Wall Street is the major leagues for college students who want to make a splash in banking and finance. To get a head start on their careers and gain an edge on the competition, many students vie for summer internships between their junior and senior years that can often lead to full-time job offers. But applying is not for the weak of heart. The application process is highly competitive, with large firms receiving up to 5,000 applications for around 100 summer spots. It is therefore important that applicants take all possible steps to maximize their chances of success.
Attend a Feeder School
Many investment banks maintain a list of target universities, or "feeder schools," from which they recruit the bulk of their summer interns. The schools on the lists vary and may number anywhere from 10 to 30 or more institutions. In almost every case, the Ivy League is targeted as well as other top national and regional schools. This doesn't mean students at non-feeder schools won't be considered. However, it does mean these students must take extra steps to stand out from the crowd and compete for the most coveted internships.
Academics and Extracurricular Activities
Wall Street firms will examine your academic record and outside activities to determine your worthiness as an intern. Besides excelling academically and earning a high GPA, you should major in a discipline related to finance such as economics or business. At the very least, you should take coursework in these areas to obtain knowledge of the fundamentals. Additionally, recruiters will be interested in your extracurricular activities as a gauge of your leadership potential and civic engagement. Become involved in organizations that interest you, and then take charge of an area or department. For example, you might try to become the treasurer of your university's finance club, or volunteer with a local charity.
Network with Industry Professionals
As with any job search, you'll enjoy a tremendous advantage if you can count on advocates to lobby on your behalf. If you or people you know have acquaintances on Wall Street, let them know you are interested in securing a summer internship. If you don't have any connections, make every effort to get to know the representatives of the firms that visit campus by attending information sessions and other events. Make a good impression so you'll stand out and be remembered when your resume appears in the recruiters' inbox for evaluation.
Apply to Internships
The final stage to securing an internship on Wall Street is to formally submit your application. In most cases, you'll be required to visit the firm's website and submit a resume and cover letter in addition to completing an online form. Craft a resume that showcases your academic strengths and extracurricular activities, especially those that show your adeptness at and interest in finance. The same diligence should be applied to your cover letter, which should be tailored to reflect each firm's specialties and culture. Before submitting your application, visit your university's career services center to have your resume and cover letter critiqued and improved.