The Ivey HBA Offer

"I need a summer job!" was probably the most common phrase I heard this past year; for those of you who know me, you'll know that almost all my friends at Western are in Ivey's HBA program. I've done a lot of businessy things, and I even won the Feasibility competition - but I never went to Ivey. This has given me some interesting perspectives on the program, and if you're debating whether to accept Ivey's offer, you should probably read this. Understand that this article simply reflects my own opinion (almost always backed up with fact and data), and as impartial as I try to be, it is difficult to shred all bias. If you come across something that is false, please send me an email and I will rectify as appropriate (lawsuit disclaimer).

Oh, I'll also be making some comparisons to the BMOS/Social Science program, just because BMOS is sometimes seen as an alternative business program for Ivey. I'll also be making references to the software/technology sector, because that's where I have the most exposure (it's also up-and-coming, and booming). 

A Consideration of Value

I came to Western with full intent of attending the HBA program, as it has one of the best (if not the best) records for breeding consultants and bankers when compared to any school/program in the country (more on me later). Additionally, it has accumulated a large amount of prestige over the years, and people have (Ivey students at least) come to expect an appreciative awe when their school is mentioned. This fact is so pervasive, in fact, that Ivey students often distance themselves from the school itself. They don't go to Western, they go to Ivey.

But is it justified? Perhaps. A quick search for UWO employment will show results almost strictly tied to Ivey, casting insincere doubt over whether any non-Ivey graduates even get jobs (some do). 

However, I couldn't find any records. I spent a good couple of minutes searching for main campus / social science employment records, but couldn't find any. I assume this is either because the employment rates or average incomes are so embarrassing that the administration has decided not to put it up, or (more likely), because no one has bothered to collect the information (although these two need not be mutually exclusive). In the words of the 2012-2013 Social Science Students' Council president, Matt Helfand, "...firms hire social science graduates, not social science degrees..." While I am sure he did not intend it, I had a terribly difficult time not interpreting this as an inadvertent judgment on the value of a general BMOS degree. From what I can gather from anonymous LinkedIn creeping, he is now wielding his formidable degree in a campaign to solve the problems that plague mankind at a summer camp. I judged you wrong sir, rock on! [Update: Since posting this article, I have been kicked from the Social Science Facebook group :)]

Ivey and Employment

I will use more than employment as a measure of worth throughout this article, but since most of us come to school with the expectation of a job upon graduation, I thought it was relevant to mention first. So what about Ivey? Well, their placement report (backup link) for this year will give you a good look at their (biased) data. Ivey should absolutely be applauded for making this information available, but there are certain details I should clarify before you get carried away with excitement (Ivey administration: if any of my comments are incorrect, send me related data, and I will correct my assumptions).

First, scroll to Page 6 where it lists Summer Employment numbers. These are the numbers you'll be most worried about because your internship after your HBA1 year is you immediate concern, and likely a good predictor for your full-time success. 
The numbers are stunning: 97%, or 621/640 students found jobs! Even better, the average salary was $876/week, which works out to be about $45,000/year as an internship salary! That's freaking amazing considering the average income for a single Canadian was about $32,000/year (+40%). Adjusting for statistical significance, that pretty much means all HBAs had summer internships that paid, on average, 40% more than the national average income. Wow, good job Ivey!

Wait a minute, there's a (few) problem(s)! If you scroll to the next page, it tells you that the median average income is actually $796, which is a much more useful measure of income (it's what Stats Canada used as well). Okay, despite the fact that Ivey tried to trick you, that still works out to be about $41,000, or 28% higher than the national average.

That's still pretty good until you consider how students come across these jobs. About 38% are "undeclared", and I've gone ahead and made a potentially offensive assumption in most of these cases, mommy or daddy provided these jobs. I'll further conclude that even without Ivey, these students would still be similarly employed. But these numbers are still misleading. Notice how the 97% is qualified by a statement concerning "job seekers". 

Since this is probably voluntary reporting, I'll go out on a limb and say that those who couldn't find jobs and those who hold unpaid internships opted out of possible humiliation (not that there's anything to be embarrassed about - experience is valuable, and shit happens). More than likely, they probably didn't report their inability to acquire a job, or that they're unpaid. While I am absent quantitative data, I can tell you from personal experience that this is the reality for a large number of (sometimes fairly smart) people - probably somewhere around 30-60%.

Ivey and Academics

Let me tell you now that I generally hang out with rather intelligent people. They have their weaknesses, but in general, my friends are quick-witted and fast learners (even if some need a little extra inspiration). More importantly, many have prominent strengths, and it's through this balance that I've been able to sort through different perspectives to formulate an outsider's opinion.

Ivey is tough, but not tough in the traditional sense. You are not burdened with exorbitant amounts of work like at some schools, and the problems aren't so tough that you need to be a genius (obviously -.-) to solve them. It's tough because you need a good mark in order to get a summer placement in consulting and banking. By good, I mean probably 86%+ on an 80% curve with a ~3 standard deviation. Confused? Okay, quick stats lesson:
Essentially, Ivey plots it so that if you stack up everyone's mark, the shape of the curve you get will look something like this (a bell curve). The very center--the most frequently scored mark--represents the average of the data, and the fall-offs to each side show deviations from the norm. I am simplifying, but this is more or less accurate. 

This means that about 68% of Ivey scores between 77 and 83 (out of 100), and 95% score between 74 and 86. This leaves roughly 2% of the class to score above 86. That sucks--but you're a smart person, and you've always done well in school. There's absolutely reason you'd fall out of that top 2%, right? Wrong. To understand why it is so difficult to score, you have to understand that your Ivey mark is not fully under your control (at least not in the traditional sense). 

Roughly, your Ivey mark is composed of scores from three categories:
  • Contribution (30%)
  • Tests / Exams (40%)
  • Group Reports (30%)
The only part you really have control of here are your exam marks - and even then, it's subjective. Ivey exams are all case-based, and so you enter 4-hour exams, responding to a scenario by utilizing what you've learned. If you convey a convincing argument, you are awarded a better mark than if you did not. Class material, coherency, organization, and many other factors affect the result as well. Exams are the easy part.

Contribution is probably the trickiest part, because not only do you have to say smart things, you have to convince your professor and three other semi-randomly-assigned students that you're saying smart things... and you have to do it a lot, even when you may not have anything especially insightful to add. When everyone realizes this, people start to say less and less intelligent things, and students start to pay less and less attention. Exacerbating this condition further, students start to find that the length of what they say sometimes is more important than the concision of their material--that brevity is punished, not rewarded. I have also heard that especially high-functioning concepts are also not always well-received because the class sometimes fails to grasp the meaning. 

Once again, contribution is 30% of your mark, and that can have devastating effects (especially when the professors hand out marks semi-arbitrarily, as often reported by my friends). If you want to do well in contribution, be prepared to deliver quantitative answers with qualitative insights in a long drawn-out speech, touching on previous not-always-relevant points, as to appear nothing short of godly. That way, the students who are marking you don't need to be listening in order to provide you a good mark. Also be ready to make a really good first-impression. If people think you're smart in the beginning, they'll probably think you're smart in the end, regardless of what you say. This is kind of like a HN/Reddit Karma Effect.

Lastly, you can get entirely screwed over by reports. While I cannot confirm this, one solid rumor is that 48 (48 Hour Report) groups are created to balance out the mark. That is, a group would never be formed with 8 high performers, and a group would never be formed with 8 of the lowest performers. In other words, if you're really smart, you'll probably get paired with someone really dumb - though you may not know who it is. 

The Ivey mentality makes this worse. You'll inevitably meet some people who add zero work - and personally, I think that's fine. Sometimes not everyone has something useful to contribute, and wringing that slight potential is not a good use of time. What's terrible, though, is when you are stuck with someone who has bad ideas, and a loud opinion. These are the dreadful people who create negative work. They're the ones who introduce grammar mistakes into your documents, who argue with the group for hours about something because it just feels right, and who insists on writing even though they probably didn't pass grade 9 English. 

You'll probably get a few of those. My advice to you is this, if you want to do well in Ivey: learn to write. Write concisely and gracefully. Write with purpose, and do all the writing. Having everyone write is a terrible idea, and will leave you with a disgustingly incoherent document that has no flow, even if it seems pretty good after two days of no sleep. If your group insists on writing, I suggest you learn to multitask, and write a backup copy of the report while contributing to discussion. Before you hand it in, show you group, and ask them to see which one is better. At that point, most people care more about their grade than their pride. Plus, the other document probably won't even be complete. If you are an inherently bad writer and have no conviction (conviction, not desire) to change that, accept that your Group Report mark will be a gamble.

Ivey and Recruiting

Your marks are important, of course - because they'll impact your recruiting success; recruiting is basically the end-all of Ivey. You're set if you get a good job, and you're screwed if you don't. Well, that's the general mentality, whether it's true or not.

At Ivey, you'll have a much better opportunity to network with firms. Dozens of firms hold info sessions at Ivey - and the majority of these are not really opened to the main campus. Interestingly, the reason companies hold these info sessions is entirely different from why students attend. Companies hold these sessions to jack up their application rates so they can theoretically select the best people. Talent is the main asset in a services firm, and you should think of these as a marketing expense.

Students, on the other hand, tend to think companies hold these sessions to scout for talent. This might hold a bit of truth, but in reality, you're probably not going to build enough rapport with the right set of people to actually influence your application. Regardless, dozens (if not hundreds) of people show up to these sessions, and ask the same trite questions that everyone else asks. They're not curious - they just want to seem memorable. As a result, it's a pretty big waste of everyone's time. I-Banks, for example, will tell you that their firm emphasizes meritocracy, and that young people have a lot of room to grow and succeed. They'll also tell you they have exciting deals and wonderful exit opportunities. 

In any case, once you've done your pseudo-networking to get your name into the database as interested, then you apply. Here's where marks matter: if you don't have a good mark, most of the time you're cut. You are required to submit your grades, and you probably won't get any top/mid-tier interviews without at least an 84+. If you've read my previous explanations, you can see how this can be entirely unfair and arbitrary.

More About Pay

Although you can't tell your investment banking interviewer that you're there for the money, we all know that's a big part of it... but is it really? It's all in the bonuses right? But is it really? Let's look at some numbers from Glassdoor:
Google is not the only tech firm that pays these kinds of figures. Search for yourself, and you'll quickly see some trends between tech vs. investment banking. Be wary though, because Glassdoor numbers are time lagged, and are thus more than likely understated. However, observing the trends can still be valid, and there's resounding evidence to conclude that tech pays better than investment banking. Oh, you also work a lot less in tech (around 1/3 to 1/2).

My Conclusion

You've already made it this far - you've maintained your ~80% average, and had at least two extracurricular activities. You've made it into the ~85% of accepted applicants. But should you accept? Should you spend that $25,000 and go to Ivey? I've outlined my opinion, but I've skipped the social part. Everyone I know who went to Ivey had a blast at Ivey. They had lots of fun, found a deep sense of comradery, and in general, had a good time. Only you can make a decision you won't regret, so don't look back!

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