I didn't even know what Investment Banking was until my junior year of college lol (Information is key)


I am a minority, first generation college student, brought up by a single mother, lived in the hood, etc, etc...

Throughout school (K-12) I didn't know shit about anything. I didn't know the importance of a high school GPA because none of my friends (at the time) did either. Nobody told me the importance of an AP class. Nobody told me the importance of extra-circulars. I'm sure 90% of the kids at my school didn't give a fuck either. All I wanted to do after school was smoke weed or play basketball. I would always hear people tell me that I need to go to college. I would always ask myself, you know, what for? What comes after college? I didn't know what the fuck an engineer was or did. I didn't know what finance was. All I saw was having a degree gets you a 9-5 desk job. Why the fuck would I do that?

Anyways. The closer I got towards graduation, the more people asked me what I was going to do. I was pretty close to one of my councilors, and she pretty much forced me to apply to schools. I think my high school GPA was like a 2.3 or some shit. I don't remember. I applied to 3 Texas schools which I won't name, but they were all satellite schools from the main flagship university. In other words, non-target schools. However, at the time I didn't know that. I though all schools were the same lol. I only got accepted to 1 of them. The main thing that excited me was leaving home and having my own place that I was paying for with student loans.

So I was an undeclared major taking the core courses until my sophomore year. I managed to keep around a 3.2 GPA. At first I thought about declaring my major as engineering because they made bank bro. Lol. Until I heard the drop out rate for engineers, and I decided to just do marketing. It was my sophomore year that I realized I was attending a shitty school. I decided to transfer to a higher ranked school, but it still wasn't a target school. I knew I wouldn't have been accepted to McCombs, so I didn't even bother applying.

TL:DR If I would have known what it took to be in IB, I would have actually gave a fuck in high school. I didn't know what the fuck a target school was. I didn't know what Investment Banking was. I just didn't know shit because nobody ever told me what it was. I hate making excuses for the way my life is, but I'm just being honest. It also makes me sad because I know there are many kids who were like me that were uninformed. Do you think the typical black kid living in the hood knows what the hell IB is? Fuck no. All they know is Young Thug and Lebron James.

If you guys had parents to push you in school. Parents that gave you a clear pathway to success. Please understand how fortunate you are. I'm not denying your hard work either. I'm just telling you to appreciate being informed by whoever informed you. The ones that allowed you to make these goals.

I'm a senior graduating college in accounting this summer. Our accounting program has decent job placement. However, finance is shit here. I just want to have a back up plan (CPA) incase my goals to come to life. Usually finance majors that aren't in honors at non-target schools end up in sales or something. Fuck that. I plan on joining the military soon as I graduate. Going for the Air Force Para rescue. It will be something nice and courageous to have on my resume. Hopefully It gets me into a top MBA program after my service. Its sad I have to try and do something that crazy just to have a career in finance, but it's what I really want to do. Para rescue sounds kinda badass anyway haha. Something to tell bitches at a bar.

Anyways thanks guys! Sorry for the long read. Had to get it off my chest.

Mod Note (Andy): top 50 posts of 2017, this one ranks #12 (based on # of silver bananas)

Comments (46)

Jul 7, 2017 - 11:51pm

Thank you so much for sharing. Your story is the perfect illustration of why URMs need the extra leg up through affirmative action and other similar programs. Kids come on here and bitch about how unfair it is that 'unqualified' URMs get into top tier colleges and investment banks but don't understand how much harder it is to achieve coming from a background like yours.

Best Response
Jul 8, 2017 - 3:15pm

Affirmative action for banks does seem to be the solution for URM like OP to get the chance to get into IB, but unfortunately it is far from reality. I go to an Ivy and what I have seen so far is the people that are getting into the diversity programs and enrolling in training programs such as SEO and MLT are URM's that went to elite prep schools and are from backgrounds that are on the complete opposite spectrum as the OP. They really aren't underprivileged nor were they uninformed about what IB was, in fact they probably already knew they wanted to do IB from a young age and thus have an even bigger advantage than white or Asian students simply because of their race. It really should be able affirmative action for low-income students but there already are limitations to do so with schools being need-blind and such.

Jul 8, 2017 - 4:18pm

This is the absolute truth. SEO and MLT basically cherry pick the Ivy kids because they're the most likely to be polished and fit the mold of what an ib looks for. I think minorities at ivies are probably the last people who need any extra help to get in ib with the plethora of BB diversity events that take Ivy kids all the time. I'm starting to believe that these organizations and banks don't really have any respect for the rags to riches story. I do think non-target people in ib generally have more grit but without a doubt people from targets are usually better in interviews and smarter.

Jul 9, 2017 - 4:36am

I completely agree and can also narrate first hand how the programs tend to favor kids from elite backgrounds. Perhaps the banks should implement a more "wholistic" approach in order to create a context for the achievement of disadvantaged kids, that way people don't just get the leg up just for being black/latino/native american but for excelling within the context of their background.

If the banks really cared about helping disadvantaged kids out, it would be very easy to tell from a resume screen that a kid who went to horace mann/deerfield/exeter/andover and then HYPSW was very well set up for IB and does not need affirmative action to get into the field. But I guess they care more about having minority representation than actually helping disadvantaged minorities.

Dec 30, 2017 - 11:56pm

Bs. The only ones who benefit from affirmative action are black kids who are already upper class. Try to being a white kid in Appalachia and the story is the same.

Parental income would be a better basis for affirmative action than skin color. Other wise a black kid whose dad makes a few million a year just gets the easy path to Ivy League and then banking etc.

Jan 18, 2018 - 5:00pm

Either white people are mad because unqualified POC are "taking their spots" or they're mad because overqualified POC are "taking their spots." And you would sooner blame the statistically non-existent black millionaires for the mediocrity of white people in Appalachia than interrogate the hyper-religious, anti-intellectual, conservative bias of the region?

As an alum of a college access program, it's a spurious assumption that URMs from elite prep schools are also from privileged backgrounds. There are plenty of diversity initiatives (especially in NYC) designed to get them there in the first place, and many of those are based on merit, socioeconomic status, and yes-- race. These kids, like me, simply gained access to these types of programs earlier in life. Points for creativity, but this nuanced way of vilifying those who benefit from diversity programs is specious at best.

Jul 8, 2017 - 12:03am

Thank you, I am URM too these people on the forums need to realize that not everyone has experienced the typical wikipedia early life. "Mom was corporate lawyer, Mom was a full time mom, Mom was a businesswoman, Dad was a Partner, Dad was a businessman, Dad was a lawyer, and etc. Or expressed interest in finance at a early age? Wtf I was playing with toys not playing with my $500 daily allowance on brokerage account. You guys need to be grateful for what you have, you were the lucky sperm, you have so many opportunities and advantages elite private high schools in manhattan or some other fancy location? lol wtf thats rent money x10 for me now your going to target universities like "dartmouth, wharton, etc" please utilize what you have and stop feeling sorry for yourself be the best you can. If I had the oppurtunity to be born in a richer family I would take that, I love my current family to death but I really feel like im missing out on the guidance.

Jul 8, 2017 - 5:16pm

I am in the same exact boat, except I went to an extremely privileged and affluent high school (I'm neither) and I basically learned everything through my peers. It's incredible how much harder things are when you don't have parents working in the professional world (I love my parents but it's the truth).

Makes it all the harder to be placed into finance. Unfortunately for me, I am not a tradition URM (I'm not black, latino, LGBT, or native american) but I am still a minority nonetheless. It really sucks that these minority programs don't extend out to me but I guess it makes me all the more hungry for IB.

Jul 8, 2017 - 8:40pm

The same thing happened to me too; I also attended an extremely privileged and affluent high school, though my social status is far from privileged. However fortunately for me, I knew at least a little bit beforehand solely because I heard it from my peers at school. In my case, this basically meant I needed to get decent AP scores in as many AP classes as I could sign up for, lol.
Nobody ever explained to me how the SATs worked, all I knew was I just had to take it (holy hell I didn't even know that people went to tutoring for SATs too, what in the fuck).
Nobody explained to me how students are granted scholarships in high school -- actually, I finally figured out how merit scholarships worked only after I started college.
Nobody explained to me the importance of extracurriculars and the purpose they were supposed to serve in polishing someone, again only after I figured out how college admissions worked once I started college. I didn't even figure out what IB was until second semester of my first year of college because people straight up never told me anything lol, which is a little embarrassing for me to admit.

EDIT: I can't believe I forgot to mention this one too, it was the first in my mind too. Nobody ever explained to me how college applications worked, like ever. I still don't know how they work; I was lucky in that the school I'm going to didn't require me to use that program or whatever it is where you plug in a bunch of colleges you want to apply to and your generic essay or however it works.

Jan 18, 2018 - 4:00pm

Same boat except i grew up in a relatively rural area of the northeast - nice town but 2 hours away from the closest major city...had no idea what banking was until senior year of high school when researching highest paying jobs lol. It's amazing how literally nobody from my area knows what IB is when they ask about my career. There are zero connections in my area and zero exposure growing up...makes it that much harder to break into.

Jul 8, 2017 - 8:38pm

Excellent post, thank you so very much for posting this as I can sympathize with what you're talking about. I hope that things will work out well for you in finance and that the journey will be a smooth but meaningful one as well. Wishing you the best.

Jul 10, 2017 - 11:50am

Quick 2 cents on the military experience. I respect the Shit out of pararescue operators, their training and mission is very difficult and important. However, keep in mind that if you were to go down that road it is basically a life decision and that requires a pure drive for doing that job. I have a few friends who went down the SOF path and none did it as a resume bump, they all wanted to work in that capacity (think Ranger recon, ODA and CIF). Only do it if you truly want to. Otherwise, you will wash out and end up serving in a different capacity than you previously thought. Also, even though pararescue is much more bad ass, corporate recruiters would view just about anything military on the same level, security clearance does carry a bit more weight. Military experience, although beneficial, is not going to be s guarantee for a dream IB job at a large bank. It will help you with any school debt, give you some serious life experience, lifelong friends and help your resume. But, by no means is it a golden ticket.

Only two sources I trust, Glenn Beck and singing woodland creatures.
Jul 10, 2017 - 1:03pm

Appreciate the story, OP. Almost reads exactly like my life. Didn't know shit about shit until I got halfway done through college and here I am trying to get a FT job. I had the fortune of working at local boutiques though. I honestly think that I have only made it this far because I hit the genetic lottery with physical size for football and decent intelligence. But there is otherwise nothing from my upbringing that would make it possible to get in to IB. Shit is rough. Rags to riches employees are like shiny things for companies to show off to others. They're more interested in keeping their rigid structures but I don't blame them or anyone though. If it's not broken, don't try to fix it. I've swallowed a lot of red pills about life and now I just work to get to where I want to be. Good luck.

Jul 10, 2017 - 5:25pm

I'm black, raised by single mother, and graduated from a Top 30 12 years ago. I"m also in the Air Force Reserve and tried out for TACP. Please pm or dm me @ deephazeljay on insta as soon as possible. I know EXACTLY how you feel and my experience may help you. WSO is a fantastic resource. However, it's clear you aren't polished enough to benefit from it at the moment. I'm a Credit PM at a mid-sized bank, but have worked across the industry.

Don't joint the military without talking to someone who's in and doing the job you want. Even if it's not me, talk to somebody. Due diligence is critical to success. You have a hard road, but you can make it if you utilize all the right resources.



Jul 10, 2017 - 5:38pm

Thanks for sharing OP...I definitely think that information dissemination still has a long way to go (as available as it is today with the internet). If nobody tells you about finance careers early enough, how can you be prepared?

There really is no replacement for parents and friends that have good parents as well...

I also agree that kids from low income households are usually at the biggest disadvantage when it comes to high school, college and early career...

Hopefully WSO can play a small role in getting more information out there on how to prepare and be more competitive for these jobs.

Good luck and keep us posted!

Jul 10, 2017 - 6:01pm

WSO would have added 1MM+ to my gross income if were around in 2003!

Wall Street "culture" is far removed from anything most poor/middle class black Americans have any experience with. No matter how smart you are, you're likely to be "unpolished". **Don't confuse it for racism. **Companies desperately want to hire minorities. It's about you understanding corporate culture. Developing executive presence is generally considered "acting white" in our communities. It's sad. And, even though you've rejected such ideology if you're reading this site, it doesn't mean you have enough exposure to market yourself at a white shoe firm.

Don't forget, your competition is stiff. Only 10% of upper middle class white guys have a shot at the conventional path. Yes, being black increases your odds for interview, it may not get you past that. I got that rude awakening when I did an analyst day on the job at ML. They liked me until the follow up phone interview. It should have been a lock. But, I bombed. Then, GS came to my campus and invited me to secondary recruiting events after I stood out during meet&greet. Bombed there too. Nothing to do with intellect (directly at least). I wasn't prepared. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. WSO wasn't around.

Jul 10, 2017 - 6:46pm

No doubt about it. Not to mention a field like ib where there is never any respect for people from non-targets. I've been asked more times than I can count in interviews of why I didn't go to Harvard or Princeton. Being a minority at a non-target is difficult because people in ib inherently believe you have to prove to them that you're smart. And Asset Management and ER require a strong passion for investing that people from the background of op will never have.

Jul 15, 2017 - 3:06pm

nice post. also a first-generation college student ... shit i'm a first-generation AMERICAN lol fam is broke as all hell but we got good values, which is what counts, right?? haha word of advice: try not to focus on it in interviews. Banking is white male dominated, it's often hard for them to relate, and it ends up turning them off. sucks but it is what it is. i just figure once i get some clout, and more senior, i'll maybe be able to tell my real story. You'd be surprised, once you've been in the game long enough, where you come from matters less and less, and senior bankers start to open up. Not all of them are waspy and wealthy, every now and then you get a couple that grew up in the hood with us haha some of them actually do know about that WIC!! but yeah just keep on keeping on bro!

also to the people that are like "i didnt know about banking" etc etc. not knowing about banking cus your parents are doctors or lawyers is not the same as giving your offer letter to your parents and them not even being able to read it... having parents that went to college is a tremendous plus, regardless of whether they work in high finance or not. at least they can relate to you when it comes to the general challenges one faces in college.

with that being said, it's all irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. rich, poor, black, white, purple, green, blue... talented individuals are talented individuals, and they will consistently be identified by employers. give it your all, and things will fall into place.

In the words of Kanye West:

"Lock yourself in a room doing 5 beats a day for 3 summers
That's a Different World like Cree Summer's
I deserve to do these numbers
"The kid that made that deserves that Maybach!"
So many records in my basement
I'm just waiting on my spaceship"

we all reap the fruits of our labor in one way or the other - it all evens out at the end of the day. God bless!

Jul 16, 2017 - 4:36am

Going into Air Force Para rescue to get a career in finance. Lol, that like learning to dance for a boxing match.

You killed the Greece spread goes up, spread goes down, from Wall Street they all play like a freak, Goldman Sachs 'o beat.
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