Can You Get Into Investment Banking With Bad A-Levels?

by | Dec 6, 2019 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Every year, thousands of undergraduates flood towards the wonderful career of investment banking. Why? It pays well.

If you get into a front office position at an investment bank, there is a good chance you’ll be in the top 0.1% of earners in the country. Middle or back office jobs? You’ll still be in the top 2% of earners. There are a bunch of intangible benefits too, which I won’t get into, because I’m assuming you are here to find an answer to some important questions…

Do investment banks care about your A-level results? Can you land an internship or graduate position with bad A-level grades?

Here’s the good news. If you have ‘bad’ A-level grades and want to get into investment banking, companies worldwide place much less emphasis on academic results than they used to. This trend is growing.

The bad news is that investment banks use your university’s reputation as one of their filters, and they still tend to hire from top 5 universities. And, in most cases, you need good A-Level grades to get into a top university. But, there are exceptions.

Improve your A-Level Grades (actually do it)

If you are in a position to improve your grades, do it!

And, don’t tell me you aren’t smart enough to improve.

I went from Ds and Us in my first-year exams to straight As in my final A-Level exams. Did my IQ go up 20 points in a single year or was it something else? You know the answer.

If my anecdote doesn’t convince you, take a look at the reviews students wrote for our number 1 best-selling study-strategy guide How to ACE Your A-Levels.

If your grades are poor across the board, there is a motivation and/or technique issue that you need to solve first. Get a copy for yourself or consider our mentorship programme.

If you’re only struggling on one or two subjects, then more focus or personal tuition might be a better option.

If you’ve ‘laid your bed’ so to speak, and are not in a position to improve your A-level grades, then be strategic when applying to universities.

Prioritise university reputation

There was one individual who left my course at UCL to go to another uni with a worse reputation because, in his words, “the course was s***” 

That’s like saying, I’m trading in my Maserati for a Mercedes because the Mercedes has a better engine.

No one can see the engine or cares about it.

In the same way, investment banks don’t know or care if your department or course is ‘s***’, if they give you uninteresting work or give you past papers that are virtually identical to the final exams. They just focus on the reputation your university has.

Do your best to get into a top 5 university. This may even mean applying for a course that isn’t as popular as others.

I got Ds and Us in my first year A-levels, then used this approach to convince my teachers to raise my predicted grades to Bs and Cs.

I then applied to an ‘unpopular’ course (Chemical Engineering) at a popular uni, and got in by the skin of my teeth.

It made a difference, and I do believe, that I would have secured fewer interviews had I gone for a ‘better’ course at a ‘worse’ uni.

What if you’re not going to Oxbridge, LSE, Imperial or UCL?

Hope is not lost. People can and do break into investment banking from other universities than those listed above.

While interning at Goldman Sachs, I met two front office interns who came from the University of Essex and University of Hertfordshire. Neither of those uni’s are top 5.

Some of the strategies they and others used to secure offers are described in our book How to Land Your Dream Graduate Job.

We’ll reveal some of these in our next blog post ‘How to Get Into Investment Banking with Low A-Level Grades’. Keep an eye out! 

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