Northwestern vs UIUC (Gies Honors Program)

I was recently admitted to Northwestern University for economics and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for business. Furthermore, at UIUC, I was offered a spot in the Gies Scholar program. I was wondering which option better prepares me for a career in investment banking? Is one school more likely to land me a job on Wall Street? Is one school viewed as more prestigious?

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Comments (8)

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Mar 30, 2021 - 11:53pm

This has been covered before-I and most anyone that has graduated college and worked professionally would highly recommend against choosing a college based exclusively off IB or PE chances. The truth is, you likely will change a ton throughout college and might not want those jobs after you mature or learn more about industries that you might find more exciting. Also, the world could change and make those jobs less attractive than they are today. Regardless, both schools you will need to get a 3.7+, self study, and network effectively to get a job anywhere. 

That said, there's a few big differences between the schools:

1) Northwestern doesn't have a business major. You can get certificates and take some classes that will enter the realm of finance-for example very basic accounting (only 1 class), a philosophical IB class, and a few elective type classes, but largely your classes will not be in business no matter what you study at Northwestern and you will need to learn about IB and finance through clubs or self studying. Illinois I believe has a business major and your classes likely will actually touch finance topics.

2) The two have a very different student body. If you look at northwestern's average gpa and act scores they are pretty high and the school has like 9,000 undergrads. As a result, most the kids on campus will be very smart or people who study a great deal. In context this means the social life at the school is much more tame and you are likely to find more kids who only study and don't drink or socialize. Also, on average the kids will be smarter. U of I has 36,000 undergrads and less strict selection criteria. While your program might be very selective and similar to kids at Northwestern, the campus at large will be much less studious compared to Northwestern and will likely have more fun, be more social, and have a larger variety of people. 

3) In terms of recruiting, Northwestern is a top 10 school according to US news and U of I isn't. As a result there is a bias toward candidates from Northwestern being sharper, whether true or not. There also is a pretty strong alumni network from northwestern at most any bank-the same isn't true for u of I.

4) Cost. Northwestern is a private institution and is very pricey. Gies will likely be cheaper.

In summary, Gies will be more fun likely, you will take more relevant classes, and you will pay less. However, Northwestern will have a much stronger alumni network, a more prestigious brand, and you will be surrounded by smarter students on average. It's a personal choice-if all you care about is IB, the obvious answer is Northwestern, but you will need to self study and join a club. If you care about money and other parts of the college experience the decision is harder. Both schools you will need to work hard to have a shot and both schools you ultimately can land a job in the industry if you are determined enough. Good luck (fwiw, I went to NU and have many friends that went to U of I.)

Mar 31, 2021 - 2:59am

Northwestern is a top-tier school and you should def go there because you may end up not wanting to do Wall St after all. High schoolers usually have 0 idea of what actual "Wall St" finance looks like and they base their interests in finance from dabbling a bit in the stock market and having an unhealthy obsession with Patrick Bateman / Jordan Belfort

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