Breaking into the Buy-Side from High School

I just want to preface this post by saying that I am being completely unironic here. Please at least pretend to take me seriously.

I am a HS senior, and I recently finished all of my college apps; all that's left for me to do is wait. For now, I would like to get my hands dirty in the buy-side, but mostly HF.

I have a 3.9+ GPA and a 34 on the ACT. I have taken 9 AP's and 8 college courses, including all of the lower-division math courses at a public Ivy (multi-var calc, lin. algebra & dif. equations, and currently, discrete math). I have enough college credits to begin college at said school as a Junior.

I live in the Bay Area, so there are a ton of HF's (mostly in SF). My question is: would it be a complete waste of my time to cold-call every HF within a 15 mile radius, advocating for a nonpaid "internship" position? Even if there's a 1% chance, I would gladly call up 100 different corps if it means I could be in a HF over the summer.

Have any of you heard of onboarding someone pre-undergrad? I mean, I'm offering myself as free labor, which doesn't seem like such a crappy deal for any company.

And yes, I'm a virgin.

Comments (33)

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Feb 4, 2022 - 3:37pm

You'd be surprised of the opportunities that may arise from cold call/email blasts. Though, I'd say emails are more effective nowadays.

If you have the time, why not? I can see someone giving you a shadow experience but it's unlikely you're going to be getting a fully-fledged internship along with return offer prospects.

Feb 4, 2022 - 4:41pm
odd, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank you for the reply. I'll do emails then; they're easier to send out bulk, anyway. I definitely don't expect anything like a regular internship, but I would be really happy to spend some time in a HF - it would also help inform whether it's a career I want to take on in the future.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Feb 4, 2022 - 6:32pm

Agreed - a good email template will also help a ton. I'd look up some of the posts here regarding email templates. You should probably use the term "shadow experience" versus internship as it connotates a shorter-term and more learning (versus bitch work). Those kind of gigs are often informal and go to high schoolers / young college kids anyway, so it can't hurt to start blasting.

Feb 4, 2022 - 3:56pm
dickthesellsider, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You have the right to cold-call HFs, but you need to have good stock write-ups / ideas ready to go if someone is willing to talk to you. If you make a weak impression, you could hurt your chance of landing real internship / full-time investing roles because they will remember you negatively. 

Just because you are willing to work for free, doesn't mean firms want to take you on because they have to manage you, think about what tasks to delegate to you, when they can do it themselves quickly. So you could cost the firm time and productivity.

You need to prove your ability to complete tasks / find information / lay out numbers with minimal supervision, and not bother the senior analyst or the CIO with questions like "hey, what's difference between EBITDA and EBIT?" or "hey, what's the website to find the proxy statement?" (what I call the "first-level questions.")

Feb 4, 2022 - 4:46pm
odd, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank you for such a detailed reply. Do you think it would matter too much what style of theses I should present for the write-ups? I.e have multiple writeups for macro's, a couple on long-short, etc. Depending on what style the fund itself does.

  • Intern in Consulting
Feb 5, 2022 - 4:12pm

You're thinking of this the wrong way. You are not offering the privilege of free labor, but rather you are going to burden them with having someone who doesn't know what they're doing around in exchange for maybe some bitch work getting done. There are plenty of thirsty undergrads and even MBA students doing what you're doing -- why should they pick a high schooler? Doing what you're trying to do will be a lot easier when you're actually an undergrad at Haas. 

It would look nice in your resume, but probably not as much as you think it would. If a high schooler told me they got an HF internship, I would assume 1) They weren't doing any kind of real work, and 2) they got it through some kind of family connection. 

Those last few months of high school, when college apps are done and you're just waiting, they were the last times I was truly free. Drink some beer with your buddies, smoke some weed, talk to some girls. You earned it. There will be plenty of time to sweat about your career. 

If you're dead set on this, do it for the experience. Ask for some shadowing or basic level work. Eagerness to learn and being humble will take you far. 

Most Helpful
Feb 6, 2022 - 4:31pm
0to100, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Start a seekingalpha / substack account and blog your investment research. Get a decent amount of followers. Start a paper portfolio and treat it like it's real money by planning your benchmark, reporting your progress, and outlining every investment rationale with deep research. Start or join an investment club at your school, publish market & book summaries, maintain public data sets, develop business frameworks, learn to model, track industries trends, write up company deep dives. Pick up a more modest finance internship like wealth management if you must.

Don't confuse the signal with the noise. A HF willing to pick up a desperate college nerd who doesn't know a thing about tact will not mean much on a resume, nor will they respect your time as you already sold yourself short by offering to work for free. Someone who holds their investments to a high standard, even if on paper, is signaling real value.

Trust me. Although I don't work in finance, i've hosted plenty of "overachiever" interns in tech. The thing about Public Ivy's is that the culture gets pretty toxic about internship experience and invitation-only clubs. It's a rat race that brings the worst out of young naive students who are trying to balance the high expectations of their school's brand with their insecurity of having nothing real to offer to the workplace.

Trust me. I've read and written resumes for so many starry-eyed candidates. The more competitive the industry is, the more insecure and childish the recruiting game is. If you take away one piece of advice from me, it's this: Don't confuse resume virtues with the real value levers. Top candidates aren't good because they have an internship. They have a good internship because they are top candidates.

Feb 6, 2022 - 4:50pm
0to100, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Another piece of advice. Drop that 3.9 GPA + advanced math ego bullshit now. If you do get into a good school, you'll find its not that special and it's barely enough to compete at the national level in undergrad. This is doubly important since a lot of HFs don't even use advanced math. Although it may mean a lot to you and your peers, these HF gate keepers will have no concept of what you're trying to signal. "great he's good at math, lets put him in risk management". They'll simply label you as a nerd and judge you through their own shoes. Ie, "Does he have the business intuition and critical thinking I had when I was in college?"

Gotta learn how to play your cards right and communicate the right signals.

Feb 7, 2022 - 1:46pm
odd, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank you so much for your detailed reply. I think I'm just antsy to get started with the things I want to do, which is why I want to jump in (given most of the feedback here, probably not a good idea).

I finished a write-up over the weekend and am currently looking at Seeking Alpha and Substack. Do you have a preference for one over the other? Also, what do you mean by "maintain public data sets"? Thanks again.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Feb 6, 2022 - 4:48pm

I just don't think your ACT/GPA and school (pretty obviously Berkeley or UCLA) is good enough to pull this off.

  • 1
  • 1
Feb 7, 2022 - 2:01am
MacroJunkie, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I was something like you when I was in high school, so I know where you're coming from. Above posters have already posted great advice that I would definitely follow.

The only thing I'd add onto what they're saying is that learning basic accounting, how to use excel (intermediate to advanced), financial modeling, and how to read a 10-K (assuming you're interested in fundamental L/S and not quant) would probably be a better use of your time over the summer and will be helpful down the road for IB/PE/HF roles. Most overeager HS and undergrad students underestimate how much IB/PE/fundamental HF work depends on stuff like accounting (not economics or differential equations). I would be way more impressed with a HS student that had some decent investment write-ups on substack than with one that did an unpaid internship.

If you're into macro, I've written some posts on source material that I would want a prospective intern to have read.

  • Analyst 2 in CorpFin
Feb 7, 2022 - 9:13am

A friend of mine somehow had enough college credits by the time he finished highschool to also obtain his college degree. He went straight to work for a family office PE fund for two years and now is trying to start a hedge fund.

Mar 5, 2022 - 8:00pm
zz00zz, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Mar 6, 2022 - 4:41am
HFPM, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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