UNC or Williams College

Hello all,

I am currently a High School senior looking to attend college in the fall of 2020. I have narrowed my college choice between two schools: Williams College & UNC Chapel Hill. I am planning on double majoring in Economics and Math, and I am also looking to go into finance, preferably IB or trading. At Williams, I have to pay almost full tuition, around $73k a year, whereas at UNC I would only have to pay around $24k since I am in-state student. If I were to go into UNC, I would then apply to the business school at Kenan-Flagler. I know Williams College has a much better job placement and recognition into NYC than UNC, but my financial situation at both colleges is what is making me hesitant on fully committing to one college. Any advice on which college to pick? Should I carry that heavy burden of student loans from Williams but secure a nice job and pay it back? Or should I attend UNC instead and risk losing job opportunities and connections that I would obtain at Williams? I love both schools, and I can see myself fit in nicely at both places. The major factor I am considering is what I obtain after college. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.
Best Regards

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Comments (23)

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Apr 12, 2020 - 7:37pm

UNC Student's advice ... if you're truly smart and know you want to go IB from that early you'll be able to. however if you can afford Williams go to Williams. otherwise, don't worry about opportunities at UNC. keep your GPA up and start networking early and you can easily get a BB offer from UNC.

  • Associate 1 in RE - Comm
Apr 12, 2020 - 8:07pm

Fellow UNC alum. Stumbled into banking pretty late in the game and was able to get Superdays and ultimately land a spot before moving into PE. I had no internship experience going in but networked my ass off. The alumni network is awesome. I traveled to some banks just to network and they set up networking (aka informal interviews) all day.

That said do the undergrad B school route as Econ typically gets a bad rap (couldn't get in to KF). A lot of the major banks recruit there and if they don't you still have a shot. Just need to network on your own.

You'll have an awesome 4 years and get a full wholistic experience whether it's sports, Greek life, or some random organization. As an aside, football and basketball both looked stacked. Join a fraternity or sorority if that's your thing. I didn't think it was for me at first l but I joined one and it was ultimately of my better decisions. It also helped immensely when recruiting for IB and now in Real Estate PE helps as well.

This is long way of saying I loved my time at Carolina and you will have a competitive shot. The rest is up to you.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Apr 12, 2020 - 9:02pm

Congrats on getting into 2 great schools. I can give some perspective as I attended a top 5 LAC (recruiting not nearly as good as Williams). Williams alums do great on the street, are VERY loyal in helping students break in, and unless you're gung-ho on studying business in college, Williams will be a better academic experience compared to UNC in my opinion. This is in terms of class engagement and connections with peers/profs. I may be biased, but I truly believe that you'll encounter smarter people at Williams as well.

With that said, even if you attend THE top LAC, you're still going to have to network in order to be a top candidate at a BB or EB coming from Williams. Breaking in is never easy. If you can comfortably afford it or can stomach 150k in debt, go to Williams and never look back.

If not, UNC is a good enough school that you'd be able to do anything on the street if you're willing to work for it. Having gone to a similar school, I would lean towards Williams, but ultimately UNC is still one of the best undergrad business schools in the country, and this should not be discounted due to a potential lack in OCR.

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Cov
Apr 13, 2020 - 5:27pm

In terms of Top LAC recruiting/recruiting in general or in reference to UNC?

Amherst is probably second to Williams and slightly better than Midd for east coast LAC recruiting. Obviously it is still behind all Ivy's, but it's very similar to Williams in overall prestige but probably fewer alums on the street.

Would also take Amherst over UNC if cost was not an issue.

Apr 12, 2020 - 10:24pm

Williams and I don't think it's even close (as long as money isn't a huge concern). I think the benefits are more long-term vesting. right out of college I imagine opportunities would be pretty similar - maybe a little more networking needed from UNC. but mid and long term Williams has the name recognition "pop" and a strong alumni network that will pay dividends. think farther down the line to applying to business schools, trying to break into PE, competing for the promotion to MD, etc: in these situations I really think Williams has a pretty significant edge.

whatever you do, don't let having a good time for 4 years factor into your decision at all: you'll still have fun at Williams, and an education and the network you'll get a LAC lasts a lifetime.

Apr 13, 2020 - 10:16am

Pure academics - William college
College experience - UNC
Peer quality - Williams college but UNC has a very big range-top students in each school will both be super competitive...
Recruiting - both

Apr 13, 2020 - 3:42pm

Huh I guess my comment above got cut off.

I meant to add a little more on the financials side. Assuming you to the college -> IB/S&T-> PE/HF/etc route, you are most likely not be able to pay off your Williams College loans until your midlate 20s. It may not matter to you but hopefully that gives you some perspective on what it takes to pay off low six figure debt off (even in "lucrative" finance jobs). If you wanna do MBA, that's another 200-300k. Most likely you won't be positive net worth until early 30s.

Now the net worth perspective may not matter to you. If you are 100% set on being in a high earner job for the rest of your life (I.e. your career goal is a PE partner for example), the $ may not matter too much in the long run. But in the interim, you'll be tied to the loans.

I personally value the financial flexibility. Maybe you don't and that's fine.

Most Helpful
Apr 13, 2020 - 6:52pm

I've weighed in on undergrad decisions a bunch in my prior posts and have talked about the top LAC vs "Public Ivy" debate in the past.

I think in general, the comments above pretty accurately lay out how you should be thinking about things.

Williams is a "better" school and I think it's hard to argue against that. It's elite level in terms of acceptance, academics, career/grad school placement, etc. Alums are all over the business world and pull hard for their own. If you maintain decent grades and show an early interest in banking, you'll place into whatever you want. The student body will be among the best undergrad students in the country. With regards to culture, that's really up to you to decide. Williams won't be nearly as fun as UNC in the traditional sense. There won't be any excitement around the sporting events, the local area isn't that exciting in terms of nightlife, and I believe greek life is fairly non existent as well. It'll be more dorm parties, broader campus events, etc.

UNC is also a great school, and is highly recognized not only for undergrad programs, but also for graduate programs, which will give you some opportunities and resources that are unavailable to what you'd get at Williams. It's also just be a lot more fun, more students to meet, more clubs, bigger parties, big Greek presence, and off-campus stuff among other things. It'll be the traditional college experience. UNC, especially Kenan Flagler, will also be similar in terms of recruiting to Wall Street as Williams, assuming you can be at the top of your class. For the most part, the opportunities will be the same; however, I'd imagine there might be a few more unique opportunities that could arise from Williams given its brand.

At the end of the day, it's your decision to make. At a high level, the range of outcomes right out of school won't be materially different. Both could place you into banking, consulting, etc with the right execution. Each school will give you a different experience and you'll have to think about what you want out of your college experience. The only real edge I'd give to Williams is brand/prestige, which is tough to put a price on. If you seek out people who have made this type of decision in the past, it's relatively split. Some bemoan the fact that they turned down insert Ivy League in favor of a full-ride at insert non-target as the brand of your undergrad will stick with you forever. Others saved the money, went to the non-target, hustled, and still ended up in with a banking gig and would probably tell you they were rubbing shoulders with all the Harvard guys in their analyst training class, but were 200k richer and potentially even better suited for the job on day one. It can cut either way.

As people size you up throughout life, saying you went to Williams will most likely raise more eyebrows than UNC, especially as you move up the ladder. At the same time UNC has a broader alumni base, is still a great school, and will save you ~$150k, which is nothing to scoff at.

So that's really what it comes down to. I went to a LAC (non Amherst/Williams) and despite the fact that I've loved how things have worked out for me, I sometimes think about how I should have considered schools like UVA/UNC/Michigan for undergrad as they would have probably been more fun, easier, and could have potentially made my path easier. With that being said, my first job came through an alumni connection. It was extremely unique to me as there were few alums at this company, and I know this guy pulled hard for me. I took a circuitious path to PE, but am in what would be considered a pretty enviable position. Would going to UVA have put me in a better position? Impossible to tell.

So that's my rant, sorry for not keeping it more concise and best of luck with the decision. If I had to give a slight edge to one, I'd probably go 60/40 in favor of Williams, assuming that finances aren't a massive issue. Williams is on par with the HYPS of the world, hard to turn that down.

Apr 14, 2020 - 1:48am

Williams. There's absolutely no competition with UNC, honestly. The life long, close-knit network you get is unmatched. Superior academics all around and an overall fun college experience. This is coming from someone who went to a top LAC, interviewed at MBB/ most BBs and is currently at a FAANG company, and made amazing friends during the process.

Apr 14, 2020 - 12:49pm

Go to UNC. The fact that you're considering the large difference in cost signals to me that it will have a significant impact on your family's finances. Also, consider yourself lucky that your flagship state school is pretty much a target (the one I go to isn't despite having practically the same admissions stats :( ). Also, going to a big state school is way more fun for most kids unless you go to Amherst College which is the best of both worlds (shares the same town as UMass). There's no econ major in the B-School but there are a bunch of top tier faculty in financial econ there if you're interested in academic research and I think you can still take all the econ and math classes even though you can't have them as a major (i'd look that up).


  • 1
Apr 15, 2020 - 10:35pm

Want to absolutely love your college experience? Go to UNC. If you like to watch sports, go to parties, and have attractive classmates, it doesn't get much better than there. Not to mention that it's an awesome school and if you commit to the finance path as soon as you get there (grades, relevant coursework, networking, clubs), you will find yourself with excellent internship and job opportunities.

Williams has a great reputation and is a really hard place to say no to given how competitive its admissions process is, however it is in a pretty depressing location (Northwestern MA is grey and cold for half of the year) and will feel like going to a boarding school compared to Carolina. Although, if your ideal Friday night consists of arguing about gender theory and socialism with your RA, have at it.

  • Intern in IB - Cov
Apr 16, 2020 - 2:55am

Agree, have a few friends who went to Williams and their experiences were vastly different from one another. One of them was on a sports team and had an awesome social life from that (basically is the Williams equivalent of a frat since they have no Greek life) and loved his time there. Another girl I know was from LA and hated the school because of how rural it is and how little there is to do around campus and how COLD and depressing it can get in the dead of winter. Met kids from both UNC and Williams at my BB this summer (JPM/GS) so I think if you're sharp and work hard, you shouldn't have too big a problem recruiting at either school.

Jun 27, 2021 - 4:19pm

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