18-year-old studying for CFA and looking for pre-university internships

To keep this short, 

I'm an 18-year-old gap year student attending university in London in September to study economics, and would like to venture down the investment banking pathway and so I already know how important it is to get ahead of the game. 

My first question is: is 18 too young to start studying the CFA exam content (bear in mind I know that I cannot actually take level 1 until the final year of university)? I've read other articles similar to this - one article regarding a 15 year old - and saw people commenting things like "enjoy childhood" and "your work isn't going anywhere go out with your friends and have fun while you can". I get that. I really do. But thanks to a deadly, highly contagious virus I couldn't do anything fun in my gap year, and although I haven't got long before I get to university I want to do something productive for the remainder. 

 I've already started reading up on some of the CFA content (e.g. fixed income, quantitative finance, economics, etc.), and I do have a genuine interest for these things (and I get that sounds weird, but I've always been a bit of a nerd). 

My other question was regarding internships. Can I a CV-worthy internship as a gap year student? Or should I just wait till I reach university?

Any response from anyone would be greatly appreciated. I only just signed up to this site so I'm still trying to get used to its features.

Thanks a bunch!!!!!!!!!!

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Comments (13)

Most Helpful
Jun 4, 2021 - 8:33am

tbh before uni starts there's not much you can do lol. I don't know why you're looking at the CFA at all when you literally don't need to do it in order to get a job in investment banking unless you mess up in university and don't get any springs/internships which converted. This is like preparing for failing the entire undergraduate journey towards IB before starting i think. You said you're going to a university of london to study economics meaning there are really only 3 (read: 2) universities that will make IB feasible - and I stress feasible not guaranteed since more oxbridge applicants to any one spring week will get rejected than get the actual offers and the same is true of all unis, The universities being; UCL and LSE as they are core target schools for investment banking and a quick linkedin search will show you that they tend to place in FO more than some of the other target schools (oxbridge) - although wayyyyy more people from UCL and LSE apply to these lol. If the university is KCL, which is a semi target, you can still absolutely get in without the CFA but might get less interviews and such for springs/summers.

Other non-target london universities will be a tough sell but is still doable, especially if you're really driven and fit diversity quotas nicely. -If not then thinking about post grad courses at targets would maybe be sensible but the CFA really isn't going to benefit you, you're applying to IB through university schemes like summer internships and that. If you have decent grades at A-level; A*AA/AAA+ and aren't going to a target I'd reapply, even for a course that isn't economics. Schools like UCL do contextual offers too but if you're relying on them you won't get past CV screens for springs anyway. What you can do now: raise commercial awareness - your main target is spring weeks which you will apply to in october at all the big banks, I'm assuming you're not interested in proprietary trading/quant so no need to do mental maths/brain teasers to prepare just read the FT semi-regularly. Work experience isn't important for springs, the application process is quite standardised ==> CV(format correctly) and go to a target school  ===> basic pyschometric tests and then the major hurdle =interviews.

The only work experience that would help you are the ones that JP morgan, Morgan Stanley and rothschild + some quants organise for sixth form students that fast track you towards a spring week so you can skip the applications in first year but the deadlines for ALL of these passed some time ago. Get to uni, join societies, read up. Why investment banking? Who are the clients? Which FO role do you want? These are the questions you need to know the answers to now in order to be reasonably prepared. Also, IB isn't as well paid as you might think and i  hope you either love the job enough to stay after you finish your first 2 years and get to associate or have a clear idea of where you want to go into after (i.e the more lucrative side of finance such as HFs, PE etc) maybe corp dev?

Jun 5, 2021 - 7:02pm

thank you so much for this it really helped! 

I also should've mentioned that it was KCL, I got A*AA in my A-levels (Chem, maths and econ respectively if that makes a difference which I doubt it does), and I'm British Asian if it improves their diversity image lol.

Jun 6, 2021 - 9:51am

British Asian is technically BAME but are hardly an extreme minority in the workplace  so probably won't help as much tbh. You're going to KCL anyway so it shouldn't be a huge issue.

Look at this: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1n1vLYhVzGB_g7_eJKCebn21C8dyb7x5r/view (only look at IB since you're not interested in consulting and stuff) and decide whether or not KCL is fine with you or if you should reapply.

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Jun 4, 2021 - 11:19am

My 2 cents - 

Pros of getting CFA:

1) If you want a job in IM/AM - not IB

2) If you want to distinguish yourself from others (regardless of the job). This is the most common reason for getting the CFA. It is not needed - just looks better. 

3) If you struggle in Undergrad and want to redeem yourself via Masters/MBA - CFA will enhance your profile to the admissions committee. 

1) People see CFA as a replacement for MBA if you want a IM/AM job. 
2) CFA is not as lucrative as people think. For Finance students - CFA is not a requirement, compared to accounting students where CPA is. 

Should you start studying now? 
I think it is a bit useless to do so. I like the fact that you want to be productive - but studying now will be counter-productive. You have 3 years to go. More than likely you will study now, than study a bit later to refresh what you learned, and will repeat this process for 3 years. Just to take the CFA L1, this WILL burn you out. You will be mentally drained to the point where you will lose interest in the CFA. You are probably thinking - no, I won't lose interest, no I won't burn myself out. But keep in mind, you definitely will and studying now will be counter productive. 

There are 3 things I will recommend -

1) Job/Internship/Volunteer - I think it is worth getting an internship. But an off-cycle internship for a gap year student is extremely HARD and RARE. You need to network to get this opportunity. Possibly look for a part-time job and save as much as possible for the future. Maybe even start volunteering! Extracurricular activities look great on a resume. 

2) Online courses - If you want to be productive - instead of the CFA, take some online courses on udemy, edx, khan academy and brush up on your skills. Excel/Coding/learning the stock market. Any skill that will make you better. 

3) GMAT - While I suggest not to study for the CFA, start polishing up slightly (don't start full-time) on studying for the GMAT. If Masters/MBA is in your future goals for IM/AM/IB, you can start studying for the GMAT and apply to deferred applications (2+2s) during your senior year. During your senior year, if you have an amazing GMAT score, you can apply to MBA schools, go work for 2 years, and have a guaranteed admission to a top MBA program. 2+2s are hard to get into. So your GMAT/Academics/Extracurricular (Volunteer and participating in schools), internships have to be on point. 

Good luck with how you decide to proceed. It's good to think ahead, but sometimes it can bite you back. 

  • 1
Jun 4, 2021 - 11:15pm

If your from UK like your profile suggests, would highly recommend either learning a European language or how to code etc instead. Learning another language would help you a lot with Private Equity for example and can clearly help differentiate you from competitors, same with learning to programme. Both also take a considerable amount of time to learn, hence I'd say it's a better use of your time than revising the CFA right now which honestly isn't entirely necessarily and relevant to any entry-level finance role anyways, including AM since most going in wouldn't have even taken L1 anyways.

Jun 6, 2021 - 9:47am

worth noting that coding won't help in investment banking at all. That being said you should learn the basics since its an increasingly important skill to have. Learning a language for the sake of IB is also silly and a massive waste of time, if you're into the European languages anyway then yeah learn them with the side benefit of them helping your applications.

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