It seems like you have a lot of experience with this process. I was wondering how your chances of getting into a big 4 firm is affected if you were to choose a regional program as opposed to a nationwide one (UT, USC). Is it true that even if Big 4's recruit at these schools very few of the students end up getting interviews? Also if I were to have a low undergraduate GPA would that hurt my chances regardless of how I did in my Macc program or how prestigious the school is?
Thanks in advance.
I can only speak based on my own experience, which was with the Big 4 in DC.
At the Big 4 in DC, the breakdown of alumni is probably something like this:
25% Virginia Tech
5% William and Mary
Recruiting at the Big 4 is done primarily by actual managers, senior managers, and partners of the firm. These people got involved in the recruiting process because they loved their experience at college, and they want to get as many people from their college into their firm as possible. So when your resume plops on their desk and it says "JMU" and they went to JMU, they are already predisposed to wanting to hire you. They want to be able to brag that JMU had the biggest recruiting class that year.
While I'm sure the nationally recognized programs are fantastic, I think in a lot of cases people are really overrating the need to go to them to get a good job. There are probably 5000 accounting professionals with jobs at the Big 4 in Washington DC alone. University of Texas probably graduates like 200 people per year (just a guess - feel free to correct me). We would never replenish the ranks if we were relying primarily on these national programs. Maybe these guys have an easy time getting jobs in DC (I'm not sure), but it's not like it's impossible to get one if you go to, say, UVA. Each of the Big 4 will probably have 15-25 people from UVA in their first-year audit class (out of, say, 70 total people).
Anecdotally, there was only 1 guy from UT in my starting class, and I think 1 guy from Notre Dame. Other than that, everybody was from one of the colleges in the DC-MD-VA area. There were 5 people from William & Mary and like 15 or 20 from UVA.