So you’re an undergrad (maybe even a freshman, or God forbid a pre-freshman) and you have your heart set on landing a management consulting internship. What can you do now to set yourself up for success?
While we didn’t have nearly as much foresight our freshman year as you do (it took me 6 weeks to find my HIS101 class), we have mad respect for those of you who are thinking ahead. After all, going through a consulting interview process is one of the most competitive processes you will ever be a part of, and only the best of the best succeed.
Don’t believe us? Last year, MBB firms only accepted 3% of their applicants. Even Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale accept 6% of their applicants.
Should these numbers worry you? Not at all! With some hard work, planning, and preparation, you’ll be well positioned to land the consulting internship of your dreams. Buckle up and get ready for our Top 5 tips for undergrads wanting to enter management consulting.
This one should be a no-brainer. Without a GPA of at least a 3.5, you’re going to have a really hard time landing a prestigious internship your junior year, and thus a full-time offer after that. While a high GPA isn’t the only thing you need to land a consulting offer, this is the first (and best) chance you’ll have to set yourself apart from the competition before the interview process begins. In fact, if you don’t have a high enough GPA, you can kiss even beginning the interview process goodbye, as your resume will be automatically discarded.
While we work with clients all the time whose GPAs are a bit sub-par (and they land offers), this just means they have to work extra hard to make the rest of their story compelling. This equals great leadership experience, advocates inside the firm (network, network, network!), and possibly even brand-name internship experience.
Variety is the name of the game here, as you want to show you have a well-rounded business (and financial) skill-set and interests to boot. Read our Top 8 Undergrad Consulting Majors article for an in-depth conversation on what majors will set you up the best to enter the consulting world.
2. Get involved with a maximum of 3 organizations on campus (two should be non-Greek)
Besides having fun and broadening your horizons, the goal of getting involved in campus organizations is to be positioned for leadership early on in your academic career. Grades alone won’t be enough to get you an internship; you need to show leadership experience as well. Consulting firms are looking for future leaders to fill their ranks, and proving you’re smart is not the same as showing you’re a leader.
So start that club, or take that organization to the next level. Not only will you learn invaluable lessons in dealing with different kinds of people, you’ll get to see firsthand the impact your leadership has on the lives of your peers. Plus, you’ll show consulting firms that you have the drive and aptitude to be a top performer outside of the sterilized classroom environment.
3. Pursue job opportunities during breaks, especially summer
This is where you build skills in the real world. That on-campus or retail job may be nice, but it isn’t pushing you to grow, and it certainly isn’t helping you to skill up. Here, we’re talking about pursuing jobs that will help prepare you for your ultimate goal: think about launching that startup you’ve been dreaming about, or pursuing an internship with that Fortune 500 company, or really anything that will give you some practical, real-world experience in Excel and financial modeling. The best jobs are the ones where you get paid to learn.
Let’s face it, you’re still young. Are you sure consulting is what you want to do? Have you explored other areas of potential interest?
Externships are 1-2 week job shadows that will help you figure out what you actually want to do. Many large corporations – and even public entities like U.S. congressional offices – have externship opportunities available. It’s worth taking a few weeks out of your summer to not only gain some practical experience but also to really see where you fit and what you enjoy. After all, you don’t want to gear your whole undergraduate career toward consulting and then find out at the very end that it isn’t what really makes you come alive.
5. Wild stuff
Hike at 3 AM, crash a wedding, travel somewhere awesome. Build the third dimension of your story and gain perspective on the world. You are doing yourself and your future firm a disservice if all you ever do is focus on financial modeling, case frameworks, or business understanding. Take time to become a well-rounded individual, and to be the kind of person who will be fun to work with on a team. These are the memorable stories you will tell in your fit interview when you are asked how you dealt with a difficult person: it won’t just be a generic answer from your internship last summer, but a compelling answer about how you helped break up a fight on a bus in India.
The world is massive; don’t think you’ve figured it all out from your campus dorm.
Bonus tip: Don’t let anyone film you doing something stupid! In our generation, you can never really get away with doing stupid stuff, because the evidence will never disappear. And with every major consulting firm checking candidates’ social media profiles before extending an offer, its a chance you take that you simply can’t afford.
Remember Laremy Tunsil in the 2016 NFL Draft? After someone leaked a 2-year-old video of Tunsil smoking from a bong, he fell from being a projected top-3 pick to being picked outside of the top-10, costing himself millions of dollars in the process. The lesson here? Video cameras never lie and they never forget. If you are going to do something that could sabotage your professional life, you can’t afford to have it caught on video.
One person who’s no doubt glad not to have been born a millennial is British PM, David Cameron. In late 2015, he faced allegations that he placed his private parts in a dead pig’s mouth while he was at Oxford in the 1980s. If this had happened today, there would be at least 3 videos, taken from 3 different angles, each one leaving his political career in disarray. Do you think he’s glad there’s no video evidence of his, ummm, indiscretion?
The lesson here? I’m sorry I even have to spell it out but don’t do weird stuff on film!
Interested in charting your career path out with an ex-MBB consultant? Schedule a Power Half Hour to get all of your specific questions answered.