTS must have received their unofficial scores prior to submitting their application. Be sure to request the official scores be sent to Carnegie Mellon University by the testing agency.   Scores are valid for two years and must be valid at the time you submit your application. When you take the exam, select the appropriate code as follows:

  • TOEFL Program Code: B522 (Carnegie Mellon University – MSCF)
  • IELTS Program Code: Select Carnegie Mellon University and Computational Finance
  1. Study. In particular, strong performance in your quantitative and computational coursework shows you have the potential for success academically in the MSCF program. 
  2. Fill in any gaps in your academic background by taking any pre-requisite courses you are missing in advance of applying.  Be sure to take any courses for a grade at an accredited college or university – open courseware coursework is not recommended!
  3. Find an internship in the financial services industry and/or research related to the key MFE areas to enhance your career marketability
  4. Follow the markets and read the news (Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Seeking Alpha, etc.).  Understand current events and form your own market view.
  5. Open a paper trading account and start developing and practicing your own trading strategies
  6. Start building your professional network. Take advantage of opportunities to build your network and understand roles in the quant finance space
  7. Practice your written and verbal communication skills. Most successful graduates are not only able to crunch the numbers, but can also sell their ideas to clients!

The MSCF Program is highly quantitative. While the background of our students varies, most have taken engineering-level math courses beyond calculus such as Differential Equations and Linear Algebra. A calculus-based probability course is also required. The MSCF Program includes a detailed treatment of the mathematical models of quantitative finance, and this involves stochastic calculus and its applications. Undergraduate courses that cover both probability and statistics rather than just probability often devote insufficient time to the probability content needed to sufficiently prepare students for the level of probability encountered in MSCF. If you have not previously taken a calculus-based probability course, you should look for a course covering advanced topics in probability including the law of large numbers, the central limit theorem, moment-generating functions, multivariate probability distributions, conditional distributions, and independence, covariance and correlation of random variable. Students lacking one or more advanced mathematics courses may still be considered provided they are able to take steps to acquire the necessary skills before entering the program and satisfy the admissions committee requirements. 

Proficiency in a programming language is required.  A full semester C++ programming course, or at least one year of work experience using C++ regularly. This course should cover, at a minimum: the basics of the edit/compile/link process; writing and using variables, decisions, loops, and functions; defining and using structures or classes; and memory allocation with malloc C, C++ or Java. 

Applicants lacking this knowledge may be required to take a C++ course prior to enrolling in the program.

Relevant professional experience is preferred but is not required. Our Fall 2015 entering students had an average of .57 years of experience ranging from those whose experience was limited to relevant internships to those with 8+ years of experience. Interest in finance, quantitative aptitude, educational background, character, language skills and work experience are all important determinants in the admissions decision.

We do not defer enrollments but we will keep your admissions materials on file for one year. Should you choose to seek admission the following year, your candidacy will be evaluated on the basis of the applicant pool at that time. We do offer an application fee waiver for candidates reapplying within one year. 

You can find our application and decision notification dates included on our apply page

Please carefully check your application before submitting it online to ensure you have included all the correct materials that best represent your background and qualifications for the MSCF program.  Once you submit your application, we will begin processing your application and matching test scores and other materials to your online application.  You will receive an email that your application is complete or incomplete via email within 2-4 weeks after you have submitted your application. You can then log into your application to view your status and submit any missing materials. 

Given the volume of applications received, we kindly ask that you not contact the MSCF admissions office regarding the status of your application unless you have not received any notification after 4 weeks post submission.

All applications are reviewed in batches in accordance with our application rounds and typically all decisions for each round are released on the posted decision release date. Generally, decisions are not released in advance of our posted deadlines, so recommend that you consider planning your applications accordingly.