Is it too late for me?

Short version is available at the end of the post if you don't want to read my life story.
Even though I grow up in a family where no one had higher education (mostly middle-school and a couple of high-school grads), I was always the best student in my classes but I had to drop out of high-school before I even started it because of the heavy depression that our worsening financial situtation caused me to get into (I'm not living in a western country so it was much worse than any westerner could empathize). I was a pretty avarage lower-class child with no interest in intellectual hobbies nor activities, with no ambitions or goals in life but with very-good grades. 
After I got bored of video games during my 2 year depression, I started watching some philosophy channels on Youtube; and then started reading philosophy, psychology and literature books. I always thought I was smart because my grades were near to perfect but after reading Nietzsche, Plato, Freud, Orwell, Camus, Seneca and Marcus A I felt that an another dimension in my mind has opened itself to me and to the outer world - I understood that I knew nothing before and will never know enough. My understanding of the world, my perspective, my goals, my ambitions and the way I look at the world and things has changed. Then, I started to disconnect myself from my family, my old friends, stupid ideologies, religions, time-wasting gossips, arguments, tv-shows etc. I joined philosophy and discussion groups on Facebook; learned so many new things and met so many smart, intellectual people. Started watching philosophical debates and history, science, economics channels instead of sports or gaming. And, to my suprise, our financial situtation started to get somewhat better. After two years, as my depression and mental state got so much better than before, my psychologist encouraged me to start home-schooling. I did and graduated within 3.25 years without any help from a tutor or anyone else - just by self studying. Even though I had social anxiety for all my of childhood, now I don't have a bit of social anxiety in me. My interpersonal skills are like a goddamn frat boy.
After some of my family members saw my extraordinary efforts and growing intellectual knowledge, they started asking around for someone to fund my undergraduate studies; a manufacturer agreed to it for tax-cuts for his business. In 2023, I will take the university entrance exam and most likely will get into a target-university. But, my question is that... Is it too late for me? I will be 21 when I start to my undergraduate studies where most people start it at 17-18. I believe that I will be able to graduate with a GPA over 3.80 and very good extracurriculars; so that should get me into McKinsey in a normal situtation but I will be 24 yo. To be honest, I'm worried and nerveous because I started to this journey with one goal in my mind; working in an industry that would be classified as 'elite', and currently, McKinsey is my only way to that goal.
Short Version: I will be 24 when I graduate and I'm worried that if I will be able to get into McKinsey. 

Comments (15)

Most Helpful
2mo
FinnesseGod, what's your opinion? Comment below:

First and foremost, your extraordinary efforts and resilience to climb out of that mental state is commendable. The work you put in and where you've built yourself up to now is proof of all your years of studying. 

Second, you define your end goal in being able to go to an "elite" firm, but in your story, I didn't see any reason or rationale for pursuing consulting. Given your interests in philosophy you may find a position within Public Policy, Academia or Public Relations to be incredibly rewarding. Continuing, you've defined McKinsey to be the only elite firm by some metric, but what of Goldman Sachs, or UBS? What of other industries altogether like Uber or Google? How are you valuing your outcome? Is it rooted in your skills, interests and passions that have driven you to this field? 

The growth comes not from the outcome, but from the continuous process. Once you "get into" a firm within consulting, you work ~10-14 hour days tackling revenue optimization problems, organizational transformation, cost optimization challenges and many other aspects for Fortune 500 companies (assuming you're exclusively pursuing bigger, well-established institutions). 

Finally, if you've taken a look inward and have decided that you still want to pursue a singular outcome-oriented view and target McKinsey as your end goal, then understand that you have no control over outcomes. You can only influence them at any given time. You may very well get into a great University and secure a top GPA. Then almost over night, a worldwide pandemic forces consulting firms into a hiring freeze in your year. Let's assume that these firms hire just the same, you could receive an interview and be their third choice of two openings. All this to say: focusing on the outcome places your value and happiness in the hands of external factors and seeks external validation. 
 

I would argue that you should approach your new experience with a more open mind; look into differing career paths. Do well academically, reach out as you would to learn more of consulting, but please don't conflate a single firm or job position to be the end-all, be-all for you. 

Back to your original question, I would argue that because you've developed yourself to the lengths you have, you can standout as an applicant - I would argue that a few years (~20-24) won't significantly hold you back in recruiting. I have an abundance of resources and documents that I can share further regarding the consulting landscape, including my resources in coffee chats, interview preparation and timelines. 

I understand I didn't answer your question, rather, I went onto a tangent to question your interest. If you feel that my approach or insights was misguided or ill-informed, please reply and we can discuss. 

2mo
Albert Camus, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank you for your thoughtful words.

Now that I realize I haven't gone into much detail about why I specifically want McKinsey, I will explain.

There aren't many prestigious consulting firms, investment banks, or private equity firms in my country. Hence, I don't have many choices to pick from. There aren't any international private equity firms; for consulting, McKinsey, Bain, and a couple of local ones; and for investment banking, as far as I know, JPMC has a very small team, but other than that, the other ones are small local investment banks. The thing I like about consulting is that it's more interpersonal, not repetitive, will require me to travel and use my critical thinking abilities, and will provide me an opportunity to work with different companies and know an array of people from different backgrounds, unlike IB/PE where I will have to spend most of my time in a cubicle till I work there for a couple of years. Also, I don't want to stay here for a long time, and for that, I have to work in a prestigious firm to either move out by networking or by pursuing an MBA, which McKinsey has a great program for. I have thought about companies like Unilever, Microsoft, P&G -not saying they're not prestigious-, but I believe they wouldn't provide the mobility and exit opportunities McKinsey will provide and the workload will be much lighter compared to McKinsey - as I'm willing to spend my 20s by studying and working more than 12 hours to build a more stable and better future myself, picking those companies would hinder my potential during my best years. 

Choosing a career in academia, public policy, or public relations would be walking towards a slippery slope. As much as there isn't any academic freedom outside of a couple of apolitical target-universities, the chances of becoming successful in other areas would be impossible for someone who comes from a low-class family like myself, as nepotism and classism are very popular here. The majority of people who choose to work in those fields come from upper-class families with connections.

I do realize that the outcome will not be solely in my control, as external factors will play a role in it as much as I do, but I would like to study with the peace of mind that I have a chance to achieve it even though I will be older than the other applicants. My fear isn't getting rejected by McKinsey because I'm not fit or for some other reason; frankly, I'm scared of getting rejected just because of my age. If not, I will make alternative plans for my future as it's not the end of the world, but it will be just harder to have a better future than if I was in McKinsey.

2mo
dawnidawndawn, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Age/background shouldn't affect your chances of getting in... I know plenty of people who made it into MBB with non-traditional backgrounds, whether they took time off from school, joined the military, etc. If anything, it could offer an interesting conversation or great input for the McKinsey PEIs. 

A few points of caution. Don't underestimate the odds of getting into a great school, doing well, and building a worthwhile resume. I'm sure you'll do fine if you work hard, but do not assume you will be able to attain all of these achievements and that your age will be one of the main variables detracting from your application. Additionally, there are many people who go to top schools, perform well, do ECs, hold leadership positions, and have cool experiences that don't make it to McKinsey. Also, I'd make sure you have other valid reasons for wanting McKinsey beyond what you mentioned..

Best of luck! I'm so happy for you that things have worked out for you and that your hard work has paid off. 

  • Intern in AM - Equities
2mo

Kid, you can't fuck your life up at 21 unless you do cocaine or have kids. 3 years is fucking nothing. Congrats.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
2mo

As someone who got an offer to Mckinsey, age has nothing to do with it. I also go to a top school in the U.S., and getting into Mckinsey is tough. All you can do is prepare the best you can, and then there will be many factors on the interview day that are out of your control - no matter how qualified you are or how much you prepared, or your connections at the firm.

1mo
ConfusedGuru, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Wish I could give more specific advice, but I know of an old high school classmate that recently got into McKinsey and he's very average in intelligence, maybe even below average, and unbearable in terms of personality - like he had no friends in high school. If that guy can get in, anyone can 

1mo
Big Banker Brand, what's your opinion? Comment below:

No one will ask you your age. Just don't put your high school graduation year in the resume

Array

1mo
invisible, what's your opinion? Comment below:

To reiterate what others have said, starting 2-3 years "late" is really, really not a problem. Nobody even looks at age. There are people who do military service, get sick or take time off for other reasons. I work in Europe. We had analysts in the bank starting at 27. I myself made VP in a top growth equity fund 3-4 years later than usual because I took time to work in a startup. The experience was incredibly valuable and made me a better investor. Literally nobody cared that I was a few years "older" than my compatriots 

Careers are marathons, not sprints. Success requires perseverance and discipline, and you have that quality in spades. So go out there young bud, and make this world your own. All the best 

1mo
DrApeman, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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