Thursday, August 25, 2011

VSCPA Student Feature: Accounting Students Speak Up

The Virginia Society of CPAs (VSCPA) caught up with six top Virginia accounting students and quizzed them about their college experience and career goals via email. Here’s a little information about our panel:

Katherine Covino, 21
The College of William & Mary
2011–2012 F. Wilson Brown Scholarship recipient
Hometown: Chantilly
Expected graduation date: Spring 2012
Major: Accounting

Adrienne Essiaw, 20
The College of William & Mary
2011–2012 VSCPA Minority Scholarship recipient
Hometown: Warrenton
Expected graduation date: Spring 2012
Major: Accounting with concentration in Finance

Kelly Miller, 21
Lynchburg College
2011–2012 VSCPA Undergraduate Scholarship recipient
Hometown: Charlottesville
Expected graduation date: Spring 2012
Major: Accounting

Becky Perron, 22
University of Virginia
2011–2012 Yount Hyde & Barbour Scholarship recipient
Hometown: Williamsburg
Expected graduation date: Winter 2011 (Master’s degree)
Major: M.S. in Accounting

Fatima Sbai, 34
George Mason University
2011–2012 VSCPA Minority Scholarship recipient
Hometown: Alexandria
Expected graduation date: Spring 2013
Major: Accounting

Why did you decide to pursue a degree in accounting?

Katherine Covino: I thought that accounting was one of the most valuable business majors that was offered. Accounting provides students with a background that enables them to work in any area of business, because as long as you understand what is happening in the background with the numbers, you can be successful in any business venture.

Adrienne Essiaw: I was always interested in business, and when I became a junior in high school, I enrolled in an introductory accounting class. A week into my first business class, I knew that I wanted to get into the field of accounting. I was intrigued by the fact that accounting represented the language of business and explained the overall processes of our everyday financial transactions. After doing some research and speaking to several advisers and faculty members, I discovered that the career options for an accountant were limitless.

Kelly Miller: I have always liked working with numbers. It is something I just understand. As I grew older, I enjoyed keeping my checkbook, helping people budget. I always knew I wanted to be in the business field as a career. I took a class in accounting my freshmen year in college and loved it. I cruised through it, I just got it. It was something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life.

Becky Perron: I had trouble finding one interest to pursue in college, but as soon as I began to take accounting classes, it clicked. After I completed my internship and realized that accounting was more than simply crunching numbers, I knew it was the right place to start for me.

Fatima Sbai: As a mother and an older student, I was looking for a career that will allow me to have a flexible schedule to spend time with my family. I also wanted a career challenging enough to keep me interested.

What are your career goals?

KC: In the short term, I hope to secure a full time job before graduation. My long term goal is to eventually become a partner at one of the Big Four accounting firms.

AE: After completing a master’s degree in accounting, I will prepare for the CPA Exam in hopes of becoming more qualified in the field of accounting. I would like to work for an accounting firm that offers various lines of services such as assurance, tax, and advisory. Given the opportunity to work at a firm that offers many services for their clients, I will be able to expand my knowledge in areas of accounting that may differ from what I would specialize in.

Ultimately, I hope to be able to give back to others in the form of guidance and mentoring. I would like to develop a mentoring program for young women who are interested in pursuing a career in business, but may not have the resources or individuals in their lives to make it possible. I believe that if someone is passionate about what they want to do, and have the right people around to encourage them to follow through with their goals, nothing is out of reach.

KM: I plan to become a CPA and CMA [Certified Management Accountant] after graduation. I want to start in the public sector of accounting and possibly move to the private side further in my future.

BP: I plan to start in public accounting with KPMG in January of 2012. Whether or not I stay in public accounting forever, I know that I want to make a difference in whatever I am doing. As long as I am being challenged and feel like my work is somehow helping others, I will be happy.

FS: My ultimate career goal is to have my own firm and expand it to North Africa. For my immediate goals, I am planning to work the first 10 years after graduation, for one of the Big Four as well as a regional firm. This will give me a broader view and the experience to advance in the accounting profession.

Do you plan to sit for the CPA Exam?

KC: Absolutely! I plan to sit for the CPA Exam next summer and hopefully pass all four sections the first time around. I think that many opportunities will come my way as a CPA.

AE: Yes, I plan to sit for the exam after I complete my Master’s of Accounting in spring 2013.

KM: Yes, without a doubt!

BP: Yes, I am currently spending my summer studying and sitting for the CPA Exam. There are no post-graduation vacations here! I took a Becker FastPass course at William & Mary and sat for my first section this past Friday [July 8]. The other three are scheduled periodically throughout the remainder of the summer.

FS: Absolutely. I plan to sit for the CPA Exam right after a master's degree in accounting.

What has been the biggest challenge in your accounting education?

KC: My biggest challenge was a research project that I participated in for one of my accounting classes this past spring. Accounting research projects are a lot of work and can be very frustrating at times, but they do produce some very important insights.

AE: The biggest challenge in my accounting education has been trying to come to terms with the fact that there is not always a correct answer.

You cannot approach accounting with the idea that there is only one way to do things. Accounting is somewhat subjective and is constantly changing. As an accounting student, I have been pushed by professors to provide the reasoning behind all of my conclusions, whether or not there was a correct answer. This skill will become very useful when trying to solve accounting problems that may be unique to specific users of financial information.

KM: The biggest challenge I've had in my accounting career has been pushing through the upper-level classes when things seem to get a little more challenging. As hard as it may be, sometimes it is always a very rewarding payoff.

BP: The McIntire [School of Commerce] business program puts a lot of emphasis on teamwork and we complete two semester-long team projects during our third year. Learning how to work with people with different work ethics, styles and motivations was the most challenging part of my undergraduate education. Nevertheless, I believe I learned a lot from that semester that I can take with me when I enter the workforce.

FS: My biggest challenge in my accounting education is the lack of time to network with potential employers. To build a network, it is essential for accounting students to stay visible by taking parts in career fairs and school activities outside the classroom. This is challenging for me because I commute to GMU. If I am not in class or at the library, I am most likely on the road or at home helping my daughter with her homework.

What are your proudest accomplishments?

KC: In the academic world, my proudest accomplishments include being selected as a VSCPA Scholarship winner and helping other William & Mary students revamp the Wayne F. Gibbs Accounting Society. Outside of academics, I am very pleased that I secured a summer internship and that I will be serving on the Executive Board for the Alan J. Bukzin Bone Marrow Drive.

AE: My proudest accomplishments are getting accepted into The College of William & Mary and being inducted into the International Honor Society, Beta Gamma Sigma. As a child, I knew that William & Mary was a historic institution with an outstanding academic reputation, but I never imagined I would be able to get into such a school. My academic journey was not always easy, as I struggled with English after having lived in Ghana for a few years as a child. I was able to overcome the language barrier with the unconditional love and support of my family.

When I was accepted into William & Mary, it was a blessing for my family and I. The opportunity to go onto college not only represented an opportunity to further my education, but also a chance to take advantage of the privilege of being able to receive an education which many are denied due to their life circumstances.

Throughout my life, and especially in college, my parents have been my main source of inspiration. Nothing makes me happier, than to know that my parents are proud of the person I have become. Getting inducted into the International Honor Society, Beta Gamma Sigma, is a great accomplishment that comes with the lifelong commitment of personal and professional excellence, as well as the advancement in the values of society. When I was inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma, I was not only humbled and honored to be a part of such a distinguished honor society, but happy to know that I had made my parents proud. I hope to contribute to Beta Gamma Sigma's mission by living a personal and professional life that reflects the values my parents have instilled in me and applying that to the advancement of society.

KM: My proudest accomplishments are: making the Dean's List four of my six semesters so far at LC, sticking with accounting when I started to second-guess myself when an intermediate became challenging, and being invited to the VSCPA's Leaders' Institute as a rising junior last summer at Virginia Tech and being selected to attend the Dixon Hughes Goodman Learn Grow Go Leadership Conference this summer!

BP: One of my proudest accomplishments is completing my first marathon during my third year at UVa. I have since completed another and am training for my third, but I will always remember crossing the finish line for the first time. It took a lot of time and effort during training to get up early and get the miles in. Another would be simply graduating from UVa. I still can't believe that the four years went by this fast. I am also looking forward to being able to say that one of my proudest accomplishments is becoming a CPA!

FS: My proudest accomplishment is getting my associate’s degree in business administration with a 4.0. I am also proud to say that I passed my first accounting class with a perfect score in all exams.

What advice would you offer prospective accounting students?

KC: I recommend sitting down and looking at all the CPA requirements before your senior year of college. It is important to decide how you want to obtain the 150-credit hour requirement. Do you want to attend a Master’s of Accounting program, or do you want to do a summer session? It is really up to the student to determine how they want to achieve the 150 credit hours, but it is often difficult to achieve if students wait until it is too late.

AE: If you have the slightest interest in accounting, I recommend taking an introductory course to see if this is something you may be interested in. Accounting is such a broad field that you can do so much with, and you may not realize that until you have invested the time to learn more about the field and the opportunities that are available for accounting majors. If accounting does not come easy for you, that does not mean you cannot be an accounting major. With the right attitude, work ethic and drive, you can accomplish anything in life. It is also important to surround yourself with mentors, friends and individuals who encourage you and push you to reach your greatest potential.

KM: The best advice I would give accounting students is read and do your homework. Also, stick with it ... if you enjoy it, even just a little, it is a wonderful profession to go into!

BP: Remember to work hard, do lots of practice problems, and don't forget the importance of people skills in accounting! The best thing I did during my internship was be helpful, hardworking and personable. Also ask questions if you don't understand. No one should be expected to know everything.

FS: My advice would be not be intimidated by accounting. Some students think that they have to be good at mathematics in order to succeed in accounting. While an analytical mindset is a plus, being great at calculus is not a prerequisite. I saw some students give up quickly. Students should take full advantage of any tutoring sessions that schools often provide for free.

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