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Despite the times, college grads still flock to big banks

People run in the rain outside the Goldman Sachs headquarters building December 16, 2008 in New York City. Chris Hondros/Getty Images

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The cutbacks and controversy surrounding big investment banks during the financial crisis don’t seem to have put a damper on interest in jobs at those firms. According to the Financial Times, students and graduates filed more than a quarter of a million applications — all to work at Goldman Sachs this summer.

You might think the 2008 financial meltdown would have left college students and grads with one gut instinct: run. Run far away.

“But in fact it didn’t,” Monica Butta, director of employer relations at Johns Hopkins University’s Career Center said. “And students have had an increasing interest in going in that direction.”

She said engineering and IT jobs are still top destinations for students. But interest in investment banking at John Hopkins is robust.

“Very, very steady interest from students in careers in financial services, and particularly Wall Street,” Butta said.

She said for the past five years, firms like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup have been among the school’s top 10 employers. And they’re selective employers. Citigroup says of its applicants, only 2.7 percent were hired.

“They’re really trying to actually attract that same top talent pool that Google has been so successful and Amazon so successful in attracting,” Mark Williams, professor of finance at Boston University, said. He said banks are doing that not only by paying well, as they always have, but also trying to make it less of a grind.

“Today I think the view is that ‘You need to be compensated for the work hours but also in particular you need a lifestyle,’” Williams said.

Better work-life balance is great, but Williams said the increase in interest might also just be a numbers game: fewer banks, and plenty of graduates still up for the challenge of making the big bucks.

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