I feel like a Failure

A day after I visited my target school when I got in, I was in a major car accident. I was in a coma for a month and suffered a traumatic brain injury. What I also did not know at the time was that I had undiagnosed ADHD, which was amplified by the brain injury. My parents told me to take a gap year, but I was confident that I could push through it as long as I took a light course load my first semester and didn't stay on campus. This led me to miss out on most of the freshman year fun, but I also quickly realized even with academic accommodations my academic abilities were no where close to where it used to be. I ended up with a 3.4 GPA right before IB recruiting in sophomore spring, and I did not get a first round at a single bank which I applied to. 

The stress of recruiting and my heavier finance course load caused my GPA to sink once again to a 3.3, and I tried in vain to recruit during junior year to once again not get a single first round. One of my family members who runs a hedge fund had told me not to do IB, as he felt I was not a cutthroat person, and I gave up on this dream. I ended up getting a rotational analyst full-time offer at a F15 tech company in possibly their AI Product Management group and their startup accelerator group, but part of me still thinks I'm a failure.

I had worked my ass off to get into my target school, had been studying technicals since day 1, and I dreamed of the friends I would make in the bull pen getting a $25 seamless dinner every night. My friends who had gotten IB SA positions this summer made DOUBLE what I made this summer at the tech company, and they're going to be starting in positions (I'm a senior) where they will be making $30K-$50K more than me all-in starting and will likely be able to move into PE where their earnings will explode. While I could potentially move to a FAANG PM role, I feel like I am an absolute failure for screwing up my GPA at my target school (which my parents paid a great deal of money for) and missing my shot at IB. I don't know how I'm gonna get over this, and I truly wish I had taken a gap year and tried to recover from my brain injury as much as I could. I truly feel like I have failed and I will never forgive myself. Thank you for listening.

Comments (51)

Most Helpful
Oct 19, 2020 - 9:33pm

Hey I know this was really important to you, but you have to realize that getting into IB by no means makes you a successful person. Not one bit: a lot of my networking chats have been with people who love to say they work at a BB but in reality are sleep deprived, out of shape, have no social life, and are rapidly destroying their health because they thought it was the badass thing to do after college. This forum and hardos at a bunch of colleges, which by the way make up literally less than 1 percent of 1 percent of the population, put it on a pedestal and young people absorb it. Yes it likely leads to a lucrative career, but then again you can get to a great career in about 100,000 different ways. It's amazing that you were able to recover from your injury, and honestly after going through something like that I'd expect you to really weigh how precious life is and understand what your values are. Is it worth giving up 4 years for the hardo dream of having no life and maybe making 700k after taxes? Would you, right now, trade 1 million dollars for 5 years of the best years of your life if given the chance? I say enjoy life, kill it at your company, and if you really do want to spend 90 hours a week adjusting logos and chasing prestige then apply to business school and come back as an associate. Your "target" school is likely a good university and you should have no problem building a great career, so I'd recommend living your life unconcerned by what some virgins on wso think of your company brand name, becoming amazing at what you do, and really looking at values and what's truly important in life for you. 

Oct 24, 2020 - 4:05pm

May I also add that if IB is truly your dream, why not try to find some sort of IB gig in a MM shop in the middle of Minnesota, for instance? Success is subjective to each person, and if you are not content with where you are, keep looking! I mean, you could even look for IB roles overseas. Be creative and open to opportunities and you never know what will happen. The only way you won't achieve your dream is by adopting the (false) belief that it is impossible to attain. 

Oct 24, 2020 - 12:38am

Fantastic post, had to say it. It's easy to think IB is the hallmark of a successful career but you'll see that after a few years it all normalizes in terms of comp, hours, lifestyle etc. College and a few months after are the only times people who are usually assholes care about this kind of thing

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Oct 19, 2020 - 9:52pm

Hey, please don't feel like that! I read through your post and I feel like you have accomplished a great deal!!! You have a whole life ahead of you and there are many roads to success. You had a lot to overcome! Plus that target school on your diploma will help you one day. Noone will care about GPA at that point. Also, many companies now have separate recruitment for applicants with special abilities. Make sure to think out of the box and use those recourses when you apply places. Also reach out to alumni as much as possible. I really believe you will succeed! I wish you all the best!

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Oct 19, 2020 - 9:52pm

Hey, please don't feel like that! I read through your post and I feel like you have accomplished a great deal!!! You have a whole life ahead of you and there are many roads to success. You had a lot to overcome! Plus that target school on your diploma will help you one day. Noone will care about GPA at that point. Also, many companies now have separate recruitment for applicants with special abilities. Make sure to think out of the box and use those recourses when you apply places. Also reach out to alumni as much as possible. I really believe you will succeed! I wish you all the best!

Oct 19, 2020 - 11:08pm

I remember your other post about this. While yes, on an absolute basis you're making less than your IB peers, you're making much more on a relative basis given how many fewer hours you said you'd be working. For the record, if someone said that for a 30k haircut I'd be able to work 50 (or was it 45?) hours / week, I and a lot of my IB peers would def take that deal.

Oct 19, 2020 - 11:08pm

I remember your other post about this. While yes, on an absolute basis you're making less than your IB peers, you're making much more on a relative basis given how many fewer hours you said you'd be working. For the record, if someone said that for a 30k haircut I'd be able to work 50 (or was it 45?) hours / week, I and a lot of my IB peers would def take that deal.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Oct 19, 2020 - 11:16pm

Live always has set backs, persevere and overcome. I get it, it sucks. Something somewhat similar happened to me and I thought the world was going to end. It doesn't, keep working for your goals and dreams and see where the chips falls. 

Oct 19, 2020 - 11:36pm

This is really great advice thank you! I'm really glad you were able to overcome your hurdle. Honestly, I guess the biggest beat down about all this (and maybe you can relate?) is that there was no restitution for what I went through. That's honestly whats so humbling to me about WSO and finance as a whole, there are so many people from so many different experiences and backgrounds who give this industry everything they have. Like as shitty as what I went through was, I'm still just a statistic, and a lucky one at that. That being said, I really, really appreciate your and everyone who responded to this post's empathy. It really fills me with joy to see how much love a few strangers on the internet can show someone in need of some kind words. Kudos to all of your for making it into IB, maybe one day I can join you as a post-MBA associate, but for the meanwhile I absolutely will take everyone's advice and give this job I am so blessed to have everything I've got. I hope you all have a great evening!

  • Consultant in Consulting
Oct 19, 2020 - 11:19pm

Dude, you're already a success! Made it into a target school, overcame a bad injury to achieve a good GPA... and sounds like you've got a great job! Hell, tons of college seniors right now have nothing and we're in a freaking pandemic. You might not have what was your "dream" job, but a ton (if not most) college seniors are probably envious of you bc you've got a great gig and don't have to sweat out being unemployed coming up on graduation. Plus, like the previous poster said, if you still want, you can almost certainly do IB after you do an MBA later on.

But you've got to get some perspective. I just watched a Shark Tank... what does that have to do with anything? The founder of Spanx was on... said, after college, she took the LSAT and bombed it so bad she couldn't get into any decent law school. I looked her up -- after that, she worked at DisneyWorld, sold fax machines door to door and did stand up comedy... how do you think her career was going 3-5 years out of college? Fast forward to today, she's worth a billion bucks. So again, just have some perspective. This thing -- your life, your career -- is a marathon, not a sprint. Focus on what you've got -- still your life after that accident, and a damn good job waiting for you upon graduation. And if you're still bummed about IB, it's not out of the picture. If you still want it bad enough, just network your ass off, read up on the industry and be prepared when someone offers you an opportunity, because somebody will. 

Oct 20, 2020 - 12:39am

Keep your head up buddy. I know it can be tough looking inward at this site but it is a distorted view, and I assure you that there are successful careers all over the map and sound like you are on the path to one. Forget about banking. Find something at your new job that you really love and zoom it on it. Be good at everything, but really be THE GUY for whatever it is you landed on. Being the go-to guy at something will help you both with advancement in a place you're interested in, and will save you if bad times come and your career is on the rocks. I do IB and it is not all that its cut out to be. Take the time in your new job to truly become great at it and roll from there. I actually found your story impressive and it is pretty fuckin cool that you got to where you were after being dealt a shitty hand. 

We are all just a bunch of cells forged from the dust of fucking dead stars, floating on some rock through the universe. Drink beer, party with your friends, have good sex, etc, etc, etc, and then die. Work comes after all that other shit. Don't let it define you like so many people on this site do. Keep your foot on the gas boss, I hope your company is wise enough to realize the killer hand they drew by hiring you.

  • 1
  • Intern in IB-M&A
Oct 20, 2020 - 1:29am

Man up my guy... many college seniors are having it worse than you under COVID. You secured a great tech job and managed to do well in school despite your health issue, live your life for yourself not for some seamless credit???

Oct 20, 2020 - 4:44am

Hey man, let me share part of my story which somehow relates to what you are going through (at least the part of feeling like you failed), I hope you see there is a bright side as well outside IB after reading it. I graduated from a semi-top uni with average grades and worked my ass off to get into IB, which I did only to be fired after the first year because I wasn't made for taking orders without questioning. It was my fault and only mine, I never felt I was fitting in the job anyway. After being fired I felt I had failed miserably, that I wasn't made succeed and that it would take me maaany more years to earn as much as my peers in IB, well now I can say I was wrong. I accepted a finance job at a big multinational as a fucking intern (yes, after 1 year in IB this is the most I could get) with a very low salary and my plan was to spend maximum 1 year there while I was trying to get back into IB again, I couldn't, it seemed all banks I interviewed with were reluctant to hire a 1st year analyst that had been fired for misconduct, so you know what? I said f**k them, I'm gonna rock it anyways, as someone said above there are 100,000 ways to success. So I took it easy at my job, never gave too much importance to the fact that I was an intern while I should be a second year analyst anywhere making good money but I didn't mind what others thought because I had experienced something not a lot of people experience early in their careers (being fired and deal with it) and I knew it was a matter of time before this experience paid off. After 1 year as an intern at this company, I had my 1st year review, my management told me they were very surprised with my performance: How I communicated, my modeling skills, attention to detail, maturity to deal with top management at the company, etc were the factors that made them offer me a senior financial analyst position abroad (I skipped 5 years of experience in what would have been a normal path at my company to reach the position I was offered), I negotiated my conditions considering it was my company asking me to move abroad and now, after 9 months I am making similar money than a 1st year associate in IB, while working 50h/week (with some peaks once every 2months when big negotiations come in which I get to work 70h). Most importantly, I really enjoy what I do, it is not my passion but it is a very enjoyable job which pays good and gives me time for myself. It might not have the prestige of IB but to me, is not about prestige but long term success and pursuit of happiness (I especially realize this every afternoon at 7pm when I can go for a run, hang out with friends or work on my other personal projects). Now, I will not say I am successful, but I would be crazy to think I am failure and I have learnt that it is stupid to waste time feeling like one because you did not get into IB. Man, trust your gut and show you are good at whatever you do, keep working hard and smart, either in IB or not you will make good money and have a lucrative career if you focus. Not all paths to success go though IB!!

  • Intern in IB - CB
Oct 20, 2020 - 9:06am

Hey buddy, I just wanted to let you know that things will be alright! I also wanted to be blunt with you in saying the reasons for doubting yourself are rather trivial. You're facing 2 different problems: motivations and FOMO. The reasons you've listed for chasing Investment Banking aren't reasons that are going to help you last the grind that your analyst years will be; my friends that have began their analyst careers have stated how difficult it is to maintain relationships while always on call and how depressing it can be waking up at 8 and sleeping @2 am every week night. Let's just say their $25 Seamless credit isn't making their lives any easier. You've grinded your way into a top school and now a top tech company, why are you doubting that? Sounds like an amazing gig for far less hours and far less stress; your stress and other negative feelings will be at all-time highs when your bank is in a bake-off or your MD makes you fix a slide deck Friday night when you planned to go get drinks with your gf. If you don't have that grit, IB will take a toll on your mental health.

That being said, if you still want to do IB, don't do it just because your peers are or because of $25 food credit.  Your gig at the F15 company will set you up for a MBA if you truly want to do IB. Do IB because of the opportunities you'll have later, the opportunity to listen to CEOs/CFOs talk about their business, and the ability to learn and truly grind. 

I landed several investment banking internships at MM this past summer, but decided to do CB at a BB because of the culture and WLB. Originally, I had my own doubts about this choice and honestly thought I was shooting myself in the foot after I signed. But after the summer ended, I realized my anxiety was for nothing; the people were amazing and constantly reaching out to me for support and advice, the culture emphasized values that I hold dear, and I learned a shit-ton. I got off call around 5 most week nights and then I went to go hang with friends and pursue my hobbies, all while earning almost 20k this past summer (more money than I could have ever imagined). Sure IB at the MMs could have been a great experience, but I wouldn't trade the summer I had to stay up later fixing a slide deck with my phone buzzing every other minute. Believe in yourself and stop overthinking about "what ifs", because the grass will always be greener on the other side. Carve your own path and find what makes you fulfilled because at the end of the day that's what life is about, not insane loads of money, not Seamless, not pitch books. 

Oct 25, 2020 - 1:28am

Your position honestly sounds like a dream gig for me, which is also giving me some perspective. A big sore point for me this summer was that all my friends were making double what I was for their internships in CB/IB, which is a stupid fucking reason to want to do IB. I guess while my ADHD medication has given me the ability to think a little more long-term than before, I still do very much live paramountly in the short-term, and there really is no sense giving up my potentially really good job (which FT should make about the same as CB, which is pretty fking good!) to try and chase something I wish I had taken to have made more during my summer internship. Thank you for your comment, it was very thoughtful and helpful!

Oct 20, 2020 - 9:31am

Perspective is important. For having a traumatic brain injury you're lucky you didn't end up a quadriplegic or paralyzed to a wheel chair. You might not have even lived through the car accident.

  • 1
Oct 20, 2020 - 9:54am

You will find in the next few years that life has interesting ways of panning out for the better. New opportunities will come your way if you keep an open mind and stop chasing the "prestige". 

Someone asked me this once and it changed my framework on IB forever --> would you rather work in IB or be the person hiring the IB? Sure, banking has an aura of prestige to some people, but the real BSDs are the people that contract them for deals. I'd rather be on the other side of the table. 


"Out the garage is how you end up in charge It's how you end up in penthouses, end up in cars, it's how you Start off a curb servin', end up a boss"
  • 1
  • Intern in CorpDev
Oct 20, 2020 - 1:21pm

This may not be useful to you, and I by no means want to cheapen your struggles -- I hear you and I feel you. However, a useful exercise I like to do is below:


Don't forget that today, someone woke up in the middle of Côte d'Ivoire at 4:00 AM to go mine palladium for 12 hours underground, only to wake up and do the same thing the next day, and every day following until their untimely death.


Macabre, I know, but you really have to think about how wonderful life is, and how fortunate we are to have the opportunities we have. In our world of 7.8 some odd billion people, I bet 7.7 would wish they traded places with you. 

  • Intern in IB - Ind
Oct 20, 2020 - 2:56pm

Your feelings are fully valid. And I'm going to go out on a limb and say that effort you've put in up until now will not go to waste. A low GPA has not taken away your intelligence or your drive for that matter. Sure you don't have the 'dream IB' gig, but you have many pathways to get to IB/PE/HF in some time. We need to recognize that as 20-23 y/o, we're not failures...yet lol. I'm not qualified to solicit advice but I hope you make it through to your end goal. 

Oct 20, 2020 - 5:00pm

I don't have skin in the game but i recognize how rough it is to bounce back from a brain injury. I am not looking for sympathy but i thought i could share my story since yours cuts deep.

I was involved in a horrible car accident when i was 12 I suffered a traumatic brain injury, my nose and left arm was broken and I had to undergo 3 surgeries. I am borderline socially retarded, have memory and learning issues in addition to PTSD that keeps me up at night. I shouldn't even be alive right now or be able to type this comment.

Man you go to a target, overcame a brain injury and still managed to get a good GPA. You're a warrior and are clearly built to succeed against the odds. This site is going to preach 4.0 GPA and Apollo or bust mentality but realistically how many people are ever going to reach that level ?

I hope you recognize how smart you are and how long of a career you have before you can consider it a failure. 


  • 1
Oct 21, 2020 - 7:12pm

Dude you overcame a freaking brain injury, still managed to maintain a solid GPA at a rigorous school, and landed a full-time job that's probably better than 95-97% of other college graduates. That's freaking amazing. Despite how much hype as we give it on this forum, the IB-->PE-->M7 MBA  path is not the only way to professional success. Also, you'll be working significantly less hours than IB, which gives you much more freedom to do what makes you happy (working on a side hustle, spending time with family, etc.). As cliched as this is, everything happens for a reason, and given all the amazing things you've done so far I have no doubt that you will make it big in the long run. Enjoy your senior year, and best of luck!

Oct 24, 2020 - 3:02am

try to get a grip on what is really important in life. Living with severe ADHD is tough though. I have dealt with it for my whole life and I always say to not shun using medication as a tool. It changed my life and many others. 


Oct 24, 2020 - 9:36pm

I personally despise the social illusion that the 2->2->2 route is the halmark of career success (mostly hyped up by college kids). The earlier you can find what you really want to do longer-term, the better. Find yourself a path you truly enjoy, a close circle of ride-or-die friends, and a wife-quality girl. All you need in life my man. F*ck the noise.

Oct 25, 2020 - 11:34pm

Hey man tbh I think you're in a awesome spot. Recruitment is essentially a numbers game and dumb luck. I'm from a non-target with a sub par gpa and was able to secure a BB SA position in both IB & S&T. I'm currently an S&T analyst and now I realize I want to restart as a 1st year IB analyst...unlike when I was in school I'm getting rejected from every posting I apply to. Assuming you want to go for IB you can work on the things to make yourself  more marketable. Get your modeling up to par (resources like Wallstreet Prep, WSO, etc are out there), take CFA/CAIA to show you have aptitude that's not reflected in your GPA and mass apply to everything under the sun (BB, MM, boutiques, regional shops, etc). Prepare for multiple potential groups during your prep as different teams require different technicals (Don't have the luxury to target only a specific group). Set a timeline for yourself where if it doesn't work out in the adequate amount of time your still poised to do well in your current role. Can hedge strong promotions to go get an MBA later. Later on you can leverage your operating experience from this current PM job in alternative spaces such as VCs, consulting, etc. Glass half full always: 1) You have a comeback kid story after your accident that every postgrad school will eat up. 2) Regardless of GPA you're from a target school. 3) Even if its not what you expected you got a dope job.

TLDR: Center yourself, figure out what will make you happy long term, grind hard to make it a reality, hedge for failure and you'll be able to make it work regardless.

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