Undergrad at an LAC?

Hi! I'm a senior and applied to mostly LACs, some universities (but lower tier). I'll major in Econ, maybe science (or should I avoid science?)
I'm wondering which schools offer best internships/jobs (preferably on WallSt) because I would like to pursue an MBA. Also, I'm not joining a Greek house or sports team, and I'm not from a rich family, so networking outside of those areas should be great.

Bates, Hamilton, Lafayette, Colgate, Wellesley, Carleton, Davidson
Lehigh, Villanova, BC, IUBloomington, Fordham

Thank you for your help!

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Comments (29)

Best Response
Jan 2, 2017 - 11:06am

Oh man this is a softball question for me, where to start...

So I went to a Nescac LAC, was a Econ/Govt major, not Greek, spent a little time in banking and then moved to the west coast and am in tech PE now. I'm pretty familiar with the "how to break in form a LAC" type questions as I've done it myself and mentored others who have successfully made the transition.

First off, make sure a LAC is for you. Visits schools, talk to people, look at the on campus activities etc. Personally I enjoyed my experience and wouldn't trade it for anything, but it will be very different from a school like Nova or BC. There were times I wished I had gone to a bigger school for the ease of recruiting and generally easier college life. You'll have to work a little harder at LACs because less is done for you, especially by ways of job recruiting. There will be little OCR, no job fairs, people won't recognize the name of the school, so you'll have to work a little harder for that first job. The upside is that the name of the school, to the right people, will take you much farther and the alumni networks can be very strong.

Regarding jobs and internships, most things on wall street will be available to you, but as I said you'll have to work and network a little harder. That will mean, reaching out to alums, using the on campus career center, talking to older students, and generally figuring out what you want to do and how to target those people. Of the schools you listed above here are the ones that are more suited to careers in Finance

Good: Bates, Hamilton, Colgate(have strong alumni ties to the street, somewhat of a focus on placing kids on wall street)
Unsure: Davidson(its probably decent though, more focused on the South)
Weak:Carlton, Wellesley(more academic and artsy schools, less emphasis on pushing people into finance)

Of the others

Good: Villanova, BC, IU(for IU, if you get into the IBD program, otherwise its a pretty weak school)
Weak:Lehigh, Fordham(not terrible, but not as strong as the others)

Regarding your major, it doesn't really matter as long as you have decent grades. If you can do well in a STEM major, by all means do that. If not, settle for Econ or honestly the easiest thing you can do that isn't a joke major. Internship and work experience will count for more than grades so as long as you keep a decent GPA, a good GPA with a lot of internship/work experience will make you more valuable than a 4.0 GPA in Chem with no work experience.

Hope that helps.

Jan 6, 2017 - 8:50pm

Thank you so much! This was extremely helpful. I really like LACs because of their small size and close interaction with professors. But my parents think universities are the way to go. I'm starting to second guess myself for applying to LACs because I realized I should've factored the career/graduate outcomes more than the school experience itself. I saw that firms recruited more at universities than LACs in a study... What do you think is the optimal route to a career on wall st? As you stated before, it takes more work at a LAC, which I'm fine with if I attend one, but realistically is attending a university better in the long run?
What do you mean by IU's IBD program? I tried to look that up but couldn't find anything. Will it make a difference if I am a honors college student and direct admit?

Jan 6, 2017 - 9:44pm

Indiana University's Investment Banking Workshop. I don't think anyone can deny their placement is significantly better than any other school mentioned (Approximately 20 students going to BB/EB including GS Industrials, BAML M&A, BAML Sponsors, JPM Healthcare, 4 to Lazard, 3 to Moelis).

However the college environment is drastically different to that of a LAC. I would still consider it because it's the best option you've got.

"Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry."
Jan 3, 2017 - 8:58am

I second a lot of what mrharveyspecter had to say. I went to a Little Three NESCAC school, was a varsity athlete and was involved in a fraternity. I was (am?) a complete plebeian (was a first gen. collegian from a podunk state) and a neophyte to all things finance/banking related so I did not leverage my background at all, and came at finance post-undergrad and from a completely different perspective.

There is some OCR available at some LACs, but nothing like what you'll get at a target. However, I have several friends from undergrad who are associates/VPs at BBs and who work in MF PE. If you work hard, there's plenty of opportunity out there (most cliche response ever, but it's true).

As Mr. Specter said, a top LAC name/brand can be a serious boon with the right people and in the right places, but it'll never have the same power/pack the same punch as an Ivy/Stanford/Duke/MIT/etc. Get used to some people hearing where you went to undergrad and nodding because they have no idea what school it is and will just assume it's some random shit school. It's a bit annoying, but generally the right people are familiar with the school.

Jan 6, 2017 - 8:59pm

Do you think universities do better in placement that LACs? I am not bright enough to attend top tiers/ivies, which is why I didn't mention any in my post, not because I think they aren't successful.
Do you regret attending an LAC? Is networking the only benefit out of joining a greek organization/playing varsity? Because I won't be joining those activities, I think this lowers my chances at placement then.

Also just wondering, Colby or Bates? Colby ranks higher than Bates, even on other people's lists on WSO, but I chose to apply to Bates because of the feel.

Thank you!

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Jan 9, 2017 - 10:06am

Originally, I did regret attending a LAC. Like I said, I was a bit of pleb and did not understand how the world at large (let alone finance/banking recruiting) worked. So life immediately post-graduation was a disappointment. However, as my network grew over the years I've encountered more and more people with ties to the school: alumni, alumni of rival schools, people whose brother/mother/daughter attended the school, people who applied to the school, people who grew up nearby, etc. So things have worked out. Had I known even a fraction of what I know now when I was still in school, I feel like I could have done a helluva lot more. Hindsight and all that. I think it's a positive that you are at least considering these things at your stage in life, so that's a plus. About sports/Greek life @ LACs: like harveyspecter said below, most of the LACs are phasing out Greek life, but they were social foundations of the schools 5-10 years ago. Athletic teams serve a similar function: with a fairly large percentage of the student body involved with sports, there's a fair amount of solidarity and relationship-building among athletes.

In addition, I will stress that the LAC educational experience is much different than that of a typical university. I think the real strength of an LAC is the well-roundedness and ability to think critically/independently. It sounds like complete hokum, but I feel like my LAC experience allowed me to approach things--jobs, projects, tasks, etc--from a unique perspective. My undergrad coursework was very critical reading/critical writing-intensive, and that experience really sharpened my analytical skills.

I would take Colby over Bates, but both are good schools (sidenote: Bowdoin was/is my favorite of the Maine schools; love the campus and the history). Both are going to be relatively unknown to 90% of people you will encounter in every day life, but I think Colby is the better school. I also preferred Colby's campus (it's a pretty beautiful spot). Full disclaimer: Colby's campus is in the middle of nowhere. Waterville, ME is north of Augusta, south of Bangor, and near very little. If you need lots of ancillary resources or entertainment, you might want to look elsewhere.

Jan 6, 2017 - 11:37pm

Agreed, but most of those LAC advantages are exclusive the Little Three. The dropoff in recruiting after that level is pretty severe, and if you had gone to a lower tier nescac you wouldn't have had the same opportunities. I'm pointing this out because OP is targeting LACs like bates/carleton/hamilton and not Williams/Amherst, so her experience will be much different

Jan 6, 2017 - 11:25pm

Here's the deal with LACs: Academic rankings aren't really correlated with finance recruiting. With universities you can roughly go down the US news rankings list for ROUGH correlation, with some notable exceptions- Stern has great recruiting with low ranking (NYU) while Hopkins is top 10 US news but terrible for finance.
With LACs, Williams and Amherst are tops, and past that its simply a matter of how many alumni are in the industry/ whether a bank decides to recruit. For example, Trinity gets great placement even though they are at the bottom of the Nescac academically, simply BC alot of wealthy bankers send their kids to trinity, and a lot of alums are now in prominent positions in finance.. Even though Bates, Carleton, Davidson are all better schools, they are much worse choices recruiting wise.
However, you mention you dont want to join a frat/sports team so I dont think liberal arts/nescacs would be a particularly great fit. Mostly bc sports teams dominate the social life at these schools, and frats are usually the only other outlet. Universities have many more students so its easier to find other outlets/friends with similar interests.
From your list, Hamilton is decent, Colgate is better. However, the social climate at these schools are intrinsically linked to greek life/athletics so it sounds like you'd have a terrible time. Wellesley seems like a good fit for you, and being in boston is great with many social options, not to mention Women's colleges get solid recruiting.
For the universities, BC, NOVA, IU, Fordham are all solid options, I would scrap Lehigh if you get into one of the aforementioned. LACs are great for a very specific type of person and it doesnt really sound like you'd particularly enjoy the atmosphere at Colgate/Hamilton, and the other LACs on your list have better social climates but much worse recruiting.

Jan 7, 2017 - 6:37pm

Thank you for your input! Where do you think undergrad should be at, a university or LAC? (for career outcomes/internships/job placement)
I know it seems off but not everyone participates in a varsity sport or greek life so I'm not really worried about that. I know some schools like Colgate or Lehigh have a lot more greek presence than others but it's not overwhelming according to some students I met. I'm just worried I chose the wrong schools...

Jan 7, 2017 - 7:06pm

It honestly depends on the school. Many LACs place better than many universities and vice versa, especially with the schools on your list. The ones you should really consider are BC, Colgate, Wellesley, Nova, Hamilton, IU (assuming non-IB workshop). They are all on roughly the same tier (low semi-target), so the opportunities will be similar. If you are pro-active from freshman year you should have no trouble making it to IB, especially if you take advantage of female recruiting programs.
I would definitely recommend giving Wellesley a closer look. Smith/Mount Holyoke recruit very well since they are all-women's colleges/close to a target (Amherst), and I think the same rationale applies to Wellesley given its proximity to boston schools.
Don't stress about your college choices, wait until the results come in and then make an informed decision. Many people from all those schools have made it into finance and had successful careers.

Jan 8, 2017 - 5:11pm

Most of the top LACs have reduced if not eliminated the greek presence on campus. Williams and Amherst have completely eliminated it, and Hamilton and Colgate have about 20-30% of the campus involved with Greeks. Most of the others are following suit.

The schools are definitely small environments and the preppiness can be felt, but its a common misconception that these schools are nothing but wealthy white kids who are in frats/sororities and play sports.

Lizzie, you've asked a few times which schools are better, universities or LACs, in all honestly there isn't really an answer to that. Both have pros and cons and you'll need to figure out what is the best fit for you. If all you care about is getting a job on wall street, then I'd advise against a LAC, they're not meant to be feeders into Wall Street so your college experience won't be as focused on the singular goals of getting a job. Strong universities will give you more of a push towards that with OCR, big clubs on campus, etc. With that being said, the competition will be stiffer at big schools and the college experience will be much different. More impersonal, but potentially with more variety as the schools are so much bigger.

LACs are kind of a love hate type of thing. Some people thing they're stupid as they waste tons of money on things that don't directly prepare you for a career. Others will say that at a LAC you essentially learn how to learn effectively which is a much better long term skill than taking a bunch of accounting classes at the ugrad level and not focusing on the broader picture.
I didn't know anything about Finance before going to my LAC and even though my path to finance was a little less structured, I work in PE now at a great shop and couldn't be happier. Sometimes I look back and think, "Man if I had known I wanted to do Finance, I should have applied to Wharton or Ross or UVA etc because those would have had way better recruiting and I wouldn't have had to hustle as much" but in the end, when I was 18 and making my college decision, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I actually thought I might have wanted to be a lawyer, go figure.

My point being, don't focus too much on the "can this school get me into finance" mentality. I would keep that as one consideration, but go to the place that feels the best and that will let you grow the most over the next four years. Try to make a choice that gives you the most options moving forward.

Mar 23, 2017 - 11:16pm

Thanks for your answer. Gave me a lot of insight.
I am in the same situation that you were in. I'm first in my family to attend college and I have no idea what to do. I'm into business (Finance etc but don't even know what finance is) but I have no idea what it entails in the real world (parents own a small business but not the same) and biology (but the career options are limited to med school or research and med school is a long process and $$$). I thought an LAC would be a good fit for me because of the small size and professor:student ratio because I will seek help, but recruiting isn't as great as universities. I keep asking questions whether a school will get me somewhere in Finance because I don't want to waste my parent's money to end up in the same place as attending a state school, which is why the career outcome factor has a heavy weight in my college choice decision...
Nevertheless, I do want to attend a college where I will fit in and enjoy, but the thought of finding a job after attending an LAC stresses me out. I've gotten decisions back and if you could take a look, that'd be very helpful in my decisions.

College Dilemma:
Accepted to IU Kelley Direct Admit and Honors college, Villanova, Fordham, Baruch -Macaulay Honors College, Boston College, Bates, Colgate, Carleton, Davidson, and Barnard College
Waiting on Hamilton, Lehigh, Lafayette.
My top choices not considering recruiting intensity: Barnard, Carleton
Parent's (aka better outcomes?): Boston C, Colgate

Pros: BC-distinguished and alumni network, Boston, classic college campus, Carroll SOM, Colgate- liberal arts while business focused, gorgeous campus, Barnard-women's college environment, my ED school, accepted RD, NYC and Columbia, Carleton-pretty campus and friendliest people, laid back a little nerdy, #1 undergrad teaching

Cons: BC-large campus (im fine with it), Colgate- very different vibe than Carleton etc. more athletic (DI) and preppy...Barnard-small, not known for economics, Carleton-far away

Mar 27, 2017 - 1:49am

Undergrad Major @ liberal arts college (Originally Posted: 11/22/2016)

Can someone tell me what their thoughts are on Franklin & Marshall's BOS program? I am currently a senior in high school at an elite New England boarding school and am being recruited by them as well as other liberal arts schools for sports. I guess my question is, would this program help me get into a good business school/get my foot in the door on wall street?

Jan 9, 2017 - 10:18am

Don't write off Greek life before you even get to college, geed.

Some of my best contacts in the industry are my fraternity brothers and you'd be stunned by the amount of times it just so happens that a client or an interviewer were in the same fraternity I was. Plus, being chapter president lead to being student body president, so my resume is jam packed with leadership, and student body president lead to knowing multiple deans and two university presidents on a first name basis, which lead to some pretty cool letters of recommendation.

Plus I had a sweet place to party before I turned 21 and had a lot of sex.

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Mar 27, 2017 - 1:51am

Viability of Top 5 LACs (Originally Posted: 04/05/2007)

Hey everyone, I got to one of the US News Top-Five ranked Liberal Arts Colleges, I was just wondering, does anyone know of people that successfully secured a summer analyst from any of these schools? Are they considered semi-target? Or is the best bet to contact alums? I really appreciate the feedback.

Mar 27, 2017 - 1:52am

i would really appreciate if you look up this information using the search function. This topic has been discussed to death...buried...dug up and discussed to a second death...buried...you get my point.

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Mar 27, 2017 - 1:56am

Hi. My brother and one of my best friends go to top LACs, so I've seen how the process works. My friend got an SA offer from MS IBD. It appears that alumni play an important role in LAC IB recruiting. While the LACs aren't "core" "targets", it seems that LAC alums at BB IB firms are able to secure a few spots per firm for their alma mater. I have seen kids have a ton of BB IBD recruiting success at Williams, Amherst and Middlebury (not to say that other schools don't fare well -- just that I don't have data).

Middlebury seems to have a dedicated presence at Lehman. Amherst seems to have a dedicated presence at MS, Lehman and Bain (not a bank but you might be interested). Williams seems pretty strong across the board. I imagine you'll see something similar at other top LACs.

Mar 27, 2017 - 1:57am

whitehep, wouldn't you be the best equipped to answer this question knowing exactly your own situation and which of the top 5 LACs you are from? I'm sure you applied to bulges - what bulges interview, and how successful was the process?

Mar 27, 2017 - 1:58am

I go to one of these schools as well. I'm an art history major and have been offered a sophmore honors program at a BB. GPA 3.5. Alumni relations are amazing, and certain BB's recruit heavily. This year, there are 19 kinds going to the same bank for either summer or full time work.

Plus, you will get much more attention from professors than a large target like Harvard or Stanford.

Good luck

Mar 27, 2017 - 2:01am
I go to one of these schools as well. I'm an art history major and have been offered a sophmore honors program at a BB. GPA 3.5. Alumni relations are amazing, and certain BB's recruit heavily. This year, there are 19 kinds going to the same bank for either summer or full time work.

Plus, you will get much more attention from professors than a large target like Harvard or Stanford.

Good luck

Wow, that's a lot of kids going to the same bank esp. from the same LAC! My school is a top 20 LAC and we usually send about 6-8 each year for FT positions with a BB with a graduating econ class of approx 45.

A lot LACs aren't "target" so the process of getting a FT BB position is harder and requires substantially more networking.

Mar 27, 2017 - 1:59am

ya goldenstate is def right, the networking aspect with alumni is what helps at these relatively small, 'prestigious' LAC. The career centers at these schools usually have some sort of alumni database contact that is very helpful, they keep it very updated at my LAC and is organized by class year, industry, occupation, and current region.

Mar 27, 2017 - 2:00am

Amherst and Williams, at least, are considered targets - maybe Swarthmore too (they're not as big of targets at HYPS because there are fewer kids at a LAC). Almost every relevant bank recruits there, and it's relatively easy to get internships. Furthermore, although alumni are fewer, there seem to be at least a couple in almost every top financial firm, and they'll put in much more time/effort/care in helping you learn about their firm and maybe getting you connected.

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