Semi-targets at Undergrad Level (UK)

Santhouae's picture
Rank: Chimp | banana points 9

I will be applying shortly for my uni choices. I'm planning on studying Earth Sciences (MSci, 4 year degree) and would be hoping to get into Oxford or Imperial. Eventually I'd like to go into energy equity (preferably cleantech rather than O+G) or commodity finance, probably after a Masters in Finance (e.g. Metals and Energy Finance at Imperial).
However, for undergrads I was wondering how important it is for internships and placements to be at a target uni, particularly as I won't be doing a traditional degree for IB. Oxford and Imperial would likely be AAA, and I'd like my insurance to be a bit lower. Durham would probably offer AAA (best out of the five A-levels I'm taking from speaking to the admissions tutor) and has a course I really like, whilst both St Andrews and UCL would probably allow a B. UCL is obviously a target uni, but I wasn't a huge fan of the dept. and teachers even if the course is good. Edinburgh and Exeter also both have good courses, whilst Leeds has an interesting Environment and Management Course but is pretty much a non-target and is AAA.
So assuming Oxford, Imperial and Durham are on the list, which two (out of St Andrews, Edinburgh, Exeter, UCL and Leeds) would give me the best shot at an IB Spring Week placement? Does UCL really hold such an advantage over the two Scottish unis for example?
Thanks in advance and sorry for the long post.

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Comments (4)

Aug 6, 2017

From your list - UCL is the clear front-runner. The second choice isn't as clear-cut, though I'd personally choose Edinburgh out of those (a more interesting location than the others and an equally if not better brand). For UK spring weeks and summer internships, university brand does matter as do A levels. So, AAA + a semi-target will still show a good academic track record and put you in good stead but of course you'd be able to leverage a wider range of resources from a target university, as they have more ibanks and other financial firms visiting them and have a wider industry alumni base.

If you wanted to continue pursuing earth sciences, maybe take a look at Bristol and Nottingham too. They both have reasonably strong finance societies.

One thing I will say is, for many of the positions you mentioned, I think a standard econ / A+F / related degree will suffice. Most spring weeks are generalist, and the oil & gas -related positions at IBs will only make up a small proportion of summer internship and full-time roles. You could always apply to trading / commercial roles at BP, Shell etc. but in the UK there aren't a huge number of commodity finance entry-level roles going around. For this reason, you'll need to have a good story as to why you decided to pursue with a life sciences degree if your goal is to enter into finance, if you're being interviewed by a non-energy finance guy. If you did happen to go to a semi-target, it would be more convenient to have a related degree to finance also. However, if you enjoy the subject (earth sciences), then by all means go ahead and pursue the degree. London IB / finance has loads of non-econ/finance grads.

Aug 7, 2017

Thank you so much for your response. I should be predicted A * A * A * AA, and would be disappointed if I didn't achieve at least two A*'s so I think academically I should be okay, I just want to have the wiggle room with an insurance so that will probably be Durham or UCL assuming I get offers from both.
Re Bristol, the dept. is certainly strong but it's a bit close to home (under an hour on the train and I attend school in Bath so I'm very much in the area). I didn't know Nottingham had a strong rep for either IB or earth sciences so I'll have a look.
With regards to the degree, I'm pretty set on following the sciences at Undergrad level just as it gives me the flexibility for a variety of jobs, notably O+G engineering should there be another upturn in employment as I'm graduating, but also mining (lithium is of particular interest to me), and potentially environmental consultancy and risk mitigation. That said, I would think a MSc in finance after this would be beneficial-or would the undergrad degree be enough and then maybe pursue an MBA later?
I'm hoping to get some relevant work exp. in December, though I'm not sure how important that will be for securing a Spring Week placement. My understanding is that IB selection criteria is similar to how American Unis deal with applicants and they are looking for extra-curriculars and you as an all-round person? I have volunteering experience in a national park in Costa Rica (proper thing as opposed to the whole volun-tourism thing), and I've had multiple debating successes with my school (MUN) as well as co-organising a Youth Climate Summit for a hundred people. Sports-wise I play both 2nd's football and rugby but nothing at a high level. What other things would they be looking for? Obviously joining the finance society at uni is a given.

Aug 6, 2017

OK fair enough, I didn't pick up on the fact that you were also interested in some non-finance career options. In that case, it's sensible to go ahead with the Earth Sciences degree. Also with those grade expectations, I doubt the fifth choice really matters in your case, as you're likely to still end up at UCL or Durham even if you do slip up. So for the fifth choice just put down the university you prefer. In the UK, it is true that more people from Bristol and Nottingham get into ibanking than from Edinburgh and St.Andrews, but I don't think the difference in the quality of universities is material and you have to take into account the size of the respective student bodies.

A Master's is not necessary to be honest. You will be able to apply for IB spring weeks with your degree of choice, which you will then hopefully be able to convert to a summer internship and then finally a graduate job. Academics, some ECs, and an interest in finance are the main things needed to get a spring week offer. You seem to have the academics on track, as well as the extracurriculars. In terms of showing an interest in finance, getting work experience is the best, but also most difficult way in doing this. There are some pre-university insight days offered by investment banks (RBS, Nomura, JP Morgan, if memory serves me right) which you should look to apply as well as industry conferences targeted towards students (Bright Network - Investment Banking). Attending these will show some proactiveness in learning about finance, as would getting some experience work-shadowing. Also, try and get into your university's finance society's investment fund or research team. You can also try writing about finance on platforms like TheMarketMogul (UK-based). All of these things should be presented on a neatly formatted 1 page CV (look at WSO or Mergers and Inquisitions for examples), which many incoming university students fail to have. You should look to apply on the earlier side (how early, I'm not sure for spring weeks, but probably before mid-October), and you should start building markets technical knowledge (WSO technical guide) which will help for interviews. Doing those things should prepare you well for spring weeks.

Aug 7, 2017