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How Can I Break Into Management Consulting from a Non-Target Undergrad Background?

GDKernGDKern Posts: 4Registered User New Member
edited January 2013 in Business School - MBA
I am currently a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma double majoring in Chinese and Economics. This is actually my first semester on campus, but I entered with a great deal of credits from AP exams taken during high school. I graduated with a 4.0 and had a 2140 SAT score. I wanted to get into a top tier school (read: Ivy League) but due to financial reasons that was not a possibility. I came to OU on a National Merit Scholarship, but now I am unsure about whether that was a wise move.

I understand that top consulting firms look at specific target schools for hiring out of undergrad, which eliminates the chances of me getting a job right after graduation. I plan to pursue an MBA and hope to get into a top tier B-School, but that is nearly impossible with my undergrad background without work experience at a top firm, which I couldn't get because I'm not at a target school. It's a vicious cycle.

My question is, what can I do to reach this goal? I am very involved on campus as a member of the marching band as well as holding a leadership position in my fraternity and participating in several other performing groups. Do I have any shot of getting where I want to be, or would it be possible/necessary for me to try to transfer to an Ivy League and take on the financial burden?
Post edited by GDKern on
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Replies to: How Can I Break Into Management Consulting from a Non-Target Undergrad Background?

  • storchstorch Posts: 291Registered User Junior Member
    You should transfer and take out aid or loans if needed, it is well worth it, also most top schools will give a full ride or near to it for poor but academically capable students

    Also, FYI you can still get a good job out of a state school, but it is much much harder
  • bhollowaybholloway Posts: 11Registered User New Member
    Don't listen to Storch. Theres no reason for you to transfer just to get a management consulting job. Yes, your chances would be better at a HYP type of school, but what you also need to consider is how competitive it is at those schools. While you might be a star at Oklahoma, big public universities are much less competitive than ivies, even with the grade inflation. Coming in with only a 2140 and I'm assuming not from a prestigious high school, you're chances at an Ivy were probably slim anyways, not trying to be an ass, just trying to be real.

    Some people make it to top Consulting and Banking firms from non targets, but you just need to network a little bit harder.

    If you are deadset on getting into a Bain or McKinsey type firm right out of college it will be really tough because they don't do OCRs, but I think a better alternative for you would be to

    1. Stay at OU at get great grades in Chinese and Econ, it will set you up well for any job.
    2. Start going to your college career center and pursue internships in both consulting and finance (things like Investment Banking run hand in hand with consulting and may be easier to come by). Look for smaller boutique consulting firms in your area or in big cities so you can gain work experience. If you can get to NY for the summer look there too. There are tons of boutique firms looking for students.
    3.If possible look for part time work during the year. There are probably some local consulting/ finance firms and any sort of experience you can put on your resume would be good.
    4. Look for some type of consulting job out of college and then after a year or two make the jump to a big time firm. After a year or two of experience, the target, non-target debate won't make as much of a difference
    5. Don't give up on those big firms. Its not impossible to make it as an undergrad you just need to find ways to stand out.

    Lastly, check out wallstreetoasis.com. It's a much better forum for banking and consulting advice. Unfortunately, most people dont' really know what they're talking about on CC when it comes to jobs.

    Hope this helps.
  • -Lurker--Lurker- Posts: 1,420Registered User Senior Member
    He's at the University of Oklahoma dude, transferring should definitely not be out of the question if its feasible.

    If you were at Baruch or something, it would be different, but the closest consulting office would be hundreds of miles away making networking difficult or near impossible. Relevant part time work experience is going to be impossible to come by as well.

    If you decide to stay, your best bet is to get several blue chip internship experiences over the summer and reach out to your alumni network and hope that there are a couple that went the MBB route.
  • markos.alejomarkos.alejo Posts: 106Registered User Junior Member
    @bholloway, I am under the impression that the only real entry points of any significance for MBB or any other top consulting firm are undergrad, b-school or industry. From my understanding, big firms do not recruit from lesser firms in general, so I don't think that starting out at a non-top firm will do the OP any good.

    To the OP, look into transferring (make sure the schools you aim for have MBB/top consulting firm recruiting), chase after the most prestigious internships you can find (top consulting firms love big brand names, part of the reason they have target schools), and network network network. I personally think it's excellent that you're making this realization first semester of sophomore year as opposed to fall semester of senior year.

    If transferring doesn't pan out, network until you find an analyst/consultant involved in recruiting at a firm near you that you can establish a connection with and that would be willing to fight for you to get you an interview during recruiting season. Also check to see if your school has any alumni that have made it to mbb/top consulting firm, they are your best bet at establishing a good network as they will be sympathetic to your cause/could provide u advice.

    Best of luck!
  • bhollowaybholloway Posts: 11Registered User New Member
    Yes, coming out of College the main point of entry is OCRs from top undergrad schools; however, if you worked at a small firm with a lot of success for a few years after undergrad and then decided to apply to a top firm, I would argue that ones chances would be even higher.

    To be honest, if you transfer to a HYP and get in then you're competing for a very small amount of spots against the smartest and most qualified kids in the nation. Again, not trying to be an *******, but does the OP really have a chance against those kids? Your competition would be smart and well groomed boarding school kids with a lot of connections vs a slightly above average student at OU.

    After a few years of working, grades and undergrad location matter much less when compared to actual industry experience. If you really wanted to transfer, I would argue that something along the lines of an NYU or Villanova Business schools would be better alternatives. Still in NY with good connections, but more achievable in terms of your current stats.
  • goose7856goose7856 Posts: 529Registered User Member
    Believing that MBB is the only option for you to break into consulting is your first big problem. Expand your horizons - there are probably 20 top name consulting firms that I can name off the top of my head that are elite opportunities out of undergrad. CC is the most pretentious board I have encountered on the entire internet -- do not let it spoil other great opportunities you can create that are not from HPYSM.

    You should be close enough to the Dallas market to find internships. You may not end up at MBB, but the reality is an extreme few ever have the opportunity to work there. If you want to do consulting, then go for it and expand your thought process.
  • storchstorch Posts: 291Registered User Junior Member
    To the original poster -

    Problem with forums like this is you get some very bad advice from some folks who have no idea what they're talking about...

    To give you some context, I'm a manager at one of the MBB firms (Mckinsey, BCG, Bain), and I can tell you, you have a near zero shot where you are now, even if you 'network a little harder'.

    If you managed to transfer to a top school, there would at least be an opportunity for you to get an interview and from there it is 100% a meritocracy.

    This notion that 'differentiating' yourself is easier coming from a lesser school is completely false. I should know, I went to a relatively unknown undergrad (and did extremely well there, probably similar to how you will to at Oklahoma) and later to a top 5 graduate school, and coming out of the two places was night and day for me. Coming out of undergrad I basically didn't exist for top firms / jobs and had to spend years climbing the greasy pole to work my way up. Coming out of a top grad school several years later, (mind you I wasn't any smarter of more capable, just more marketable) every 'prestige firm', e.g., Goldman, MS, Mckinsey, BCG, etc wanted to interview me and a few gave me offers. The irony is that I probably would have done a better job when I was younger, coming out of the small school, because I was hungrier and felt I had something to prove, but none of these firms wanted anything to do with me at the time because my brand wasn't as strong.

    Fact is these firms are bursting at the seams with qualified applicants and they take an 80/20 approach, only looking at top students from top schools. Sure they miss a few diamonds in the rough along the way as a result, but who cares? There are still way more qualified people looking to get in from top schools than will ever be hired, so why spend tons of time / effort / money looking at even less likely places?

    To be honest, and I know this sounds ridiculous, but we barely hire anyone even from the lesser ivies. My office is in the northeast, and for undergrad hires, I can't think of a single kid making it in the last few years from cornell or dartmouth, nvm some random state school. Is that fair? No, not at all... (actually I was really surprised by it) Are there probably so great kids in other places? Yes of course there are! But we already have an abundance of great applicants coming in from our traditional feeders so who cares?

    Also, I have in the few years I've been here, only bumped into a couple of industry hires that made it in directly from a lesser consultancy, it's possible, but verrry unlikely in my experience. I'd imagine less than 1% of folks in those places pull it off directly. However, working at a smaller / lesser known firm, and going to a top grad school could definitely work and I know lots of people who have done that. But why wait for 5+ years? Just xfer now if you can.

    As I said originally... you should transfer to the best school you can get into, take out loans if needed, and it will most likely open doors for you. You will probably get a better job and, in expected value terms, it is almost always going to be a positive NPV move.
  • Polo08816Polo08816 Posts: 903Registered User Member
    Believing that MBB is the only option for you to break into consulting is your first big problem. Expand your horizons - there are probably 20 top name consulting firms that I can name off the top of my head that are elite opportunities out of undergrad. CC is the most pretentious board I have encountered on the entire internet -- do not let it spoil other great opportunities you can create that are not from HPYSM.
    CC is definitely a hang out for many aspiring over-achievers. That's never a bad thing. It's a group that I don't self-identify with but it's a group where valuable advice can be heard.

    Storch, everything you have said I'm inclined to agree with based on what I have seen.

    However, I just wanted to provide some background about myself.

    I graduated with a BS Computer Science from a state university. I certainly wasn't within the top 20% of my graduating class (major). I was more mid-pack. At first glance, you would think, why would any top 15 consulting firm ever even give me a chance. At the time of graduation, I was also a 1st Lieutenant in the Army National Guard and thus I had an active security clearance. That became the X factor. I ended up being offered $10k-20k/year more than what an entry level hire would have been offered at Accenture or Booz Allen Hamilton based on what I researched on Glassdoor. (I accumulated $0 in educational debt because service in the National Guard requires a public university in my state to waive all tuition.)

    Is that as sexy as McKinsey, Bain, BCG, etc.? Probably not. Is it the same "management consulting" that we're speaking of exactly here? Maybe not. But I'm okay with that.

    The caveat is that if you don't come from a top school, you need to create a niche for yourself. To this end, you need to be willing to take risks. For me it worked out because I enjoy what I do and I don't regret my own choices in life. The risk vs. rewards were worth it to me.

    I feel that many on CC have developed a close-minded approach (I'm not accusing you) to the relationship between undergrad -> job -> grad school -> career process. It fails to take the "total/whole person concept" into account.
  • intparentintparent Posts: 13,965Registered User Senior Member
    Yes, there are several large consulting firms that are not the "strategy" firms like McKinsey, but you can have an interesting and successful career there. Or use it as a training ground for success elsewhere later on. Deloitte, KPMG, Accenture, etc. I would say that trying to get a summer internship with any of those would be a good starting point. They do hire econ majors (my D1's boyfriend was hired by one after interning with them for a summer, and he went to an LAC ranked about #50 -- not a big name business school).
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Posts: 25,333Registered User Senior Member
    Actually, here in NYC, there are a number of firms that will hire from any school IF the student has strong quantititative sklls backed up by such courses and strong grades. Not many such students out there. And then the interview assessing personal skills is the next cut. Very difficult finding those students with "Consulting" personal skills paired with strong math, analysis courses and good grades, regardless of the college.
  • desiyankeedesiyankee Posts: 32Registered User Junior Member
    I have a similar question as the one put forth by the OP. However, I am not an Undergrad. I am a mid-career person (although I am only 25 years old). I have a Bachelors and a Masters in Engineering from State schools with GPAs over 3.80. For a little over four years, I have worked as a Scientist in positions of increasing responsibility at a top Medical Device company. Currently, I work in Medical Device but in a position that is geared towards Project Management. I would like to make a switch to Management Consulting. In my case, I am considering the MBA route. What is your suggestion? My eventual goal is to pursue a career in Management Consulting specifically dealing with the acquisition and divestiture of Medical Device companies.
  • cbreezecbreeze Posts: 3,728Registered User Senior Member
    ^^ MBA is a good path for career changers. If you want to have a good ROI, attend a top 15 full-time MBA program that has a heath care emphasis.
  • intparentintparent Posts: 13,965Registered User Senior Member
    Many years ago I got my MBA with the desire to move into management consulting (Accenture, etc. type firms). I did indeed get hired by one of them when I finished my MBA, but found that many people I worked with had been hired straight from undergrad programs. And many did not have business or IT-related degrees. For example, I worked with a couple of biology majors. Desiyankee, I would suggest applying NOW with those firms to see what happens. You may not need to waste the time & money on the MBA to get in the door. Especially if you have some industry and project management skills -- if you can fit the "personality" profile in the interview, you may not need the extra education.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Posts: 25,333Registered User Senior Member
    If it was not feasible for the OP to afford a private school earlier, why is it suddenly more possible? I don't see him tranferring to HPY with the SAT scores he has; nearly impossilbe as they take few transfers anyways, and there truly has to be good reason for them to be making such a moving. Many of the other name schools do not even meet 100% of neeed for transfers, plus unless you are talking the top of the top schools, according the the McK/Baine guru here. Bear in mind that doesb't guarnatee you anything either. Lots of HPYers not getting a slot. Plus, I personally know some kids from state schools and other very good, but most selective schools in those firms as well; not as many by far, but it's not as exclusive as a clerkship on the Supreme Court.
  • goose7856goose7856 Posts: 529Registered User Member
    Believing that MBB are the only places that do real strategy work is foolish. The prue strategy groups in other houses may be smaller (or growing), but they definitely exist.
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