Why Do Top Students Wind Up on Wall Street?

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"One of the common complaints," writes The Washington Post's Ezra Klein, "about Wall Street is that it sucks up a lot of Ivy League talent that could be going toward more productive endeavors." How does that happen? People often assume it's just because of the money, but Klein interviews one of the Harvard graduates who wound up on Wall Street and gets a slightly different answer:

Investment banking was never something I thought I wanted to do. But the recruiting culture at Harvard is extremely powerful. In the midst of anxiety and trying to find a job at the end of college, the recruiters are really in your face, and they make it very easy ... And separate from that, I think it's about squelching anxiety in general. It checks the job box. And it's a low-risk opportunity. It's a two-year program with a great salary and the promise to get these skills that should be able to transfer to a variety of other areas. The idea is that once you pass the test at Goldman, you can do anything. You learn Excel, you learn valuation, you learn how to survive intense hours and a high-pressure environment. So it seems like a good way to launch your career. That's very appealing for those of us at Harvard who were not in pre-professional majors.

Or, as Klein paraphrases it, "Wall Street has constructed a very intelligent recruiting program that speaks to the anxieties of the students and makes them an offer that there's almost no reason to refuse." If that's the case, how do those wanting top students to take their talent elsewhere encourage it? Could the problem be not the money but top schools' lack of career counseling?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.