Big Ten is Paradise

You were always a hard worker in high school. You were a one-sport athlete and graduated top-ten in your 90 person class. You always loved to impress the people at church when you told them you were going to a state school, a feeling only matched from showing your teachers the big fish you caught this weekend.

You don't remember why you chose finance. Maybe it was after watching The Wolf of Wall Street with your father (after he was laid off from the union) - an experience as epiphanic as seeing your first minority, or maybe it was because you loved all three business classes your high school offered. Either way, you're in the big leagues now - you're going to be at the Iowa State University this fall, a true prestige that only 92% of applicants can flaunt. 


College life is everything you ever imagined, and more. Your fall career fair had BIG names attending like Caterpillar and even Northwestern Mutual. All of this, of course, was online.

You apply for an interview with Kathy from Caterpillar and practically SCREAM when you get the notification; "Kathy from Caterpillar would like to see you at the Fall Career Fair." You did several minutes of preparing before jumping on the Zoom call. You know what Caterpillar does inside and out, I mean you've used their excavators for every summer you can remember. You are ready.

Kathy jumps on the call at 2:50pm, the only time slot remaining from the 11:00 - 3:00pm event. She looks uninterested, but you're sure to win her over with your extensive company knowledge. "Alright god's sanest cokehead, tell me about yourself." This caught you off guard - what do you say? "My name is god's sanest cokehead, and I am a freshman at the Ivy College of Business. I am studying finance. I am from buttfuck-nowhere, Iowa. I know a lot about Caterpillar and I am interested in an internship." Nice, you think, an original, insightful answer. Almost immediately her questions seem to stray further away from Caterpillar and more about career advice. "What made you choose finance?" "Have you heard of the STAR method?" After a grueling ten minute conversation, you logged off and closed your laptop more dejected than your admission status to the University of Iowa.

This experience changed your life. You learned that you need to be prepared, you learned reverse chronological order formatting on your resume, and you learned to not wear a hat in a professional call.


In the spring semester, part of your Business Administration 101 course required you to find a professional mentor and have an informational interview. You shuddered at the thought of another conversation like that one with Kathy. Using the alumni channel, you try to find somebody from a company that you didn't care about, in the off-chance that you embarrass yourself again. You chose John from some place called Piper Sandler in Minneapolis.

At this point in your career, you've learned the importance of honesty, so you came right out and said, "Hey John, I have an assignment at the Ivy College of Business that is an informational interview, I am available at 3:00pm - 5:00pm on weekdays, let me know if that works." (You have a life too, you know). After two weeks you had no reply, so you followed up just like your professor taught you. "Hey John, just following up to see your availability for an informational interview? Let me know what works for you." 

Two days later you get a response! "Hey, god's sanest cokehead, I'd love to have a conversation. I'm in meetings all day so would 7:00pm work?" You gawk at that request. Why on Earth is he still doing work-related things at 7:00 in the evening? With no other options for an informational interview, you decide to bite the bullet and just do it. 

You spent an entire hour preparing for this conversation, loaded with some great questions: "What really is finance?" "What do you like about your job?" After seven months in school you have a well-written answer to "Tell me about yourself" and have no worries about anything John might ask. 

This experience changed your life. You learned the difference between corporate finance, sales, trading, and something he called "MNA", you learned what investment banking is, and after looking at the salary ranges, you learned that this is what you want to do.


After spending hours reading about what investment banking really is, you finally look up the golden question, "how do I become an investment banker?" You are continuing to see this term "Target School" come up. Irrelevant - you think - I have a 3.9 GPA after my freshman year, I am what employers seek

That summer was like all the rest, manual labor for your grandpa. Farm hand by day, finance freak by night. The thought of a six figure base salary fueled you. You began looking at what the ideal candidate's resume looks like and how to be the best fit for the job. Experience and character were recurring items. You know you have the personality, so instead you focused on how to get experience. Jobs or internships aren't something you have time for with your 14 credit course-load this fall, so instead you look for what student organizations your school has to offer and came up with a gameplan for your fall semester - get involved.

You began with the Wall Street Club, led by a board of fifth year finance majors. The first meeting was daunting. The president, Tyler, talked about the long hours, importance of experience, and even brought up that term target school again. He reiterated how Ivy is a "non-target" and that it is an uphill battle to become an investment banker. Still, you weren't worried.

The next week was the first meeting with an investment bank, or technically a "lower-middle market" as Tyler told the club. It was virtual of course, every one of the meetings were.

This experience changed your life. You learned the difference between MM and something called "Elite Boutiques", you learned how an M&A process works, and you learned why this group stands out from the rest.


After weeks of meeting with banks, you began to realize why Tyler was so harsh in the first meeting. It really is an uphill battle to break into IB. Yet you remain confident that Ivy, a top-57 business school, can give you what you need to succeed. 

Following a workshop where resumes and networking request email templates were tweaked, Tyler spoke to the club, "Next week, we are meeting with some alum from a Bulge Bracket bank and their stories on how to break in. I strongly suggest that you don't miss this meeting." The excitement in the room was palpable. A Bulge Bracket? Coming here?!

The day has finally came, the Zoom link has been sent out and you can hardly contain yourself. Unfortunately, only one of the two were able to attend; Peter, class of '13, but it didn't matter. The opportunity to learn from somebody on the other side, someone with a true success story, was enough. Peter shared his MBA-Associate route into banking and what we need to do in order to break in. 

This experience changed your life. You learned the importance of punctuality, you learned that you should be putting in the hard work no matter how long it took, and you learned the importance of d̶i̶v̶e̶r̶s̶i̶t̶y̶ networking.


By December you finally began to accept the likelihood that you are not an exception to the non-target truth. Beginning to scramble for what to do from here, you remember what Tyler said, "IU-Kelley is a semi-target school, and I hope that we can become one too." You raced to your computer to look up the transfer application to Kelley. Sure, you had an 86 in your intro to accounting but there was still the 25 point participation grade to be entered. After pulling up the university website, you are thrilled to see there's two days before applications close. 

Without consulting your parents nor checking your credit transferability, you send over the $130 transfer application fee. Your ticket to the life is still intact. 

Two months later, you receive an acceptance letter to IU-Kelley. You couldn't be more thrilled. As you read the documents, you slowly begin to lose some of that sentiment as you read:

  • ACCT 101 ------------------------- NOT TRANSFERRED
  • BA 101 ------------------------- NOT TRANSFERRED
  • BA 102 ------------------------- NOT TRANSFERRED

This experience changed your life. You learned that sometimes you need to take risks in life, you learned the prestige of a Big Ten school, and you learned that you will be spending a fifth year in undergrad. Big Ten is Paradise.

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