Monday, December 28, 2009

Why You Shouldn't Be Scared of TurboFin(ance)

Before the start of my first quarter, I had already decided that I wanted to take TurboFinance (FINC-440).  My decision was based on a few course recommendations that I had received from Kellogg alums, my desire to challenge myself from the get-go, and the realization that the number of courses I wanted to take far exceeded the number that I could take during my two years on Planet MBA.

I discussed the decision to take TurboFin at length with some of my classmates (particularly those that were on Twitter) who were also wrestling with the decision, and it seemed that everyone had a logical argument in favor or against taking the course.  I stuck with my decision, in no small part due to my stubborn pride, which is constantly whispering in my ear that I can do well in anything as long as I bust my butt, and I am happy to report that I made the right call (for me at least).

TurboFin is definitely a challenging class, but if you are willing to dedicate the time to it, then I think it becomes very manageable; like a lot of other activities at Kellogg, it boils down to trade-offs and priorities.  For example, if you want to ease into your first quarter, get involved in a lot of clubs and activities early on, or else have no intention of taking advanced Finance courses or getting the major, then it may not be the best choice for you.  Without the right motivation, I imagine that it would be pretty difficult to devote the right amount of time to the class, especially when you are managing it within a chain of other classes and activities.

The class begins at breakneck speed before easing into a fast, yet manageable pace.  The first week, we covered 7 chapters in the text book (roughly 170 pages of reading); this was enough to convince some students to drop the course.  Fortunately, we were provided with excellent lecture notes that summarize each week's concepts in 10-14 pages and are a great substitute for the textbook.  Some students relied solely on the lecture notes and referenced the text book only when they needed additional information on a concept.  Personally, I tried to read everything because I needed to reinforce the concepts, which were entirely new to me, as much as possible.  I didn't do this during the second half of the course, and I think that was a key reason that I ended up with a B in the course, although I went into the final with a solid A.

After that first week, we only covered one or two chapters a week for the next three weeks.  We had weekly HW assignments, that varied in difficulty (2-4 hours a week), and were completed in groups.  Although some people would argue that you should stack up your group with people that have strong finance backgrounds, I don't think that is necessary for doing well. Only one person on my team had come from a finance background, and they were pretty heavily involved with recruiting throughout the quarter. We still successfully handled all of the HW assignments.

At first, I was doubtful about how beneficial working on teams would be in TurboFin, but it ended up being extremely valuable in the course.  We worked on the HW assignments individually, and then met to discuss our answers and draft the group copy that we would submit.  We normally spent 1-3 hours working on the HW as a group, and much of that time was spent talking about the right way to approach/answer a problem.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much this helped my understanding of the concepts and how well we worked together.

We wrapped up the Finance I content after four weeks, and we were then given a take-home open-notes open-book midterm.  We had one week to work on the midterm; I worked on it in small portions over the course of 4 days.  The midterm was easier than I expected, though I was still a bit nervous about it when I turned it in.  Fortunately, I was able to ace the midterm.

The second half of the course is more conceptual than the first half, covering Finance II topics including the Efficient Market Hypothesis, perfect and imperfect markets, and capital structure considerations, such as the tax benefits of debt financing.  After midterms were over, I made the mistake of relaxing too much during the next week.  I didn't realize that the second half of the course was structured similarly to the first half; i.e. the first week covered 5+ chapters before easing into one or two chapters a week.  In addition, I got involved with multiple competitions, including some that I had very little interest in (FOMO), and I quickly fell behind on the reading.  I wasn't able to catch up until the weekend before the final, but by then, the damage had been done.  A last minute cram session wasn't enough to do well on the final, which was timed (2 hours) in-class open-notes open book, and I came away with a B.  I am pretty sure that I came in just below the line for an A, which makes it sting a bit more for me.

In the end though, I'm really glad that I took TurboFin.  The course is very well designed, Professor Braun is fantastic, some of the material that we covered was eventually repeated in my Accounting and Managerial Decisions classes, and I was able to make room for another elective while positioning myself to get a Finance major.  Furthermore, I learned more from TurboFin than I did from any of the other classes that I took last quarter. Given that I was able to survive TurboFin, I am fairly certain that anyone else can as well.


  1. Hey Orlando, thanks for sharing your thoughts on Turbo Finance. I'm definitely going to think about taking it once I matriculate at Kellogg next year.

  2. Thanks Orlando. I'm thinking about this now. Still debating... :-S

  3. TurboFin sucks, the best option is to place out of Fin1 and take Fin II, which is far more case based and will help downstream in more advanced Fin courses. Theoretical Finance is very nebulous when put to the test in actual applied Finance. Only studying such Finance through cases do you learn the concepts and see the marriage between concept and what goes on in street.