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How important is past internship experience?

SufferSuffer Registered User Posts: 216 Junior Member
I'm thinking about pursuing a finance internship but the past summer (and probably this one) I have been doing pre-med related activities (research, shadowing, etc).

Am I at a disadvantage in this aspect vs people that have had finance internships their freshman/sophomore year? If yes, how much would it weigh down my application assuming I have a good gpa (in a stem field, I heard this is a plus although it's not math related)

Replies to: How important is past internship experience?

  • NoteworthyNoteworthy Registered User Posts: 244 Junior Member
    Of course, it will put you at a disadvantage. How much of a disadvantage, will be based on the competition in academic performance in applicants for that internship. Fortunately for you, there are very few if any finance internships for freshman/sophomore, they usually are reserved for upcoming graduates.
  • SufferSuffer Registered User Posts: 216 Junior Member
    @noteworthy so do the larger firms look favorably on people with prior finance internship experience because they have a better understanding of how things work/gained more knowledge in the field? Or is it because they can trust them to be more professional/hardworking (or something else)?
  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 Registered User Posts: 4,433 Senior Member
    Prior internships experience says that you have been in a working environment. Relevant experience says that you know something about the field. Experience with familiar/respected companies says that somebody else thought you were a good bet. Companies like all three of those things when looking for their next crop of interns.

    Companies hiring for finance internships especially like 3rd and 4th year students - older, theoretically more mature, may have done relevant school work. They typically like brand names, and the bigger their brand name the more they like students who have big college brand names. So I know history, chemistry, classics, etc. majors with no prior internship experience at all who have gotten internships at Goldman, Morgan, Citi, etc.- but they were coming from a tippy top university. I have also known people from solid colleges (for example, Bucknell) who have gotten finance internships without prior finance experience- but they tend to be econ or math types.

    As with all jobs- internships or otherwise- the more you can figure out what their priorities are and find a way to sell them that your strengths match their priorities the more likely you will get an offer ;-)
  • NoteworthyNoteworthy Registered User Posts: 244 Junior Member
    @Suffer Well the larger firms look favorably on people with that experience because they are highly competitive. If you get 500+ applications and only have time for 50 interviews, they gotta have some way to narrow it down. That's why usually it will go school name >= gpa > work experience = internship experience > extracurriculars >= volunteer work. As far as typical students go, obviously if you have a huge background with work experience in that area, it will surpase a college degree but, that's rare for 99% of students.

    It just makes logical sense, why would they give you an interview to you instead of person B who has the same GPA/school name and additionally applicable experience? Just consider if it was a reverse scenario, a person who pursued a pre-med internship but had a finance background compared to you, your "pre-med related activities" would be considered an advantage....

    But like I said, finance internships from legitimate companies are extremely rare for freshman/sophomores. So you probably aren't at a huge disadvantage in that department, but depending on the company that is offering the internship, will determine how crucial a prestigious finance background is needed.

    @collegemom3717 Although I'm sure, "history, chemistry, classics, etc. majors" aren't unknown at companies like Goldman, Morgan, etc. Most of those are either dual-major, non-recent, or they knew someone to get their job/internship. The market is just too competitive now to expand that much. The supply of qualified candidates has surpassed the demand to need to seek less relevant majors like history, classics, etc. They don't demonstrate rigor or proficiency in the same skills. The most that I've heard has been that these companies have expanded to math, statistics, and engineering (rarely), with most of their recruits being finance, economics, and accounting.

    But she is right, most of these big companies focus on prestigious schools and top GPA's. The key is you need to make your resume seem better than everyone elses, and someone with the same GPA and school name plus prior finance-related experience will beat you everytime for a spot for an interview.

    The place where you will really overcome that is probably med-sized firms that are giving spots to 3.0-3.5 GPA finance majors while you have a 3.5+ pre-med GPA. Then once you get the interview, you just need to market the hell out of the rigor that you've overcome as a pre-med.
  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 Registered User Posts: 4,433 Senior Member
    agree with @noteworthy, except:
    They don't demonstrate rigor or proficiency in the same skills.

    The tippy top college served as a proxy for rigor, and the internships that I was referring to have a multi-tier selection process, including a numeracy test, a verbal test, and a series of interviews. Also, the students that I am speaking of all had placements in the last 2 years, were single-subject, and didn't have contacts.
  • NoteworthyNoteworthy Registered User Posts: 244 Junior Member
    @collegemom3717 Well then I guess the market isnt as competitive as I thought. I figured as much demand as I was seeing from the finance/economics students I talk to regarding finance jobs, those big-name firms would have no shortage of applicants from the tippy top colleges with relevant coursework. As for the "school name" acting as a proxy for rigor, that's a huge surprise considering the difference rigor of STEM fields is so much greater than the rigor found in the humanities.

    Nonetheless, I have no practical experience in the grand scheme of recruiting for these firms. My advice was merely based on my observations, various articles, and testimony from professors, so I'd go with her advice than mine @Suffer .
  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 Registered User Posts: 4,433 Senior Member
    @Noteworthy, it is that competitive- it's just hard to overstate the bump that those 1-4 top names gives students, and even within that group what a really strong GPA can do. Overall, I agree entirely with your advice to the OP- just clarifying a very narrow point.
  • SufferSuffer Registered User Posts: 216 Junior Member
    @noteworthy @collegemom3717 thanks!

    I have actually added some finance minors (my school doesn't have a finance major, only econ) so I think in terms of the technicals I definitely have experience/knowledge in the field, just not actual internship/work experience in the field (I guess people @ colleges with a business school would have the easiest time with the technical knowledge)

    Do you know if they take major rigor into account when looking at gpas (or is it something you could mention in the interview like overcoming pre med rigor which you mentioned in your post)? I would say my gpa is very good although I feel it probably took a hit because of the pre med/science rigor that the econ majors at my school don't really experience (based on what people that are econ major pre meds have told me).

    Also a little random but I heard in the interviews they expect you to be able to do mental math with larger numbers with no issues and very instantaneously (like 324x27). Is that true?
  • CalBearsMomCalBearsMom Registered User Posts: 185 Junior Member
    I don't enough about the field to know if finance and trading are the same thing but I know that MIT math and engineering majors are definitely getting recruited by firms like Jane Street and Two Sigma -- as long as they can pass the series of technical interviews.
  • NoteworthyNoteworthy Registered User Posts: 244 Junior Member
    @collegemom3717 Well I knew the top 1-4 would give them an edge, I just figured those top 1-4 would be generating more than enough econ, math, statistics, finance/econ, & business majors since 90% of those majors are wanting the top jobs like jp morgan, goldman, etc.

    @Suffer Well definitely make sure to highlight your finance knowledge in your resume. As for your gpa major rigor, they do and they don't take it into account. For example, the top tier firms like goldman, they usually use a system to eliminate candidates w/o certain college names and GPA's below certain levels like 3.5 for example. Therefore regardless of your major, you will be eliminated. Once an actual person looks at the resume, they will take into account your GPA compared to your major. Depending on the econ reputation of your school would determine how much of an edge they would favor your rigor, a lot of schools with strong quantitative based econ programs (more business related and less humanities related) are considered to be quite rigorous.

    As for the whole "mental math", I have no idea how the actual interviews go. I do know they give tests to test that knowledge though.

    @CalBearsMom Exactly! I've seen many big financial firms seek strong math-based majors from top tier schools.
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