How does a working class teen headed to a target undergrad get into IBD?

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Anonymous Monkey

I hate being poor. I want to make a lot of money. I got lucky getting into a target college, now what? Maybe I'm scrappy, but I can't compete academically with hyper-aggressive kids from Stuyvesant, Exeter, and other $30K-60K year prep/boarding schools, so what am I supposed to do? I'm fairly outgoing, but let's be honest, they prob won't let me into their exclusive pre-professional clubs or frats. Should my eye only be on investment banking division or elsewhere as well? Appreciate any wisdom.

Comments (51)

Funniest
Jun 3, 2018

You're pretty much Moelis' wet dream (i.e., smart, poor, hungry, willing to grind). Don't be afraid to mention you grew up poor - banks love that shit and will eat it up. Memorize the WSO technical guide, join some investment clubs at school and you'll be set.

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Jun 4, 2018

I laughed out loud when I read this. +1 SB

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Jun 3, 2018

start off strong academically and stay strong, start building and expanding your network, join finance clubs, if you identify as a minority, apply to programs such as Morgan Stanley's freshmen enhancement program to get your foot in the door. I'd also suggest doing some research to see if there are similar freshmen programs at other banks. Go to the bank-specific events on campus even as a freshman so you can start meeting alum. lastly, work hard and stay optimistic!

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Jun 3, 2018

Why can't you compete with kids from top prep schools? They're nothing special; some just have a few advantages but most are still pretty cool people. You'll be able to get into clubs and frats just connect with people. To be honest, it's really interesting to see some kids from wealth have internships handed to them freshman year, but you'll be fine. Just keep your GPA high and join a few clubs you'll get interviews at banks. In interviews I definitely shared my background when they asked what separates you from other candidates. Just use it as motivation and stay humble.

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Jun 11, 2018
drose55:

Why can't you compete with kids from top prep schools? They're nothing special; some just have a few advantages but most are still pretty cool people.

You'll be able to get into clubs and frats just connect with people.

Kids from pressure cooker high schools absolutely do not need to work as hard as kids from s--t high schools to make A's and be involved, build their resume and network. Places like Exeter, Stuy and TJHSST are more demanding than most colleges; they've had packed schedules, hardest classes, hyper-intense classmates for 5+ years. They've been trained and conditioned to navigate and exploit college, professional networking, internship recruiting, and grad school app process.

This distorts the reality of kids from mediocre high schools because they see wealthy peers partying their d--ks off and taking trips to NYC and ski resorts on the weekend...but they still get A's. Blue collar kid needs to have their s--t really together, study far longer, make social life sacrifices, use tutors, go to writing lab, go to professor office hours, be assertive enough to grub for better grades and extensions from profs/grad assistants, never settle for B's.

And rich connected aggressive kids control all the top clubs, and they take care of their own. Not saying they blackball every single poor rando, but pretty much. They might even feign being "cool" with you, but you're a peasant to them. They don't give a flying f--k about you.

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Jun 4, 2018

This is very true. Coming from a inner-city poorly funded high school that did not measure up to friends who went to Stuy or other top high schools, it was much much harder to get an A. It just comes down to familiarity of study methods and network (since older students have collections of old exams). The more prepared kids already know their way to navigate college while the rest of us are stray dogs finding our way.

In terms of IB, join investment clubs and do whatever you can to keep your GPA high, it will be a grind.

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Jun 5, 2018

While I agree it is hard to see some kids spending tons of money and taking lavish vacations, I never felt like I was at a disadvantage in terms of grades. Those top high schools may have been harder than college, but overall college academics aren't very hard especially if you are studying in an undergrad business school. Will you have to hustle and work hard? Absolutely, but academics aren't really the main issue. Networking is really where you have to put more time in.

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Jun 7, 2018

I don't entirely agree with this. While privileged students do enjoy some academic advantages (guidance from parents and their friends among faculty, from older alumni of their high school and from children of family friends), these only have a marginal effect. And I'm not sure about the US but in the EU there are many state-funded schools which are academically challenging. Competing on grades is also unnecessary: for IB, once your grades are good enough, it's the rest of your CV that matters, regardless of the grades of the competition.

It's true that university associations tend to be dominated by a certain kind of students, but I've seen clever, motivated poor people get into top finance clubs.

Jun 7, 2018

Can confirm every word.. Even though I'm not really working class or poor, I've seen both sides of being a solidly upper middle class kid (jet-setting on business class, private schools, vacations) and then being merely lower middle class into my teens after a death in the family.

It's absolutely incredible how unconscious the bias is at university... For some it doesn't exist (they're the well adjusted ones) but for everyone else if you're not in their little clique you may as well just be dirt on the ground no matter how "nice" they are at face value to you.

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Jun 3, 2018

lose the inferiority complex, keep a good GPA, network and stay hungry

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Jun 6, 2018

Was about to post in here in order to say this. OP you are giving these kids far too much credit.

I had a ton of guys from this background in my fraternity and they are no where near as intelligent or as academically advantaged as you are making them out to be. Their high schools may have provided a slight advantage -- particularly in freshman/soph university courses -- but things will even out in the end.

Keep your chin up and get involved where you can on campus. If possible, I highly and absolutely recommend making an attempt to pledge a fraternity and see these "exclusive" clubs from the inside -- it's not as glamorous as you are implying here.

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Jun 4, 2018

BEAT THOSE PREP SCHOOL FUCKERS! YOU CAN DO THIS!

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Jun 28, 2018

I actually read this in the voice of the dude in the crowd from the Longest Yard.

Jun 4, 2018

Clever and resourceful is what you would need at a non-target. But since you're at a target, just open up your school's career portal and you're set buddy. As a fellow hustler who went to a non-target, if i were in your position I wouldn't shoot for IB analyst, i'd be shooting for those limited spots at KKR and Blackstone as a PE analyst. you can do it.

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

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Jun 5, 2018
Jamie_Diamond:

As a fellow hustler who went to a non-target, if i were in your position I wouldn't shoot for IB analyst, i'd be shooting for those limited spots at KKR and Blackstone as a PE analyst. you can do it.

If the kid has shaky academics, is that really all that realistic? As a 22-year-old i-banker he'd prob be making more than anyone in his extended family.

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Jun 5, 2018

if your dream doesn't scare you it isn't big enough

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

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Most Helpful
Jun 4, 2018

Saw this and had to comment - I grew up extremely poor/working class but not a minority, bounced around a lot of different cities and homes while my parents tried to find a constant job, eventually worked hard as hell at a shitty inner city high school and ended up going to a top target (H/W) with a full ride. I'm now finishing up recruiting and I have offers from 2 top EBs and a top BB for IBD.

Don't ever feel like you won't be able to compete with the kids from Stuy and Exeter and whatever - if anything they never had to deal with the same shit you did to make it to the same place, worry about bills and take part-time jobs to help their parents make rent - I remember I had friends literally be given internships by their uncles/aunts/godfathers whatever and that's something you'll have to accept and move past - your time will come and it'll be even sweeter because you earned it yourself.

My biggest advice to you is to hit the ground running because all those prep school kids definitely will, take good/useful classes and keep your GPA up for recruiting, join some finance clubs and get in with the really driven/smart finance kids not just the bozos hoping to get rich quick off of zero work - you'll recognize who I mean quickly, try to get decent experience early on in your college career (I must have sent out 40+ emails/cold calls to get my first internship in college) as after you get the first one, the second one gets easier, and then the third, and it just snowballs from there. By the time I went into recruiting I had a great GPA, something like 5 internships/part-time jobs and a story about how I fucking dragged my slumdog millionaire ass out of nothing to get there. If you happen to also be a URM, use that too and try to get into any and all diversity programs you can, I wasn't able to (ORM) but some of my friends did and it gave them a massive leg up when it came to recruiting this year (fast-tracked to super days, extra networking events, etc.).

Stay humble, stay hungry and believe in yourself.

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Jun 7, 2018
fightmeirr:

My biggest advice to you is to hit the ground running because all those prep school kids definitely will, take good/useful classes and keep your GPA up for recruiting, join some finance clubs and get in with the really driven/smart finance kids not just the bozos hoping to get rich quick off of zero work - you'll recognize who I mean quickly.

So much THIS. There's nothing we can say to mentally prepare OP for how prepared, polished and AGGRESSIVE grubby rich kids will be. And it doesn't take them weeks or months to get rolling at college -- they hit the ground RUNNING. But they're not necessarily an enemy, try to cultivate friendships with some of these kids, and just know you're going to have to study a lot longer than them and use university resources to be on par. But as @fightmeirr said, recognize who the genuinely smart kids are immediately, don't waste your time on bozos or immature morons that got in because they're a propped up minority.

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Jun 4, 2018

Actually, if you're as smart as you say, it's not hard to compete with the selective prep school students. Concerning strictly academics, the above-average but unrelenting hard worker will outperform the complacent, groomed smart kid nine times out of ten. I too attended a target, having come from an unimpressive public school. The trick is to know your edge and exploit it; in your case, your edge is your desire / hunger and the ability to outwork your peers. If kids are studying in the library until 8 pm on weekdays, you stay until 11. If kids aren't putting in the work on weekends, you are. Beyond that, when interviews come around just be true to who you are and your story. I'm sure that your humble background and sincerity will be transparent to interviewers and make you a more endearing candidate.

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Jun 5, 2018

The "complacent lazy rich kid" is such a dumb meme. For every 1 druggy drunken underachieving rich kid there are 9 busting their ass, playing all the angles, schmoozing connected professors, shaking hands at every meet & greet event, and joining and then controlling (leadership) selective pre-professional clubs.

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Jun 5, 2018

Take a deep breath there big guy, you're missing the point. Nowhere did I mention anything about drugged out or lazy rich kids. I said "complacent, groomed smart kids". The fact of the matter is, many prep school kids, while undoubtedly smart and talented, will coast in college. I call this resting on your laurels syndrome. While they won't underachieve, many will not grind as hard as they did in highschool. This attitude is commonly a result of high school burnout where parents push their kids to extreme overachievement. This is also accompanied by the common lament that highschool was more challenging than college for this subset of students. That is not to say that everyone falls off the wagon, but many do. I witnessed it firsthand.

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Jun 4, 2018

Just study 12 hours a day every day. Not rocket science.

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Jun 28, 2018

I'd like to add that studying 12 hrs a day seems scary but its possible. That's what I did and I got a first in the UK(in my first year). Some people say a first is 4.0, others 3.8.

Also, my mistake as a first year undergrad was that I did not network as much as I should during my first year and I didn't prepare for psychometrics.

My advice is study 10 hours a day, do tests for 1 hour, and networking for 1 hour (linkedin or alumni etc)

Jun 4, 2018
  1. Focus on your grades. Try to keep a 3.5 minimum - hell, even be strategic about it, no need to take the hardest courses you can find, just to impress some strangers reading your grade transcript.
  2. Pick some extracurricular activities with leadership positions. When I went to undergrad, these types of positions were in high demand. So many students looking out to pad their CV. I'm not joking: If you can, also try to join a toastmaster club or something that involves public speaking. Being a decent public speaker will project confidence, and confidence in turn projects competence.
  3. Apply for summer jobs / internships as soon as you can. You can't really do much after your first year, but try to reach out to some smaller banks or boutiques and ask for simple summer jobs.
  4. Build a network. So much of life boils down to who knows who, so start building as early as possible, especially if you're going to a target. Target school = lots of ambitious people. Be social.
    Also, play sports. Finance folk love sports and competitive stuff, and it's a great arena to get to know such people, especially at target schools.
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Jun 5, 2018

Hygiene and the way you dress can set you apart from beer gut schmucks wearing a suit that doesn't fit and embarrassing cheap square-toe shoes to presentations, b-school events and on-campus interviews.

In general, clean-cut hygiene, clean-shaven, straight white teeth, sporty physique (cardio 5x a week), wear proper fitting clothes, spend $500 from graduation money on a pair of Gucci horsebit loafers.

First impressions are vital. Don't be a drunken goofball; be dependable and serious. Protect your reputation; you don't want to be labeled as stupid, a liar, lazy, unsophisticated.

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Jun 5, 2018

you don't need gucci, you can get the same horsebit loafers for $200 at Johnston Murphys.

OP can drop his paycheck in gucci and ferragamos when he earns it.

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Jun 5, 2018

Obsess over your GPA early and often.

If rich kids invite you on trips, say yes. Be reliable, dependable. Be a good friend, solid. Trustworthy blue collar kid.

You're going to see kids do drugs; it's whatever, but you should steer clear. Do not p*ss time away on video games, netflix, and worshipping dumb thugs obsessing over sports. If you're doing college right, you shouldn't really have much free-time. Always find something productive to do.

Join clubs, go to pre-professional events, play intramural sports. Hit the gym, get skinny and cut (not meathead bulky). Improve yourself. Date smart chicks, not tacky bimbos.

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Jun 7, 2018
midwest19:

If rich kids invite you on trips, say yes.

From my experience, I would avoid this. While I didn't go on a trip, I went for a night out in the Meatpacking. In order to "fit in" and build relationships, I agreed to bottle service. Let's just say that I was paying that shit off for the longest time, and no one I was with, truly expressed any gratitude.

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Jun 10, 2018

You paid for the entire bottle service? You got hustled. Bottle service with rich college kids is usually split -- like each broski Venmos whomever threw their credit card down $100-200.

Jun 6, 2018

take easy classes freshman year and take accounting/finance classes as early as you can.
attend all of the networking events on campus and maintain good relations with you career advisor.
join clubs on campus.
read the news.
party hard, but study smarter.

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Jun 6, 2018

Shoot me a PM - I actually went to an "elite" prep school but didn't really have any connections in finance, studied pre-med and didn't even think about finance until the end of my sophomore year, so while I may still have had certain advantages I definitely had to figure out how to hustle and grind for a year or two to get a top BB IB internship after junior year, competing with kids who had had their hearts set on it since high school. Also was president of IB club at my school, happy to share tips/offer words of advice if you'd like.

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Jun 6, 2018

I went to Mission San Jose High, which is like a Stuyvesant....work hard and don't make excuses

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Jun 6, 2018

Thinking about how to get rich after you get into a target - discussing this right now is pointless; get yourself into a target first. If you say you want to make a lot of money - prove with how badly you want that by getting into a target first. Everybody says they want something but not everyone has the PHM (poor-hungry-mentality).

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Jun 7, 2018

He's already into a target though ....

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Jun 7, 2018

Apologies. The way it is written it seems like OP is contemplating and assuming "as if" he got in so.

Jun 7, 2018

I know how you feel. I grew up poor as well and worked hard to make it to a target uni in fact the best uni in the state. Top universities are filled with rich kids and sadly, they tend to create their own society or hierarchy where they band together and succeed together. I tried joining the committee of a few of the finance societies and had no luck. Luckily with the networking I've been doing, I might get a role at a buldge bracket by the time I graduate.

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Jun 8, 2018
  1. First impressions. You probably look or act poor and narrow-minded (it's not your fault, and you can't even "see" it). Study smart rich kids -- how they dress, how they talk, what they eat, who they hang with, their confidence, their career plans, the student orgs/clubs they join. Be a quick study and mirror them. Never pretend to be rich, obviously, you just want their swagger.
  2. Grades. You can destroy a GPA by week 2 of the semester. You'll see rich kids partying and going nuts the first semester, especially first few weeks. If you indulge and party like them you'll slaughter your GPA. Build a strong foundation, study harder than you ever have during weeks 0, 1 and 2. Exploit every university resource, use tutors, join study groups immediately, go to office hours religiously and build bonds with TAs/GAs/professors. You need a 3.5+ GPA. Always eke out better grades. Never settle for B's.
  3. Network. Pre-professional clubs require application and interview process within first month of semester. Hyper-selective pre-professional clubs are golden tickets to best internships -- the members will usually "feed" into certain top firms. This will be your first wakeup call with how cutthroat rich gunners are, as essentially you're locking up your first prestigious internship if you get into one of the top clubs. Also, pay attention to event calendar and make time for speeches, luncheons, coffee chats, etc. If diversity, take advantage of those special events and programs. Get out there and shake hands, be courteous, polite, clean-cut and dress neat.
  4. Read a financial newspaper, ex. Bloomberg or Wall Street Journal, to keep a handle on business and politics. Gives you something to chat about when networking and relate to lectures.
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Jun 7, 2018

The advantage wears off quickly for the other guys. Embrace the grind and work your ass off to make grades. Good prep for IB.

"Anything less than the best is a felony"

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Jun 7, 2018

Wanted to start with this quote:

Tyrion Lannister: Let me give you some advice, bastard. Never forget what you are, the rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor and it can never be used to hurt you.

It is only inside of your head. And you need to get that inferiority complex out of your head. And not by pretending that you are rich but by accepting that so I am pissed broke but I make it here so what? That should be the right attitude. I have two friends, let's called them Friend A and Friend B.

Friend A came from a poor latino immigrant family from California. Studied hard and made it to Stanford and got into BB - actually 2 of them - at coverage groups and left before becoming an associate. Right now jobless. He had the drive but he never had self confident. He always feel that he is missing something, always negative, always not generous to other with his time, and have this scarcity mentality. That comes across as he moves up in his career; he got stuck in doing technical stuffs and never really able to build relationship with clients or manage below him to actually move up. Scarcity mentality and insecurity also prevents him seeing himself as a leader that would have opened doors for management roles.

Another friend B, is born from a rich billionaire family. Always been pushed to tried harder but never really have the motivation to do so. Given the best facilities but never had the drive. End up going to an expensive private school like USC and Bentley College. Came back to take over the family without previous working experience. Tried to commit suicide. Even today when I see him he is full of self doubt and never able to make people because he is technically incompetent and focus too much on fluffy stuffs; sort of like the Commodus character from the Gladiator (2000 film).

Both of them wish to live the life of others. A thinks that if he had B's facilities, he would be better off and B thoughts the same way vice versa. To me, it is funny because they are both seeing things from the polar opposite end. But no one has it better in life. You just keep moving on in life with the card that you have been dealt with.

In term of dealing with rich friends and getting into their circle, there are a few things that I would like to point out:

  • Get that I am from poor background mentality out of your head. If you keep thinking that you will never be enough. You made it here together with other rich kids so what is so special about them. You should just like my first quote, wear it like an armor and move on. If you don't believe that is a problem, no one can poke at it.
  • It is okay to hate your rich friends. Just because you hate them doesn't mean that you cannot be friends with them. You just need to acknowledge yourself and the thought that you hate them and just move on with it. If you don't do that, all the interaction that you have with them will come off very fake and unnatural.
  • You need them. If you want to move up in your career you need powerful friends. You are already there. If you don't that opportunity to make friends with the rich and the powerful, the other hungry poor guy will do because that is how you move up in your career. If you keep focusing on learning technical stuff, you will become like my Friend A. The relationship that you build at your target school, esp with your rich friends will pay dividends down the road. 5-10 years, they will become your clients whom you will be advising and with their assistance, you can probably tap that VP or Director position at your IBD job so don't close that door on yourself because your ego.
  • To build that friendship bridge, you need empathy. You need to love them. You need to feel the same way as them. To all the rich people, whatever they feel or whatever problem they are having right now - to them is a big problem (i.e. what Patek to wear, which club they cannot become a member of, which ski resort they cannot get a booking, whose private jet is bigger). That leads to a quote that I remember from the Ender's Game:

"In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them.... I destroy them."

I am saying all of this because I understand exactly how you feel. I went to an extremely private elite school where all of my classmates are sons and daughters of billionaires - oil tycoons and mining moguls. Currently, I work for one of the richest southeast asian families (i.e. Lippo Group in Indonesia and CP Group in Thailand) advising clients who are top 50 richest person in the country (my clients are my friends' family).

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Jun 7, 2018

This is some next level zen shit.

OP - your dilemma, and really any hyper achiever's dilemma in life, boils down to a very simple truth. In life you are either the wolf or the sheep. You either have what it takes, or you don't. The wolf uses all of his faculties to come out on top, including using any combination of hard work, guile, flattery, relationship exploitation, and cunning, to win.

If you have any insecurities in any areas of your life that prevent you from achievement, you either push through them, compensate for them in other areas, or otherwise bury them beneath the surface, or you will be the sheep.

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Jun 8, 2018

TLDR: I would say I am the aggressive, polished, connected guy that you talk about. But I got it on my own (no family connections, solid middle class, pay my way through college, etc). So you can get it too.

  1. Lose your inferiority complex: Being confident, especially during networking and interviews, is extremely crucial to making a good impression. Being confident, social, and well-liked is the MOST important thing for securing IB roles.
  2. I went to a ridiculously hard, pressure-cooker public high school on the West Coast. Classes were arbitrarily hard, shitloads of homework everyday. Dozens of people left my school every year to go to an easier HS. Slept at 2am on average during weekdays (even after learning time management) and had to wake up by 5:30am everyday to take a bus to school. I agree with the general consensus here that it has made my college academic experience significantly easier (I go to a top state school also known for its cut throat culture). But to be quite honest, I don't have an inherent advantage besides just subjecting myself to insane workloads early in my life. So just just work your ass off now.
  3. I grew up lower middle class to regular middle class (at different periods of my life). While probably having more privileges than you, I do somewhat relate to what you are saying. All I can say is that complaining will get you nowhere.
  4. I utilized my ability to Handle high workloads to constantly do internships during school. Have been able to work at startups, BB ER, MF PE mid office roles, Top MM PE investing roles, 2 Fortune 50 strategy internships, etc. So find your own competitive strengths and leverage it to beat the others.
  5. During my IB SA interviews, the interviewers loved my experience grinding super hard because it showed to them that I can handle the pressures of banking. So use your experience being lower class and going through difficulty to your advantage. Everyone loves an underdog.
  6. In some ways, I am the exact person you described. I am in a fraternity with insane finance connections, I went to an amazing high school that prepared me well, I don't study that much and have a lot of fun on a weekly basis. But on the flip side, I don't have family connections and I am nowhere near rich. I pay my way through college (tuition, housing, food, etc). I learned how to network, how to gain connections, and how to work hard. So you can too.
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Jun 8, 2018

As a follow up, the internships I mentioned came after I had already worked my way through the worse ones (boutique IB, PWM, random PE shops and startups, etc). I have interned almost every semester during college on top of school. I am still able to have fun since school isn't too hard for me (business and CS coursework).

Jun 8, 2018

If anything, you are absolutely guaranteed to work in banking with a background like this. Just get a 3.4 or higher

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Jun 28, 2018

PublicSchoolBoyz . We got heart. Plus, once you make it, you'll laugh at the thought that parents spent $10,000 in HS tuition for their children to end at the same place you got to without those resources.

Jun 28, 2018
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