Top Target Status Losing Value

I'm a student at an HYPW school and have a lot of friends from my high school are at other supposedly "lower targets" (think UMich, UVA, Georgetown,  UT Austin) and are getting the same (if not better) SA offers than many kids at my university with similar profiles (GPA, ECs, and prior experience).

Beyond my personal anecdotes, I see that my school isn't even on the WSO top ten list for IB placement and that some of these lower targets are seemingly placing much better. This is really frustrating to me since it seems like I could've worked WAY less hard in HS and attended one of these lower-tier schools (or go for almost free from merit scholarships)  and then end up with the same result in terms of placement. I'm just confused why people on this forum encourage kids to go to HYPW type schools when it seems to make no difference in placement, probably costs more (since no merit aid), and is much harder to stand out even within the school due to high level of competition and volume of connected kids?

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Comments (134)

Aug 29, 2020 - 4:45pm

To be fair, Georgetown generally punches significantly above its school ranking in terms of IB recruitment. At the end of the day, everyone will tell you that while your school might be able to get your foot in the door, it is completely up to you at that point to perform in the interviews. Are the kids at your school a bit on the nerdier side? Less social? Etc. these are all factors that go into play when getting an offer, and it's really up to you to perform. Plus, it's not everyone's goal to necessarily end up at the top BB m&a group either - personal preferences can play a big part.

Kind of hard to expand further without more information other than kid 1 went to Michigan and kid 2 went to Yale and kid 1 recruited better than kid 2 (not sure how you're qualifying that either)

Sep 4, 2020 - 4:50pm

Few things:

(1) Target schools matter when recruiting as an analyst. It will always be a fast-track to BB's and strong MM firms because of OCR pipelines, alumni, and prestige.

(2) It doesn't matter as much as it used to. As banks have become decentralized from NYC as technology has enabled firms to open offices in order to serve clients in regions more directly, they tend to recruit more regionally. In Houston and Dallas, they'll take a look at SMU, UT, even A&M for oil and gas. They pay at the same pay-grade as their NYC counterparts and enjoy a lower cost of living. 

(3) Some of the best bankers, and even analysts, are from the non-targets. We had a kid from a state school recently who was an absolute freak of an analyst. He knew his shit cold from day 1. It was like Forrest Gump - he did what was told, and did it well without any trouble. The target school kids without finance backgrounds were a full letter-grade below him during reviews. He was someone that had to take the "hard way" in, by working at a boutique for a year, then lateraling in. He's now about to leave for a top PE shop. I'm not saying that's always the case - and that non-targets don't work as hard as target school kids. I know the grit and smarts you've had to endure just to get in to those schools. But to say that another analyst is better or worse because of undergrad is silly. The top 10% at a good state school is easily as capable as the general student population at target universities. 

  • Prospect in Other
Aug 29, 2020 - 4:56pm

From my experience, I don't think it's that kids are less social as they were similar. I know for a fact that OCR at my school is worse than some of the others mentioned above which is very strange. We aren't even a core school for BofA or UBS anymore (got dropped recently), and virtually no EBs do OCR (basically only Lazard, Centerview, and kind of Guggenheim). It's just frustrating that my HYPW school essentially only has 7 or 8 banks that do OCR at all compared much more than that at the lower tier schools mentioned above...

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Most Helpful
  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Aug 29, 2020 - 5:14pm

Because wall street isn't the "brain drain" it used to be and the smartest kids don't go into finance. They go to tech, consulting, etc... 

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Aug 29, 2020 - 6:19pm

Yeah but that doesn't explain why there are many HYPSW kids who strike out of recruiting even when they try. I'm still a prospect so I don't know much yet, but I'm guessing that recruiting is becoming so competitive nowadays that it's difficult for everyone. Maybe there are more placements from other schools that OP noticed (UMich, UVA, UT Austin) simply because the undergrad population is much higher.

  • Analyst 2 in IB - Ind
Aug 29, 2020 - 6:25pm

Because the ones who try recruiting for traditional finance aren't the smartest kids anymore. If anything, recruiting has gotten easier over the last 10-15 years. 

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Aug 29, 2020 - 11:51pm

Did the smartest kids ever go to straight to finance? I thought Yale / Harvard law was considered the logical next step for those that could get in, though obviously JDs played a different role than they do now.

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Aug 29, 2020 - 5:20pm

I really hope you didn't pick your college based on WSO lol. HYP and the like are desirable for many reasons outside of recruiting, and you'll still have a leg up on Wall Street anyway.

Aug 29, 2020 - 5:23pm

OP, I also go to an HYP as well and it seems that there are more people going into quant finance, tech, consulting, law, startups, etc. instead of traditional Wall Street IB. I think our career services report a couple of years ago listed under 12 percent of the graduating class into financial services. Certainly not a huge volume there, and not sure if it's because of OCR getting weaker or kids pursuing more of the above roles......

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Aug 29, 2020 - 5:24pm

Your life isn't finished after the first investment banking job you get post-college. Try on-cycle PE recruiting and you'll get a sense of how much HH prefer Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford/Wharton even to a great school like Cornell. Try to raise funding for your startup idea 10 years down the line and you'll get a sense of how much VCs prestige whore over Stanford/Harvard/MIT. Run for Congress and you'll notice how Harvard/Stanford/Princeton (and Georgetown) have the most alumni. It really pays to go to a top-tier school, especially Harvard or Stanford these days.

  • Prospect in PE - Other
Aug 29, 2020 - 9:27pm

You basically nailed it, but to add: I've talked to several extremely intelligent people who went to non-targets and were basically forced to go back to business school to get the credentials to raise money more easily. Their lacking network was another thing commonly noted.

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A
Aug 29, 2020 - 5:51pm

Lol not sure why I got MS for my opinion but to answer your question.

If you want to go to top MF/HF then yes EB is the better choice but honestly when you're at a BB/EB 90% of exit opps comes down to the individual. I know/seen people from DB/UBS place to UMM.

However at the end of the day as ppl above mention when you want to move up/start a business network becomes very beneficial and that alumni network becomes very useful down the road.

Ultimately also you can always lateral from a lower BB to EB but you can't ever change your college degree

Aug 29, 2020 - 6:44pm

You go to HYPW because you'll be set for life on the name of the school alone even if you don't have an IB analyst job. It doesn't guarantee you'll make f-you money, but it does pretty much guarantee you will do, at the very least, alright in life. You think anyone would dare to even consider Art History majors from Michigan for an IB job? Nope. They hire them from HYP.  

  • Prospect in 
Aug 29, 2020 - 6:53pm

I think your point supports OP's observation in that going to an HYPW isn't advantageous since pedigree isn't important anymore.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Aug 29, 2020 - 7:12pm

I personally think it's because the talent gap between the HYPW kids and the kids at Michigan, UVA, Gtown has gotten closer. I would argue that the kids at both groups of schools are similar, if not the same, in academic standing and so the real differentiator becomes the quality of the person like Analyst 1 said above. I am sure that kids at Michigan, UVA, Gtown got into some Ivies and made their decision based on factors other than the name of the school (best fit, financially, which school would be more fun, etc). Not trying to say the quality of kids at HYPW has gone down, but rather the quality of kids at the other schools has gone up. 

  • Prospect in 
Aug 29, 2020 - 7:32pm

I can tell you that you're absolutely wrong. I went to a NE prep school (Andover/Exeter/Choate), witnessed 4 classes go through the college process, and had access to the admissions scattergrams. Gtown and UVA literally took anyone who applied from my hs (scattergram was basically all green) and HYP only took kids at the top of the class with substantial hooks. Only kids in the bottom half of my class matriculated at a UVA/Gtown and the kids in the top half used those as pure safeties or didn't bother applying at all. I don't know how you came to believe that the schools in the 20-30 range are now equivalent to HYP.....

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Aug 29, 2020 - 7:53pm

I went to a normal school so your view is very different than many others (not saying your view is wrong, just completely different experiences). I have two friends at Harvard and one at UVA and can say with 100% confidence that they are similar and the UVA kid is arguably the smartest (better GPA from the same classes in HS and better ACT/SAT scores).   If you re-read my response, you would also see that I said the talent gap has gotten closer. I never said that they were equivalent, I'm not that naive lol. 

  • Intern in RE - Other
Aug 30, 2020 - 2:55am

I go to UVA, and frankly, there are a lot of kids from all three of those high schools that you listed. I don't believe, however, that they were all in the bottom half of their class. I went to a prep school, not on that tier, but still very highly regarded. I can tell you right now that the bottom half of my class didn't even bother applying to UVA because they had no chance. Nearly all of the kids that got into UVA but didn't end up going went to Ivies instead. In fact, the kid from my class who was nominated for the Jefferson scholarship went to Harvard instead. Other kids from at Harvard from my class didn't even get the nomination. I can almost guarantee that any Jefferson scholar at UVA could have/did get into a HYP. It's definitely not as prestigious as an Ivy, but it's basically just as hard to get into out-of-state as a lower-tier Ivy is.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Aug 30, 2020 - 11:49pm

Depressing how many people at EB/High BB sound like this kid because daddy paid for Elite Prep School->> HYP->> Tuck Bridge->> which got them a EB/BB IB job. It's so funny all of the experiences that got them to IB is because of daddy's money. 

  • Research Analyst in HF - Other
Jun 15, 2021 - 11:09am

While people are giving you MS bc you sound pretentious to them, I can confirm that all the information here is indeed accurate. 

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Aug 29, 2020 - 7:19pm

A UVA finance major is going to be more polished and knowledgeable about the industry than a Harvard art history SJW.

  • Prospect in 
Aug 29, 2020 - 7:45pm

The Harvard art history sjw wouldn't apply to IB anyways. She would do rather do Teach for America than be "sneaky treacherous capitalist." 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Ind
Aug 31, 2020 - 10:11am

I was actually in Brussels waiting for a flight back to the U.S and crashed for a few hours at a nearby upscale airport hostel. I shared the room with one girl from Wesleyan and one girl from Georgetown who were travelling together. I worked in Finance and thought, well if these two girls are travelling Europe on their own and recently graduated from top schools, they must work in banking or law. After asking them, both of them were doing a teaching english abroad gig after having left school around 2 years ago and were making an insanely low amount of money. Both of them had studied the classic liberal womens/african culture/art bs that they teach and were no joke thousands of dollars in debt. They had found no jobs in the U.S, and decided to become au pairs/english teachers around Europe until they figured out what they wanted to do in life.

I was surprised and my jaw dropped. It was a wake up call to me that made me realize people are actually stupid enough to waste 4 years on useless degree and burden themselves with a liability that will never go away.

Aug 29, 2020 - 8:08pm

Maybe, but a lot of employers care more about a candidate's learning potential than the knowledge with which they start out. Some employers think the art history major from HYP will eventually provide greater value than the finance major from UVA.

  • Intern in Other
Aug 29, 2020 - 9:03pm

totally not true. I went to TJHSST, the single largest feeder to UVA at 100  and 25 some kids to HYPSM each year. On average there was a clear drop off in credentials between the two crowds. Even when technical/non technical major is taken into consideration.

  • Prospect in Other
Aug 29, 2020 - 9:16pm

Totally agree with you that there's a big drop-off. People who go to TJ like you or an Andover/Exeter/Choate like me know this from firsthand experience...

  • Intern in RE - Other
Aug 30, 2020 - 2:37am

This is not a fair comparison. TJ is in-state while New England prep schools are out-of-state. The in-state acceptance rate for the class of 2024 was right around 32% while the out-of-state acceptance rate was about 15%. Of course, there is going to be a big difference at TJ. Having gone to a different out-of-state prep school, I can tell you the difference at those schools is not that large. There is a difference, but it's not night and day.

  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Gen
Aug 29, 2020 - 8:23pm

dude quants make so much more money than us in IB, fuck IB be a quant (which you can only really do from top top targets)

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Aug 29, 2020 - 8:35pm

Wrong, for quant and swe roles in general, it's much more meritocratic and there's a far smaller emphasis on hiring from "target" schools. 

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Aug 29, 2020 - 8:53pm

This is completely wrong. I've talked to many quants in the industry and literally all of them said they went to an info session on campus and got on through OCR. As a nontarget I have absolutely 0 companies that come to campus and will have to fight my way in to the quant space.

Aug 31, 2020 - 12:52am

One thing you have to consider is that Michigan, UVa and UT Austin have student bodies several times larger than HPSW. So just because similar numbers of people get those jobs doesn't mean it's a similar percentage of the students and therefore "just as easy."

Furthermore, having gone to HPSW will benefit you more throughout your career for at least 2 reasons: 1) for better or for worse, it gives you a pedigree that will put you in favorable light in all of your future endeavors (job interviews, ventures, personal and professional relationships, etc.); and 2) surrounding yourself with the most capable and ambitious people possible is extremely important to achieve success for a multitude of reasons.

Aug 31, 2020 - 5:52pm


No idea why people are mentioning the larger overall student body as if everyone in the school applies. What's important is how many people who are interested in finance apply and how many of those were successful. In any case, it probably will be a higher gross number from a larger school (by virtue of the business programs / STEM programs being larger and therefore increasing the potential pool of interested students - but even amongst that group not all business students or STEM students even care about finance). It also depends on the quality mix of firms that successful candidates end up at. How many "top" vs "average" vs "lower tier".

Doubtful anyone has the exact numbers for any of these things so even discussing them is kind of a pointless exercise in the first place.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Aug 31, 2020 - 5:26am

Generally, undergrad is viewed as more prestigious than masters, which fewer students pursue in the US. Unless you're talking about a MBA, law degree, or med school

Aug 31, 2020 - 11:10am

Your analysis is starting from a false assumption, which is that all HSW students are "better" than all Michigan/UVA/etc students.  There are lots of students at schools like those that are every bit as smart/capable as HSW students and who chose their school for many other reasons (scholarship $$, location, family ties, etc).  What HSW does is get you more access than Mich/UVA/Gtown - more OCR slots, more recruiting firms, etc.  Once a student gets that access, it's entirely on the student to convert to an offer - the school they go to has almost no bearing on whether or not they will get an offer.  A great student at UMich can easily "out-recruit"  a mediocre HSW student - it happens all the time.  

  • 1
Sep 5, 2020 - 4:56pm

This. My cousin got into Columbia on a partial scholarship and instead went to her local state school for a full scholarship because of cost and the fact she was scared of being so far from her family (lives near the west coast). Still landed in FAANG and is going to a M7 MBA next year, obviously not the standard scenario but it happens more than you'd think 

Aug 31, 2020 - 11:11am

Man, when will people learn that going to X school doesn't guarantee Y outcome. 

Life is not a meritocracy, as much as you want it to be. Just because you got o HYP does not mean you SHOULD place better than other people. 

If you're good as you believe yourself to be, you'll land somewhere. 

  • Prospect in Other
Sep 1, 2020 - 10:22pm

Why did you feel the need to bump this lmao? It's got 122 comments with a wide range of responses. What new valuable perspectives and insights do you possibly think this bump will bring you?

Sep 3, 2020 - 10:48am

"Lower target" is still a target, and firms have interview and placement goals at some mix of all the schools you mentioned. They don't want to hire everyone from Harvard, they want to spread it out and grab top talent across their targets. If your mindset is that any HBS student excels at everything over any UMich student, I can tell you from the hiring side, that is certainly not the case. 

  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Ind
Sep 4, 2020 - 10:16am

As a fellow Princeton student who's been through recruiting, I'll definitely tell you we have a lot of advantages. Though we may not have the best OCR, we have the best alumni in the country and they're so willing to help. When recruiting for SA, I just went to our alumni directory, emailed a bunch of MDs at different firms to ask for a chat, and got so many responses. They in turn connected me to other Pton alums at the firm and that's how I got fast-tracked (and eventually got an offer) at a top BB (think GS, MS, JPM). So yeah, people from everywhere will get offers - that doesn't mean we don't have an advantage. And that network won't just help us now in getting our first offers, but in progressing through our careers further down the line. Just think about this - an MD I spoke to literally said HBS/GSB wasn't really worth it for him as a lot of people go to those top business school for the network, but the Princeton network is far stronger than those networks for him.

Sep 5, 2020 - 7:59am

Bit late to this discussion but read the comments and don't think my viewpoint was mentioned:

Having gone through analyst recruiting nearly 15 years ago, it is definitely different now. While prestige is probably less important, I think the number one change is the availability of information in order to prepare yourself for interviews/work. All of the Wall Street interview prep materials out there ... mock interviews, practice questions, forums with endless explanations and Q&A on life as an analyst - none of this existed. One's knowledge of Wall Street was obtained primarily through their university or their connections. The expectation was for investment banks to hire "smart, hardworking" college kids and train them on the job. Major didn't matter and ability to answer technical questions was a plus rather than a requirement.

Now look at recruiting. Investment banks are no longer simply looking to hire smart people, but smart AND dedicated people. You're expected to have put in the hours outside of class to know your technicals cold. You can conduct mock interviews with online mentors, get feedback from working professionals on your responses, and craft a story fit for each investment bank. This can be done by anyone, regardless of the school they attend. If you can secure an interview, you have a real opportunity to outshine someone with more pedigree. This same person probably would have had no realistic shot 15 years ago, but they can today.

People from the top schools will still have the advantage. Their pedigree will get them more interviews and more opportunities to prove themselves than competition. But they still need to put in the hard work and out hustle the Georgetown kid to secure the spot. Success has become far more tied to individual effort than the pedigree of the school attended.


Sep 7, 2020 - 1:28pm

I am actually surprised by the anecdotal way of arguing here, e.g "I have a friend of a friend who went from a complete non-target to GS and is a top analyst there. So school does not matter at all."

No one has ever questioned that there are smart people outside target schools. Recruitment (and especially IBD recruitment) is all about minimizing risk, not necessarily about finding the absolutely best candidate. After all, most analysts only stay for a year or two. Picking a student from a HYPW school significantly reduces the risk of picking an underperforming analyst, over taking the committed but "unproven" IU Kelly or UF student. 

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