A recent article in the Yale Daily News contained a statistic that was so outlandish that I could hardly believe it could possibly be true. Marina Keegan says,

If this year is anything like the last 10, around 25 percent of employed Yale graduates will enter the consulting or finance industry. This is a big deal. This is a huge deal. This is so many people! This is one-fourth of our people! Regardless of what you think or with whom you’re interviewing, we ought to be pausing for a second to ask why.

I don’t pretend to know anymore about this world than the rest of us. In fact, I probably know less. (According to the Internet, a consultant is “someone who consults someone or something.”) But I do know that this statistic is utterly and entirely shocking to me. In a place as diverse and disparate as Yale, it’s remarkable that such a large percentage of people are doing anything the same — not to mention something as significant as their postgraduate plans.


I too found this statistic “utterly and entirely shocking” for two reason. First, since it’s unlikely that 25 percent of the students at Yale studied a field that is related to management consulting and finance, why would a company hire them to as consultants? Is there a nationwide shortage of business or finance majors? Second, why would anyone pay a freshly minted Yale grad to tell them how to run their business?

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Yale is officially the Best College in America (even though U.S. News and World Report ranks them as #3) and that their graduates are some of the smartest kids entering the job market in any given year. Nevertheless, few of them will have ever actually managed a business before and will have no particular expertise in management. Most of them probably are deep in student loan debt, which shows they are not that savvy about “finance.”

Keep in mind we’re not talking about newly minted MBAs or PhDs. We’re talking about people who simply have a Bachelor’s degree. Most folks in the corporate world already have a B.A. degree and several years—if not decades—of actual experience. So why would they take advice from somebody who was sitting in a classroom five months ago?

As economist Arnold King says , “I doubt that students know anything more than when they came in about running a no-profit or a restaurant, or about management consulting for that matter. I imagine that many students are now better prepared to take more classes, say, in law school or graduate school. And perhaps that is where most of them are actually going.” I think that’s probably true. And I don’t blame the Yalies for taking a cushy job that will pay them a lot of money while they save up for grad school. But why would the consulting firms hire them?

The article made me think of Joseph Knippenberg’s post yesterday about young high achievers having inflated expectations. If you start college thinking you’ve entered the Yale-to-McKinsey pipeline and find, to your shock and dismay, that you have to get a job actually working in a corporation for a manager rather than consulting managers about how to run a corporation , you’d naturally be irritated and think the world was being unfair.

I don’t mean to pick on Yale grads, for my issue isn’t really with them. To be honest, I’m not sure what the issue is exactly. I wish I could articulate what it is about this news that I find so troublesome. It seems like there are overlapping issues related to business, higher ed, and the economy that I’m failing to convey. Am I completely offbase here? Anyone else feel that this is a minor signifier of a larger problem?

Articles by Joe Carter

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