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Hi,

So first of all, let me be very clear that I do not intend this to be a put down/prestige whore thread, so please keep it civil. However, I am currently a student at a non-target and while I'm not even an overachiever there (GPA is only around 3.7), I often wonder if I had gone to a prestigious school if I could even compete there or if I would be stuck with a 3.0-3.3 GPA and still be in a pretty bad spot in terms of breaking into banking. I feel like I have just as much intellectual curiosity and work ethic to compete with the kids at some ivies, but all of my friends that go to a prestigious school are both incredibly talented and work very hard.

From what I've seen at my state school (btw, I mean complete non-target, not places like Ross/Haas/etc.), I feel like there are still a good chunk of kids that are book smart/able to get good grades, but there are very few intellectuals, which is the real difference between the quality of target and non-target kids. For example, at a state school, the top kids would get all or mostly As/A-s, pick up some leadership position or 2 at a large school club, then just party. At an ivy, on the other hand, my friends are not only getting killer grades and normal leadership positions, but also do a lot of outside reading/learning and are founding clubs/groups or winning huge awards on top of all that.

That's why I was wondering if anyone somehow knows this firsthand (i.e. someone who went to a large state school then to Wharton/Stern or something like that). I got wait-listed at Cornell/Vanderbilt-type places in high school and whenever I don't do well on a test, I wonder if I would get absolutely crushed over there, or if me not being the best at a non-target doesn't imply that I'd be screwed at a top school.

Sorry for the long post, but again, lets keep it civil.

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Comments (56)

  • aisixerdude03's picture

    Sohn Investment Contest Winner is not from the Ivy League, but from Indiana University. He is among a group of Investment Banking Workshop elite students, all of 28 whom have landed offers on Wall Street. This kid got the "true college experience" and has an internship at JP Morgan Investment Banking. Being the best at a non-target is a better deal than being mediocre at an ivy, and you might actually enjoy your college career.
    http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000024302

  • Al Bundy's picture

    Well the issue is I'm not the absolute best even at my non-target. I don't know how to explain it, but I feel like somehow, I have never been an academic "star" relative to a lot of people but I'm still "smart". I hope I'm not sounding arrogant, but I feel like I have a lot of intellectual curiosity, come up with new ideas, and can converse with my superiors intelligently, but somehow, I've always lagged far behind academically compared to my friends in terms of raw accomplishments (i.e. GPA, academic awards, etc.). That's why I wonder, since I'm only above average at my school but still knowledgeable, if I can compete against people who are all of the above (very accomplished, very talented, motivated enough to do more reading outside of school, etc.).

    Pretty women make us BUY beer. Ugly women make us DRINK beer.

  • YourWorstEnemy's picture

    I think you're overanalyzing the situation. And I think you're over estimating the intellectual capabilities of students from "target" schools. There are intellectuals at every school and there are also partiers. I believe you're confusing
    real intellectuals with "psuedo intellectuals" these are the types you see perched under a tree or at starbucks debating their psuedo intellectual interests. Chances are if you're doing well at a state school you would do well at a target. State schools usually have harsher grading policies compared to privates. You just have to learn to associate
    with persons that share the values as yourself, you may find them at your local starbucks or perched under a tree, maybe at the gay right rally. Who knows, obviously you have no real clue about human nature or how we operate as a species. Here's a tip get off the internet and read some got damn books

  • TropicalFruit's picture

    The undergrad admissions process isn't about intelligence. Ok sure you need straight A's and a good SAT score, but that alone doesn't get you into HYP. What differentiates the state schoolers from the HYP admits are 1. you have some extraordinary extracurricular that differentiates you from every other 4.0/2250 student 2. legacy 3. under-represented minority 4. luck. High school is easy as shit, most 16 year olds just don't care enough to put in the effort. The only difference between a motivated top student at a state school and an ivy league kid is that the ivy league kid was more ambitious from an earlier age. That being said, grades don't equal intelligence (although obviously they correlate).

  • trailmix8's picture

    I think state kids would get better grades at Ivy's cause they wouldn't have the same opportunities to party that they do at state. Therefore, would be more concentrated on studies.

  • ProspectiveMonkey's picture

    As one of the above posters said a lot of state schools have harsher grading scales than Ivy league schools. Some major schools like UW, UM are known for their grade deflation, in that they make it so only 10% of students can get A's in b-school core courses.

    Whereas Harvard pretty much allows the whole class to get B's to A-'s with a still pretty solid number (like 20%) getting solid A's.

    So GPA is not a way of looking at it. Your GPA may be better if you went to an Ivy League school. But I do think there is a lot more opportunities for critical thinking at Ivy League schools who have presentations done by Nobel Laureates, etc...

  • Babyj18777's picture

    I'm willing to bet your grades would be equal or better at an ivy league institution. First year economics is first year economics wherever you go for the most part; it's not like the ivies have a set of secret textbooks or access to a classified database where the real educational material is.

    Like the above poster said, many state schools are known for grade deflation while the inverse is true for the more prestigious universities.

  • Matthias's picture

    Eh idk I understand grades are curved at most non-targets a bit harsher say to a B-/B but look at it this way. To get an A in a course you need to be in the top 10-25% of students. Now this is easier to do when the majority of students aren't of a similar intelligence level/work ethic. Now I would be willing to say that an ivy would have its entire population of students in that 10-25% range from the non-target. So, I would think it would be more difficult, especially in the classes that curve, because the people you are competing with are that much smarter and hard working.

  • djr's picture

    http://www.usnews.com/education/articles/2011/01/0...

    Did a quick calculation by filtering out any school that's not Top 25 (I'm assuming those are the schools that aren't targets for the BBs, MBBs etc) and 191/500 went to 'Targets.' So 61.8% are from non. Is this a measure of intelligence? I dunno but it is a sign that there are quite a few smart people in non-targets who just didn't get the same launching pad as others.

  • Will Hunting's picture

    I can put in some direct examples into this:

    A girl I know from my high school was decently smart in H.S (90 gpa) and went to a community college bc she did not have money to go away. She got a 3.94 first semester and a 4.0 second semester at her C.C while taking 18 credits per semester.

    Then she transferred to an ivy after 1 year. Now, let it be known that she does not party, drink, or smoke. She actually hates those people. However, she is by no means a geek or intellectual...just a regular down to earth girl. Her GPA first semester at the IVY was 2.97 and 3.4 second semester.

    Come up with your own opinion/answer but she did everything exactly the same at both schools but the work was significantly more challenging at the IVY and the tests were MUCH harder.

    Also, alot of my friends say that their tests at less prestigous schools are not cumulative. I have not had a non-cumulative test at my particular target. You have to study much more for the latter and ggrades tend to be lower

    "Look, you're my best friend, so don't take this the wrong way. In twenty years, if you're still livin' here, comin' over to my house to watch the Patriots games, still workin' construction, I'll fuckin' kill you. That's not a threat, that's a fact.

  • mxc's picture

    Target is harder than non-target, at least that's my personal experience.

  • rickyross's picture

    This completely varies by student. Also the comment about CC above is not an apples to apples comparison. Community college is more analogous to high school course work in terms of rigor than it is a decent state school.

    People tend to think life is a race with other people. They don't realize that every moment they spend sprinting towards the finish line is a moment they lose permanently, and a moment closer to their death.

  • In reply to TropicalFruit
    Peter_27's picture

    TropicalFruit:
    The undergrad admissions process isn't about intelligence. Ok sure you need straight A's and a good SAT score, but that alone doesn't get you into HYP. What differentiates the state schoolers from the HYP admits are 1. you have some extraordinary extracurricular that differentiates you from every other 4.0/2250 student 2. legacy 3. under-represented minority 4. luck. High school is easy as shit, most 16 year olds just don't care enough to put in the effort. The only difference between a motivated top student at a state school and an ivy league kid is that the ivy league kid was more ambitious from an earlier age. That being said, grades don't equal intelligence (although obviously they correlate).

    +1

  • B-School Bound's picture

    You would likely get nuked down to a C+ B- your first term and then recover into a B+ A- range after a year. The nature of the top schools is that they are writing heavy. It has been my experience that most Ivy students are not more intelligent than the competition, but they do have better writing skills and tend to be more disciplined.

    If you could get the writing aspect squared away, you would likely be able to assume the discipline pretty quickly. The hard work ethos of a top school tends to be contagious, as the focal point of social life is oddly the library.

    Man do I miss undergrad . . .

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  • rothyman's picture

    I think it really comes down to discipline and drive.

    Ivy League schools have a different culture than a lot of non-targets, in which students's #1 priority is their academic & future professional career. A lot of times this is embodied in kids by their parents (who may have attended top schools as well). Those who make it to target schools who don't have an academically rich family usually are in the opposite situation and have the drive to 'beat their situation'.

    Non-target (not all) tend to be filled with middle of the line kids who may have come from academic families, but have other priorities besides $$ & drive to land a great career. It doesn't mean their dumber or smarter.. it's just a different outlook on academics and life as a whole.

    I don't think the actual course work differs between a non-target & a target than the culture differs.

  • ambition56's picture

    A lot of target and top non target have very similar grades/scores in HS. It's just that the Ivy kids were over achievers and in addition to having great grades, also had a lot of extracurriculars/sports/awards. If you go to class, do the readings and study for the tests, it's not that hard to get good grades anywhere, especially if you elect to take somewhat easier classes. Undergrad isn't that hard either let's face it.
    I also want to clear the misconception that if you "party hard" you can't get good grades. If you go out 3 nights a week from 11 to 3 am, that's 12 hours out of your week. Sure, you might be a little less clear headed in the mornings but still, it's not that much time. If you use your hours outside of partying to focus on your work, you can manage getting great grades, being extremely social and getting in your 8 hours a day. Work hard play hard no dicking around.

  • ceej010's picture

    Based on my experience at a top 50 public university, I would hope that Ivy schools are more challenging. The kids in the business school were borderline retarded. I specifically remember one student asking whether a+b+c equaled c+b+a in an intermediate finance class. And this school was a top 30 when I entered.

    Most tests were not cumulative and I did the math and figured that I studied <100 hours my entire four years there. I ended up with a mGPA of 3.9 in both my majors. Also, somehow I ended up with two B.S. degrees. ambition56 has a point though, I was a strong test taker (>1500 SAT) and just lazy in high school.

    In short, I think the smartest public kids would succeed at the Ivy schools as long as they got their act together, especially if that was the reason they didn't attend an ivy in the first place. However, the majority of students lack the intellectual ability. But I do hope that ivy schools are more challenging. Otherwise, I have questions about our educational system in general.

  • ceej010's picture

    One other thing to mention is that I don't believe the coursework is that much different, just the level of competition. Grades are usually relative so the stronger the competition, the more work is required.

  • propTradingScrub's picture

    Attending a top25 university. I screamed bloody murder when I compared my math finals to the finals of my state school (UWashington, well-respected). It was the same material, but we were expected to apply it at a deeper level.

  • In reply to ambition56
    Matthias's picture

    ambition56:
    I also want to clear the misconception that if you "party hard" you can't get good grades. If you go out 3 nights a week from 11 to 3 am, that's 12 hours out of your week. Sure, you might be a little less clear headed in the mornings but still, it's not that much time. If you use your hours outside of partying to focus on your work, you can manage getting great grades, being extremely social and getting in your 8 hours a day. Work hard play hard no dicking around.

    Idk how you party but for me its like having a second job or 2 extra classes haha. Start at 8am go till 3am-4am. Plus the next day you aren't really completely functional until at least noon. All in looking at 16hrs a day for 2 or 3 days depending on if you go out thursday night. So ~48hrs a week are spent drinking, passed out, or recovering.

  • In reply to Matthias
    ambition56's picture

    Matthias:
    Idk how you party but for me its like having a second job or 2 extra classes haha. Start at 8am go till 3am-4am. Plus the next day you aren't really completely functional until at least noon. All in looking at 16hrs a day for 2 or 3 days depending on if you go out thursday night. So ~48hrs a week are spent drinking, passed out, or recovering.

    I don't know about you but I wouldn't wake up at 8 am to get laid let alone start drinking. I'll give you 7 pm - 3 4 am at best if you're goin out to dinner/drinks with friends

  • In reply to rothyman
    JimYoungJr's picture

    rothyman:
    I think it really comes down to discipline and drive.

    Ivy League schools have a different culture than a lot of non-targets, in which students's #1 priority is their academic & future professional career. A lot of times this is embodied in kids by their parents (who may have attended top schools as well). Those who make it to target schools who don't have an academically rich family usually are in the opposite situation and have the drive to 'beat their situation'.

    Non-target (not all) tend to be filled with middle of the line kids who may have come from academic families, but have other priorities besides $$ & drive to land a great career. It doesn't mean their dumber or smarter.. it's just a different outlook on academics and life as a whole.

    I don't think the actual course work differs between a non-target & a target than the culture differs.

    +1

    "You Want details? Fine. I drive a Ferrari, 355 Cabriolet, What's up? I have a ridiculous house in the South Fork. I have every toy you could possibly imagine. And best of all kids, I am liquid."

  • Short Bus All-Star's picture

    Accepted to low ivies. Full ride to public top 20 engineering program. Went with the latter.

    Two main thoughts. First, there is a difference between being accepted and graduating. It is hard to be accepted from ivies, but easy to graduate.. Big competitive state school could care less if you graduate.

    Secondly, market place doesn't lie. Average Yale grad is likely underemployed or doing Teach-for-America dogshit type work.. Carnegie Mellon or Cal cs grad gets multiple 100k+ offers. Take a wild guess who is more capable and intelligent. Market doesn't lie.

    The most Darwinian university environments are engineering/cs/math programs at top science schools. Competing against global applicants, not Nard Dog types on crew scholarship. Compensation packages reflect this more every year.

  • In reply to ambition56
    Matthias's picture

    ambition56:
    Matthias:
    Idk how you party but for me its like having a second job or 2 extra classes haha. Start at 8am go till 3am-4am. Plus the next day you aren't really completely functional until at least noon. All in looking at 16hrs a day for 2 or 3 days depending on if you go out thursday night. So ~48hrs a week are spent drinking, passed out, or recovering.

    I don't know about you but I wouldn't wake up at 8 am to get laid let alone start drinking. I'll give you 7 pm - 3 4 am at best if you're goin out to dinner/drinks with friends

    Haha ya meant 8pm. Still stands at ~48hrs if you go hard 3 days a week.

  • MMBanker14's picture

    I got a 4.0 my first year at a non-target (think a school like Minnesota/Michigan State, but in a better location for recruiting), and my classes seemed easier than those I know at targets and semi-targets. Having said that I think I could still have a 3.75+ at almost any school in the country. But there are kids I know at my school who 4pointed their first year who would probably have 3.0s at best at much better schools.

  • Getgo's picture
  • gnicholas's picture

    I don't think there is much of a difference with a lot of people. I know I had the standardized test scores to not quite go to HYPS, but at least UChicago/Duke/Cornell, but I didn't take high school seriously and had a 3.3 in HS. I ended up going to a low end semi-target public school (Illinois/Wisconsin), and now that I actually apply myself I do quite a bit better. Same person, different mindset, means a whole different experience.

  • MMBinNC's picture

    I always have thought that top people at a non-target would be top at any school, but mid-line would be probably the a bit lower at a target. It probably depends on the major more than anything. I think my GPA would be higher if I had the opportunity to be a Finance major rather than an Economics major. Not because Econ is harder but because it requires a different type of thinking (sometimes non-linear). I feel that it is the same with all preprofessional majors like accounting, marketing, etc. Liberal arts is often harder because it is more abstract, and it is so far removed from what people learn in high school.

    Reality hits you hard, bro...

  • MMBinNC's picture

    Also, freshman year often doesn't mean shit. If you take the right classes you can get a high GPA easy early on. I didn't (BTFD by pneumonia lol). Although one thing I have noticed at state schools (my sister goes to LSU and many friends go to UNC) is the preponderance of multiple choice tests. I think I've had 4 multiple choice tests in my 3 years of college (overloading every semester)...

    Reality hits you hard, bro...

  • CompBanker's picture

    I think this is a bit of a toss-up. For sure the top 5% of students at most any school could at least cut it at an ivy. From my experiences, I find that non-target kids in general are either less naturally intelligent than target kids, or they are less polished. Students that come from the likes of Harvard, Yale, or Princeton have generally been success stories their whole lives and therefore have 10+ years of hard work, retained knowledge, and experience in both academics and extracurriculars. Students from non-targets, even the brightest ones, generally can't make up for this and it shows even in general conversation.

    Obviously exceptions exist, and there are lots of them. There are certainly fewer spots available at each school than qualified students to fill the spots, so logic would tell us that the lesser schools have their own set of top echelon students.

    CompBanker

  • rickyross's picture

    Compbanker, curious how does it show in general conversation? Not sure what you meant exactly.

    People tend to think life is a race with other people. They don't realize that every moment they spend sprinting towards the finish line is a moment they lose permanently, and a moment closer to their death.

  • mxc's picture

    It's funny how target grads never complain about non-target degrees being "good enough" when compared to theirs. It's always the other way around.

    Funny indeed.

  • In reply to CompBanker
    Gloomberg's picture

    CompBanker:
    I think this is a bit of a toss-up. For sure the top 5% of students at most any school could at least cut it at an ivy. From my experiences, I find that non-target kids in general are either less naturally intelligent than target kids, or they are less polished. Students that come from the likes of Harvard, Yale, or Princeton have generally been success stories their whole lives and therefore have 10+ years of hard work, retained knowledge, and experience in both academics and extracurriculars. Students from non-targets, even the brightest ones, generally can't make up for this and it shows even in general conversation.

    Obviously exceptions exist, and there are lots of them. There are certainly fewer spots available at each school than qualified students to fill the spots, so logic would tell us that the lesser schools have their own set of top echelon students.

    What about people who went to non-targets, and then later on got into target schools to do an MBA from HBS?

    What are these people then? Half-polished?

    Frankly, I find your post quite patronizing. I went to a target for undergrad and I am at a top 10 MBA and we see plenty of kids from lowly ranked universities and I could not have told the difference if they went to a target or not without them telling me

  • In reply to rickyross
    CompBanker's picture

    rickyross:
    Compbanker, curious how does it show in general conversation? Not sure what you meant exactly.
    I think a big part of it comes from being articulate. I find people that are well read are often better able to articulate their thoughts in a concise, effective manner. Through my experiences to-date, I've quickly realized that the way in which a message is communicated is almost as important as the content, especially in a business setting. While this skill isn't exclusive to people who attend "target" schools, I find most target school kids have it.

    In addition, many target school kids appear to have a more expansive array of experiences to draw from. My belief is that this stems from target school kids' propensity to involve themselves in extra-curricular activities that go beyond sports and athletics. I also assume that many target school kids came from well-to-do families in which opportunities for travel or cultural exploration were abundant and encouraged. Just a guess though.

    Again, this is a generalization and clearly there are a great deal of people who don't fit the mold. Also, I personally went to a school that most folks outside of New England have never heard of and would classify myself as someone who is NOT well-read nor sophisticated.

    CompBanker

  • kraken's picture

    The skills required to succeed in college are not the same as the one required for school. A good chunk of the variables that explain how someone fares in college are not intellectual and are mostly related to the psychological situation of the student. That said, Iv'e seen some serious retards who have attended target schools and some bright, educated and smart people from non-target schools.
    I believe the main difference comes from the network and the school recognition.
    I attended an engineering school in LatAm and academics who have taught in Ivy league school believe that many students from my school would fare quite well in these elite schools. (I have a cousin who is at Harvard Law and another one attended Yale and I don't think they are super-smart nor anything like that).
    Let's just put it this way: G. Bush attended Yale ...
    I still think that on average target school students are smarter or more skilled. But I believe someone who transferred from a non target school to a target one will perform just as good as he doing was previously.

  • CiroCorp's picture

    I would kick ass.

    just kidding, but I'd imagine the increased competition would bring out the best in the stand-outs from the non-targets

  • selfstudy's picture

    It's kind of silly to contend that targets have people of higher natural intelligence than the non-target schools. Innate intelligence is not that well reflected in academic endeavors. More important is your drive and the amount of time you put in to your studies. The target crowd have been in a competitive academic environment all their lives and thus have built up this drive.

    As to the question of whether you would've succeeded in a target, it's probably unlikely unless you have built up a habit of academic excellence throughout your early years. You cannot just expect to work hard in college and beat other people who have worked hard their entire lives.

    But just remember these kids at targets are mostly people with normal innate intelligence just like the state schoolers. Only a few can claim genius level natural intelligence, aka kids who will effortlessly beat you in any class if they tried. These people are likely math, physics, or cs majors.

    That brings me to another point. People are often biased toward their school or similar schools. Targets will tell you the intellectual rigor of their courses, and non targets will scream, we too, have tough courses. Chances are though, they all were in the same grade inflated classes. Those who took hard classes know who they are and hopefully don't shout that any chance they get. I certainly did not take hard classes.

  • UFOinsider's picture

    You should be fine at an Ivy, and fine without it. It's largely a matter of what you WANT to do. I know several people who declined ivies and several who went to ivies....and everyone did ok.

    Get busy living

  • eriginal's picture

    This is a strange argument. I go to a non target and would argue that people that go to target schools are generally smarter. It's not that everyone at a target is smarter; just a higher proportion than at a non target.

    Your fooling yourself if you think that the competition would be equivalent at Harvard to some no name state school. Yes maybe YOU could compete, but it would be harder to achieve the same GPA when every person you compete with has greater drive/natural intelligence than his state school counterpart. I consider myself fairly intelligent and it is not a challenge to compete with my borderline retarded/generally unmotivated "colleagues."

    In a side note, I would argue you get a better eduction at a non target. This is because although the professors are not as good classes are NEVER taught by grad students. Correct me if i'm wrong but most undergrad classes at Ivies are taught by grad students.

    "One man with courage makes a majority." -- Andrew Jackson

  • Nandrinlouis's picture

    somewhat relevant to this discussion
    http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2010/07/27/th...

    about how the superstar corollary allowed some with less than perfect gpa's / sat's to break in to ivy league schools

    "The Superstar Corollary
    Being the best in a field makes you disproportionately impressive to the outside world. This effect holds even if the field is not crowded, competitive, or well-known."

  • Unforseen's picture

    Aside from intense eng, sci schools like MIT and Caltech, I think the average non target would do slightly below average in an ivy and below average in a small liberal arts school. The reason is the curve. You lie to the left of the curve the smaller the average class gets if you are an average student in a non target.

    If you are top 5% in a non target you are most likely a top 5% in a target.

  • In reply to ambition56
    APAE's picture

    ambition56:
    Work hard play hard no dicking around.
    This really is the key. This is tangential to the original topic, but so many people spend hours dicking around doing useless things. I can't count how many times I've lost hours on the Internet and just thought, "Man, where did my day go." Study hard - rape your classes, play hard - rage and enjoy the best four years of your life.

    Most people do things to add days to their life. I do things to add life to my days.

    Browse my blog as a WSO contributing author

  • W845's picture

    The biggest difference is at state school they do not teach anything, it is up to the student to learn. In private school they have built a system where the student is taught the material. The public university I went to had a tougher grading policies to weed out the "weak" students. Private schools take the students and mold them.

    Based on my experiences, I perform better in a more competitive school as long as their is a support system in place. The quality of the competition(students) and the quality of the coaches(professors) makes the difference between a top tier and any other university.

    I transferred from top public to private. My work is amplified by the professors and students because they challenge me. At the public university, I was left with whatever I figured out for myself, then tested on it.

    The best strategy is to work hard and be a leader. Hobbies are important but playing is for children.

  • ambition56's picture

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