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This summer, I will be graduating from the University of Leeds (BSc Mathematics) with an expected 2:1 grade. I am now looking at finance-related MSc courses.

Going to a top tier London university (Imperial, UCL, etc) would be a dream come true for me, but I can't afford to throw away the cost of making applications (approx. £70 each) if I don't stand a chance of being made an offer.

I expect to meet all of the entry requirements for these courses, but still feel that I would be (academically) a weak candidate for such courses (having achieved only ABBB at A-level, for example).

So given that I meet the entry requirements for these courses, would it be worth making an application - or would I not stand up to the competition?

Edit (additional information): I also have no relevant work experience. However, on the positive side I have good knowledge of a variety of programming languages, take on a fair number of personal projects which demonstrate a genuine interest in finance, and have done a lot of financial mathematics as part of my degree.

Additionally, I may be able to put in a plea on the grounds of extenuating circumstances on the basis of a mental-health diagnosis which had a significant effect on my grades in earlier years. Since these issues have been treated (i.e. in my third year) I have averaged a strong first (however, poor past performance means that I only expect to graduate with a 2:1).

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    I don't think we can really advise you on this. Contact the admissions tutor at the top couple of places you'd like to go, and explain your situation. But first work out specifically why you want to go to that institution. Bear in mind that if you go to London then £70 will be tiny relative to the costs you'll need to cover.
    – Jessica B
    Mar 31, 2018 at 12:24
  • Since you only meet entry requirements, it is likely you won't get funding if you get graduate admission. This means that you'll need to cover tuition and living expense by yourself. In that case, £70 or even £700 is nothing compared to what you'll need to pay after you are admitted.
    – Nobody
    Mar 31, 2018 at 12:55
  • I do have savings of just over £50,000 - I just don't want to throw money away naively. I am not worried about securing funding, I am just wondering whether I stand a chance of securing a place. For example, LSE's entry requirements are a minimum of a 2:1 in a numerical subject. However, I am assuming that it would be foolish to make an application there, given my background?
    – M Smith
    Mar 31, 2018 at 13:48
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    @M Smith that is something you need to ask the admissions tutor at LSE. @scaaahu in the UK, an MSc is generally a taught Master's rather than a research Master's and therefore very unlikely to be funded no matter how good an applicant you are. Mar 31, 2018 at 15:25

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Previously people submitted three applications, one certain, one stretch, and one intermediate. To use the work experience to your advantage, try to find programs that encourage people with relevant work experience to apply.

In the US I'd advise you not to mention the mental health diagnosis at this stage. However, I don't know if that carries over to the UK.

Even without mentioning specifics, it is still possible to write a short accompanying statement about the poor grades early on, something along the lines of "facing a challenging family situation during years x and y" and pointing to recent spectacular successes as a counterbalance.

In general you should aim for a non-apologetic, self-confident tone, especially since you want to go into finance -- which I think is a field full of chutzpah. If you are not accepted, you're not accepted; but no one will judge you harshly for having tried.

With regard to the money -- look, in the finance world, don't they talk a lot about "the cost of doing business"? Two or three applications are not going to make much of a dent in your nest egg.

By the way, I wonder whether you would like to consider looking beyond your national borders? Finance is such an international sort of field.

(I actually agree this should be closed but I had too much to say to fit into comments.)

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  • Thank you for your detailed response. With regards to this question being off-topic, do you know of an SE forums which deal with questions such as these? I did ask on the Quant Meta (quant.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1566/…) and was pointed in your direction.
    – M Smith
    Apr 1, 2018 at 9:21
  • @MSmith - I'm sorry, I think I was confusing your question with someone else's, hence the stuff about the work experience. You should look at the existing Q&As here about how to put together a strong application. // In the US, you would be getting advised at your undergraduate institution in your grad applications. You'd reach out to a professor that you connected well with, who would hopefully mentor you in the process and write a strong letter of recommendation. I don't know how things work in the UK, though. Apr 1, 2018 at 19:01

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