College Students Drop Dreams Amid Wall Street Woes

"If they are in long-term corporate finance, they might look at finance leadership companies, which are attractive now," she said. "When one path closes, they begin to look at other Fortune 500 companies that might not otherwise be candidates."

Nick Coons, 29, who interned at Lehman this summer as part of Harvard's MBA program, was given a "firm offer" that is still in limbo.

He said the mood among his classmates is "fairly hopeful," and those who were originally only interested in finance are looking at consulting and general management. "Students are definitely starting to cast a wider net in terms of industry preference."

But David Parker, 25, of New Jersey, who hopes to launch a digital media business with a Harvard classmate, is worried that even though his plans are comparatively less risky, "we'll see if our funding dries up, too."

"I'm definitely not feeling lucky," Parker said. "Looking back over the last few years people were making a million dollars or more at my age. It is somewhat disheartening to see that and I wish I'd had an interest in hedge funds."

"Most people are confident that they'll get a job," he said. "They just won't get their dream job."

And for Guarav Malik, a finance student from India in the MBA program at Rutgers Business School in New Jersey, that means not any job in the United States.

Future Job Opportunities for MBA Students

"We do have companies coming in who are looking to hire financial analysts, but not a single company is looking for international students," he told

The 24-year-old interned this summer at CitiGroup, but given the tight market for jobs, it is unlikely to sponsor his H1B visa and Malik will return to India, where the market is more robust. "They still have to get back to me, but I am hoping," he said.

Even the undergraduate business colleges are preparing their students for the downturn. At Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., one-third major in finance.

"As a market overall, undergraduates are still in demand," said Megan Holker, director of Babson's center for career development. "We fare better than the MBAs because we are cheaper labor. This is a specialized school and they hit the ground running."

"They can switch gears, they are a little more nimble," said Holker. "My message to them is clearly things are rocky, so you've got to broaden your horizons, but your experience doesn't have to be on Wall Street."

Holker suggests financial leadership programs at conglomerates like United Technologies, General Electric Co. and Unilever. Like Harvard, Babson encourages its graduates to look at "hip, boutique" firms like Rothchild Group and Harris Williams. "There's money in these places, too," she said. "You don't get the bonus, but you're not working 100 hours a week."

Still, for most business school grads, Wall Street is "definitely a dream," she said. "It's the prestige of the brand and all that comes along with it. Harder than making the switch is to switch gears in their brains."

But most graduates of the nation's most prestigious business schools will survive, according to Doug Matthews, CEO and president of Right Management, a human-resources consulting and professional staffing company in Philadelphia.

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