Deciding on Graduate School

Me at graduation (red circle)

Me at graduation (red circle)

When doing your undergrad degree, at some point you have to decide how you want to approach the start of your career and potential further steps in higher education. Do you go to Graduate School? If yes, when? What school? What program?

In Germany, after the Bologna reforms, college education for most career tracks is ordinarily (with a few exceptions, of course) split into a three-years Bachelor’s degree and a two-years Master’s degree. While employers have not fully adjusted to this system yet, there is evidence (anecdotal, at least) that a Bachelor’s degree can be sufficient for a successful career in most fields.

However, I was always determined to go to Graduate School. Not only because of potential career benefits, but because I did not feel like I had done and learned everything I wanted to after three years of college. So “if” was answered. The questions that remained were: when and where?

 

When
Many of my classmates decided to complete a Master’s degree either directly after graduation or after a year of internships and travelling. This way you start your career with a higher degree of education (and thus probably a higher salary); also, once you start working full-time, it may be hard to find the right time to go back to school and you have probably gotten used to a certain lifestyle.

However, I decided that I wanted to gain full-time work experience in order to explore my interests and strengths/weaknesses and determine my mid-term career goals.  This way I could make an informed decision and choose the ideal school and program for me. So I first joined an early-stage fintech startup to “get my hands dirty” and afterwards moved to a large media company where I worked on the expansion of their portfolio of later-stage digital investments.

 

Where
Based on these experiences I realized that I wanted to stay at the intersection of finance and technology. This is not an extremely common combination in the academic world and the majority of the programs I looked at did not seem suited for me: MBA programs with their core curriculum were too broad for me, most finance programs were designed to make you a hardcore “Quant” and the technical programs were rather suited for future software engineers.

I quickly came to the conclusion that I needed a program with great flexibility to tailor my own custom curriculum. Thus, when I came across the MFin, I was immediately intrigued. The (few) required courses are all in my area of interest and the majority of my curriculum is up to me. It is possible to take courses at all MIT departments; in case you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can even cross-register at Harvard. Additionally, the practical “hands-on” nature of many courses was a deciding factor for me as, after three years of full-time work, I couldn’t imagine going back to a full curriculum of standard lectures.

And, last but not least: Where else can you find such a world-class faculty in both finance and technology?

The last questions that remained after making the decision for MIT and the MFin program was: 12 or 18 months? I applied for the 18-months-program; I simply couldn’t imagine that I can fit everything I want to do at Sloan into just 12 months.

For an insight into why other students chose to join the MFin program, take a look here and here.

Torsten Walbaum

Torsten is a candidate in the 18-month MFin program, class of 2018. Before MIT, he worked on later-stage tech investments and in an early-stage fintech startup. His current goals for his free time are to explore the Boston area restaurant and bar scene as well as to travel Central America and the Caribbean during the breaks.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Torsten,
    Great to see you on campus at the first day of Orientation and hope you enjoy the long weekend! Thanks for contributing to the blog..

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