Getting into HIM

26 Feb, 2013

So you want to be an ‘HIM’er? Well I regret to inform you that you are far from the only one. In fact, you may have chosen the absolute worst year to apply. Sources inside the HIM program confirm that they are expecting to receive more than double the number of applications they received last year, but they won’t be taking any extra students. HIM, short for Honours Investment Management, has also heavily promoted the program around campus this year through information sessions and blast e-mails, approaches never taken before. If you’re asking yourself why it had to be your year, get over it! HIM is the most comprehensive applied finance program Desautels has to offer. If you are one of the top 12 to 15 achievers who make it into HIM this year, then you will soon understand why it makes sense to intensify the admissions process. HIM wants the best of the best. With a stronger HIM class, everybody has more to gain.

Let’s backtrack. What is HIM? The best way to really understand HIM is to understand how it differs from a major in finance. The point of difference is that HIM students make up the student task force which manages Desautels Capital Management (DCM). Under the direction of DCM program director Ken Lester, students are assigned to analyze a particular financial sub-sector under the broad sections of equities or fixed-income. This important difference arguably gives HIM students an edge in recruitment over finance majors. The ‘HIM’ers graduate with 2 years of practical experience under their belts and familiarity with handling the long hours prevalent in the early years of the finance field.

The application process is rigorous. To apply, you must fill out a questionnaire that includes why you want to be in HIM, where you see yourself five years after graduation, and what your greatest leadership role has been thus far. The questionnaire, your CV, a one page cover letter, and your transcript make up your complete application. This is the information used to pre-screen the applicant pool. After which, roughly 30 students (subject to change), will be asked to interview with Ken Lester, the program director, as well as other students and/or professors within the HIM program. During the interview you will be required to give your two cents in a stock pitch, as well as discuss your motivations and expectations of the program. Some students may even be asked to a second round of interviews.

HIM is not for everyone. If you want to be an ‘HIM’er, you need to be intrinsically passionate about finance. For starters, you should know that HIM will become your life. Current students estimate an additional 20 hours of work required to meet their DCM responsibilities. That doesn’t include the time they spend attending classes, studying, and other activities. HIM is essentially a part-time, unpaid job. Distribution of time is an important consideration for prospective HIM students. Between HIM, DCM, schoolwork and recruitment, there isn’t much time for other things. If you’re not comfortable with HIM taking up the majority of your free time, then you’re not committed and HIM isn’t for you. You need to not only want HIM, you need to want it for the right reasons.

Now, hopefully I haven’t discouraged you from applying, here are some tips from some ‘HIM’ers concerning the application process.

#1 Good grades are not a golden ticket.

The HIM admissions team, consisting of Ken Lester, Tesfa Peterson from the Bcom office, and HIM students themselves, will NOT admit you just because you have a 4.0 GPA. Don’t get me wrong, grades are an extremely important decision factor but, they only get you to the interview. Tesfa says that “once you have an interview, everybody is on an even playing field.” Someone with a 4.0 GPA does not have a major advantage over someone with a 3.8, other things being equal. The interview is where the admissions team can truly see if you have intrinsic interest in finance, or if you have ulterior motives.

#2 Get involved. Make sure ‘HIM’ers know your name.

This tip does not imply that those who are friends with HIM students are the ones who get in. Not at all. However, typically, if the HIM students know you, it is because you have made an effort to network with the right people. You have gone to guest speakers from the field, you have introduced yourself to HIM students or you’re a member of the Management Investment Club. If you are still looking for ways to get involved, the MIC is a great place to start. They offer guest-speakers, stock analyst programs, and stock trading and simulation competitions throughout the semester, plus anybody can join!

#3 Differentiate. Differentiate. Differentiate.

When the interview comes, you need to show how you are different. HIM takes just 12-15 students. I guarantee that there will be more than that amount of students with near-perfect GPA’s, well-rounded student involvement, and true interest in finance. Unfortunately, they will not all get in. Think of the admissions process as a sports team. If the Canadiens had the top 20 players in the league by goals, they would only have players on offence. A team needs to be diverse, some on offence, some of defence, and others somewhere in between. There are two implications of this analogy. The first is that you need to show how you are different in your application, and why your diversity will benefit the HIM team. The second is that HIM is not looking at applicants from a single metric. You must be well-rounded. Having the most goals or the highest GPA isn’t worth that much if you never pass the puck, or all you do with your time is study.

If you are interested in HIM and wish to apply, you must submit your competed application to the BCom office by 5pm on March 15th. In the event that you do not get in, don’t be discouraged. There are plenty of stories where a finance major land the top job out of that year’s graduating class, ‘HIM’ers included. If HIM suddenly doesn’t sound appealing to you, there are other honours options as well. Desautels offers 2 other honours programs: Joint Honours in Economics and Finance and Joint Honours in Economics and Accounting. More information about these programs is available in the BCom office.


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