What school and program will be the best fit for you to earn your undergraduate degree in finance and how do you get into it? Once you're in, how should you navigate the courses and opportunities available to get you closer to internships and careers you're interested in? Read on for an overview of what questions might be helpful to ask and where you can find the answers to help you succeed as a finance major.
If you're going to be a finance major, you'll discover that finance & strategy often go together. It's a more competitive field than most because it's easy to measure the results you achieve. Following a career in finance will require that you become a strategist and a planner, and undergrad is an important time to start looking more toward the future. Whether you're undecided on which continent, what school, which major to declare, or if you already know exactly what finance program in the US you'll attend, here are some basic ways to get a leg up on the path in front of you as you navigate your way to graduation.
Choosing a School
There are many great programs in the United States for an undergraduate degree in finance. Some of the major financial hubs in the US are New York City, Washington DC, Chicago, and San Francisco. Schools in or near those cities may be good choices because they're likely to have natural bridges to events, information, internships, or jobs with the financial institutions in those cities. Choose a few options for which you're a good match for their entrance requirements, like GPA, or what kind of financial aid you'll need related to the cost of tuition.
Most of the information that will be useful in selecting a school will be available online, but if it's not, call or email the school. Most often, you'll be able to find graduation requirements for your undergraduate degree in finance, find syllabi for classes online and reviews from other students who have rated professors on staff. You may want to consider the structure of each degree program and what curriculum you're interested in, which faculty are overseeing and teaching each degree program to find a group you'd like to build relationships with and learn from, your desired location, or campus life, then apply for admission.
Digging into Your Finance Program
Once admitted, and as you begin setting foot on campus, it's a good idea to get familiar with the Finance Department itself. Depending on how your school works, you may need to meet certain program admission requirements for finance majors in addition to general university admission requirements in order to be admitted. These often include Calculus I or higher level math, a GPA requirement, and potentially others depending on your school's emphasis in its finance degree program. You can learn about the steps you'll need to take by checking online, visiting your academic counselor or the finance department faculty on your campus. With the declaration of a finance major, additional scholarships may be available to you. Be sure to take full advantage of applying for those for which you may be a good candidate. Check websites that have scholarship listings for international students who are finance majors, like the one here: IEFA.org.
Core-level finance courses that are used as the building blocks of a finance degree are structured differently depending on the school, as their method and emphasis on financial studies may vary. Commonly, these are basic accounting, microeconomics and statistics courses. After the core classes, international students will be able to dig more specifically into different subsections of finance in later classes – and the availability of these specialties will depend on the school. For example, a course in corporate finance will discuss budgeting, time-money risks, as well as trade-off decision-making for securities and dividends - and international students may be able to continue their coursework in corporate finance as it may be the emphasis or teaching strength of your school's finance department. Some schools also offer courses on urban fiscal policy, venture capital & finance innovation, non-profit finance, global monetary & financial stability, or investment portfolio management.
Try to determine your school's strength or teaching emphasis. What are the courses offered at your school and what are the backgrounds of faculty members? Look at the overview of courses available, discuss it with your faculty and advisors and use your school's strengths to help put you on a better footing to get a good grasp of these concepts. Translate this education into opportunity by allowing it to help you get closer to an internship or career path you're interested in.