I am a senior at a non-target school in the northeast and have recently accepted a FT offer in IBD at GS. For background, I have a 3.75+ GPA, no experience in investment banking, and no familial ties to wall street. I wanted to share my story of how I made it to GS coming from a non-target even though many on this site feel as though it is impossible. My intention is to shed some light on the topic for current juniors and seniors who are currently applying to banks for internships/jobs to help alleviate some of the stress.
I have had two internships during college: one in financial planning during my sophomore year and one in corporate finance my junior year. As a junior, I applied to all of the BB banks and many other smaller banks and had some interviews along the way. Rejection after rejection I started to realize that I was not going to intern at a bank, nor in IBD and started to look elsewhere. An alum had advised me that if I still wanted a chance at IB for FT that I should look for roles in FP&A/corporate finance for internships.
I interviewed at a small industrial firm for an internship in FP&A and got the position. The company may not have been on wall street, the job may not have been IB, but what made this experience special is what I did with it. I didn't just go day-to-day and do the work they gave me and go home. I networked with many people at the firm, took on extra projects on the side to improve my skills and my team's efficiency, and reached out to the CFO multiple times to chat (the firm is really small and I was lucky enough to actually meet the CFO and speak with them multiple times). In the end, my interviewers for FT didn't care that I didn't have IB experience because what I had was still unique and offered a different skill set.
This may be the most important reason why I got an offer from GS (shout out to the WSO networking/IB course - ton of helpful tips and templates). I always knew I wanted to work at GS one day and spent every day from freshman year thinking about it.
Since freshman year, I had been tapping into the small alumni base that my university has at the firm and had been using them to my full advantage. I was lucky to know a few guys personally that went into the program that were very key to getting my superday and offer. All-in-all, I had been networking with alumni/cold emailing people on LinkedIn all throughout college but always networked more with people from GS. You never know the people that you are going to meet and who they know and how they can help you out. My junior year I met an alum that was a VP in IB at GS and without them, I don't think I would've had a shot at getting the job.
The process of getting an interview was very hard, but once I actually got there it was all on me to close the deal. I have wanted to work at GS all throughout college and am very excited about working in IB. If I had interviewed at any other firm for any other position, I know I would just put on a smile and tell them how much I wanted to work at their firm because I know it would be a good opportunity, but it wasn't like that at this interview. I was genuinely excited about the position and passionate about the firm and it showed. There are many students who want to work in IB because they think the money is great and it will help them afterwards. For me, I don't think about the exit ops and the money (although it is a great benefit) because I am about excited about the role. At the end of the day the interviewers can easily see who really wants the job and who is just there because it's GS.
My advice for seniors is that you find what you really passionate about and go for it. You may not get the job of your dreams right away but that doesn't mean it's over. Take every experience and learn from it. Don't just stand on the sidelines waiting for something to come to you because you think you deserve it. Guess what, NO ONE DESERVES ANYTHING. If you want something you have to work hard for it and realize that it may not be your time right now, but everything will work out in the future.
My advice for juniors is that you should shoot for the stars and go after those internships at BB banks, but don't feel like it's over if you don't get one. There are many roles in finance that can set you up for a career in IB. I promise that if you take advantage of internships, network with everyone you can, and find what you're truly passionate about, you will get an offer that you will be really excited about.
If there is anyone else that has broke into IB from a non-target I would love to hear what you think helped you the most in the comments.