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 (69)

Oct 7, 2018 - 5:35pm

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 - 9:50am

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 - 9:35pm
glorydays:

https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/bbeb-rankingtier-list-2016

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!

Oct 12, 2018 - 4:22pm

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.

Oct 11, 2018 - 2:42am

Nonetheless PWP is agreat shop, congrats.

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

Nov 8, 2018 - 1:29am

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

Debt isn't the only thing distressed at this shop

Oct 11, 2018 - 9:24am

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 - 9:36am

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 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 - 10:28am

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.

Oct 11, 2018 - 10:49pm
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.

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Oct 12, 2018 - 5:01pm

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 23, 2018 - 1:04pm

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.

Oct 17, 2018 - 9:12am

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 17, 2018 - 9:52am

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 - 12:13pm

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

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Oct 20, 2018 - 9:53am

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.

Oct 20, 2018 - 5:43pm

Same man some guys are just fuckin idiots haha

Fuckin my way thru nyc one chick at a time
Oct 23, 2018 - 12:50pm

@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 received an offer to work in RX.

I also boosted my resume with D-1 football, but if IB is important to you, there's no reason you can't break into WS without going to a target school.

Oct 25, 2018 - 12:56am

Nice. I agree. I have referenced many of folks who had motivation to go into banking to look and read through WSO.

No pain no game.

Oct 25, 2018 - 12:59am

I think the case is clear and obvious, but I am also biased as I chose a non-target state school over an elite "target" school.

I chose a full scholarship with a state school over paying ticket price for Columbia. At Columbia, I would've graduated with ~250-300k in debt and graduated in 4 years. At the school I went to, I graduated with 6.2k in debt from subsidized loans I took out purely for spending money and graduated in 3 years.

Wasn't an easy decision, but to date, the best decision of my life.

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Nov 7, 2018 - 10:44am

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