Weekly Reader Q&A: Low GPA, Internships For Freshmen And Saving As An Analyst

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This week’s weekly reader Q&A covers a few of the questions I’ve received from readers and answered in the past week. With summer recruiting season in full-swing, everyone is very focused on their investment banking internships ahead and getting the most out of their time, and this week’s set of questions reflects that.

How To Get Into Investment Banking With A Low GPA

“Thanks for providing such a quality resource for free! I would love to get some more advice regarding investment banking. In the next month, as a junior, I will be applying for the summer analyst positions at all the bulge bracket banks. However, my GPA is a 2.8. What are some ways that I can get my foot in the door to land an interview?”

This is a tough one, and I don’t have an easy answer for you. Many banks have a strict cutoff they use to weed out people with low GPAs, and it’s difficult to get past this if you’re put in the same applicant pool as everyone else. Here are some tips on getting around this:

  • If you have any special circumstances, e.g. being a Varsity Athlete or having a highly unusual background, you need to make these extremely prominent on your resume. Although banks may still use a GPA cutoff, you at least stand a better chance if your special circumstances are immediately clear and humans are reading your resume.
  • Network extensively and use your school’s alumni network – contact alumni, ask them about themselves, briefly introduce yourself and they can help you get past the gatekeepers. GPA only matters for getting your foot in the door; if you are persistent enough you can leverage the alumni network to do the same, and often a recommendation from someone very high up is more useful than a high GPA.
  • Keep your options open and consider middle-market and boutique investment banks as well. You can easily leverage this experience into full-time interviews at bulge brackets (seen many people do this and get offers), and they may be easier to get into with a lower GPA.

I wish I had a magic answer that solved your problem here, but this is about the best you can do given how banks run their recruiting processes. The good news is that once you get to superday interviews, it’s all about performance rather than GPA or school background.

Finance Internships For Freshmen

“I have found your blog very helpful and was wondering if you could guide me in the right direction regarding summer opportunities. I’m a freshman and realize that there are very limited finance-related opportunities for me. However, I have found two opportunities at bulge brackets that encourage freshmen to apply – how competitive are these programs? Do you know of any other such opportunities on Wall Street?”

It’s very impressive that you’re looking for internship opportunities in finance as a freshman – I don’t think I even knew what banking was until my junior year.

You can apply to the programs you have found, but I think the chances of getting them and getting meaningful work to do as a freshman are fairly low. Most banks only seriously look at juniors and occasionally sophomores for certain programs.

I don’t know of any good opportunities for freshmen offhand. Cold-calling may work, but I would suggest networking with alumni is the better tactic here. To actually get meaningful work experience, you should probably focus on smaller firms and ones where you know people already – as a freshman, the work experience you get is much more valuable than the brand name. Take actual financial analysis at a start-up hedge fund over serving coffee at Goldman Sachs any day of the week.

When contacting alumni, you should introduce yourself as being very eager to learn finance and have a short 3-5 minute pitch in either email or verbal form that gets this point across. Make sure you show an interest in them; most of the conversation should focus on their background/history and at the end you can briefly ask if they know of any opportunities or could pass your name/resume along to friends who might.

And make sure your investment banking resume is perfect before sending out your materials to these alumni.

Saving As An Analyst

“How much can you really save as an Analyst? This past year bonuses were $90K and with a base salary of $60K, I imagine you’d be able to save quite a lot, right?”

As an Analyst, your main expense will be apartment rent so it depends greatly on whether you live in New York City or some other high-cost area or somewhere cheaper. If you’re in New York, it’s going to be difficult to pay less than $1500 for rent each month even with a roommate. That immediately uses up $18K per year right there, and with only $35-40K of after tax income, represents nearly half of what you’ll make prior to bonus.

Other places like San Francisco are also more expensive than the middle of nowhere obviously, but at the same time it’s easier to find good deals on apartments. If you can reduce your rent to $1000 or less a month then the numbers are easier… $35K after taxes, $12K spent on rent, maybe $5K or so in other expenses (your bank will cover all food, cell phone bills, etc.).

All in all, you can probably save $15-20K in your first year as an analyst prior to bonuses if you live a frugal lifestyle. If you get bottle service every single weekend obviously this will go down by quite a bit, but it’s do-able if you don’t live in New York.

Although investment banking salaries are high, this amount reflects that base salaries, specifically the investment banking analyst salary, are only average until bonuses are received.

The $15-20K is a nice sum for a 23-year old to have saved up, but I wouldn’t worry too much about being super-frugal, especially if you plan to work in finance for a few years. Saving your bonus and not spending the money on a new car will make far more of a difference than cutting smaller costs here and there.

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

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29 Comments to “Weekly Reader Q&A: Low GPA, Internships For Freshmen And Saving As An Analyst”

Comments

  1. Offer Holder says

    Hey Brian,

    Love your blog and must say it’s helped me alot over the past year. I really need your advice now to make a pressing decision:

    I got lucky in a way because I was already a summer analyst at HK BB-X and based on which I got invited for HK BB-Y Superday + series of interviews and finally received a full-time offer for at BB-Y. During this entire process however I did not mention my low GPA (about the same range you mentioned above) on my resume and they did not ask me for it either during interviews (somewhat bolstering your belief that a GPA only serves the purpose of getting you an interview)

    Now I am sitting on offers from BB-X and BB-Y and clearly Y is more prestigious than X. I want to accept BB-Y and most probably will. I am just concerned whether my GPA matters at this stage when I have the offer+contract in front of me. Keep in mind that I did not inform them of my GPA and was invited by them based solely on my resume + previous IB and S&T internships. When they finally see my transcript, would they flake?

    Urgently need your help! Please help me out – I would love to contribute to your blog once my offer is settled

    Thanks!

    • says

      Even if your GPA caused them to rescind your offer, what could you possibly do about it? Also, your GPA would likely cause both banks to rescind offers anyway.

      Bottom-line: It probably won’t matter at all if they haven’t asked for it already, so I would just accept the offer you want.

      • Offer Holder says

        Hmm okay, but since its never come up and I have never lied about it, you’re saying that it shouldn’t be an issue when I enter my gpa in their bg check system or when I give them my transcript.

        • says

          I’m saying it’s 100% out of your control so you should not spend time thinking about it. If it has not come up already, it is unlikely to come up going forward.

  2. Needachance says

    Hi Brian,

    I’m a first-year student in a graduate school for a two-year programme. My undergraduate GPA is around 3.0. Is it proper not to mention it in my resume since I’m a graduate student now? Can I make it up by having a good academic record as a graduate student?

    Thanks!

  3. Ray says

    Hi Brian,

    My query is about UK A-level results and summer internships, Most BB ask for 320 points whereas i only have 260, because of this i have not been able to secure internships. I am now applying for Graduate roles at BB’s in Asset Management, BB’s ask for a 2:1 degree results whereas have a First Class Honors. I am also due to start my Postgraduate degree at a target university in September. My question is that would my A-level results matter even though i have a better degree result than required and a postgraduate degree, and am i still at a disadvantage by not having a summer internship under my belt even though im not applying for IB roles.

    Thanks

  4. Business GPA says

    Hey Brian, I know I’m posting on a super old article, but hopefully you will still see it and can offer some advice.

    My cumulative GPA is low due to poor performance my freshman year (3.0 cumulative), but my GPA in business classes is 4.0. I am an econ major and am wondering how would you look at a resume that said GPA (Business/Cumulative): 4.0/3.0?

    Also, I have only taken a couple business classes, so would it be disingenuous to post a Business GPA?

  5. Obi says

    Hey Brian,

    I know this is off topic but you’re awesome and I’d like your opinion. I am transferring to a UMD with an associates and wish to get into their undergrad business school. I have to write a 300 word essay. Please critique as harshly as you wish. Thank you!

    During my passing years of post-high school, I learned something to be true, “Life doesn’t always pan out the way you’d like but the only thing you can do is play your cards the best way you can.” These were the words of a loving mom I had yet to understand at the time. After graduating high school with subpar grades, I had no concrete plans of what I wished to pursue, only opaque dreams of a successful career in the future. I decided to attend Prince George’s Community College because I knew my parents wanted me to have a degree and I knew of no other option. After the death of my mother and with no motivation or goals, I fell into a spiral of unsuccessful academic endeavors, which dropped my grades to abashed levels. At this point of my life, I was at rock bottom with no hope of success in the eyes of my peers, my family, and even myself.
    Today, I am a different man than I was when I graduated high school. I wish to attend Robert H. Smith School of Business with Finance as my major. I intend to broaden my network and academic pursuit into ultimately breaking into investment banking. University of Maryland has always been my choice of institution, as my siblings have all graduated from there. In my whole life, I have never been so sure of what I wish to do and what I wish to accomplish. As an African-American male, from a disadvantaged home, and all odds stacked against me, I have found the zeal to become something better in life. I plan to help others like me when I graduate for unwavering proof that it’s not impossible to turn around in your darkest hour to accomplish something great.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Sorry, we don’t review college app essays here. We teach people how to get into finance. College app review isn’t our forte. Good luck.

  6. Earlier the better? says

    I am currently a sophomore looking to get into investment banking. I wasn’t able to get an investment banking internship for the summer (do they recruit sophomores?) so I am instead doing a 12 week internship/leadership program at Discover Financial. My question is, will investment bankers think less of me/am i at a disadvantage when they assess my resume come junior year because I interned at a commercial bank instead of an investment bank?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’ve responded to your question already. Please only post the same question once on our website.

  7. John says

    Hello,

    I am going into my freshman year in college in the fall and was wondering if I am unable to find a freshman internship in IB, would it be useful to seek internships elsewhere (like the Fed or a corporate internship)?

    Thanks!

  8. Joe says

    Hello,

    I am currently a freshman at a target school and I am looking at internship opportunities in banking for the upcoming spring/summer. I know that some of the BB do indeed have programs for students in my exact situation, so I have been looking at opportunities ranging from actual eight week internships during the summer to events that last for just a day or a few days.

    What should I highlight on my resume in terms of experience when I apply for these programs? Should I include activities from high school? I don’t have much prior experience in finance other than a week-long internship in the back office of a bank and a few VC and S&T job shadows.

    With regards to academics, would it be appropriate to include my high school GPA/SAT score? They were both excellent so I feel that they would help if it were appropriate to include them. Additionally, my first term grades were not stellar (3.6). I will work hard to raise them, but the new GPA would not be available until after the application process. Would putting the 3.6 on my resume when I apply hurt me?

    Thank you very much.

  9. Josh says

    Strange GPA question:

    I studied in Australia and did a 5 year combined degree, attaining a Bachelor in Law and Bachelor in Finance. (I don’t think you have the same system in the US.) I also went on student exchange to Scandinavia for a year. The grades I achieved there were really good, and for difficult subjects in international law, but because it was overseas its classified as an “ungraded pass” at my home university, and hence not used for calculating my GPA. This means all my other home uni subjects have a proportionally higher impact on my GPA.

    For Finance it’s not so important because my GPA is ok anyway at 3/4, but for law its only 2.5/4. I had a very sheltered school life and so let it all go getting really drunk in my first year (made some great networks!), but my poorer Law grades from that year have a much larger impact on my GPA since my really good “ungraded passes” are excluded. Also, after that first year, my other grades are actually pretty good; but similarly have less impact.

    Is it ok to calculate my GPA, convert my student exchange grades, and include them as well? If I do recalculate, I then get GPAs of 3.1 for Law (HUGE difference!!!) and 3.3 for Finance. I know GPA isn’t everything and networking is… but this is definitely the ONLY gap in my CV, and I want to make it as perfect as possible.

    Thanks!

  10. Alex says

    Hi,

    Kind of a strange question here. I’m currently a freshman at a top school (HYP), but I’ve been suspended a year for an academic violation.

    From what I’m hearing from others in my situation, I can still get into a top i-banking firm. However, in terms of exit opportunities – do PE, or hedge funds ask for the transcript? What should be be my best path forward?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Some firms ask for transcript. If they do, you may have to explain what happened. In terms of your best path, I’d get back to school your sophomore year, try your best to get a good GPA, join a finance/investment club, and try to attend as many finance info sessions as you can. You may want to use this year to learn more about finance if you have the time, and perhaps travel (do something different) so if people were to ask you what you did this year, you can talk about it in a productive and interesting way.

  11. Andrew says

    Hi,
    I started in community college then transferred to a University. The university is non-target. When I transferred to the university I got a new GPA and the University does not take into account my GPA from community college. I currently have a 4.0 after one semester at the university but I had a 3.0 when I left the community college. Can I just put the 4.0 on my resume when applying for summer internships or do I need to disclose both? Also do you think this will become a problem for me assuming I can keep my GPA 3.8 or above at the university?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I don’t think you need to disclose both. You can just list your GPA and state that it is for the semester. It makes sense because you’re a recent transfer

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