Investment Banking Recruiting as a First or Second-Year University Student: How to Survive the Insanity
This article is a revamped version of an older one, but it is mostly a public service announcement.
If you’ve been paying attention to recruiting deadlines, nothing here should be surprising.
If not, you need to start paying attention now.
Summer internship recruiting now starts insanely early, and it has been starting earlier and earlier each year.
To have a decent shot of getting into investment banking after graduation, you must focus on it from your first year in university.
This trend to move recruiting earlier and earlier is silly, but I don’t make the rules – I just explain how to game the system:
Why the Insanity?
Finance jobs are no longer the most appealing ones available to undergrads and MBAs.
Why chain yourself up in your cubicle when you could join Google or Facebook and earn as much, if not more, and get a much better work environment?
To compete, banks have moved recruiting earlier and earlier so that students don’t realize the range of other options out there.
By recruiting so early, banks also make themselves seem more “exclusive” and, therefore, more appealing.
Also, it’s cheaper to recruit students far in advance of internships and use impersonal HireVue assessments; why waste precious humans’ time on your candidacy?
Finally, banks know that they can’t necessarily get “the best and brightest” anymore – but they can get the most motivated students if they recruit early enough.
So… What Does Super-Early Recruiting Mean, Exactly?
Banks, as of 2018, open their summer internship applications over a year in advance of internship start dates.
The “deadlines” may be much later – maybe 6-9 months before internship start dates.
But recruiting is done on a first-come, first-serve basis, so you put yourself at a huge disadvantage if you wait until the deadline to apply.
That creates a few challenges for you:
Challenge #1: You Cannot “Explore” Whether or Not Finance is for You – You Must Assume It is
If you arrive on campus and you’re not sure if you want to do finance, you don’t have much time to explore your options.
You need to join finance-related clubs and get an internship ASAP.
If you do the internship, hate it, and decide the industry is not for you, you can always move into other areas (corporate finance, Big 4, etc.) that don’t recruit insanely early.
Challenge #2: You Need to Start Networking and Learning the Technical Side Even Earlier
Since recruiting moves at warp speed, you need to start networking at least 1.5 years before the internship start date.
That means “midway through your second year in university,” especially if you’re at a non-target school.
You also need some understanding of accounting, valuation, and finance at that early date because informational interviews frequently turn into real interviews.
Challenge #3: You Won’t Have Much Internship Experience by The Time You Apply
If you’re applying for internships during your second year, or even shortly after it finishes, you won’t have much to write about on your resume/CV:
- An internship between your first and second year.
- And… maybe some activities or part-time, school-year internships?
So, you cannot rely on internship experience to “learn the technical side,” and you can’t use detailed work experience descriptions to win interviews and offers.
You’ll also have to list “Upcoming Internships” on your resume/CV, depending on the timing.
It’s silly, but bankers barely even read your resume; they scan it for company names, school names, and position names.
So, What Do You Do?
Think of recruiting as an ingredient list:
- “Good enough” grades and test scores (e.g., over 3.5 in the U.S. and 2:1 or better in the U.K.).
- Knowledge of accounting, valuation, and finance gained from classes/books/courses.
- One “interesting” activity or experience that few others will have.
- One solid, finance-related internship.
- Some amount of networking (Moderate if you’re at a top school, and extreme if you’re at a non-target school).
Before applications open, you must collect as many of these ingredients as possible.
Sample Action Plans
Here are two examples of students from non-target universities in the U.S. who went through this process to win summer internship offers:
Example #1: The Transfer
This student transferred from a lower-ranked university to a higher-ranked, but still non-target, school.
That gave him some advantages, such as additional time to network and complete internships because of credit transfers:
- Year #1: Transferred in from a lower-ranked school, where he was an athlete (“something interesting”). Did an accounting-related internship and worked at a valuation firm.
- Summer After Year #1: Interned in asset management at a local firm.
- Year #2: Did a school-year internship at a PE fund, completed financial modeling courses, and began a hardcore networking effort.
- Middle-to-End of Year #2: Began asking his networking contacts directly about internships the next year, interviewed at bulge bracket and elite boutique banks, and won an offer at a top firm for the next summer.
Example #2: The Former Pre-Med
This student entered university intending to go to medical school, but then made a sudden change:
- Year #1: Started the pre-med track at a non-target school, but did not do so well GPA-wise.
- Summer After Year #1: Did an unrelated hospital internship.
- Year #2: Decided he didn’t want to do medicine, switched to the business school, and began a crash course in investment banking. Started networking with bankers at large firms and cold-calling/cold-emailing boutique banks to win the initial internship.
- Summer After Year #2: Completed a boutique IB internship at a local firm and continued networking for NY-based roles. Made a weekend trip to NY.
- Year #3: Made 2-3 more weekend trips in the first few months, reduced his credits to get more time for recruiting, and ended up with a dozen interviews and multiple summer offers.
In this case, he got lucky with the timing: Sometimes there’s very little summer internship recruiting, especially for non-target students, going into Year #3.
It would have been safer to complete a school-year internship during Year #2, but he only decided to pursue IB that year, so there wasn’t enough time.
What If You Miss the Recruiting Boat?
If you miss the boat, your best options depend on how big your miss was, and much time/money/effort you can use to fix the problem.
In the best-case scenario, you might still be able to win a full-time offer at a smaller bank: Take a look at this story for some inspiration.
If you do a crazy amount of networking in a few months, you have at least one relevant internship (PWM, corporate finance, venture capital, etc.), and you target smaller firms outside of major financial centers, it is feasible.
However, if you missed the boat by more than that – you have no finance internships, or you only became interested in IB in your last year of university – your options are different.
In that case, your best bet is to aim for related full-time roles, such as corporate finance rotational programs or jobs at Big 4 firms or independent valuation firms.
Then, move over to IB once you’ve worked there for around a year.
If you can’t win one of those roles, then you may want to consider the Master’s in Finance degree.
Another option is the “internship at small PE firm after graduation to off-cycle role at large bank” path, which may be more viable in Europe.
Finally, there’s the nuclear option: Apply to top business schools and use MBA-level recruiting to get in.
That is the most expensive and time-consuming option, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you decide on IB very late in the game (e.g., after working as an engineer for over a year).
Wait, Is It This Insane in Other Regions? Is It Just a U.S. Trend?
First, note that even in the U.S., not all banks and schools follow this timeline.
As you saw from Example #2 above, internship recruiting can go into Year #3, though it tends to end early in Year #3.
Applications may also open and close later if you’re at a target school.
Outside of investment banking, it’s not quite as crazy in other fields; asset management recruiting follows a slower timeline, for example.
It’s also less accelerated in other regions, such as Europe and Asia, though deadlines are still moving up each year.
For example, applications for summer analyst roles used to open in September, but some large banks in Europe have moved that to July.
Finally, there’s less of an accelerated timeline at the MBA level for obvious reasons: Banks can’t open applications until you’ve started studying at the business school.
Escaping the Insanity
If you’re still in your first or second year of university – or you haven’t even started yet – then you have a decent shot of following everything above to win an internship.
If you missed the boat, then you’ll have to consider one of the Plan B alternatives above.
Or, maybe you could forget about “the boat” altogether and apply for jobs in industries where recruiting doesn’t take place 1-2 years before the start date of the job.
You might be interested in The Full Guide to Investment Banking Assessment Centers and Boutique Investment Banks: The Full Guide.
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I am a 2nd year studying Economics and Politics at the University of Manchester. I am applying for sales and data analyst roles for my placement year and will be trying to get some summer internships for the summer before my final year (just after i finish my placement) to get as much experience as possible. Do you think this is a good idea and if you have any better ideas may you suggest them, thank you.
Well, what is your goal? Are you asking if sales and data analyst roles are good pathways into IB summer internships? Or are you asking if it’s possible to do this at all?
In general, you want finance-related internships in Year 1-2 to maximize your chances of the Year 3 summer internship. See: https://mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-recruiting-timeline/
It moves more slowly in the UK since applications usually open early in Year 3 rather than the end of Year 2, but you still need a bit of work experience to have a good shot at the large banks.
I am 18 years old, from India, and in 1st year of B.Tech.(will be going to 2nd year in a month or two). I am also doing online courses on finance to move to investment banking. Can you guide me out a bit with what should i focus on next to get a IB internship right after my 2nd year?
So, the recruiting landscape in India is completely different and does not resemble anything in the U.S., Europe, Hong Kong, Australia, etc. I would start by reading our coverage of India:
I’m currently 17 years old (German/French) and I’ll study Economics at Warwick University starting september. I really would like to try out Investment Banking.
But due to the pandemic, the finance internship I should have done had been cancelled because of Covid measures a few days before I’d actually start. I’m now a bit at loss as to what to do.
How can I make up for this “lack” in my resume for my 1st year summer internship? I will probably try my luck with a few cold calls, but until now all I’ve managed to get is a 2 week IT internship at Deutsche Bank.
I don’t know if I’m overthinking this and if a post-High School internship really does matter a lot or not but I’m afraid I’ll fall behind other people that were able to do internships in their country.
What do you think about it? Do you have any idea what I could do?
Thanks in advance!
I think you are worrying over nothing. No one cares about pre-university internships, just focus on getting the best internships possible during university.
thank you for the very enlightening article.
I’m considering leaving mechanical engineering in my ongoing sophomore year, to pursue a Bachelor’s in Finance in Milan (Bocconi University).
This way I would be starting from scratch at age 20.5 and graduating around age 23.5 in a best case scenario, while a Master’s degree would have me graduate 2 years later.
Do you think it would be a little overkill or even insane? Assuming a 3.5+ GPA, what would be my chances of breaking into IB and such from the front door, despite graduating 1 or 2 years* late compared to other Bocconi graduates?
*If you’re wondering why I’m saying “1 or 2 years” and not 2, it’s because in Italy, people born in early 2001 had a choice of starting school in September 2006 rather than in Semptember 2007.
It’s not about your exact graduation date but rather the number of years of work experience you’ve had and your internships. If you can complete solid internships and get good academic results, sure, you can get into IB. A Master’s might help a bit, but more so if you cannot get in after normal undergrad or do not have enough internship experience to do so the first time.
Thank you for the inputs. Just so I’m clear, I would be starting in my 3rd year after high school, so in what would be my junior year should I not transfer.
The only BB that did recruiting during sophomore year was Citi. No other BB did. MS has its apps open, but it’s non rolling. The rest don’t start until July.
Banks keep changing the timing each year. I’m not going to update this article or write a new version each time a bank slightly moves forward or moves back its timing (imagine writing about this same topic for 13 years…).
The broader point is that you need to be prepared with networking and interview questions in your *2nd year of university.* That is true regardless of whether banks start in July, roughly a year before internships, or April, slightly over a year before internships. You can’t just go into Year 3 and prepare at the last minute. And that has been true ever since banks started moving up the timing around 2016.
I am an incoming commerce student at Queen’s University in Canada. I was wondering how easy it is to recruit to a US bank from Canada.
It is difficult because the market in Canada is small, which means that many students try to move to the U.S., but there are only a certain number of spots for non-U.S. candidates (yes, Canada is a bit of a special case, but Canadians are still non-citizens). For more details, see the numbers here:
So far I am admitted as an incoming junior to Tulane Freeman (on scholarship), UVA (Econ. NOT MCINTIRE. in state), W & M, and UNC-CH. I have narrowed down to UVA or Tulane Freeman. I really don’t care if I get into DC aerospace/defense I-banking, NYC BB, or Houston/Dallas Energy S & T prop. I just want to know which school leads to the strongest pipeline of breaking in. Thanks for any input.
Also, I hear management consulting recruits well out of UVa Econ, as does PE? I would do those too.
I don’t think either one is great for IB recruiting. If you’re focused on the south, schools like Vanderbilt or Emory would be better options. UVA McIntire would be better as well.
If you go with Tulane, you could potentially get into IB, but it will take a lot of networking, preparing in advance, early internships, etc.
I’m a software apprentice in a electronic warfare company in the UK (aged 19); currently wrapping up my first year of my part-time degree in software development. It may seem strange that I am planning a career change just two years in my current career; which I worked incredibly hard to achieve; but here lies my reasoning, I honestly don’t see myself working behind a computer screen writing code for electronic countermeasures for the remainder of my working life for instance. I believe that I would be of much better value working in a more customer based role (such as IB).
I am currently attending the University of Hertfordshire; I realise that this is not a target university but it was not my option to attend this university; it was by request of my manager (as the company is financing my degree). I do believe could have gained a position in a ‘better achieving’ university but at this point it’s out of my control. I have just received my grades for this past year and I have averaged a 1st over the course of the past year; I intend to keep this positive momentum up and come out with a 1st in my final year.
I have not been looking for any internships or junior roles in any banks due to the fact that I work full-time whilst also studying; I only receive 25 days holiday per year as i am a full-time employee. I assume this may be an issue when I attempt to leave my company and gain internships…however, I am determined to make this transition into IB. I am no stranger to pulling +12 hour days and coming into the office during weekends to meet deadlines.
As far as networking goes; I have family contacts with a non-independent executive director and chairman of HSBC (Hong Kong; worked in the London office for +10 years), and also family relations with a solicitor at JP Morgan (London).
I am not really sure how to approach them in this matter without seeming like I’m asking for any special favours (nepotism in many circumstances in frowned upon to say the least).
I will be actively looking for networking event at London firms so I can gain some insight into their recruitment processes.
Unfortunately my university does not have a strong alumni network so this option is not one that I can explore.
My current plan is to complete my degree (ending summer of 2021) and then begin to apply for internships and most probably other relevant work experience beforehand. I am aware that I will be at a major disadvantage when I graduate at age 21 with no relevant internships, qualifications or experience.
How would you advise I handle this situation and try to get the best opportunities possible?
Thanks in advance.
OK. So, first off, you do realize that in IB, you will still be sitting behind a computer screen 90% of the time until you reach the mid-to-senior levels, right? It’s only customer-based at the margins.
I would recommend reading this entire article to understand what you should do at this point:
My short advice is to apply to internships and gain experience ASAP, try to transfer to a better university or do an MS degree at a top university, and then use those to move into IB. The family contacts may be helpful, but you need more relevant work experience first.
Thanks for the reply.
Yes I realise that IB involves a lot of desk work but in my current position it is entirely made up of desk work; even at the higher levels its mostly the same case. But I don’t entirely mind desk work; its more to do with lack of variation in my job.
I have read the article you suggested and found it very insightful.
Thanks again for the advice.
Hey Brian. I’m wrapping up 2 years at a community college and will transferring to a 4 year next Spring. I’m supposed to graduate in 2021, but I’ve decided to transfer in the spring which would make me class of 2022. The reason I’m doing this is because I realized towards the end of CC that recruiting is accelerated so I wanted to give myself a better shot to apply to various openings since banks have already wrapped up recruiting for next Summer for the class of 2021.
The school I’m transferring to is a top 50 but little-to-no OCR; it’s in an area with plenty of boutique investment banks and private equity firms so I’m going to do my best to get an off-cycle internship in the Fall of 2019. That being said, I’ve completed a search-fund internship, and for the next 8-10 weeks will be working under a MD at a boutique private equity firm where I’ll be travelling to attend various investor meeting, pitches, etc. What else could I do to best set me up for getting a role in investment banking at a BB? I’ve done a quick LinkedIn search, and the school I will be attending in Spring 2020 has various alumni who are working in BB IB. Would I be jumping the gun with networking with them? Would my experiences be leverageable into potentially getting an off-cycle internship with a boutique investment banking firm?
You have the right idea: networking, networking, networking, and more internships. You can start contacting alumni as soon as you have a .edu email address for the new school you’re transferring to.
Beyond that, the search fund internship and the boutique PE internship will both help. If you have those 2 internships already, I don’t think you necessarily need something else between now and summer internship recruiting at the BBs – you just need to make sure you get started early with networking.
I just completed two Spring Weeks in Bulge Bracket Banks (J.P. Morgan and Deutsche Bank) for their technology division.
During my Spring Week, I realised that technology isn’t the route I would like to take and I would much rather work in a Corporate Finance related role (M&A).
I think this is best for me because I want to be revenue generating and client facing.
I looked into Quant Trading but feel it is too technical and something I wouldn’t enjoy.
What are the skills required to go into Front Office roles and how would you advise that I develop them?
I’m an incoming Economics student at the University of Cambridge. Should I aim to land internships in London or Singapore? (which is my home country) My perception is that London has better and more diverse positions but at the same time would banks be wary of hiring internationals?
London tends to have far more internships, so you should focus on roles there. I don’t think international hiring is quite as big of a problem in London since so many students from Asia go there and somehow end up working there.
thank you for the many excellent articles and ideas.
I am just finishing my secondary school in an eastern European country. In September 2019 will be starting at Warwick Business School, UK, studying Accounting and Finance.
This summer I have the opportunity to spend 6 or so weeks at Ernst & Young in their office here in the l Advisory / M&A team. Would this be a good experience towards Investment Banking?
Also, how would Summer Internships, after first year at uni, in the Big 4 accounting firms in heir M&A departments go down with Investment Banks, i.e. would they consider this as relevant experience for a potential later Internship/placement/job with them?
Once I finish my HS exams, I will certainly take some of the courses you are offering as they seem to be helpful for what I would like to achieve.
Thanks and regards
Big 4 internships help, but they are not as helpful as actual IB/PE/VC internships (even ones at smaller firms). The normal path is to do a few internships at Big 4 firms and boutique IB/PE/VC firms and then use that experience to win offers at the large banks.
Thanks for the awesome content.
I’m 19 and live in LA California. I’m a freshman at a community college. I’m currently taking heavy course load each semester, so I’m gonna finish by the end of my 1st year (while maintaining my 4.0). I have an extra year to spare before transferring to my target-school (Haas business school most likely). Is it better for me to try and land a finance-related internship in LA? or do I have a better way of spending that year? I really want to find my way to IB at NY someday, how are my chances at UC Berkeley?
You will have a far better chance of winning an IB internship if you can say that you’re an incoming UC Berkeley student, so you should probably apply there first, get in, and then use that line in your outreach emails to banks. And then complete the internship before or during your first year there.
I don’t know your chances at UC Berkeley because I don’t know the admissions rate for transfer students offhand, what they’re looking for, or your background beyond your GPA. But if you can get in and complete internships early on there, you have a good chance of winning IB roles after graduation.
Thanks for such brilliant articles about banking. I am from India, currently in the second year of BBA (bachelor in business administration).
I haven’t done any finance related internship in my first year nor do i have perfect percentage of marks in high school. I have always scored in the range of 80-90%. Is there any way i can break into Investment Banking. I am only 18 years old. What future course of action will you suggest to grab a role in IB?
I think you should review these articles because India is a very different market:
Thanks for the links.
Can you suggest me some additional course to take?
Cfa or something to help me?
The CFA and other courses are unlikely to help because you need to attend a top IIM to have a good chance in India. So… think about other strategies like completing a higher degree in another country with a better market, or think about related roles like TS/TAS.
Thanks for the inputs.
I work at a financial services/investment consulting firm. Mostly focused on data analysis, performance reporting within the private investment space. Im hungry and wanting to break into the IB space and was wondering if you had any advice on how I could do so. Or any courses I could take as well. IF yo have time, I can share my resume with hope to get some feedback.
Depends on how long you’ve been there, your academic background, grades, internships, ability to network, etc. The main options are to network/move to something more relevant such as valuation work and then IB, go for a Master’s in Finance program, or go for an MBA.
I am a high school student in the US (near New York) and a career in business/finance is something that I am exploring (among others). Would you be able to give me a short breakdown of some key differences between a finance career and a medical career in things like work hours, work pressure, work environment, and salary?
In addition, I have just begun learning about finance so it will be very helpful if you can provide me with links to articles that introduce topics and fields in business/finance like Investment Banking, Hedge Funds, Private Equity, Corporate Finance etc. and provide a breakdown of what jobs we can get in those and how they differ.
Lastly, do you have a suggestions on where to do a business/finance internships I can get in or around New York City after 11th grade?
Thank you so much.
That’s way beyond the scope of this article, and I do not even know much about medicine, so no. I would recommend contacting professionals or family friends and speaking with them because finance and medicine are very, very, very different. For the rest, there’s a lot of information on this site… please do a search.
Thank you very much for the advice Brian. I will crack on and try networking my way into an internship here in London.
Also i am going to be in New York this summer for a week. What are some tips to meet bankers and network there?
Contact them in advance and suggest a few days and times near their offices… see our coverage of weekend trips and informational interviews. The rule of thumb is to make it as easy and stress-free as possible for them so that it requires almost no effort on their end.
I am from London, going into my 2nd year of a finance related course at a semi-target uni and I’m looking to get into IB (M&A). The problem is i started uni as a mature student (21) and my A-Level grades are not that great. Though i plan on doing a bit of networking this summer to put myself in a better position I still feel that online applications and electronic weeding out system will mean I may struggle to land and interview or AC.
I have been doing some reading on how to break in but most of them are for more ‘traditional’ students. I feel like i just don’t know where and how to start. I could do with a bit more structured guidance on how to approach my situation when it comes to applying for internships this summer (and eventually full-time roles)
If you have low A-levels and you are at a semi-target university, there are really only 2 things you can do:
1) Ignore your academic results and network intensely to win interviews. Use off-cycle internships as well (fairly common in London). Networking “works” in the U.K. despite what people like to complain about online. Do a search on this site for examples and templates.
2) Gain some internship experience now, but plan to attend a top MSF program or, longer term, a top MBA program. These can help you “fix” problems like low A-levels and a lesser-known university, but they’re more expensive and time-consuming.
I think you have to ask yourself how interested you are in IB – if you’re 100% set on it, method #1 is preferable because it only gets more difficult to get in the longer you wait.
Goal: Work at a global bank or even a consulting firm, at least for a few years. I believe it’ll give me a lot of great exit opportunities.
Profile: Current Masters Student (non-MBA) studying International Finance at Columbia. The program is 2 years and I’ve completed year 1. Tried to find a finance internship in NY with no luck (realized too late in my program that I definitely want to pursue a career in finance/did not work hard enough/did not know better). Currently at an internship in NYC (consulting firm working in the developing world, work is business development, market research, etc.). Mid-twenties with no prior finance background.
Given my profile, what are the next steps I should be talking to break into finance, especially into banking? And what are the next steps I should be taking to figure out which sector of banking I’m more interested in? Asset Management? Investment Banking? Sovereign Risk? –> how can you know without any internship experience?
Current thoughts: definitely try to find an internship in the fall that is anything remotely related to finance, maybe consider CFA (would take years to complete), not much else…
Normally, students decide on a specific field after completing internships and comparing the experiences. But you don’t really have time for that, so the best option at this point is to contact alumni in a few fields, ask questions, and try to reach a conclusion like that. You should also try to complete some case studies for those different fields and see which type of work you find most interesting.
If you’re working at a well-known consulting firm, you could potentially move into IB or other fields of finance at this point, but you’ll need some type of fall internship that’s more relevant. To narrow your options, use alumni, read more about the different fields on this site, take a look at sample IB pitch books vs. AM/HF stock pitches to get a sense of the work in each industry, etc.
I am a grade 11 student from India studying under the International Baccalaureate program. I am aiming to pursue Economics at university particularly in the United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore, or Australia. With Investment Banking as a prospective career, would you like to give any preliminary advice before I send in my applications to universities?
Not really… get in to the top university you can, and if you want to do investment banking, the UK is much better than those other countries. Also, if you’re set on IB, study accounting or finance or something that is not economics.
Noted. Thank you so much and keep up the good work!
Hi Brian, I am a UK university student. In my CV, do I have to include my A-level grades (they are not high)?
Yes, they usually want to see A-Level scores in the UK.
I’m a 1st year student at a non-target UK university. I only became interested in IB after applications for Spring Internships closed, so I feel like this is a major disadvantage for me, being from a non-target. I know there are differences between UK and US education systems; we have 3 years compared to 4 years in the US, so when I read your articles of people who left finding experience till late on in their degree, I’m not sure how this would translate to a UK setting. Therefore, as a UK first year uni student, will getting some experience at local investment management firms (I think this is what you refer to as PWM?) this summer stand me in good stead for applying for penultimate year summer internships next summer? Also, which is better for spinning, a PE internship or an investment management one? And, how long should I ask the internships to be?
Yes. A PE internship is better than an investment management internship, but either one could work. These off-cycle internships usually last for a few months. There are some UK-specific tips here:
Hi Brain, I am just wondering few things and want to figure out with you. As a matter of fact, I am going to transfer to UC Berkeley (I hope) and looking forward to get a job in wall street. Here is the thing, I have heard from people that it is hard for transferred student to apply for Wall street internship. Also, I am looking forward do MBA in the future. So, when do people usually apply for internship? junior year in university? or 1st year of MBA program?
Yes, it is hard to apply for internships as a transfer student because recruiting is now hyper-accelerated and takes place 1.5 years in advance of internships. So you don’t really have a shot unless you transfer after your first year and then move insanely quickly. Please see: https://mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-summer-internship-recruiting/
Hey Brian. I am currently a Freshmen right now at a community-college with 2 options. I can either just make the jump to my state-university as a Sophomore (non-target SEC school, some alumni have made it to MM IB). Or I stay at community and apply for some target-universities as a Junior transfer, and extend graduation out to get a better shot at recruiting. I will be interning at a brand-name bank (think UBS/MS/BAML) for private-wealth-management this Summer and hope to leverage that into a boutique IB offer next year up-state. I am not necessary investment-banking or bust, but that is at the top of my list. It’s crazy how early IB recruiting is so I just want to make the smart decision here.
I also understand that PWM is not related to IB but hopefully I can make some connections or just have some kind of experience under my belt that will help out somewhat.
I would probably transfer as a sophomore, even if it’s still a non-target school, because you’re taking a big chance if you transfer as a junior, extend graduation, and still end up without an internship or full-time offer. And by the time you transfer, recruiting might have moved up yet again! If you move in as a sophomore, at least you have more time to figure things out and apply for other roles if IB doesn’t work out.
I hear ya. I applied to a few semi-targets as a Sophomore and should be getting results soon. Even then I have to decide if leveraging student loans against that chance that recruiting gets pushed again. I can get out with little-to-no debt at my state school (Univ of South Carolina). They send the occasional 1-2 to NYC banking and another group to Southern IB.
What other careers in finance, would you say, have less cutthroat deadlines? I see you mentioned AM. Would having an internship in PWM as a Freshmen give me a leg-up by any chance? Was reading about Equity Research as well.
Asset management is less accelerated than IB recruiting. And a PWM internship should help. Not sure about ER recruiting because they tend not to recruit as many interns, but ER is not a great industry to be in anymore. Another option might be corporate banking, which is also less accelerated and can lead to IB roles in the future.
Thank you for the article! A quick question:
Does interning at an index provider firm (S&P, MSCI…) count as a “solid, finance-related internship”?
Potentially, yes, but it’s better to do that for your first-year internship than your second-year internship.
Great, great article. Do you know what the schedule for someone who wants to go into Sales & Trading would be? Also, what types of internships should one get after their 1st year if they want to go into trading?
I’m not completely certain because we don’t focus on S&T here, but I believe the timeline has also moved up, though not to the extend that it has in IB. It looks like Morgan Stanley’s 2019 summer internship applications open in July 2018 (for example). Good internships for trading might be something at a small hedge fund or prop trading firm, asset management firm, equity research firm, or even the standard wealth management internship that everyone does.
Hi Brian, I’m currently a Freshman at Emory, and I have been thinking about transferring to Northwestern/Cornell/Duke. My goal is to land an IBD job at BB/top boutique. Would it be worth it to make the move?
Probably not, as there’s not a big enough difference in that case.
Transferring has become a worse option over time because of how early recruiting now starts (over a year in advance of 3rd year summer internships). So unless you do it after your first year and make a massive leap (e.g., community college to top 20 school), it’s probably not worth it.
I’m a junior at a super-tippy-top-target with a 4.0 who worked in finance over the summer. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to network too well or prep for interviews, and essentially butchered the 5 IB ones and 6 buyside ones I did get. I didn’t even receive interviews at the vast majority of places.
I have a strong resume and grades, but there isn’t much left. I don’t keep track of the news too well, and don’t know much about markets, so I don’t think related fields like S&T or AM might work too well. Where do I go? What’s my endgame here? There are a few small banks recruiting on campus – do I just go hard for them? A lot of these boutiques and buyside firms, which are all that remain, say they want “modelling experience” which I completely lack.
I also spend too much time editing my resume because I can’t back some of these bullets on it up – my internship did not give me relevant work at all. However, I did assist senior bankers with major deals. My question is this: for a single resume bullet, how eloquently and in what depth should I be able to back it up?
Your best bet is to aim for those smaller/boutique banks or the buy-side firms. They may say that they want modeling experience, but you can just exaggerate what you did over the summer and learn the ropes on your own. It’s not exactly rocket science, especially with the resources available today. If that doesn’t work out, go for independent valuation firms or deal-related roles at Big 4 firms. And if that doesn’t work out, think about corporate finance rotational roles at large companies.
It’s hard to answer your last question without knowing what you’re claiming, but it sounds like you may be over-thinking it. You should be able to back up what you write with a few sentences, but you don’t need an extremely in-depth explanation for everything.
And, it’s October and still nothing. I received superdays with 4 top firms and couldn’t get past the story part, and still approached interviews by memorizing stuff and panicking. Even after the day I posted this, tons of opportunities existed, including at BB/EBs.
I’m not sure if delaying graduation might be the answer. My academic pedigree is incredibly solid, but relying on that instead of having a good story kinda screwed me. And I think my “vibe”, as you mentioned in another article, is pretty off.
I would recommend doing a few mock interviews with upperclassmen or alumni and seeing what they say. It’s really hard to say what is going wrong without seeing your interactions in real life. Delaying graduation might be an answer, but you could also think about options like an MSF degree or working in a different field first and moving in as a lateral hire.
Would a leave of absence and return later appear more legitimate than just a see-through delayed graduation with no classes plan? I could intern in Boston or head home to China in the time off. Then return and spin it somehow…
Potentially, yes, but in either case, you need some kind of story to explain what you did. They won’t just accept it at face value if you go for either one and don’t explain one.
And how much of a disadvantage would a non-traditional background like that be? It seems like it’d overshadow everything else about my candidacy. Do you have any case studies of students being forced to take a leave of absence and then recruiting successfully again? I noticed one about a “deus ex machina” event happening to someone who recruited again, but revised his resume 46 times and wasted precious time.
As another question: If I reapply next year, would banks compare my first resume submission to whatever I submit next summer? I’ve rephrased some entries to seem more impressive, and I don’t want it to come across as dishonest.
No, we don’t have “leave of absence” case studies, but I’m sure it has happened before. It will probably hurt you, but if you won interviews the first time around, you can do so again. Yes, banks might compare your submissions if they remember you (but most banks are disorganized and don’t track things well, so…).
That may be complicated by the fact that one of my main problems was the way my resume was phrased (ie not bankified enough) and that fact that I’ve sent very different versions to each place. To have a better chance, could I revamp my resume, or would this be viewed as obvious BSing/dishonesty?
You are over-thinking your situation by a factor of 50-100x. Just create one resume. Editing it and sending out a new version now won’t get you offers. Keep it on hand for the future.
Update: offer from S&T at SocGen/Credit Ag esque bank. Not great. I feel like I fit the “4.0 finance corporate banking” story you mentioned on the article on delaying graduation.
Would taking this or recruiting for MMs be smart? Or would a hedge fund role fit me better? I have no goals and just want options, but I feel like this will close a ton of them off.
Take this offer, and if you really want IB roles, keep recruiting at smaller banks and consider reneging if you get something better.
As a final update, I will sign with a BB (and no UBS either), and for IBD, no less.
I believe the timeline you describe on this site may be a bit too pessimistic. Though my timeline was skewed because I’m at a target with strong OCR, recruiting does start and end a year in advance of internships. While it might have started in April/May of this year, BB/EB IB opportunities remained through June, July, August, September, and even November. Naturally, next year will be more vicious, but I wanted to caution people against losing hope and ending their hustle in defeat because they think recruiting “ended”.
Hi Brian, great article.
I’m a freshman at a target, and am looking for an “interesting activity” for my resume.
Would club ping pong count? What about club fencing? Im an athletic person and would like to play a sport on campus, but I’m not sure if this is a good use of my time, resume-wise. I’d rather play ping pong, but fencing is probably “more interesting.” What other activities do you consider “interesting.”?
Either of those could work. You don’t need something the interviewer has never heard of before, you just need something that stands out a bit more than all the standard things people say. Ping pong is probably more different than fencing if I had to guess.
Hi Brian. You website has been one of the biggest supporter for my career change. I have been looking for this kind of information and i can testify that it has motivated a lot. My home country is Kenya and having completed CPA(certified public accountant) and recently CIFA(certified investment and financial analyst) i had a problem on how to apply it to real life scenario and hence your website bridged that gap. Am working hard to get an internship to an investment bank so that i can disseminate what i have been learning, though to get an internship here is quit hard but am still optimistic on it.Soon i will enroll for a full course as my finances gets better because currently i have no job( i hope too soon because you have awaken in me a fire of financial modelling which i have missed for long). Your free tutorial is substantial as i can even stay all the day long watching and be informed.This is what we have been lacking in Kenya as there is a big difference between what we learn in business school and what there is in the industry.
Thanks! Good luck.
Hi Brian. I’m about to start my undergraduate program at Queens university in the commerce program. Which is a target school in Canada. I want to work in the U.S after graduation. Should i try to get internships in U.S banks or can i just work at a Canadian bank and apply to the U.S after graduation. Also how hard would it be for me to land an internship or a full time job in the U.S. I’m interested in going to Texas or Florida.
You should definitely go for internships at U.S.-based banks in the U.S. if that is your plan. There is almost no IB activity in Florida, and Texas is mostly energy. You would stand a better chance by focusing on NY or Chicago because there are more jobs and broader roles there.
Hi Brian! Thank you for this informative article.
I’m about to start my second year of an undergraduate degree in Banking & Finance (UK system). My degree is based online through the University of London and I have thus not had the opportunity to meet with recruiters etc.
A few questions – will my degree to explore a career in investment banking on a technical basis? Am I looking at getting an internship for next summer (July 2018)? And how do I go about this process on my own, without the backing of a university?
You will need some kind of internship next summer, but not necessarily an investment banking one. The traditional IB one is more important for the summer after that one. To apply independently, you have to network extensively… see some of the previous case studies on this site from readers who did that.
I’m about to start my first year at UVA, but I’ve been thinking about transferring to Cornell (probably Hotel or ILR). Am I overthinking the prestige of target schools? Would it be worth the attempt to transfer? I know McIntire has decent placement, but the OCR and alumni network of an Ivy appears more attractive to me.
I don’t think Cornell would help that much over UVA – McIntire, especially if there’s a big difference in costs. UVA is already a good school, so a transfer would only help if you could get into one of the top 2-3 schools for IB placement, which is extremely tough when you apply as a transfer student.
Thanks for the reply. So do you suggest that I just try to get into McIntire and go from there? I didn’t think transferring would be that viable, but I thought it might be worth a shot.
This is an extremely helpful article but I have a few questions to ask. I’m an incoming freshmen at a community college in the Bay Area. I was admitted to a semi-target (Berkeley) from high school, but sadly I had to turn it down because my parents couldn’t afford to help me much so I was looking at about 60k student debt. Anyway, my plan was to keep on doing well and hopefully transfer to Haas (Berkeley’s business school) or some other semi-target/target. If all summer internship recruiting happens during sophomore year now, then that means I won’t be able to have a fair shot at it from the university that I actually transfer to. Is this the case at all schools and for the majority of investment banks? Is there anything I can do to increase my chances of landing a summer internship for junior year? Do elite boutiques or smaller IB recruit later on in the year? Sorry for all the questions but this is pretty significant news given my current situation (and yes I already understand the disadvantage I have for attending community college instead of a selective four-year university).
Basically, the early nature of recruiting means that you need to transfer earlier on to have a good shot at participating now. So you pretty much have to move over at the end of your first year to have the best chance. Most banks are starting earlier and earlier, and it will get even worse in the future. I would strongly recommend transferring to at least a semi-target school because it will be almost impossible to get into IB coming from a community college.
Some banks may keep recruiting into your 3rd year, but you’re taking a risk if you wait that long. And the transfer alone will cost you some time. So, I would strongly recommend transferring by the end of your first year so you can start your second year at a different school.
A quick question on when best to apply.
I am a 2nd year student studying economics at LSE (so UK recruiting process). There will be an event in mid September where recruiters will come to our ‘target school’.
Will it be best to wait until then to apply for an internship for this summer, or get applications in early?
Apply as soon as possible. Applications are reviewed on a “first come, first serve” basis, so once the applications open, every minute you wait counts against you. Submit your application ASAP. Talking to recruiters at an event will not improve your chances much vs. applying ASAP.
Halo brian, thanks again for another article. It’ll be out of topic. I’m 24 yo from Indonesia with have 2 yr experience as an auditor in Deloitte (which is completely different with IB). This September I’ll study Msc Finance at University of Amsterdam and wish pursue a career in IB.
But after reading many of your articles, I am afraid IB wouldn’t be fit for me. I’m not that sociable person nor have good relationship building skills. My competitive advantages are analytical skills, quantitaive, math or something like that. Could you give some thought what career best for me?
Maybe something on the buy-side such as a hedge fund/asset management role, quant fund role, or something like that.
Thanks for the response, Brian. Anw, I still wish to pursue a career in IB. Is there any role with more analytical work (quantitative, etc)? And how abt fixed income research or equity research? Really appreciate any thought. Thanks.
Yes, maybe research, though the prospects for research aren’t great at most banks (fewer job openings, regulations changing the compensation structure, etc.). Maybe something more like project finance, leveraged finance, or other debt-related fields as well.
Thank you, really appreciate your response.
Hey Brian, thank you for writing the article; it was very enlightening. I’m an incoming freshman to the Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business and I have a few questions. I’ve heard Tepper be described as a semi-target for investment banking. Is this true? What “path” would you recommend for someone in my situation to maximize my chances of getting into IB? Thanks again!
Yes, semi-target is a good description for it. Your best option is to a finance/accounting internship during/after your first year, then work at a small PE firm, search fund, or bank during or after your second year, and then network extensively during your second year so you win interviews for the 3rd-year internship a year in advance.
Apologies for the late reply. Thanks for the information! I’ve been reading a few of your other articles and I’ve noticed that you’ve worked in Japan. Having studied abroad in high school in Saitama for a year, I feel the so-called “gaijin bond”. I’m planning to study abroad in Japan again, this time in my sophomore year of college. Do you think that this would be an overall boon or detriment to a pursuit of IB offers/internships, etc. (assuming high GPA and finance classes taken there)?
It is not a great idea in the current recruiting environment to study abroad for an extended period because it will be far more difficult to network and win job offers. The experience is helpful for your story, but if you want to do it, try to do something shorter such as a trip for a few weeks or a month or maybe something only in the first half of your second year that will still let you interview in-person in the second half.
I was speaking to an MD at a recruiting event at the bank’s office, and his prediction about recruiting is that it will get pushed even earlier, and jump/skip the Summer, and move to April. So students will go through superdays and get offers in April 2017 for Summer 2018 internships, and have to answer questions about what they think they will be doing in their Summer 2017 internships that will prepare them for banking.
It actually already happens with “accelerated” and “diversity” recruiting. It’s all pretty ridiculous, but the MD said this is what happens when students decide to go into investment banking when they are in kindergarten, and write about being “Summer Analysts” at the age of 15 on their resumes.
How likely is this to happen?
Sadly, I could see that happening. Some people already interview for 2018 internships in May or June of 2017, so why not move it to April? It’s just another month!
Some of it is because of overly eager young students, but it’s more the fault of banks for using this strategy of “Grab them when they’re young so they don’t know any better.”
Thank you for another great article. With recruiting getting more and more accelerated, I was wondering what the level of difficulty would be for the technical interviews? How much does a rising third year student need to know to do well in these interviews? Thanks!
Thanks. I’m not sure if the earliness of recruiting changes the difficulty of technical interviews. You still have to know the fundamentals well so you can handle outside-the-box questions, but you’re not expected to know about more advanced or less common topics (e.g., the tax implications of different types of M&A deals). There’s now so much information on these topics that bankers expect you to do the research if you’re serious about the industry.
This is spot on. I noticed this trend this year as well when I went to go network with IB in the spring of my sophomore year. After doing the initial networking and having them look at my resume, I had my first interview in MAY, which I thought was nuts. I was working at an internship over the summer and pretty much was already interviewing for summer jobs for NEXT year.
It’s insane how early everything starts now, and you’re 100% correct in saying that they no longer get the best students, but they try to lock up whoever they can get early on. In the end, I decided IB wasn’t going to be for me, but this is a great article for any freshman or sophomore (a little late but there’s still time) looking to do IB.
Thanks! Yes, it’s a bit crazy… I wonder how much earlier they can reasonably move up recruiting.