To be very clear: neither Goldman Sachs nor Morgan Stanley are anything near a sure-thing when you submit your CV to them for a graduate job. Earlier this year, Goldman Sachs said it received 43,000 applications for its 2014 analyst (ie. entry-level) positions. And now Morgan Stanley has let it be known that it got a huge 90,000 applications for its summer analyst (ie. university summer internship) programme.
Goldman said it accepted 4% of its 43,000 analyst applicants, Morgan Stanley said it accepted 2% of its 90,000 summer analyst applicants. If you apply to either bank, you are overwhelmingly likely to be rejected.
However, there's more to Goldman and Morgan Stanley's figures than the revelation that you have a statistically very small chance of getting a job at a top bank. The banks' acceptance rates also imply that:
Superficially, acceptance rates at Goldman appear to be twice those at Morgan Stanley. Although this needs to be qualified by the fact that Goldman's figures are for full time and intern applications and Morgan Stanley's are just for interns. When Goldman gave its intern acceptance rate alone last year, it was also just 2%.
Both Morgan Stanley and Goldman's figures suggest the intern acceptance rate alone is especially low. However, it would be wrong to assume that you should skip the internship and go straight for a full time application - as we've said on many, many occasions, most of the graduates banks hire into full time jobs nowadays have a heap of internships behind them. Maybe that's why they accept more full time graduate applicants - the intern application is the initial screening. And if you get an internship, chances are you'll get hired. Last year, Goldman Sachs and Morgan that they make full time offers to 60-70% and 65-75% of their interns respectively.
Morgan Stanley's 2% acceptance rate applies across the organization, including wealth management and institutional services (ie. the investment bank). So either, a stupidly, stupidly low acceptance rate at the investment bank is offset by a marginally higher (but still low) acceptance rate at the investment bank, or they're both impossible to get into...
Either way, if you want to work for Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley, you've got to really want it. If you don't really want it, maybe you should try the European Central Bank? The acceptance rate there is more like 7%, which makes it look almost easy to get into by comparison.