After having gone through the undergraduate and graduate accounting programs at the University of Central Florida, I wanted to share some advice to students who are now starting their journey. Here are some tips I wished someone had told me when I first started:
1. If you’re struggling in an accounting class, it’s probably your schedule that’s the issue. You should look at the number of hours devoted towards studying. Most students don’t realize that it takes about 10-15 hours of studying per accounting class per week. Imagine a student taking two accounting classes (6 credits), two business classes (6 credits), and working a part-time job (30 hours). Do you see the problem with this schedule? More than likely this person will struggle to get the grades they want. Don’t let this happen to you. You have to see your classes as a full-time job. If you can afford to cut back the hours on working part-time and devote them to studying, it will pay off in the long run.
2. Diligence is more important than being smart. Doing well in accounting has nothing to do with being smart and everything to do with consistent effort. There are two components to studying: 1) understanding and 2) mechanics. You want to start off by focusing on understanding the material. This can be done by reading through the professor’s PowerPoint slides and skimming through the chapter. After partially understanding the material, you can then focus on the mechanics such as journal entries and calculations. Then, you can interchange between understanding and mechanics until you master the topic. Never memorize the material and never only study for understanding or mechanics. It has to be a combination of the two. You want to master the material to the point that if the material is presented in a different way you’re still able to answer the question.
3. It’s never too soon to start recruiting. You may feel intimidated by this process, but employers won’t know about you if you don’t get out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to kick the can down the road and say “I’ll do it next semester” but that’s one less semester you could’ve been practicing your soft skills. Interviewing takes practice and you want to do it so often that it becomes second nature. This way when the interviewer hits you with questions about conflict or teamwork you’re able to answer it freely. Another point to make is never be afraid of rejection. Recruiters have a difficult job of trying to find the best people for their companies. Don’t take it personal when you get rejected. The students that get recruited often got rejected many times. I was rejected several times before landing the job I desired.
4. Being well rounded is more important than getting straight As. On your resume, you want to show recruiters that in addition to good grades you also have relevant work experience and community service. If your college has a Beta Alpha Psi, National Association of Black Accountants, or Student Accounting Society chapter, you should join it. These groups often do professional, social, and service events which can help to build your resume and your self-confidence. Most importantly, these groups connect you with employers long before your college’s career fair comes around. Students often make the mistake of connecting with companies only at the career fair. You want recruiters to know your name and what you have to offer beforehand. This way they’re eager to meet you at the career fair.
5. Invest in relationships with your professors. Let them know you by name. Most students go to class and never connect with their professors. By connecting, you become more conscious about your grade in his or her class. Your professor can also serve to be a good reference for employers or getting into graduate school. These are life-long relationships so invest in them now! You don’t have to go through college alone.