Walking through a never-ending maze of trifold boards, I searched in vain for a breath of air in the sea of anxious first-years. As we walked down the stairs, attempting to dodge the “in high-school I was president of” conversation I heard happening behind me, I caught a glimpse of The Well in the Schwartzman Center’s basement.
Somehow, there were almost as many people in this dark and musty room as the entirety of the upstairs. Could it be the surprise AEPi mixer? No! Instead, it was like walking into a Staples: banner stands, feather flags, and many, many Canva logos, rendered in an array of conservative shades of blue to hone in on the true Yale aesthetic.
“Hey, are you interested in finance? No experience required!” Overly enthusiastic aspiring consultants would interject into my conversations. “I got started with no knowledge at all!”
There were about ten clubs in this Wall Street pop-up that was The Well. The mecca of the cluster, though—the stand with the most beautiful trifold and cleanest logo— was the Yale Student Investment Group.
According to YSIG’s website, they “manage a portfolio of approximately $500,000 in public equities. Over the years [they] have grown and diversified their portfolio to generate stable returns.” What this means in practice is that YSIG creates six investment teams, each consisting of one team head and about ten analysts. With their given budget, they have these teams pitch stocks in their respective sectors in order to decide how to allocate their money. This leaves room for only about sixty members in the entirety of the organization.
I watched as far more than sixty of my fellow first-years practically pounced on their several posted QR codes. The sight mirrored those Black Friday mobs that descend on Target to get flatscreen TVs at 40% off. The air was swirling with buttoned-up kids signing up for coffee chats and asking well-informed questions about the application process. I could hear in their voices the desire to be part of the YSIG being marketed, both the organization—a collaborative group of highly-motivated individuals—and the rewards—guaranteed post-graduate jobs at the bank or consulting firm of their choosing. The group offers a special sense of exclusivity, of belonging—just what fresh faces on campus are searching for.
I stood in awe of their hustle, more frenzied than the line for Woads. Something about it reminded me of what I had heard about “rush” at large state schools. And much like rush, YSIG’s application process is definitely not for the faint of heart.
It begins with charming a member of the board over coffee. You’re not sure what to order, so you get the same thing as them to even the playing field. It’s a black cold brew, of course. Approach a coffee chat with confidence. Come across charismatic but not cocky, humble but not sheepish. Ask good questions, use your active listening skills, thank the board member for meeting with you. Then fill out a one page application. Present yourself as interesting, eloquent, and nonchalantly enthusiastic about the foundational concepts of finance in the span of four 150-word answers. If you survive the first round, after which about 100 applicants are dismissed, you’re invited to the second round! Put together a 1500-word stock pitch for one of the five stocks of the board’s choosing. Remember “No finance experience required?” Next, you will spend three days trying to decipher financial terms from stock analysis and write about the catalysts and projected growth of a car company you’ve never even heard of. After another exile of applicants comes an analytical interview, where some applicants reported being asked, “If you had a dollar today what would it be worth tomorrow?” Made it this far? Congratulations! Time for a behavioral interview, where 30 questions ranging from “If you were an animal in the animal kingdom, which would you be?” to “What will you bring to YSIG?” will be fired at you. From what I understand, actually getting into YSIG requires the christening of David Solomon’s firstborn with your tears.
I can’t help but describe YSIG as a hyper-elevated frat: testosterone-soaked, business casual, equipped with a “work hard, play harder” mentality and more money than they know what to do with. Yale is not an inherently fratty school; in fact, that is one of the reasons that I and many others chose it. But I think it is impossible to eliminate the culture of frattiness without providing a comparable alternative. YSIG and other consulting clubs offer the perfect mix of competition and prestige that perks up a Yale student’s ears unlike any social organization could. They capitalize on this underlying, undying drive for validation. If you made it to one of the most competitive schools in the world, what else is there to fight for? Whatever a student can point to as the next step to “success”: connections, experience, and constant streams of work.
It’s important to remember that yes, participating in YSIG and clubs like it are excellent gateways to the world of finance, but they are not the only way—just like Greek life is merely one of many ways to meet new people. The ultimatum-esque feeling of a YSIG rejection—that if you didn’t get in your shot of being offered a job in that field is slim to none—is simply not true.
So, if you were recently rejected by YSIG, please let me offer you this silver lining: copies of Robert Kiyosaki’s hit Rich Dad, Poor Dad circulate this campus in greater numbers than cases of the Yague. And if you’re really set on joining YSIG, consider Sig Nu until the next application cycle. My bet is McKinsey recruiters look there just as frequently.