I'm not completely familiar with what its like coming from a target school, so a lot of this post could be off-base, but I don't think so...
I hope you all enjoy the story, with bits of my own experience sprinkled in. The journey has been incredibly difficult and there is almost nothing else like it. The whole world is stacked against you.
If you're coming from a non-target (depending on the school) there is absolutely no guidance or direction. If you figure out what IB/Consulting are by freshman year, you have been blessed by god. If this turns out to be you, it is almost better to drop out of school and play the lottery for a living.
Keep in mind, that even if you do miraculously here those words, you still need a competent person around to tell you what the hell those things are, what the hell they do, and how the the hell you get in. This is near impossible because virtually no one from a non-target school knows any of these things because they've never broken in.
This doesn't even take into the fact that many kids at non-targets come straight from community college where things are dramatically worse. You will slide into your junior/senior year thinking that finance is just like Wolf of Wall-Street and that's where you're headed because you chose finance. You're ready for the big bucks. An internship.. What's that? Don't you know I watched Wolf of Wall-Street AND The?
Let's flash back for a moment to the idea of meeting someone who knows what they are talking about. Well, it kind of sounds easy, right? Wrong. Your President/Dean is a borderline moron and and insists on opening the floodgates of subpar students for years on end until there are so many kids and it is impossible to tell who is smart and who isn't. Maybe there is a club on campus with smart people who can help give me direction. Nope, these guys look just like placeholders.
Realistically, most kids find out about these fields in their sophomore/junior/senior year. By then, it's almost too late because they usually find out AFTER recruiting season, not before.
And what's happening at the target schools right about now? Even the worst freshman who may or may not have their thumbs up at their asses are getting internships at top firms which drastically open their career opportunities. Hell, they could be a liberal arts major with 1-2 internships and still have a good shot at a MM, or top consulting firm.
Back to the non-targets. If we do finally get a vague idea of what IB/Consulting is, we still have to understand how to get there. There are no institutional resources in this area. You are lucky if you find out that good grades are not enough. You're blessed if you find out about WSO, BIWS, or even get your first internship.
Do you know who comes to the career fairs at non-target schools? Pseudo-MLM's, low-tier tech companies, and some finance firms that only recruit for back-office, IT, or accounting. Keep in mind, that if you're a student at this school, its all you know. You have no clue that these are shit jobs and that its better elsewhere. Even if you did know, how the hell are you going to get there? These firms would never look twice at you unless you're a bit extraordinary. For target school students, being extraordinary simply means existing.
BUT... Let's say we take the "lack of information" out of the picture, and be a bit unreasonable and say you had most of what you needed to know by the beginning of sophomore year (never the case).
If you're lucky, you might get into one of those leadership/diversity programs that some of the top firms offer. Good for you, but again, highly unlikely for you to know about these things.
Base case scenario you get a decent internship at a name brand firm (though not in high finance, think GM Financial, Accounting, etc.), you are pretty much fucked. Coming from a non-target you need some sort of high finance experience to stand a chance.
Well what does that mean to get a job at a even a boutique IB/PE shop from a non-target? It means balls to the wall grinding, networking, and scrapping to find anything that resembles an investment bank. It means going to school, networking, and participating in strong extracurriculars from 6AM to 10PM everyday. There are no breaks and you have no alumni who work at these firms to help you out. You become a machine and forget what its like to have free time or have fun. You have to focus completely on success and achievement because you believe you have a shot at the stars aligning and you breaking in.
So let's walk through a couple scenarios...
1) You get the boutique internship. Great job, you've made it just in time for recruiting season. You submit your resume to many firms. Awesome! Recruiter takes one look at your school, and it turns out he's a very nice guy and gives you a chance. Looks at your experience and has never heard of your firm. Resume goes straight to the trash can.
OR, Perhaps he gives you a shot and you get a first round interview over the phone. Perhaps you've also been able to teach yourself all the proper etiquette and how to answer the phone, and learned all the most difficult technicals questions that no one at school will ever tell you. You ace the first round interview and get to the second round. You might even make it to the final round...
Guess what? Turns out the firm has several alumni from target schools trying to get their buddies in. You know what happens to happens to your chance of getting in? They hit near 0%. Their are limited spots at the top firms, and you can bet your bottom dollar that they pretty much go to people who know someone on the inside. Good luck buddy, try again next year.
Realistically, this is your best chance of ever breaking in. If you miss this opportunity you are completely done for. The stars may align and if you have great ECs, a good internship, and good grades, you might have a sliver of a chance. If you miss this opportunity you have almost no chance of breaking in, no matter how hard you work.
2) The most likely scenario is that you get the name brand standard internship (GM/NWM/SouthWest). Great job, you've made it just in time for recruiting season. You submit your resume to many firms. It goes straight to the trash can. They see your school and your irrelevant experience. You never make it to first round.
Well, let's continue with the assumption that you got some sort of internship but got rejected for a junior year internship at any IB/Consulting shop. Your chances of breaking in just got infinitely harder. If you want to break in, it means doubling down and trying harder. If you don't break in, you will be facing an uphill battle for the foreseeable future.
You have to kick it into overdrive. Not only do you have to have stellar grades, EC's, but also OUTSTANDING internship experience. Recruiting is over, so this means working while going to school (yes, most of us actually have to do this). Unfortunately, you still only have the same 16 hours a day, but have double or triple the work to do.
You grind like you've never grinder before, and perform to the best of your ability for every single tiny bullet point on your resume that could not possibly reflect the effort you have to put in. There is no free time to think, to play, to have fun. If you become President of an organization, your responsibility multiplies but at least the networking comes to you. Otherwise its ass to the grass networking again, doing anything you can to get someone at a top firm to like you.
You remember you used to be in shape. You look in the mirror and can see how much muscle you've lost. You don't look so bad you tell yourself. You've still got pecs and you can see some definition. At least you're not fat. It's been almost 2 years since you've had time to workout.
It's recruiting season senior year and you're lucky enough to have everything else go right. You have all the right things and your resume looks great. You've mastered the technicals and have become the top student at your school. Anything less and you will never break in. You've made a few friends in top banks and consulting firms but they don't seem to have any real pull.
You're working, killing at school, and doing unbelievable things. You've received a few first rounds.
Now, you have to research 3 firms at once, the deals they've done, the people that work there, and study your technicals and pray to god that the interviewers don't have friends interviewing for the position. The amount of time you don't have hasn't changed.
You make it to the final round. All of your work to this point, 3 years of blood sweat and tears hangs in the balance. If you don't break in, this might have all been for nothing. You might have to go into corporate and grind your way back up for god knows how long.
You've been rejected by 2/3 of the firms you've interviewed at.
You get a phone call. This is it. The next 5 years depends on of the person you're about to speak to. You've made it! YOU'VE FINALLY MADE IT!!!
BEEP!!! BEEP!!! BEEP!!!
Your alarm goes off. You wake up and remember that you received your rejection letter yesterday. It was all just a dream.