Big Bucks, Big Pressure? Do Stern First-Years Feel Pressured to Go Into Finance?

Written by Prabhav Kamojjhala

Amongst all the hustle of networking, workshops, and resume building, first-years seem to be trying to get ahead on the recruiting game – well before it starts. With its top rankings and industry leaders as faculty, it’s hard to ignore the fact that studying finance at Stern appears to be an attractive option for many a first-year. But that begs the question, are first years pushed into doing finance?

“An emphasis on perfection without room for natural error can create pressure to follow some predefined path – which I see in Finance.” says Sofie Schwallie, a first-year from Atlanta, GA. Stern’s culture, to some extent, reinforces this notion. Be it the highly competitive club application process or the ever-looming spectre of the “Stern-Curve”, life here emphasizes being the best amongst your peers. The problem that arises is simple: a sense of trying to be quicker and better than everyone around you doesn’t allow you to stop and smell the flowers –curbing the scope for personal growth. 

But to some, finance doesn’t appear to be the only way forward. Samaleh Omar, a first-year in the BPE Program says that “pressure mainly comes from other first-years. Almost every upperclassman that I’ve spoken to about this has said not to feel like finance is by default the best option.” Many first-years, however, find it hard to not to view Stern as a Wall Street pipeline. According to Nick Han, a first-year in the B.S. in Business Program, “It’s like when you are at a restaurant you wanna eat the dish that the restaurant is known for.”

The university is trying to steer its academics in a different direction. The intellectual diversity embodied in Stern’s thirteen concentrations and multiple tracks for example, contribute to an environment where there’s something for everyone. The Office of Student Engagement has been especially proactive in this regard. “We believe that it is critical for all students to start their journey at Stern with exposure to the many opportunities available to them” says Senior Assistant Dean Tiffany Boselli.

The incorporation of SternTalks (a series of talks by Stern alumni about their individual fields) into CLP is a clear example of this push to expose students to various opportunities. Moreover, the Peer Mentors program has also helped connect underclass students to upper-class peers with experience in a variety of industries to navigate their professional aspirations. 

While Finance does provide undergraduate students with the ability to engage in intellectually stimulating work that has a tangible impact on the modern corporate landscape, is not for everyone. According to a LinkedIn study, analysts at banks on average left their jobs after 17 months of working there in 2015, compared to 26 months in 2005– a clear demonstration of how unrelenting the work can be.

While it may be true that some first-years do feel stressed, the pressure isn’t exclusively because of the Club system or the university’s administration, but rather a cohesive mindset that students adopt before they even arrive at Stern. Unfairly stigmatizing one path ignores the actual source of the issue. The only way for the “pressure” surrounding career choices to subside is for first-years to take a deep breath and remember one key statistic – 98% of a graduating class are placed within the first 6 months of graduating. We’ll be alright. 

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