Advice on office selection for consulting firms
I have been hearing and reading many misconceptions about office selection for consulting offices and I know a lot of you are applying or deciding right now, so I wanted to share the perspective I've developed.
I will focus this post primarily on MBB offices in the US since that is where my experience lies, but I am guessing that the same insights apply to Tier 2 firms.
It's important to note that your office location does matter. However, this is not about prestige as some on this site like to suggest. Rather, it is about what your experience will be like at the firm you're at.
If you really care about prestige, the major offices for any firm are New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Sometimes Boston gets thrown in the mix, so I'll mention that here for impartiality. These are all flagship/major offices for all of MBB and probably every other global consulting firm as well. Between these three, you've checked off the prestige box enough that it doesn't matter which one you specifically go to. Other offices like Los Angeles, Seattle, etc., while perhaps slightly less competitive, are also very well-regarded.
Regional offices like Atlanta/Dallas/Houston/etc. are a bit less prestigious for those who care. The reason I'm writing this post though is that it doesn't really matter that these are slightly less prestigious to college kids. These offices are likely to attract some more semi-target/non-target people, but that won't affect your experience, unless it's somehow creating a culture that you dislike. The same exact exit opportunities will be available to you if you are not performing below the rest of your AC/A/BA class. Plenty of top applicants from HYPS end up at these offices to stay close to family or because these offices have the work they enjoyed. This type of reasoning is why the office you work doesn't impact your exit opportunities, regardless of where you went to school. Different offices do different work and there's plenty of reasons to have picked a certain location. I say this despite my own experience with MBB San Francisco.
Given that the opportunities at the offices are the same, you should pick your location based on the type of work you want to do and where you would like to be living. If you really want to work in energy, go to your firm's Dallas office, for example. Based on your firm, you can also have some flexibility with this. Bain staffs the most locally through a home office model that allows you to build camaraderie with those on your team, while McKinsey offers you the flexibility to work across the country regardless of home office. BCG offers some benefits from both models, which creates both camaraderie but also offers quite a bit of flexibility. With the latter two firms, your office selection does matter slightly less. That said, if your school only recruits into one office for a firm, you likely have less flexibility with choosing here.
TLDR: Office choice does matter, but not because of prestige.