I am posting this because this site has been a tremendous help when I was first getting started. In no way do I view my story as special, I actually believe that people from my background are extremely common in my experience, but people on this board seem to think going to a non-target is a death sentence.
I attend a non-target, but top 50 liberal arts school. I am a history major with a minor in philosophy and I am an athlete. My school is fortunate to have a small, but extremely helpful alumni network. I started reaching out as a freshman to everyone and anyone. By casting a wide net at first, I believe that I learned more and was introduced to more people. I interned inafter freshman year. During sophomore year, I started to target IB alumni specifically. The contacts I met my freshman year helped put me in touch with a hedge fund with ~$40bn in assets. I interned here after my sophomore year. This is a huge factor because I was introduced to recruiters at every bank by our sales guys. This gave me a huge leg up in recruiting going into my next year.
During junior year, I hit the ground running and started to contact every contact I had made over the past two years. This paid huge dividends because I had interviews at everyMM and boutiques. In mid-october I had 4 super days and converted all four offers. I took the bank that had the best fit and best location which was New York. The bank is not the most prestigious but I have enjoyed everyone I have met at the bank and I love New York. I finished up my internship this summer and despite the low offer rate at all banks, I received and accepted an offer.
My advice to everyone who has asked? Love your major. College is four years of fun and you should love you major, you only get to do it once. Second, network with everyone, even if they are not in the finance sector you want, you never know who they know. Grades matter up to a point, I had a 3.48 when I went through recruiting, but in myI beat out kids who had 4.0's.
When you finally get an internship, be fun and personable, be the intern they want to drink with and party with, but also be the intern who works harder than anyone else. The smallest things for analysts go the longest way. I used to car all the books for my group, even on deals that I did not work on, because it meant the full-times could go home. They MD's never knew I was the one who sent the books out to their houses, but the analysts did and they went to bat for me during the final review.
It does not matter where you come from, network, be personable, be fun and work hard. Everything else will work out.
Mod Note (Andy): Best of 2016, this post ranks #44 for the past year