Big fish in a small pond or a minnow in the ocean?

Just wanted to get your thoughts on this. Is it better to be at a school that is not a target by any means and be the big fish? i.e. starting clubs, having multiple leadership positions and a high GPA. Or is it better to be at a school like NYU Stern or Georgetown MSB and be a small fish in a huge pond full of kids who all want to do relatively the same thing? While having a decent GPA and maybe being in a club? Just wanted some thoughts on the whole must go to a target school to be successful stigma. Thanks!

Comments (13)

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Feb 3, 2021 - 7:33pm

How about you be a big fish at G-town? Someone's gotta do it

Feb 3, 2021 - 8:16pm

I never really understood this mentality. Because in theory, you can be a small fish in a big pond and still get interviews just because of the name brand of the pond. You can be a mediocre student at NYU and still land BB interviews but even if you're a top student at a "Insert non target university here" you will probably not even get a look. Just go to the best school and do as good as you can.

Feb 3, 2021 - 9:05pm

Have heard this argument a lot, for undergrad and b-school. It really doesn't work. 

IB recruiting is highly structured and other 'high finance' recruiting that isn't, still requires strong alumni ties. Both require intensive interview prep that is easier to do within a school's finance club (that has a history of getting students jobs) and with smart highly motivated peers to interview prep. 

If you go to rando undergrad and get a 4.0, or even a T50 MBA for free....Who's going to train you for the interviews? Which alums are going to pull you in? Firms don't have a history of recruiting at certain schools for a reason.



  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Feb 4, 2021 - 10:43pm

The big fish at NYU and Georgetown aren't aliens bro, they just know how to grind smart and hard. Observe the kids that seem to be doing the best, replicate their ways, and you'll be them.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Feb 4, 2021 - 11:27pm

I completely understand that, but don't you aspire to be the best version of yourself? Obviously there's different interpretations of that, but I'm sure the best version of yourself isn't someone that will coast or be "a minnow in the ocean".

  • Intern in HF - EquityHedge
Feb 18, 2021 - 8:33am

Sure, this logic could apply for harder majors at schools like MIT, but at Gtown and NYU?  I think you are overestimating the difficulty at those schools.  If you just stay on top of things, you should be fine, especially if you are majoring in something like Econ.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Feb 18, 2021 - 9:11am

The above poster is correct. For the vast majority of target schools, the hard part is getting in, not doing well once you're in it. Once you get into the likes of Stern, GTown MSB, and all the other targets/Ivy+ schools, you won't have to be a big fish in the pond to get looks from top firms. You'll only have to perform reasonably well. This doesn't apply to the likes of MIT, Caltech, and for other technical majors at difficult schools, where it's much harder to do well academically (but then again, if you get into MIT, you probably have the intellectual horsepower to succeed in it)

Feb 19, 2021 - 2:40pm
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