Sharing the Graduate School Application Journey – Finance and Economics


  1. Guo Cheng she/her/hers
    • Majoring in Finance & Communication at the University of Connecticut
    • Accepted to Johns Hopkins University for a Master’s Degree in Finance
  2. Ye Tian he/him/his
    • Majoring in Economics at the University of Connecticut
    • Accepted to New York University for a Master’s Degree in Mangement of Technology

Why did you choose to apply for graduate school?

Guo: I think graduate school is a way to gain advanced knowledge in my major, enhance my career prospects, and improve my competitiveness for employment. It’s a chance to connect with experts and gain access to resources in my field.

Ye: My previous studies as well as my internship experience are what motivated me to join the master’s program. I believe that graduate studies will provide me with the necessary training and career development opportunities to achieve my goal of becoming a quantitative analyst at a large securities firm.

How many graduate programs did you apply to?

Guo: 10, including Harvard, Yale, and Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

Ye: 9, including JHU and Washington University in St. Louis.

How did you find and apply to your favorite programs?

Guo: I started by researching schools and programs online by using databases such as Peterson’s,, or U.S. News & World Report’s Best Graduate Schools rankings, etc. After that, I compared their offerings with my career plans.

Ye: I researched the project of interest through various sources such as the program’s website, social media pages, forums and discussion groups and contacted people already involved. Then I prepared the necessary documents to apply, such as transcripts, test scores, and personal statements.

What factors influenced you to choose the program you are now attending?

Guo: Personal interests and goals, reputation and quality of the program, faculty, research opportunities, location, and resources.

Ye: Fit with future goals, location of the program, quality of curriculum and faculty, and choosing programs with experienced experts or strong mentors.

What is the biggest challenge/difficulty you faced in the process of applying to graduate school? How did you overcome it?

Guo: Managing time and stress were the biggest problems I encountered. It is important to manage your time effectively, prioritize tasks, take breaks, and practice self-care to avoid burnout. Always focus on completing the most important tasks first. While feeling anxious, the first and most important thing I can do to adjust my mindset is to believe in myself. Always have an open mind.

Ye: For me, the biggest difficulty was how to organize my time wisely. I needed to balance the ratio of application and study in my senior year. For a long time, I was always very anxious. I was worried about not completing my schoolwork, and I was worried about whether my résumé had problems. Fortunately, I eventually chose to use photography and exercise to relieve my anxious, which was a very effective way to relieve stress. And time management is also better for efficiency. This also helped me to free up more time for rest. Also, exercise is a very good way to relieve stress.

Which of your college experiences do you think were most helpful to your graduate school application?

GuoI participated in the Student Managed Fund, and I found the experience to be very beneficial. First and foremost, it was real world experience. The Student Managed Fund provided hands-on experience in investment management that allowed me to apply my theoretical knowledge to the real world. It enhanced my analytical and decision-making skills. Managing a real-world portfolio requires students to research and analyze investment opportunities and make informed investment decisions. This process enhances critical thinking and decision-making skills. Networking opportunities. Student-managed funds can provide students with the opportunity to network with industry professionals, such as fund managers and financial advisors, and gain exposure to the financial industry.

Ye: I think what helped me the most was that in my constant experimentation, I found a direction that interested me. I decided in my junior year that my subsequent research direction would have to do with data management. And the econometrics discipline enabled me to derive advanced functions through functional expressions to find the core of the data. Through Stata, I can analyze and predict the trend of data more easily and quickly to make rational judgment. Through open-source programming Python, I learned how to use function packages like panda in Python to turn messy data into efficient time series images and functions for analysis and prediction. And this same knowledge learned in the classroom helped me secure an internship. Actively participating in opportunities provided by the school curriculum is what I think will help me the most. These experiences will help me determine what I like to do.

Do you have tips you wish you’d known earlier?

Guo: Having more internship experience is something I wish I had known about earlier. I have had very few internships and basically started my junior year of college. If I had the opportunity to choose again, I would have planned my career and internship plan right at the beginning of college.

Ye: If I had to say one thing, I’d probably do a better job of planning my own class schedule. I would have started by taking a broader range of classes my freshman year to help me more quickly determine what I was interested in. This would have saved me a lot of time.

What would you like to say to a student preparing to apply for graduate school?

Guo: Start early, do your research, focus on quality over quantity, be organized, seek feedback, and stay positive.

Ye: Be sure to prepare for the GRE in advance if needed, and don’t try to extend your GRE study time to several months; the best time for the GRE is between one and two months. The earlier you prepare the better, you don’t want to have everything piled up in one time frame. Try to choose to start preparing as early as possible in your junior year of college. Try to participate in as many program opportunities offered by your school as possible, these are a great plus. Take as many internships as you can, this will be the opportunity to widen the gap between you and others.

By Andrea Xia
Andrea Xia