Every year, hundreds of students crowd into information sessions for Cornell’s highly selective student organizations. Among these are pre-professional finance and consulting clubs, which yield acceptance rates significantly lower than the University’s actual admission rate.
These clubs are becoming more competitive each year with acceptance rates as low as 2 percent.
Cornell Venture Capital Club President Matti Thurston ’17 said that information session attendance is often in the low triple digits, while the club usually accepts below 10 new members each year.
When Thurston first joined CVC in 2015, the number of attendees at information sessions was significantly lower — only about 50 people.
“CVC has grown more competitive over the last several years as more and more students enter with an interest in entrepreneurship from both the STEM and business sides,” he said. “More and more people seem to know about startups and entrepreneurship every year, logically aligned with what appear to be some core goals of Cornell and that definitely has been observed in applications.”
Despite concerns that these clubs may be inaccessible for students without professional experience in finance or consulting, leaders from competitive organizations, including Cornell Consulting Club, Cornell Finance Club and Mutual Investment Club of Cornell, all explained that applicants do not necessarily need professional experience to be considered.
“When we are looking at potential members, we are really looking for one thing: a potential passion for venture capital/entrepreneurship,” Thurston said. When Thurston applied to CVC as a freshman, he said he had no background in venture capital, but a fascination for new technology and markets.
“This means that we do not have a set screen for who we take,” he said. “Rather, we really try to get to know the people we talk with to make sure they really have the hunger.”
Cornell Consulting Club has also become more competitive in recent years. The highly selective student-run organization offers consulting services to clients in a wide range of industries including high-tech, investment banking and financial services.
With a higher volume of applicants in the last few semesters, CCC’s acceptance rate recently dropped to 2 percent. Executive Vice President Kristin Zakoworotny ’18 said that the club accepted four students last semester.
“Our recruitment process is centered around understanding the intellectual and moral character of each applicant,” she said. “We seek passionate, intelligent and driven individuals.”
CCC teams have engaged with both large and small clients, including Fortune 500s, a top university and international companies, as well as local and national startups, Zakowortny said.
Mutual Investment Club of Cornell — Cornell’s largest undergraduate investment fund with over $70,000 under management — has seen between 125 and 200 applications each year for the past few years. The club accepts a class of 6 to 10 analysts, yielding a mid-single digit acceptance rate.
MICC President Brendon Piccinni ’18 said that while qualifications of applicants improve year-over-year, MICC, like CVC and CCC, focuses on applicant potential more than relevant finance background.
“When I first joined the organization, I could never have imagined being able to create a complete pitch deck from scratch or fully conduct fundamental analysis with a financial model,” he said. “However, now I find myself teaching my peers and hopefully providing them an even smoother navigation through the process than I had.”
Cornell Finance Club is yet another undergraduate organization with a significantly declining acceptance rate of about 9 percent in the most recent recruitment cycle. The club typically sees over 100 students at information sessions each semester, and accepts 6 to 10 applicants per semester.
The decline in acceptance rates exemplifies CFC’s increasingly competitive nature, which President Rushil Patel ’18 attributes to its growing professional network and educational resources.
“When I joined my first semester freshman year, CFC was an entirely different organization,” Patel said. “It was young and ripe with potential. As a result, the most rewarding part about being involved with CFC has definitely been witnessing its growth.”
Since its inception in 2012, CFC has built out an education program focused on financial modeling and valuation and has established corporate partnerships with several firms, including Goldman Sachs and Citibank.
“We do not expect students to have professional experience in finance prior to joining CFC,” Patel added. “In fact, we hope to provide a platform for students to develop the skills they need to secure that dream job or internship.”
Most consulting and finance clubs on campus follow similar application processes, which consist of three rounds aimed to weed out applicants and identify the most qualified candidates.
Following resume review, chosen prospective members are usually invited to a second round of interviews consisting of behavioral questions and quantitative analysis. The third round is often a case presentation to a panel of members or another series of interviews.
While Cornell’s consulting and finance groups aim to prepare members for the professional world, students say that the clubs also provide mentorship and social opportunities.
“When I went to the information session my freshman year, I met people that would become my role models and mentors for both my professional and personal life,” Zakoworotny said. “Although many of these people have now graduated, those within the club now, my peers continue to teach and inspire me.”