PSU Smeal vs. IU Kelley

Saw this on an older thread but wondering what thoughts would be now. IU Kelley is out of state for about 45 a year, and PSU Smeal is in state for about 25 a year. Not sure if this adds anything but got into the PSU Smeal Sapphire Leadership Program as well (I believe it gives students an edge to join the NLF). I have to work hard wherever, but wondering what school offers better recruiting opportunities (as I will enjoy the social scene at both schools and feel they are fairly similar in that sense). I will be gunning for IBW/NLF and would love to have the opportunity to work in IB after college (hopefully low-tier BB? Not sure what exits are possible from these schools. I guess that's why I am asking this question). Have until Monday to make a decision so would love some input.

Looking for any alum from either to give some advice! Thanks!

Edit: In terms of taking out any loans, for PSU I would come out with no loans, and for IU I would come out with 40k in loans. Also, I am on a waitlist for NYU Stern (low odds I get off because they never take kids off of their WL but I will 100% go if given the opportunity).

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Comments (16)

Apr 22, 2021 - 4:22pm

Agree with this above. Will definitely need to utilize alumni networking (oubviously), but if it were up to me, I would choose IU Kelley as I believe the IBW program places better than the NLF but it is more competitive I heard. Hope this helps

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  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Apr 23, 2021 - 8:32pm

This is not correct. Indiana places 100+ kids into FO roles every year, while Penn State places 30-40. If you just look at IB and ignore the folks going into equity sales and prime brokerage, the disparity becomes something like 80 vs 15 in favor of Indiana, though I have less of a grasp on the exact number for Indiana. 

While the range of firms is definitely expanding, Penn State continues to mainly place at two firms - Bank of America and Citigroup, both of which take 3-4 kids for IB every year. Indiana sends 10 kid classes into IB programs at a much larger range of firms, including at places such as Moelis and PWP.

There really is a pretty significant disparity in opportunity between the two schools, and most of the PSU alumni responding to this thread haven't given this much thought beyond the anecdotes they've heard about Kelley. The disparity is largely driven by the fact that there are just far more students at Indiana interested in IB. This translates to a larger alumni base, which translates to more recruiting opportunities, which attracts more students in a self-fulfilling cycle. The other major driver is that Kelley's Wall Street programs a) takes a lot more kids, and b) has much higher turnover. They get a lot more students through their programs and prepped for recruiting, while Penn State's programs will have a freshman parked into one of 20 spots in a club for the next three years. 

To a lesser extent, the administration at Penn State can also be blamed. The main faculty members responsible for building out these pipelines are primarily focused on patting themselves on the back. That doesn't mean they don't help place kids, rather they just have zero interest in growing the program beyond its current confines. I can also tell you from direct conversations I've had that the dean's office has zero interest in expanding these programs beyond putting them on instagram and the Smeal website. 100% of the recent growth in programs and placements has been student driven; it's actually been kind of disgusting hearing from a certain faculty member that "i allowed x program to happen, so the only reason xyz got jobs is because of me". 

At the end of the day, I would just pick the school where you think you'll have the most fun. Unless you have family obligations or are really taking on a substantial debt burden, your first job of college is not going to impact your standard of living if you are making 140k instead of 180k. You really only do get to do undergrad once - I would make it count. 

Apr 24, 2021 - 12:54am

Thanks for the insight on the recruiting numbers! With all that you've said (the fact being that PSU places less students in IB per capita and the fact that IU has stronger pipelines) do you think it would be worth the 40-50k I would have to take out in loans (obviously I am the one making the decision but would love to hear you input as you've offered much needed advice above). I am pretty much split evenly on the social scene aspect of both schools, so at this point I am taking the monetary and recruiting aspects into consideration.

Apr 22, 2021 - 9:03pm

Go with fit, and perhaps even compare the $10k / year price difference as well.

They both place relatively well (I don't know specifics about IBW at IU but know NLF places 95-100% into FO Wall street roles if you're a fund manager).

You've got a head start being accepted but just know it will be a grind and you'll have to have a good relationship with the fund managers. IBW sounds like you may convert into a FO role at a lesser success rate but there's more opportunity to "get in"

Apr 23, 2021 - 2:54pm

Thanks for the advice! Won't let me PM in 3 days because I am a new user. Will the Sapphire program help at all with securing an NLF position? Also, what GPA (from your experience) do you need to get into NLF (obviously along with finance internship experience)? I have heard that PSU Alums vouch hard for PSU students, is this true?

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Apr 23, 2021 - 8:21pm

For your first job out of college, the main difference in opportunities between Smeal and Kelley lie in alumni base at independent advisory firms. Kelley has a massive advantage in this regard, especially at the following firms:



PWP (Penn State has a small alumni base here, not enough to really push hard for kids in recruiting)


Houlihan Lokey


Part of this is due to Kelley's proximity to Chicago (and subsequent branch out by alumni to NYC offices), while part of this is due to the fact that there are just significantly more people at Kelley who are interested in investment banking.

While you will have less opportunities at Penn State, you will also have much less competition for the fewer spots. This actually also has its pros and cons, where there are fewer people at Penn State who "reach for the stars", or really push themselves to break from the limits of the school alumni base and gun for the undergrad spot at a KKR or Ares. The statement "iron sharpens iron" is very real in this sense; if your peers are pushing themselves to understand what public companies constitute a good private equity target as freshman, so will you.

If I were in your shoes, I would probably just pick the school that I have the most friends at. If you are from Philly, you would fit right in at Penn State as the majority of the kids gunning for IB come from Jersey and Philly. At either school, getting your foot in the door will be a grind, and you need the strong social support system so that you don't feel like the world is ending if you stumble along the way. 

If you're taking out loans and you want to pay them back as early as possible, I would actually go with Kelley. There are more firms that will pay you 180k+ (or even 200k+) coming out of college at Kelley. The after tax amounts will add up at the end of your analyst program. My pro tip if you are serious about loans: spend at least 1 summer interning in IB in California, where the overtime laws mean that you'll pretty much have a year's worth of tuition covered by the end of your summer. 

Apr 24, 2021 - 12:54am

Wow thanks for the detailed answer and providing much needed insight on the recruiting specifics! In terms of taking out loans, I would come out debt free out of PSU and come out with a roughly estimated 40k in loans at IU. Would it be worth it to pursue Kelley instead of taking out no loans? Also, in terms of the recruiting, you mentioned "At either school, getting your foot in the door will be a grind, and you need the strong social support system so that you don't feel like the world is ending if you stumble along the way." I think this point has me leaning towards PSU because I will be in a small group of Smeal's top kids starting freshman year being that I am in a tight-knit program. Since recruiting has pushed up to Sophomore year do you think that it will offer an advantage being in a top leadership group within PSU vs. being one of thousands at IU, or is this a meaningless advantage? I will have internship experience as I am starting to intern at a financial firm this spring so I am trying to sharpen my resume as much as possible before recruiting season to try to compete with the kids from better schools. Lastly, do you think I should keep transferring colleges in my mind, or should I stick it out at one of these schools? I appreciate the assistance!

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Apr 24, 2021 - 12:54am

Neither Sapphire nor Schreyer will provide you with an advantage in recruiting for IB. This is not M&T or Huntsman at Wharton - there are tons of mouth breathers in most of the honors / leadership programs that Penn State has come up with. If you really feel evenly about the social scene and are now just focused on recruiting, pick Kelley. The disparity in opportunities between the two schools is massive. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Apr 24, 2021 - 12:54am

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