what should i do.... (break in vs grad school)

it's currently the second semester of my sophomore year and I go to a semi-semi target. I'm international student, female. My current gpa is only 3.45....

major in econ and philosophy. I did an intern at a private equity firm (in shanghai) in freshman year summer. I did not apply to any diversity program. 

I do aspire a career in IBD for whatever reason, but my gpa is a big problem and the competition for international student is extremely extremely intense. (from what I know, BB offer more seats for international students than boutique, so if I ever wanna break in, BB might be my only option?)

I just feel like with my current gpa even if I apply to all the 2023 programs I won't get in, so there's no point of applying and networking. If I manage to bump my gpa to a 3.7 or above in junior year, everything will be too late because all firms already finished their recruiting and there will be no room.

So does it mean I need to change my career path to something else? Maybe go to grad school instead?

Or ibd in hongkong? (from what I know, ibd in hongkong do recruit later comparing to the states but they put a greater emphasis in technicals and your school names, so my gpa and school might not even get me through the first round....)

At the end of day, I might just get a phd in philosophy and try to study the nature of time...IMAO

Comments (14)

Mar 12, 2022 - 8:37am
johnruth, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Do not overthink. If you really want it, go for it. You will break in eventually. Be smart about your approach. Network. Spread applications broadly. Not only BB. Think about getting your foot in somewhere less known (midmarket) and lateral! Then, your GPA that you hopefully will start to push up will get a second chance.

Most Helpful
Mar 12, 2022 - 10:13am
silverchimp, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Steps that I recommend are strictly my opinion, I am more of a UK background so my advice may not be valid, but do work in BB:

1. Change your WSO name, I found your linkedin, even though there is nothing on it please be more cautious of your online presence. I just need your name to find out who you are and social life, your date of birth to find your identity and social numbers, and social media to talk to your friends and get your phone number/email.

2. Stay calm you do have time, applying directly for grad and you do have another summer assuming you have 4 year degree, effectively you have 2 more opportunities to score. Your original plan of boosting your GPA is good, but please couple it with good interesting extra-circ. I think in my opinion your GPA is reasonable, not amazing, talk to you professors on how to improve and be more proactive, you seem like you know what to do. As for this summer do keep busy and get another internship, even if its back at that PE shop, but network for a sell-side, so at least in an interview you could pitch that you had some experience and idea what they do.

3. Broaden your search, from the sound of it you are willing to work in different areas of the world, use that to your advantage, you can effectively apply to programs in Shanghai, NY, HK, try more? but be responsible and don't over do it, e.g. don't apply to JPM IBD HK SH NY GZ TN, alarm bells will be ringing in HR. But I would focus more on China, as you have hit the nail, international students share a smaller bucket in recruitment nowadays. I know you probably want to work in the states, but right now its about options, options options, you should at least try to get a solid offer before crossing things off, this is my opinion. You can work in China and work to get a lateral, tbh it's really hard to do it, but it's better than not getting an offer at all.

4. Network Network Network, make sure your CV is up to scratch and get it out there, referrals chat to teams, and again I would focus in China, mainly because that's your best chance right now. I was in the same place and applied to only the country I studied in, which meant me rushing for apps for different regions. Get out an excel sheet and place which banks, which locations and when they open, and who you plan to talk to, and ask for that referral. You probably heard this already, but don't give up!

Mar 14, 2022 - 11:06pm
biercelee, what's your opinion? Comment below:

the reason I want to work in the states when I graduate is because I think it will be a strong addition on my resume. My long term career goal is to join as a co-founder/CFO in a green technology startup (potentially in China). Working as in IBD then PE, and MBA may give me conncections and technicals that would qualify me as a strong candidate for a CFO position. By now, I think a career in IBD in states will give me the best chance for the path I visioned afterwards. 

Thank you very much for your advice! 

Mar 12, 2022 - 10:14am
silverchimp, what's your opinion? Comment below:

5.  Improve your branding, I don't know how it works in the states, but women in stem SELLS in IB recruitment, if you have the opportunity to go for more stem for your CV take them! + you likely know mandarin Bonus! So do keep on top of the diversity initiatives add them to your excel from step 4, these firms want you, you are a female breaking in a male dominated industry from out of the pandemic who can live (relatively) independently from your family, who can have a better idea of understanding the Chinese financial outlook through your language, be confident in yourself.

6. Don't do a phd for the sake of it, that is literally 5 years in your life, causing injury with a deadly weapon/ carrying an illegal firearm carries the same time in prison, Seriously!!! What is Morgan Stanley going to do with a Phd in Philosphy, add Plato quotes to their research reports?? In my opinion they would prefer a MSc in Maths (role dependant, you get the idea). I am not dissing philosophy students, they can still get into IB, there are just alot less of them.

7. That being said, in my opinion I do feel like most people come into IB not knowing completely for sure if they want to do it, some do, good for them. I do get the vibe that you may be jumping in because your friends say OOOOh IBD as they flock and grab BB merch like gremlins. If other industries interest you, add it to your excel list and really do your research, is this what you want? because if so you need to put in the hours to get noticed.

8. Have some luck. After all that you may not have gotten anything, and that is ok! keep a backup plan and maintain good relations with that PE shop, they may give you the ticket you need!

8 steps, 8 is lucky in Chinese, so goodluck to you. I need some too I am applying for lateral ops, and I am fricking nervous, I go to sleep thinking about it.

Mar 14, 2022 - 11:11pm
biercelee, what's your opinion? Comment below:

LOL, for the philosophy part, I just mean if IBD is not a career for me, I might just try to get tenure in philosophy.

Mar 12, 2022 - 8:19pm
AutisticChimp, what's your opinion? Comment below:

1. Overall, your chances aren't terrible, yet. 3.5 GPA is the hard cut-off for most banks, so you're close and can probably get there within this semester if you try hard enough. It'll be a bit of a disadvantage compared to people with 3.8s and 3.9s, but it's something you can make up for elsewhere like with networking and behavioral responses etc. (Hong Kong might be a bit harsher, but I'll talk about that later). Many banks will still recruit during your sophomore summer / junior fall, and hopefully by then you'll be a 3.5+. Or even if a lot are closed by the time you get this semester's GPA, you can still aim for a 'lesser' 2023 junior year internship and try to do better in full-time recruiting

2. More importantly, IB really isn't a career you can break into half-heartedly "for whatever reason". You should reflect seriously on your career goals and be prepared to devote a lot of time towards IB recruiting if that's what you want. Even if you have a 4.0 GPA, you won't get into IB with that kind of attitude (and trust me, it will show in your interviews). Going to grad school or getting a PhD in philosophy will lead to a very very different life for you, both 5 years down the road and 30 years down the road. You need to think about those implications because I argue you still have a choice right now.

Assuming you still want to do IB...

3. Apply to everything anyway. Any interview experience you'll get is very valuable, even if you get cut first round every time. You don't recruit only once in your life. Recruiting is repetitive and requires experience to do well. Do not ever excuse yourself with "I won't get it so I'm not going to apply"

4. If you want to recruit in the US, which it sounds like you do, I highly encourage you to look for a sophomore year internship in the US. Having only internship experience in China will be major setback for you recruiting later on in your junior & senior years

5. BBs do not offer more seats to international students. They have more seats, but they are less welcoming of international students. If anything, I would argue that boutiques tend to be more flexible to different backgrounds and be more flexible to international students

6. Doing IB in Hong Kong sounds like a very good alternative for you, if you're open to that. You have experience in Asia, your language skills will be more of a plus, and most importantly, you will have more time because HK recruits later and also recruit masters students. If you really want to buy time, you can spend your remaining 2.5 years of undergrad ramping up your GPA, get into an ivy-level masters program (which is actually quite easy) and then recruit for HK IB during your masters program

Mar 14, 2022 - 11:17pm
biercelee, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank you so much for your advices!!! It's super helpful!

For the HongKong part, what kind of masters? Like a master in finance?

Mar 13, 2022 - 11:20pm
Jean_Henry, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Keep your visa situation in mind and consider it as a con and make sure you are twice as good as your competition for a bank to sponsor you. Mostly  BBs sponsor and some exceptions in EBs. (you can find a list here on the platform of the banks who sponsor)

Also, have the mentality that why would a bank take a foreign semi target student on H1B1 over a local Harvard one, so you need to be the perfect candidate 

The banking scene in Hong Kong is decreasing due to their oppressive covid restrictions and problems with China. In addition to that  many banks have called their top executives to Singapore, so keep in mind the Hong Kong's future situation since it may not be the finance capital of Asia in the future 

Mar 14, 2022 - 11:26pm
biercelee, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank you! I will definitely keep that in mind. (In best case scenario, I will be working in 2024. Two years can happen a lot of things)

Mar 14, 2022 - 9:51pm
iridescent007, what's your opinion? Comment below:

All solid advice above and OP, as you can read, international female students do have a relatively easier time landing IB spots compared to your male counterparts. I'm dead serious.

Feel free to PM me about the HK banking market.

In general no, you don't want to work in BB's mainland offices. Exits are not as good as you might think. There are a couple of exceptions though, and BB mainland offices do pay well.

IBD in HK is way less technical than that in the U.S. or U.K. I don't know who told you HK recruiting is more technical. It's not like that. I personally know 3 VP+ who has not done any single financial valuation type of technical work except pulling P/E from Bloomberg and/or Wind and multiply that by a PF net income

Mar 16, 2022 - 1:45pm
Matayo, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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