Thought Experiment: You're a Freshman in College, What's Your Game Plan?

OK, I've always been impressed with SoftBank and Masayoshi Son because this guy publishes a 30 year plan. Can you imagine? He thinks 30 years ahead. Let's linger not on the impracticalities of this, but the principle...

My nephew is thinking about breaking into finance, and he's terribly self-aware for an incoming college freshman. I've given him my 0.02, but I'd love to hear your own; so now I propose the aforementioned thought experiment to you: imagine you're a freshman in college. Let's say a target school for all intents and purposes. You want to break into finance, let's specifically say IBD. You want that SA in junior year, and the guaranteed career after. How do you go about doing it?

My own thoughts:

  1. Network: with your class, with other classes, with everyone and anyone interested in also breaking into finance. Use the careers office well and get to know them early on, and express your interest in finding a finance-related internship in your Freshman year. On top of this, go to information sessions, etc. Get those cards, and e-mail them-- not just once.
  2. Develop your story: on top of developing your story on 'why finance' that is somewhat believable, develop a hook. Just like during college apps, you need something to set yourself apart. You love fly-fishing? Pursue it for four years. Show consistency, it's a valuable quality.
  3. School: get goods grades. 3.8+, because you can, of course not at the expense of the other equally important things on this list. But if you're Summers: have a plan. Use each summer wisely. Freshman year maybe PWM, sophomore year accounting... This will help you land your SA junior year.
  4. Develop useful skills: such as Excel and the ability to articulate ideas eloquently, but not pompously.

Your thoughts? Perhaps specifically on summers. How would you plot your 4 year time at college, if you had the opportunity to-- which summer internship would be the realistic ideal target. Perhaps a stint at a boutique in sophomore year?

Comments (9)

May 27, 2014

I'd agree with networking. Find a household of people with a reliable pot dealer, a comfy couch and a welcoming attitude to people crashing on that couch.

Also, self-discipline. Work hard, play hard.

Also, if he can't lose his virginity, fine if he wants to shoot himself, but he shouldn't shoot other people.

May 27, 2014

1. Begin networking with professors, they can give good rec's and may also have had a network when/if they were in finance

2. Join relevant clubs and have multiple friends with similiar goals are you. This helps foster a competitive atmosphere and increases your knowledge.

3. Begin networking with LinkedIn, start reaching out to people, even if its for just info interviews.

4. Get an internship in PWM or anything finance related

5. Try hard, but don't kill yourself for the 4.0, but do aim for as high as possible until your marginal return is lower than your marginal cost.

6. Join a frat, not only does this provide a social circle, it provides a nice strong set of alum. If you are worried about hazing, join a frat that is known for not hazing.

7. Go do Wall Street Prep or some sort of study program over the course of an entire year. In other words, spend like 2-3 hours a week doing it.

8. Read articles about how the investment banking industry works and how recruitment goes on.

9. Enjoy college.

May 27, 2014

Biggest mistake I made was working part-time (~20 hours a week) for spending money, instead of maximizing my grades. I should've just taken out extra debt.

May 27, 2014

I'd recommend all of the above, especially the reliable pot dealer: you can never meet that guy too early freshman year.

I'd also throw in learning time management skills. College is generally the first time that a person has a variable schedule that they are fully in charge of on their own. In high school you have school from 8 am-2: 30 pm (I forget the exact times) then most likely structured after school activities, sports, etc., you go home, most likely someone puts dinner on the table and then you either electively or are forced to sit down and study and go to bed. You get to college and realize that you have classes at odd times scattered throughout the day and different schedules on different days. You may not have early classes some days so the temptation is to sleep until noon and when you have big gaps during the day, there's the temptation to sit around and waste time. Then at night you want to hang out with friends and shoot the shit or drink yourself into oblivion. There is time to do all of this and I believe that college should contain as much of the social aspects possible, but you have to choose and pick and become disciplined about when you're going to study (maybe you lock yourself in the library between classes and until 8 pm every weekday and get blotto drunk Thurs-Sat) and when you're going to hang out. Yes, grab lunch with friends, but if you have a break in classes from 12-4, don't sit there for 4 hours hanging out: have fun for an hour then lock yourself away and study. If you don't have classes until noon, don't sleep until 11:30 and run to class: get up at 8, get ready, grab breakfast and coffee and go somewhere that you can study/do work. And I'm not a teetotaler by any means, but when you go out during the week, have a few drinks, get a good buzz going, but don't get so wasted you're not going to be able to function the next day. Sure, every few weeks on the weekend nights, but it often makes the next day a complete waste and you're now out 14% of your week.

Learning time management and discipline not only helps when you're in college, it will help greatly long after you graduate and in multiple aspects of life between family, work, hobbies, friends and basically everything.

May 27, 2014

I would say the game plan should be like this:

1. Realize that grades matter, and keep your grades high
2. Do whatever you feel like as long as your grades are solid, make friends and have fun

Being sociable, likeable, and interesting are just a few of the qualities that point 2 brings with it. I feel like a lot of people underestimate the difference between getting an interview and getting an offer. To get an offer you have to be a likeable and interesting person, and to me, those qualities are just as important to hone in college. Don't focus on building a huge "network", focus on making a lot of friends that you enjoy hanging out with.

Note, I'm not saying don't join clubs etc. If you are interested in finance, that should be something you want to do. Same goes for attending events and talking to people. I'm just saying I would be weirded out if I interviewed a guy in college who couldn't talk about anything other than banking.

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May 27, 2014

Fuck everything with a pulse. Girls you have ready access to will never be that young again.

May 27, 2014

Freshman girls don't age though.

Tell him to experiment with psychedelics, too. Will knock him off the banking track if thats not really what he wants to do.

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May 27, 2014

Psychedelics knocked me on to the banking track.

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May 27, 2014
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