The Rise of The Semi-Target

Don't you think it's weird how many kids from semi-targets are able to land good internships nowadays? I used to, but not anymore.

I go to a semi-target--a small LAC that has good connections in finance. I joke that half the people here want to be investment bankers, and I'm not far from the truth--it's probably more like one fourth. But somehow this school comes through and is able to hook up its students with good placement. I'm starting to see why.

The rise of the semi-target I believe is due to three phenomena.

First, the rise of the boutiques, especially in the middle market. This is primarily a function of the past few years' hot deal market, which drives up the demand for ibanks. Boutiques are able to step in and offer kids a job after they're denied by the big names, that's obvious, but now those jobs are worth a lot because of the demand for their firms.

Second, the falling importance of on-campus recruiting. This was primarily driven by the pandemic, but I don't see it returning once the pandemic goes away. It costs a lot of money to do OCR because the analysts and associates take time off work they could be using for a deal (or you have to pay (semi-)dedicated people to conduct OCR, which is also costly). And what's the point when you're going to get a ton of apps for your analyst spot anyway. Banks don't have to pitch themselves that much anymore--people learn about them through WSO or alums and the salaries speak for themselves.

And this is the last but perhaps more important one: The elite schools are not as elite as they once were. There's a lot of talent that's been pushed away from the elite schools for a variety of reasons, and the schools now have a comparatively less elite student body. It's a self-inflicted wound by the elite schools, but it basically means they don't have a monopoly on talent like they once did. You can find incredibly talented and intelligent people at schools with weaker names and banks and recruiters have been realizing this for a few years now. 

And once a semi-target gets its foot in the door, the floodgates kind of open. They have alumni connections to rally for the semi-target and help out the students. 

I think (and hope) that the rise of the semi-targets is here to stay.

Comments (49)

Controversial
Jan 26, 2022 - 6:04pm
brassmonk3y, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The elite schools are not as elite as they once were. 

So False. Literally in our president's speech he talked about how professors are astounded by how smart the kids are now versus 20 years ago. Regular Decision acceptances rates are 2-4% for the top schools and you have to accomplish an exorbitant amount of things to even break into one of the top schools (assuming you don't have a fat check daddy can write). The standards are way higher now, and will continue to get higher as the years go on. I'd say semi-targets are seeing better placement because a lot of kids at top schools are looking toward tech or ESG work rather than traditional high finance. 

Jan 26, 2022 - 11:59pm
SChI999, what's your opinion? Comment below:

What are these ESG opportunities that are so attractive that I'm missing? This is a genuine question.

And with tech, what opportunities are there for people who don't code? This is also a genuine question.

Jan 29, 2022 - 9:22pm
Brio, what's your opinion? Comment below:

ESG is the place to be rn for traditional strats

Jan 28, 2022 - 12:55pm
Schmuck55, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Also curious on the ESG piece - most ESG/Impact/Sustainability openings are looking for experienced individuals.

Array
Jan 26, 2022 - 6:20pm
Ovid, what's your opinion? Comment below:

"You dropped a hundred and fifty grand on a' education you coulda' got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library"

"In my short experience of human life I have found that the outward obstacles which stood in my way were not living men but dead institutions"

You're missing the point saying "So False. Literally in our president's speech he talked about how professors are astounded by how smart the kids are now versus 20 years ago. Regular Decision acceptances rates are 2-4% for the top schools and you have to accomplish an exorbitant amount of things to even break into one of the top schools (assuming you don't have a fat check daddy can write)."

The "exorbitant amount of things" have little to do with your aptitude, they say far more about how much time you spent buttering up your dossier to impress an adcom that participates in a laughable circle jerk. That's not to take away from all that buttering, that's an important skill to have when your MD loves bread. I would argue the discrepancy between top school admits and the plebeians is not as pronounced universally as it once was, of course every school has idiots, and sure semi targets have more, but the resources available to the seriously ambitious at both are largely the same. The monopoly persists in alumni networks and allegiances, but I doubt that changes. Why would you consider Harvard or Stanford to a full-ride elsewhere?  Not quality of education? Perhaps, the perception from employers/alumni connections? 

Jan 26, 2022 - 11:57pm
SChI999, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I actually think the alumni thing will change. 

A school requires a good culture to have a useful alumni network, and requires that culture to unite the alumni and the students. I don't know if the elite schools now are doing a great job at creating a culture that will last for years to come. I could be wrong though. 

My school would be a non-target without the alumni network we have. I thought I would mention that.

Jan 26, 2022 - 9:04pm
SChI999, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Well, since you brought it up...

I got a 1560 on the SAT. I had 6 AP tests with a score of 5. I graduated at the top of my class in high school.

And I got into (but didn't take) transfer offers from USC, Georgetown, and Vanderbilt.

And I'm a sophomore with an internship at a bulge bracket.

Intellectually capable? I think so...

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jan 26, 2022 - 9:45pm

I mean with those stats u probably could've gotten into Ivy League back in the day but not anymore since more emphasis on volunteering and other EC's. 

Jan 29, 2022 - 7:56pm
FuzzyBlumpkin, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I graduated in the bottom-10% of my high school class, and still went to the same BS Ivy League school (no I don't come from money, I was in the military) the whole target schools are BS, the best asoc on my team went to U of Alabama

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Jan 26, 2022 - 11:41pm

Is this one of Williams/Amherst/Middlebury/CMC? 

  • PM in HF - Event
Jan 26, 2022 - 11:42pm

> Don't you think it's weird how many kids from semi-targets are able to land good internships nowadays?

Not really, if you pull the right strings you could get a good job out of a non-target. Perhaps in 10-20 years I'll find myself reading an equally ridiculous post about "The Rise of the Non-Target"

>  Boutiques are able to step in and offer kids a job after they're denied by the big names

Spoken like a true intern. Many EB's are just as selective as BB's and have been competitive for a while.

> Banks don't have to pitch themselves that much anymore--people learn about them through WSO or alums and the salaries speak for themselves.

Damn, we should get this point to the marketing industry, no need for product placement and ad's on TV when you have word of mouth! Yeah of course there's always been word of mouth idiot, these talks serve to get students interested in the industry and in the company itself. Also you make it sound as if they're sending off half the analysts which is obviously untrue

>  The elite schools are not as elite as they once were.

Elite schools are more elite than ever, top uni's have the best candidates and the lowest acceptance rates they've ever. Top uni's are taking an even more disproportionately large amount of top internships/jobs.  

> It's a self-inflicted wound by the elite schools, but it basically means they don't have a monopoly on talent like they once did. 

Once again completely wrong, dude you seriously sound like you're trying to cope. Someone got rejected from Harvard and it really shows

> And once a semi-target gets its foot in the door

They already have their foot in the door, thats why it's called a SEMI-TARGET. With all these alumni connections and growing endowments their sort of like a target but no quite. Maybe you could call them like a "half target". You did a pretty good job summarizing this stupid post with one stupid sentence.

Jan 26, 2022 - 11:52pm
SChI999, what's your opinion? Comment below:

That's a little harsh. No, I didn't apply to Harvard. See my response to another comment nearby for more info. 

I honestly don't think elite schools are so elite. They don't admit based on how smart people are anymore, only whatever makes the admissions officers happy. It's hard to claim a school is super elite when they have a system like that. 

Feb 3, 2022 - 12:52pm
jebus9936, what's your opinion? Comment below:

>  Boutiques are able to step in and offer kids a job after they're denied by the big names

Those EBs you mentioned though have been around and kicking for a while though. I think hes talking about the actual boutiques that aren't well known outside the city/region

Jan 27, 2022 - 5:01am
TheBuellerBanker, what's your opinion? Comment below:

You're wrong in that prestige for target schools isn't falling whatsoever. It honestly likely never will. Especially in finance. However, your point has merit in that it is much easier to get a job in finance from a semi-target type of place given how much more open banking recruiting has been in recent years and the power of an increased alumni network. To be clear, I went to a non-target, so I clearly benefitted from finance being more accepting of traditionally non-core schools, but it's just wrong to think that elite schools such as ivy leagues are losing their clout.

  • 7
Jan 27, 2022 - 6:58am
rickle, what's your opinion? Comment below:

In essence, technology flattens the world. It is so much easier to network, interview, chat, recruit, everything due to technology. Just like the common app made it easier to apply to many schools, the Hireview makes it way easier for the companies to screen masses from anywhere. I forget which BB announced they were no longer doing OCR (I think JPM), but this trend will continue. The Pandemic eliminated many in person job fairs. Many of those are not going back as the employers have found they can recruit great talent completely virtually. Rather than spending the time and money to travel, they can assign X number of analysts and HR folks to screen Hireviews to a manageable number.

This opens the floodgates to many more universities. I think you'll find internal referring weight to have less influence across the board. Still need to network in some cases just to get a Hireview.

Genie is out of the bottle thanks to tech. That's not a bad thing.

Jan 27, 2022 - 1:24pm
jarstar1, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It's not that elite schools aren't where they used to be, it's that they haven't grown at the same rate as the general population. If you assume that there is a relatively fixed percentage of the population that fits into your qualification of "elite" (which I don't really have a good argument for why there wouldn't be), then what you just see is people who couldn't get in simply from space constraints going to other schools. If there was a time when the Ivies could could absorb all of the top 1% in cognitive ability (as an example), they definitely don't have that ability anymore. Not because they can't but because they choose not to, Harvard could readily double their undergrad population with hardly a drop in the bucket of quality, but they don't, so those students have to go to "semi-targets". 

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Jan 30, 2022 - 4:51pm

This. My guess is that the intellectual caliber of students in schools ranking from 15 to 30 increased more than any other cohort of schools in the past 20 years. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Jan 27, 2022 - 1:38pm

I interned at an EB where the shittest school in my intern class was Vanderbilt and now at a BB where the shittiest school in my group is Williams. Unless you consider these semis, I have not seen any.

Most Helpful
  • CEO in PE - Other
Jan 27, 2022 - 2:04pm

I'm a student interviewer for my ivy. 

Do you really think that ivy league schools are not elite anymore? 

I just interviewed a black girl from a lower middle class family. She has purchased a home via an FHA loan (3.5% down) with money she acquired from her online business, got a near perfect SAT score, has read nearly every investing book (intelligent investor, security analysis, etc.), and is a contract computer science coder for a FAANG company. 

These are the types of profiles that are going to ivy league schools today. I would argue that she is more successful than some of my former classmates

The typical near perfect SAT score, social work in Africa, valedictorian, upper middle class asian/white background goes to semi targets now. They would go to an ivy league maybe 10 years ago...

The truth is the world has become more competitive than it was before. There are less students at ivies that want to go into finance also. The ivies are seeking students that are more focused on impact rather than making money. 

Feb 7, 2022 - 2:40pm
mirrorsrcool, what's your opinion? Comment below:

To add on, she is also an outlier among outliers. And I second your point, a majority of students that go to Ivies don't want to go into finance anymore. So the top top top talent are those that are extremely bright, well-rounded, accomplished, hard-working AND want to go into finance, specifically banking and banking adjacent.  

  • Research Analyst in HF - Other
Jan 27, 2022 - 6:06pm

"The elite schools are not as elite as they once were. There's a lot of talent that's been pushed away from the elite schools for a variety of reasons."

If there are a variety of reasons, can you list some of them? You don't offer up any substantive evidence.

And finally, let me give you the real reason why banks are starting to hire more from non-targets. I once remember hearing an MD say that the elite college kids are often too smart for their own good. These banks want workhorses who just put their heads down and grind stuff out, not people who are constantly thinking about exit opportunities and wishing for more intellectual projects. In their experience, the hungry state school kid just sits at the desk and churns out models and powerpoints while the HYPMS kids are quickly burned out by the tedious and repetitive workflows. Banking is simply not a job that's suitable for those who are truly intellectually hungry. It may sound pretentious, but MD's themselves know it's the truth.

Jan 27, 2022 - 6:12pm
SChI999, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Yeah. They have "quotas" and the admissions committees accept kids who appeal to their worldview with regards to their extracurriculars and essays. There's a reason they're getting rid of testing requirements too--they no longer have to measure their student body in an objective way against other schools.

Speaking of testing, I think they're lying when their averages are so high, like on US News and World Report or on their own websites. When you look at their filings with the Department of Education (the Common Data Set) they show significantly lower scores (sometimes up to 100 SAT points).

And grade inflation is prominent and classes in those elite schools aren't much different from schools that aren't so elite. Look at Harvard--It's hard to not get an A there. With weaker grading and curriculum I think the school is made less elite. 

I left it very vague in the original post because I didn't want it to become that kind of post. 

Jan 27, 2022 - 6:41pm
johnny-mnemonic, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I turned down a semi target for a non target before I knew I wanted to do banking. I still broke in and am satisfied with where I'm headed. I would agree the gap isn't as wide as it probably used to be. There are numerous free online resources and most schools have at least a few alumni in finance.

Something that makes a huge difference is the positive feedback loop of repeated placement. When a few people get into banking in one year and help prepare underclassmen, you could expect more people to place in the future. This definitely depends on whatever programs and clubs are in place.

Jan 28, 2022 - 2:29am
Kevin25, what's your opinion? Comment below:

the most important reason is that less people want to be in IB now, especially in target schools, so banks have to open up for semi-target to have more options.

  • Intern in HF - EquityHedge
Jan 28, 2022 - 2:48am

Top target kids don't want to do banking lol buyside recruiting pipelines have been expanding at breakneck pace

Jan 28, 2022 - 1:22pm
perecruitingquestions, what's your opinion? Comment below:

As the last two comments have noted...

Nobody at top target schools want to go into finance. 

So your hiring options are 

3.0 from Yale who can't get anything better

or 3.7 from semi-target / 4.0 from non-target who have been dreaming about banking since they were 10

It's a real problem banks are digging deeper and deeper into bottom of barrel because they can't find anyone good at targets

Jan 28, 2022 - 2:23pm
AnalyzeANDchill, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It blows my mind how people in banking still think sometimes. To think that a school is the only thing that should weigh into your hiring decisions so heavily is crazy. Had a guy on here who was surprised the guy with the Art degree from Harvard was not as good as the guy he hired with a Finance degree from a non target. This is mind-blowing stupid and to me seemed obvious. 

Jan 28, 2022 - 2:20pm
AnalyzeANDchill, what's your opinion? Comment below:

i do agree the elite schools are not as elite i firmly believe the only advantage you have is networking, which is huge but of course can be overcome. I think the harsh reality people facing who go to those schools is now with technology no matter how much they need to tell themselves that there uber expensive degree was worth it its just not.

You can learn everything you need easily online if your school did not educate you properly. Cousin who is a director at AMZN has as many people from school like Mississippi state or UA working for them as they do from Harvard or MIT and yea sometimes the MIT people are better but its not as much of a sure thing as you would think. 

Jan 28, 2022 - 7:29pm
Smoke Frog, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is like the fat chicken saying she is happy that body positivity is gaining acceptance and that in the future fat chicks are here to stay lol.

Jan 29, 2022 - 3:08am
Gucci Loafers, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Wait until the after-Corona boom ends and you'll see that those points have nothing to do with reality. IB is a cyclical business and in a record period such as now the opportunity to get into better positions is 2/3 times higher than what it was 3 years ago.

Jan 29, 2022 - 9:43am
perecruitingquestions, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is right, at this point in the cycle, it's as easy as it gets, marginal candidates get jobs

Fed's mandate for maximum employment apparently applied to semi-targets /non-targets

Now Powell's tightening until you all start getting laid off and entry level stainless steel rolex prices comes down

Jan 29, 2022 - 4:58am
SunTzu, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Been in the game for 10 years... Buddy I won't read your novel up there, but the Ivy league still rules Wall Street. There are definitely more semi/non targets in high finance now, but the traditional schools still rule the roost. I come from a non-target in TX (SMU/TCU/RICE). In NYC/SF/LA, the Ivys will basically get their pick. However, I do agree with you in non-NYC/SF/LA, semi-targets have a great chance of landing a gig if they know their interview shit and are personable. However, coming from a semi/non target, know that the smallest mistake will sink you. As a simple CYA, big firms paying big $ simply don't need to take a risk on you. Although I do give all the solid nontarget resumes an opportunity...and big surprise... They are often as smart as those ivy league jackassses. Another caveat... the ivy's just crank out solid investment professionals.  

Life is more than dollars
  • 3
  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jan 30, 2022 - 10:51am

What makes the ivies "crank out solid investment professionals?" Is it because of the investment clubs and access to investment mentors like Dan Sundheim for Upenn, Coleman for Williams, etc. 

Jan 29, 2022 - 7:12am
SoraisWind, what's your opinion? Comment below:

In Europe it may be a little more diversified in terms of 'targets'. But still, being at the top schools that every MBB or iBank looks for is extremely influential. Dosen't matter were you are, France, the UK, Spain or Germany. And here, on campus activities by companies are still common.

Jan 29, 2022 - 8:09pm
imsurance, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Semi target is exactly as described between nontarget and target (revolutionary I know). But a lot of these kids had the stats to get into a target just not the luck. Others are super connected and average academically and both of these types will succeed in OCR. If you are neither and you dont get in at first (like me) you have a great brand to start building up your profile for an M7 MBA where you become a target candidate. Theres a few people from my undergrad with me at Booth and I had a network of students from my school across the M7 + Tuck/Yale/Haas.

Feb 7, 2022 - 2:44pm
mirrorsrcool, what's your opinion? Comment below:

No weird at all. MDs are my firm are always talking about how top talent is turning to tech and other industries. Banking is losing it's allure, even a good chunk (20-40%) of people that are in banking don't like banking. Tech has changed our world in the past ten years, and that's showing up in hiring. 

Feb 7, 2022 - 2:44pm
mirrorsrcool, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Feb 21, 2022 - 3:50am
RaulRCovin, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Feb 27, 2022 - 11:40am
NewIndustryHorizon, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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