The Case for Choosing a Non-Target

Hello all. Long time lurker here who recently "made it" by winning a summer offer for 2019 at a top independent advisory shop (think EVR/CVP/PWP). I want to reflect on my experience recruiting and hopefully help out some prospective monkeys in the process.

My background- I currently go to a large state school. In high school I was a 4.0 student, Eagle Scout, debater (read: nerd virgin). I knew I wanted to go into banking and applied to top targets, getting into two schools that place lights out. I also applied to my mom's alma mater, a southern state school. They offered me their premiere full scholarship. I had to choose between a top target and a free state school, a decision that I am sure has faced or will face many young users of this site. Most of those users would take the top target in a heartbeat. I did the opposite. Here's why-

Money

I would be lying if I said that this was not the biggest factor in my decision. If you have the stats to go to a target school, there are many solid state schools that will literally fly you out senior year of high school to offer to throw money at you. I was in the grey area financially where I didn't get any financial aid at the targets I got into, but the decision to attend would have created a lot of stress for my family and saddled me with a mountain of debt. Free school is good school.

Specialized Banking Programs and Ultra-Motivated Alumni

Many state schools have selective investment banking clubs or programs. Off the top of my head, I know that South Carolina, Columbia has a program that placed into Goldman and MS last year, UGA has a program that places kids into Goldman every year and IU has a famous program that places lights out. The difference between these programs and a target's general population is that the non-target programs and their alumni bases are a lot smaller. This actually works as an advantage because it puts pressure on alumni to grow the presence of their school on the street. I had alumni call friends at other banks to get me interviews and invite me to stay with them in the city. They FIGHT for kids from their school.

Big Fish, Small Pond

It's not hard to find opportunities to grow your technical knowledge and start/ lead programs at a non-target. With less kids wanting to go into the industry, leadership positions in finance clubs are much more accessible. The group of students interested in banking is small and thus out to help each other succeed rather than compete with one another. A current senior at my school teaches free financial modeling lessons to freshmen. On the academics side, grades come easy. This allows more time to actually focus on learning technical skills or take part time internships or network.

Fun

If you have ever had the opportunity to spend a Saturday in the fall at an SEC school for a home game, you know what I'm saying. Even if the bar/ party scene isn't necessarily "better" at a state school than an ivy (it is) the easy academic course load lets you partake in recreation more often.

TL;DR: The cream will rise to the top no matter where you go to undergrad. If you are willing to put in the work, strategically choosing to attend a non-target school could be the best decision you ever make.

Hope I helped at least a few young folks. Feel free to disagree or ask me anything in the comments.

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Comments (65)

Oct 7, 2018

Wow this was 100% my experience at a non-target state school as well. The point about Big Fish, Small Pond and Specialized Banking Programs is so true and something that I think plays pretty well in interviews when talking about your background. Thanks for writing this.

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Oct 11, 2018

Congrats on making it!

But PWP is not a "top tier" EB

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Oct 11, 2018

Isn't PWP the definition of a top tier EB, what is your thought process that it isn't one?

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Oct 11, 2018

PWP is tier two for sure. Not a tier one EB.

It's more along the lines of a HL or GHL, not an EVR or CVP

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Oct 12, 2018

Gotta love "tier" people. Always setting the boundaries in a way that suits them.

Look man, if you want to split hairs and argue that PWP is slightly worse than CVP or EVR for whatever reason, then by all means do so. Free country and all.

But a tier below? Bitch please. I'm not sure what your beef is with PWP, but it's the only thing that would explain such a comment.

And Houlihan . . LOL. One of those names was not like the others.

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Oct 11, 2018

just come on

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Oct 11, 2018

Didn't realize the PWP kids were so active on this forum

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Oct 20, 2018

That's not where I ended up but I think that they are one of the best shops on the street...

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Oct 11, 2018

https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/bbeb-rankin...
For those too lazy to open the link...

Tier 1a: PJT, Centerview, Evercore, Qatalyst
Tier 1b: Lazard, Moelis, Perella Weinberg Partners

Good shop for sure, again congrats on making it!
But not the same tier

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Oct 11, 2018

All these firms he mentioned are great/elite wtv and trying to find granular differences between the super prestigious and mega prestigious is ridiculous and not talked about in actual IB circles (except for complete and utter social idiots),

If you are trying to make comparisons, consider firms that are closer in business models, for example Evercore/Lazard are completely different than Centerview/PWP in how they operate. Additionally, posting backup evidence from just another random user doesn't do much.

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Oct 11, 2018

Nah, you can just look at league tables to see that EVR and CVP clearly outperform LAZ and PWP respectively (keeping with your apples to apples comparison of firms with similar business models, i.e. two+out and banker for life respectively)

Keep at it bruv. The cream eventually rises to the top

Unpopular opinions are often the ones that you don't want to admit are true

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Oct 12, 2018

"Unpopular opinions are often the ones that you don't want to admit are true"

Sometimes. Just not this time.

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Oct 11, 2018
glorydays:

https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/bbeb-rankin...
For those too lazy to open the link...

Tier 1a: PJT, Centerview, Evercore, Qatalyst
Tier 1b: Lazard, Moelis, Perella Weinberg Partners

Good shop for sure, again congrats on making it!
But not the same tier

Tier 1a and 1b eh? Sweet breakdown dude. You must be killing it out there with the Tier 1a banker bag and all!

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Oct 11, 2018

Eh bro, sometimes you just gotta face the truth even if you don't like it

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Oct 12, 2018

This is idiotic because people can make tiers as big or small as they want. I went to a university ranked around 20th in US News. By some measures that's top tier. But "zoom in" and it could be 5th tier . . if the top tier is Harvard/Yale/Princeton and so forth.

Hell, your own ranking shows it . . why are the so-called "tiers" 1a and 1b instead of 1 and 2?

Just silly. Bottom line is, the OP grouped EVR/CVP/PWP together to give a rough idea of a top boutique and that wasn't a strange thing to do. You have Lazard in your "1b" tier and people group with better EB's all the time.

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Oct 11, 2018

Let's just give everyone a fucking participation award while we're at it

It's 2018. Everyone's a winner

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Funniest
Oct 13, 2018

This thread is quickly turning into the finance version of Greek Rank.

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Oct 13, 2018

lol

Oct 11, 2018

Nonetheless PWP is agreat shop, congrats.

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

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Oct 11, 2018

So...... you went to Terry.

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Oct 11, 2018

What's the program at South Carolina? Went there and didn't hear about it, but I wasn't a killer academically

Oct 20, 2018

It is called the "Finance Scholars Program." I've heard great things about it.

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Oct 11, 2018

Thank you Kanye - very cool!

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Nov 8, 2018

Great program honestly, helps the best kids get high finance jobs.

"MM, BB, EB, STD, don't matter to me"

Oct 11, 2018

if you know what you want and go to a non-target and work towards it you'll be fine. Large schools with specialized banking clubs will give you plenty of opportunities. Penn State's Nittany Lion Fund for example placed plenty of kids in ER/IB roles at BB. I did not go to a target school so it's hard for me to give a comparison but I can say the opportunities will be there if you work towards them

Oct 11, 2018

Spot on. Also had the same situation, and decided to go to a school ranked around 75 in USNews instead of Top 25. You have to hustle more, but if it's a $100K difference and it's coming out of your pocket, it's an easy choice if the non-target ever does place people. The schools that place <10 kids/year generally seem to have alumni that are very willing to help other kids trying to get into IB. To be honest, all it takes is a good GPA, at least one relevant internship, and hustle to make it from semi-decent state schools.

Most Helpful
Oct 11, 2018

First, congrats on the offer. But just wanted to play devil's advocate to point out that non-target disadvantages don't vanish just because you got the same job as kids at Wharton right out of college. (I also went to non-target for financial reasons.) The network you start with at a target school is far bigger, and that goes long way. Fast forward 20 years, if you went to a target school, chances are a lot of your college friends are spread out all over in high finance / corporate world. Your sheer size of network, having your former classmates/roommates now as CEO/GP will put you at a great advantage. On a side note, I personally believe this is why BB > EB for non-target school kids, given the size of class.

Obviously, as you progress and continue to be successful in your career, these things matter less. After all, opportunity presents itself to those who are qualified. Keep up the good work and share your story when you have become even more successful.

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Oct 20, 2018

This makes a lot of sense: thanks for the insight. Hopefully the connections I make in my analyst class will bridge that gap a bit, and I can always go get an MBA later. Targets definitely have their advantages, though.

Oct 11, 2018
hot1590:

First, congrats on the offer. But just wanted to play devil's advocate to point out that non-target disadvantages don't vanish just because you got the same job as kids at Wharton right out of college. (I also went to non-target for financial reasons.) The network you start with at a target school is far bigger, and that goes long way. Fast forward 20 years, if you went to a target school, chances are a lot of your college friends are spread out all over in high finance / corporate world. Your sheer size of network, having your former classmates/roommates now as CEO/GP will put you at a great advantage. On a side note, I personally believe this is why BB > EB for non-target school kids, given the size of class.

Obviously, as you progress and continue to be successful in your career, these things matter less. After all, opportunity presents itself to those who are qualified. Keep up the good work and share your story when you have become even more successful.

I sort of disagree. I was a state school kid and worked at 2 BBs in S&T and then IB. Honestly, all of my work friends went to targets and many of my colleagues went to b-school at H/S/W. It's not hard to just ask your friends for intros and just leverage those networks without the opportunity cost. Just my 2c.

Oct 12, 2018

Couldn't agree more

If you go to a non target you can kiss being a CEO, Big-Swinging-Dick, partner at PE fund, etc GOODBYE

Look at the MDs and senior guys at your bank or PE fund. Almost all of their connections, clients/partners, are going to be connections through college. It's just such a handicap coming from an SEC school.

Really sad to see people justify not going to HYP. Just suck it up and pay $250k for college - there's no other way to make it on Wall Street

Fuckin my way thru nyc one chick at a time

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Oct 20, 2018

Dang thanks for the insight. I guess I should just give up :(

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Oct 11, 2018

True Bro. The CEO of Chevron is lacking buyside prestige cuz he went to a state school - on that alone i think the stock is a short now that i think of it...

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Oct 12, 2018

Let's face it. Target School pe guys like to do deal with target school bankers, target school GPs etc.

Sure - it's been 25 years since they graduated from college. But nothing runs deep like the connection between you and some guy who went to the same college as you. Non-target people just can't replicate the connection a Wharton grad feels with another Wharton grad. It's an unspoken bond.

You can try and justify going to a non-target school. But at the end of the day, targets are an ultra-exclusive club with a lifetime membership. You can NEVER replicate the prestige of a Harvard undergraduate degree - no matter how successful you are in your career.

Just ask the Director I interned for. He went to Penn State to save money and he always regrets it. We lost a deal to a Yale MD at Credit Suisse one week and then we lost one to a Harvard MD at Citi. He was absolutely crushed. He told me "thank god you go to HYP. This will never happen to you"

Fuckin my way thru nyc one chick at a time

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Oct 11, 2018

^^^Read the post in Trump's voice...makes more sense now....

Oct 23, 2018

@hot1590 Good point here on the target vs. non-target network. I've found that grit and preparing before your sophomore year will overcome all/most of the common barriers associated with non-targets missing the boat on IB recruiting. However, the fact that the bulk of my graduating class will not move on to become F500 CEOs and the like, my fellow non-target bankers and I won't be starting our careers with the same long-term network that the target guys will have.

In my opinion, this does not mean we are doomed to be mediocre bankers, but it just says the grind isn't over to becoming the "whole package." Just my thoughts, and it's always beneficial to recognize your weaknesses and figure out how to improve them.

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Oct 12, 2018

This thread turned into a different pissing contest than I was expecting.

Oct 12, 2018

Great points OP, congrats!

Oct 11, 2018

So many non target scrubs on these bloody forums

Oct 17, 2018

I find it extraordinarily amusing that some mediocrity of an investment banking analyst or college student is undertiering Joe Perella. Or Lazard for that matter. Lazard is a powerhouse, and PWP has many of the best bankers on the street, and Joe is the best of the best. And no, I don't work there.

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Oct 11, 2018

Eh Lazard's been slipping in recent years. Take a look at the tables mate

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Oct 17, 2018

This is some next level stuff.'

Strategically going to a non target?

Oct 12, 2018

Truly - what a ludicrous idea. With recruiting moving further and further up, non-targets are FUCKED if they want a career in finance. Those investment banking recruiting clubs at non-targets don't do SHIT.

If you think you can compete with targets while going to Indiana, you're out of your FUCKING mind. I've never heard anything more preposterous

And honestly, college is four short years of your life. How much fun you have, the culture of the school, or the friendships you make really dont matter that much. So as a 17-18 year old, you should be making your college decision based primarily on how well it will prepare you for investment banking / medicine / whatever your desired career path is. Anyone who disagrees is going to eating my DUST as I zoom past them on my career path.

Fuckin my way thru nyc one chick at a time

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Oct 20, 2018

I mean most of the points in my post also pertain to people who don't have the high school stats to get into a target. In that case, choosing which non-target to attend is an inevitable question. Moreover, I find it highly unlikely that me and all of my peers in my ibanking program won the lottery and just happened to luck into great summer analyst opportunities on wall street. Finally, I know that I want to live and work in the south after my analyst stint. My SEC connections down here will go farther than any target. Even if that wasn't the case, however, I would still be comfortable with my decision turning down targets and will enjoy my early twenties doing interesting work at a great shop without worrying about student debt. I am sure that you are very proud of getting into a good school, so I do not expect you to understand my point of view. To each his own.

Oct 17, 2018

I'm 99.9% sure the accelerated recruiting is meant to capture targets, and to kind of push non-targets out of the way. The way I see it, If you don't have the name brand, then the only way you can compete is by having a relevant internship your Freshman Summer...so, uh, yeah. I haven't read about Freshman's at non-targets getting investment banking internships unless Daddy pulled a favor for them.

I agree completely with your last point. If an SEC school is supposed to be "fun, and the highlight of your life" for 4 years then that sounds pretty depressing, and implies life sucks after. Lmao.

I'm just getting so tired of reading these kinds of circle-jerk threads because I'm 99% OP had a favor pulled for him ( that had nothing to do with his education or what not) but he "hustled" his way into banking from a non-target. Wonder if these kinds of threads keep showing up when recruiting gets pushed into Freshman year.

Seriously, go look at the OCR for all these SEC schools, they are all BO, and insurance positions. Vanderbilts probably the only exception.

/rant

Oct 12, 2018

Sounds like you go to a non-target and are jelly of people who are more likeable / well-connected and able to land internships

Fuckin my way thru nyc one chick at a time

Oct 17, 2018

Deleted

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Oct 12, 2018

Ruffle some feathers did I?

Fuckin my way thru nyc one chick at a time

Oct 17, 2018

Deleted

Oct 12, 2018

No need to apologize - I enjoyed your response very much. I stay hydrated thru drinking the tears of non-targets

Fuckin my way thru nyc one chick at a time

Oct 17, 2018

Exhibit A

Oct 11, 2018

I actually disagree on the reason for accelerated schedule. IB has been losing its pride & glory of attracting top talents to Tech, and to the execs this is not acceptable. That combined with their insecurity of FOMO against competitors. Do PE firms now recruit 18 months in advance so that they can recruit more from top IBs? No.

That said, accelerated schedule only gives disadvantage to non targets, since they have less time to build their credentials with internships. On top of that, banks are pushing harder than ever for diversity programs while decreasing class size. Diversity candidates are the ones who fill accelerated superdays these days. My previous BB has also decreased 19 summer class size by 25%.

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Oct 17, 2018
hot1590:

That said, accelerated schedule only gives disadvantage to non targets, since they have less time to build their credentials with internships. On top of that, banks are pushing harder than ever for diversity programs while decreasing class size. Diversity candidates are the ones who fill accelerated superdays these days. My previous BB has also decreased 19 summer class size by 25%.

Yes. That's why I'm at such a loss reading all these "non-target to BB IB AMA" threads. Were these threads from like 3 years ago or something? 2020 SA recruiting started a couple months ago. I don't see how it's remotely possible to break into banking from a non-target now unless you really knew someone at the bank (no not a linkedin connection, like actually KNOW the person). Or got some IB internship during your Freshman year or Summer which is already a long-shot since being an intern is net-negative for the firm since they have to find work for you, and train you.

I also noticed it isn't just IB. Plenty of finance roles are starting to go earlier, and earlier. Oh well.

Oct 11, 2018

Agreed.
Unless you have started prepping from HS I guess...

Oct 20, 2018

Where is this idea that tech is pulling away talent coming from? The people who pursue tech roles out of school are so different to the people who pursue finance/consulting roles out of school. Hardly any overlap, save for the few people who are capable and interested in doing both. You're not exactly competing for the same talent as a hiring manager for an IB analyst position vs a software engineering position at BigTechCo.

Unless the argument is there are more people interested in tech entrepreneurship? I don't see that trend anywhere.. As a "business-minded high achiever", there simply aren't many roles in tech that set you up professionally for a business career as well as entry-level jobs in finance or consulting do. Sure, there is a strong pull to interesting business jobs in tech POST a stint in finance/consulting or B-school but before?

The only roles I can think of that square up are Associate Product Manager roles or entry-level Product Manager roles of which there are maybe less than the equivalent of 1 or 2 IB BB FT analyst class sizes in spots available TOTAL. Just don't really buy any of this tech talent war malarkey (for business roles) at undergrad.

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Oct 25, 2018

I will agree that tech is attracting a lot of candidates who were and/or former IB's. I went to visit my old work campus and met the new engineers who got their MS in CS/CE/EE. Better work/life balance was their main attraction. Plus no suits.

No pain no game.

Oct 20, 2018

While I disagree with everything you're saying, I'm most surprised by your example of Indiana, that school is a powerhouse when it comes to IB, had a few buddies that went there and by their IBW site they sent a kid to PJT this year and routinely send multiple people to Moelis, Evercore, JPM, Lazard, PWP, etc year after year. Their investment banking workshop will put you in as good of a spot as most targets, albeit you need to be in it if you're trying to go BB or EB. Even U Of I is turning into a solid school for IB, they just sent a kid to GTCR full-time and are sending a kid their as a summer analyst this year.

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Oct 17, 2018

Interesting to hear +SB

Oct 20, 2018

Great story, well done!!

Oct 11, 2018

This thread gave me cancer

Oct 12, 2018

Same man some guys are just fuckin idiots haha

Fuckin my way thru nyc one chick at a time

Oct 23, 2018

@NonTarget Scrub Great read for any students / prospective monkies that fall into the non-target bucket. I'm graduating this May and have had a very similar experience as far as being a "big fish" in a small pond. Ultra motivated alumni are partially the reason I just signed an FT offer to go work in Rx and M&A advisory at an EB.

Although I also boosted my resume with D-1 football, I was quite literally the only student I have come across that understood the IB process early in my undergrad career. While the university's classes alone are nowhere near sufficient to gain an understanding of the technical knowledge required, I shelled out some cash for as many Wall Street Prep guides as I could, studied them, and read WSO guides religiously. Point being, if IB means enough to you, there's absolutely no reason you can't break into WS without going to a target school.

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Oct 25, 2018

No pain no game.

Nov 7, 2018
Nov 7, 2018