by Brian DeChesare Comments (47)

How to Prepare for Investment Banking Summer Internship Recruiting

Investment Banking Summer Internship Recruiting

This revised and updated article is mostly a reality check.

If you’re wondering why I’m publishing an article about “summer internship recruiting” in February, then you haven’t been paying attention to recruiting.

In the U.S., summer internship recruiting at many banks now begins and ends over a year in advance of internships.

Some large banks have already opened their applications within the past week.

And within the next few months, a lot of recruiting for summer 2019 internships at major banks will be done.

This move to hyper-accelerated recruiting is ridiculous, especially since most 2nd-year university students have no idea what they want to do.

But ridiculous behavior defines the finance industry, so you have to deal with it and survive.

Here’s what it means for your timeline, preparation, and strategy:

Why Does Hyper-Accelerated Recruiting Matter?

This change matters because summer internships are the best – and sometimes only – way to receive full-time investment banking offers.

A summer internship is effectively an 8-10-week interview at a bank, and it’s the best way for a bank to assess your performance.

If you miss recruiting season and, therefore, miss a summer internship, you are screwed.

Occasionally you can win a full-time offer without a summer internship, but the odds are strongly against you.

Much earlier start dates have also changed other important points:

1) Your GPA Will Become More Important, So Maximize “Easy A” Classes in Your First 1-2 Years

You’ll have less experience by the time you apply for summer internships, so banks will judge you more based on grades, test scores, and the brand name of your university.

You can’t do much about the last two, but you can game the system to boost your GPA.

You should make every effort to take easy classes to boost your grades in your first 1-2 years and save the harder ones for your last few years.

At my university, language classes were easy A’s, and I used them to offset lower grades in engineering/computer science classes.

Figure out the loopholes at your university and exploit them!

2) If You’re a Transfer Student, You’re Kind of Screwed

Transferring to a better university to improve your recruiting chances is now a much worse strategy.

Transferring between your second and third year makes no sense because you’ll completely miss summer internship recruiting.

Transferring after your first year might be a bit better, but recruiting will still be tough because you won’t have as much time to network with alumni or join student groups.

So, if you’re transferring only to win an IB internship, you might want to reconsider.

3) If You’re at a Non-Target School, You’re Also Kind of Screwed

There’s much less awareness of investment banking and private equity and the recruiting timelines at non-target schools, and the “career centers” there are completely clueless.

So, if you’re at a non-target school and you did not start preparing for IB by the beginning of your second year, you’ll probably have to use a different strategy to get in.

For example, maybe you’ll have to apply for wealth management or corporate banking roles, start working full-time in one of those, and then make a lateral move into IB.

4) Internships After Your First Year, School-Year Internships, and “Upcoming” Internships After Your Second Year Will Become More Important

A long time ago, what you did after your first year of university didn’t matter much because banks focused on second-year internships.

But those days are long gone.

Now, you’re pretty much going to need a finance-related internship after your first year because you won’t have much else to write about on your resume.

And the recruiting process will favor students who line up second-year internships far in advance because they’ll be able to write “Upcoming Finance-Related Summer Internship” on their resumes.

5) Networking via Student Groups Will Be More Useful

With the new timeline, it will be tougher to make multiple weekend trips to NY and build relationships with alumni before interviews begin.

As a result, you’ll have to rely more on student groups, investing clubs, and business fraternities to build connections and get help from older students.

How to Prepare: Your Timeline and Strategy

If you are even vaguely interested in investment banking, you must start preparing for it in your first year of university.

I would suggest this rough timeline:

Step 1: Your First Year in University

Start by picking a major related to finance or something that can be used for other jobs if you don’t win finance job offers (e.g., accounting, computer science, engineering, etc.).

Then, front-load your schedule with easier classes in your first year.

You don’t need to earn perfect grades, but you want to come as close as possible.

Participate in activities that will help you network your way into a finance role: The student investment club, the business frat, or a series of investing or case competitions.

Over the summer, aim for finance-related internships. You probably won’t be able to win an actual investment banking internship, but you might find something in corporate finance at a local company, or perhaps an internship at a boutique PE/VC firm.

Other options would be wealth management, anything in real estate, or something at a Big 4 firm or an independent valuation firm.

There is no set process to apply for these internships, so your approach will be: “Find companies and peoples’ names on LinkedIn, email or call them, and repeat until you find something.”

Step 2: The Summer After Your First Year

This is when you complete your first finance-related internship.

You should also start learning the technical side (accounting, valuation, and transaction modeling) and networking with alumni by setting up informational interviews.

You do not need to devote a lot of time to these efforts. If your internship has normal hours, you could target ~10 hours per week for networking + technical prep.

That might equate to 3-4 informational interviews per week and several hours of tutorials and practice exercises.

You learn best by doing, so don’t just read books, guides, or quick references from our courses: Take real companies and build simple projections and valuations for them.

This summer is also a good time to develop an interesting hobby or experience that you can reference in interviews.

Take something small, such as a week-long trip or volunteer project, and spin it into sounding more significant.

Step 3: The First Half of Your Second Year

You’ll continue networking with alumni and preparing for the technical questions in this period.

You should also start conducting weekend trips to New York or the major financial center closest to you.

One trip is good, and two are better, but once you complete three or more, you’ll get diminishing returns.

You could aim for one trip at the start of the year and another just before internship recruiting begins.

You can keep participating in student groups and activities, and you should aim for a leadership role so that you have more to write on your resume.

Also, you’ll have to start thinking about your internship plans for the upcoming summer (the one after your second year).

Once again, this will probably not be an investment banking internship, but any of the options mentioned above could work.

Step 4: The Second Half of Your Second Year

At this point, many banks will start conducting information sessions at target schools, and interviews will begin and end.

So, you need to know your story perfectly, and you need to be well-prepared for all the fit and technical questions.

If you haven’t yet found an internship for the coming summer, keep looking – writing about an “upcoming internship” on your resume will make a difference.

Step 5: The Summer After Your Second Year

You complete your second finance-related internship at this point.

Also, not all banks finish summer recruiting so early – some will continue with interviews through this summer and into the fall.

It’s not necessarily the end of the world if you miss the earliest recruiting deadlines, so you can certainly keep applying and networking.

However, your chances decrease the longer the process drags on.

Step 6: Your Third Year in University

Some banks will continue recruiting even into your third year, so you may still be able to interview around.

But if you haven’t won an internship within the first few months of this year, chances are that you won’t be in IB for the summer.

If that happens, go for something else in finance, ideally related to transactions.

One solid, frequently overlooked option is corporate banking, which can be a good steppingstone into IB.

What If You Decide on IB Too Late in the Game?

If it’s already your second year, and you haven’t yet had a finance internship or networked with alumni, then you don’t have a great shot at winning IB internships.

You might still be able to win something if you’re at a target school with high grades, but if not, focus on other options: Consulting, wealth management, corporate banking, Big 4 firms, or small PE/VC firms.

Recruiting moves more slowly and sanely in those fields, and it is possible to move into IB as a lateral hire even if you start out full-time in something else.

Also, you might be able to recruit for and win full-time IB roles even without a prior IB internship, as a reader did in this previous article.

To do that, market conditions must be right, you’ll need to do an insane amount of networking in a few short months, and you’ll have to target non-BB/EB firms (i.e., MM banks, IBABs, and regional boutiques).

Other Variations, Regions, and Considerations

In Europe and Asia, the summer analyst recruiting process is not quite as crazy (yet).

It has been trending earlier, but banks do not start and finish it before the end of your second year.

Instead, they tend to open applications in the summer after your second year and set the deadlines a few months after that.

That may seem like a big difference, but it doesn’t necessarily change that much because they conduct interviews on a first-come, first-served basis.

You’re at a huge disadvantage if you delay your applications in these regions – be ready to submit the minute they open.

The real difference in EMEA and Asia is that you can rely a bit more on your second-year internship, and you don’t need to start preparing so far in advance.

Also, it’s easier to win off-cycle internships and use options like spring weeks to boost your chances in Europe.

I’m not sure about other regions (Canada, Australia, Latin America, etc.), so if you have a sense of the timing there, feel free to leave a comment below.

Finally, at the MBA level, not much has changed because banks have a hard limitation: They can’t start recruiting until business school begins.

For 2-year programs, therefore, banks recruit in the first half of your first year and award offers by the middle of the year for internships in that year.

You still need to network and learn the technical side far in advance, but you’ve always had to do that.

Pre-MBA internships are probably more important now because business school students tend to be younger and have less experience.

Will It Ever End?

I’d like to think that at some point, banks will realize that recruiting students with no idea of their career goals is counterproductive.

But then I remember that banks also caused the last financial crisis and do nothing useful for society, and my optimism recedes.

Summer internship recruiting could eventually move up to the start of Year 2 for university students, or maybe even the middle-to-end of Year 1.

I don’t see how it could go much earlier than that; at the minimum, you need to be enrolled in a university to apply for internships.

But maybe I’m wrong.

In which case, we might see Goldman Sachs offering internships to “high-potential” 10-year-olds at the next elementary school job fair.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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  1. Hi Brian,
    I’m sophomore studying at umich and I just decided to do finance after September. I was wondering whether the boutique and middle market bank summer 2019 recruitment have the same insane timeline and already ended before July or i still have a chance by cold-calling and cold-emailing.

    1. Summer 2019 recruitment is mostly over. You might be able to find a few places and smaller firms that are still hiring if you reach out aggressively.

  2. Hi Brian,
    Thanks for the insight! I am a first year in college and I am wondering when would be a good time to cold email or call local boutique banks for summer 2019 internships? And what kind of knowledge or skills should I have to prepare for such internships?

    Thank you!

    1. Yesterday? Recruiting is now hyper-accelerated. Summer 2019 recruiting began in February 2018 and is now over at the large banks. So, start contacting banks ASAP. For the knowledge and skills required, read this article again because we cover everything here… see the interview articles as well.

  3. Hi Brian,

    I absolutely love all the information on your page, keep up the good work.

    I am starting my undergrad studies this fall in London at a (semi) target school after having completed a Big 4 M&A internship in Frankfurt in last six months. Now being in London, I am currently applying to the spring insight programmes at the BBs and the EBs. My question would be whether you think I have a shot at the summer Internships at BBs & EBs for next summer, or if you think that I should focus on other internships for next summer and instead wait on the results for the spring insights to break into the BBs and EBs? In that case, what would you recommend me to do next summer? I see in this article that you have some suggestions, but given that I already have completed an M&A internship before my first year of studies, I wondered if you had any specific ideas in my situation :D

    Sorry, this was a longer post than I expected, but thank you so much Brian!

    Best regards
    Erik

    1. No, just aim for the summer internships at banks as soon as you can. Spring week programs can help, but people online tend to exaggerate their importance. They also have some downsides that people ignore (e.g., what if you do one but then don’t receive an offer out of it? That will be tough to explain in interviews).

      If you already did an M&A internship at a Big 4 firm, go for an internship at a smaller PE or VC firm or even one at a dedicated boutique bank (see some of the stories for those on the site). The Big 4 brand name helps, but bankers still perceive it as being different from “true” IB even if you worked on M&A deals.

  4. Brian,

    I’m a finance and economics major with a 3.95 GPA from a non target university. I will be beginning the second semester of my sophomore year by credits this upcoming fall; however, I have taken summer classes and positioned myself to graduate by May 2020 should I choose. I lack previous internship experience, but I started a home renovation business which I have operated the past two summers. I have not yet began seriously networking or applying for investment banking internships. At this point in the game due to the unconventional nature of my graduation timeline would you recommend attempting to market myself for investment banking internships as is with a projected graduation date of May 2020 to try and land an investment banking internship for summer 2019, or should I bite the bullet and plan to graduate in December 2020, putting myself in better standing for summer 2020 investment banking internship recruiting, while focusing on networking and landing a preliminary financial internship for summer 2019 now to better help my chances? Thanks!

    1. You’re quite late for summer 2019 internships (recruiting began in February 2018), so I would recommend going for a December 2020 graduation date and summer 2020 internship, especially since you’re at a non-target school and need more time to networking.

  5. Brian,

    I’m an incoming sophomore at Princeton with a 4.0 interested in IB. Unfortunately, I didn’t find an internship for this summer. I tried looking, but it was too little too late. I recently found this website, and it’s given me a lot more awareness surrounding the whole process. (Thanks for that!) How do you recommend I make the most of the rest of my summer? And how should I go about finding internships for my sophomore summer? (It seems like most places only have diversity programs for sophomores). Thanks!

    1. You have to pound the pavement and start networking. There are some tips here:

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/non-target-school-to-elite-boutique/
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/private-equity-internship-to-investment-banking-networking/

      If you can’t win an IB role, aim for smaller/local PE or VC firms.

      1. Thanks for the suggested readings! I’ll get started. And id you don’t mind me asking, where should I start on getting some background technical knowledge? I’ve heard the Rosenbaum book is good but maybe not too beginner friendly. Thanks again for the swift reply!

        1. Look at our YouTube channel… read the technical articles here… look at the Rosenbaum & Pearl book or others… these days, you also need more than background technical knowledge to get through networking and interviews.

  6. Hi Brian,

    I am an international student starting a quantitative finance master next month in New York. I would like to start early in my recruiting process. Do internships typically open in August already? And I would look for internships at associate levels, correct?

    1. No. Master’s degrees lead to Analyst-level internships. The timing is a bit unclear if it’s a 1-year program, but the general rule of thumb is to apply as early as humanly possible. A lot of summer 2019 spots are already filled at this stage since recruiting started in *February* this year. But with a quantitative finance degree, do you even want to do investment banking? Quant fund, data science, and other hedge fund roles might be a better fit.

  7. Vaibhav

    Hi, Brian
    I am from India and I have completed by MBA and interned for 5 months in IB controls division of a BB.
    I am going for MSF at WUSTL and want to break into IB/PE. I had 2 small internships in valuation and risk management.
    Will it be possible for me as I already have a masters

    1. I think you’re going to run into issues because you already have an MBA… which means you should be applying for Associate-level roles. I guess you could do it if you present that degree differently?

  8. Hi Brian, thanks for the article! I’m currently an incoming sophomore at a target university with a GPA of 3.8. Over the summer, I’m not doing finance–I’m interning at a “Big 5” tech company doing some software development. You highly emphasized getting a finance internship after the first year, which I clearly don’t have–am I too derailed from potentially working in IB?

    I also clearly did not start reaching out to recruiters for IB this January–would doing so now be too late? And, would you recommend trying to go for a smaller, finance related internship next year and then getting a bigger one in the summer after my junior year?

    1. You could still potentially win an IB internship, but you will be at a disadvantage. If you start networking in the fall after your internship ends, and you can do something finance-related during the school year, you might be able to do it.

      The problem is that a finance-related internship after your second year no longer helps that much because 3rd year recruiting takes place before your 2nd year ends. So… what you do in your first year and first half of your second year is quite important. You should still apply for this type of internship just so you can point to it as something that you’re going to do. But it’s also important to get some type of finance experience before you apply to large banks for the junior-year internship.

  9. Hey Brian, appreciate the updated article! I’m a freshman from a non-target school that came in as a 18 yr old Junior as I received my AA co-currently in high school. I’m currently a licensed realtor and have worked in real estate for the last year during high school.

    However, I basically shot myself in the foot by coming in as a Junior with my GPA not transferring and taking blows with the courses and now having it below a 3.5.

    I extended my graduation to December 2019 by adding a second emphasis in accounting from having it in finance to even having a shot at Junior Internships.

    Any recomendations on what I should do is greatly appreciated!!

    1. If you are graduating in December 2019 and have a GPA below 3.5, all you can really do at this point is network extensively and hope some summer 2019 spots are still open at banks. You might get lucky and find some firms that have not yet filled their summer intern classes, but you need to act ASAP to have a shot at this.

      If that does not work after several months of effort, think about other options such as Big 4 firms, corporate finance at normal companies, etc. and then use one of those to move into IB as a lateral hire.

  10. Matthew

    Brian,

    I got to an university ranked around 60th in the country. Do you think a 3.80 gpa makes the cut? coming from a non-core school, i wanted it as close to a 4.0 as possible, but messed up few classes. Asking because I hear for target schools, GPA cut is like 3.7 nowadays for on campus recruiting.

    1. Yes, 3.8 is fine. Minimum GPAs have risen a bit over time, but 3.8 should be fine even if you’re at a non-target or semi-target.

  11. Hi Brian,

    Currently a sophomore at a target school. I am going through the recruiting process right now but I’m really struggling because i started with a hard major (that I have since dropped) that ruined my GPA (Below 3.0). I thought I would have had time to improve but i’m being judged on just 3 semesters of work. I have previous banking experience at a boutique through family connections but can’t seem to get past this GPA. Any advice is greatly appreciated

    1. That is a tough one. All you can really do with a low GPA is say that your work experience reflects your capabilities, and your grades suffered in your first year because you changed your major. But that won’t necessarily work these days because of the speed of the recruiting process. Another option might be to go for non-banking internships, such as at Big 4 firms or corporate finance at normal companies, and then leverage one of those to win a banking offer in the future. But I don’t have a great answer for you because a low GPA is tough to overcome unless you can mask it with higher subsequent grades or another degree.

      1. Thank you Brian, I really appreciate you taking the time out to respond to these questions. I guess the best course of action for me will be to focus on my GPA for now and perhaps return to the boutique for more experience and try to go for full time positions in my senior year with a better GPA.

  12. Hey Brian, really appreciate your article. I’m studying at an Australian University, which has an overseas campus in Malaysia. I’m planning to do an exchange for one semester at a non target in America the beginning of next year. Do you think I have any chance at all in networking over the semester and winning a bulge bracket interview?

    1. Possibly, but your chances aren’t great because you have two factors counting against you (international and non-target university) – you’d have to convince them that your long-term plan is to stay in the U.S. and work there after graduating.

  13. Hey Brian, I am currently a student at a target school recruiting for Summer 2019 internships. However, I am just starting to network now. Many of your articles talk about not directly asking about internship opportunities at the end of your first informational interview with a banker. However, given the accelerated recruiting timeline, would you recommend making the ask directly after this first call?

    1. Yes. “Not asking directly about internships” applies if you are starting far in advance. You are starting very late, so you should ask directly.

  14. Hey, I’m currently at a non-target with a 3.5 GPA and I was considering double majoring Accounting and Financial Math and Stats, however given my GPA I’m considering just taking brain dead easy classes that won’t fulfill anything. If I do so, I probably will not be able to complete both majors, and will probably just choose Accounting. Since, recruiting is so accelerated, I’m hoping I can bump my GPA up to a 3.7 or 3.8 before sophomore spring, but again I personally do want to complete both majors, its just given the situation I wonder if I should give one up simply for the GPA.

    Thank you.

    1. You should give up one of those to get a higher GPA. A double major will not help you much compared to a higher GPA. Just pick one major and go with it. If you’re from a non-target school, you really need to avoid a lower GPA and/or a major that’s perceived as “too easy,” such as something liberal arts-related.

  15. Hey Brian, current freshman at a target here. Is it too late now to find a freshman summer internship in finance? I don’t have anything yet, and I’m freaking out!
    Should I just start cold emailing PWMs and botique PE firms in my area? I don’t have strong finance or excel skills yet so I don’t know what I would offer these firms.
    Thanks!

    1. It’s definitely not too late because internship recruiting for first-year students is a lot less structured. Yes, you should start contacting firms and asking about internship opportunities. If you don’t have strong finance or Excel skills yet, offer to help them in other areas, such as with administrative tasks or sourcing (for the PE firms). There are some good tips here:

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/private-equity-internship-to-investment-banking-networking/

      Direct quote from the article:

      “They did not give me any case studies or modeling tests because:

      1) I didn’t “market” myself as having technical / modeling experience; and
      2) Many of these firms wanted interns to source deals (i.e. cold call) or monitor portfolio companies, so technical skills were less important.”

      Also, keep in mind that if you’re at a target school, you don’t necessarily need quite as much internship experience… you could even go for a school-year internship in your second year.

  16. Great article Brian. This is crazy. I’m currently a freshman at a target, searching for an this summer, hopefully in finance.

    You said that we should develop an interesting extracurricular activity over the summer. What is an example of this? Would charity work suffice? In my free time, I like playing tennis, surfing, fishing, and hanging out with friends, but I have nothing spectacular or interesting I do in my free time.

    Should I pick up some unique hobby over the summer or something? Thanks!

    1. Charity work could work if you could spin it in an interesting way (location, people involved, organization involved, problem you were solving, something like that). If I were you, I would pick the “surfing” angle because that will seem appealing to stressed-out bankers who never go outside. And then you can say that you’ve been surfing in Exotic Location X. It doesn’t even have to be “exotic,” even something like Mexico or the Caribbean would sound appealing to bankers. So I don’t think you need to pick up any other hobbies.

  17. At my university consulting has the same early timeline as IB. Some are already finishing up with recruiting. So, unfortunately, other companies are starting to do the same thing as IB.

    1. Wow, that’s depressing, thanks for sharing. I guess the “consulting” reference in this article should be to non-management-consulting roles… assuming those are still open.

  18. Hi, I just got a degree in political Science some months ago but indeed I’m interested in finance, i’m also willing to get an MBA within 7 years (I want to go to a top BS so I need to save a lot) after getting experience in a commercial bank (then I want to swift to IB) I just got hired. Regarding I’m not going to BS yet but I’m already working in a bank, do you recomend to quit my job to do an internship in the following months, or should I wait till get my MBA to apply for one? Thaks for your response

    1. I’m not sure I understand your question, but if you are already working full-time, you can’t quit and do an internship. It’s better to keep your current job, look for something else more closely related to finance, and then consider an MBA in the future.

      1. Thanks, I’ll consider your advice.

  19. Hey Brian, I appreciate the updated article. I’m currently a college student transferring to a university this fall. I understand it might be too late for recruiting this year due to the earlier timeline. However, can I extend graduation by a quarter for a second shot of recruiting? Or is getting a masters more viable? Thanks for all the help you provide.

    1. Thanks! I think it depends on what you transfer in as. If you’re transferring in as a third year, yes, it might be too late to go for summer internships this year. If you extended graduation by a quarter, then yes, you would have a better shot at internships. I would not go for a Master’s degree unless you go through recruiting 1-2 times and do not get the offer you want.

  20. Thanks for insight. Any insights into how FT recruitment is affected in terms of if want to go FT somewhere different than where I summered?

    1. Accelerated recruiting for FT roles still exists. The timing might move up now, but the idea is the same. As always, it’s highly dependent on market conditions because no matter how good you are, if the major banks got 100% intern retention, you’re not going to get a spot. But if the intern yields were worse than expected, more spots will open up.

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-accelerated-interviews/

  21. Hi Brian,

    I’m starting the MSc Finance at a target in the UK this coming September. I’ve heard it’s challenging to recruit for roles in the US coming from the UK, but I’d like to give it a shot in any case. Do you think it would be possible to get in on early recruitment in the US?

    1. It would be very difficult unless your MSc lasts for two years. Otherwise, it would make more sense to apply for roles in the UK and then transfer to the US later on.

      1. Thanks. Feel free to delete my second comment — I thought my first comment failed to post. Sorry!

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