Top 5 Perks to Being on Campus Early

Two years in a row, I’ve found myself on a deserted campus a few weeks before the semester starts. Last year, it was for pre-internship classes that started on January 2. This year, once I got nice and smug about the idea that as a 5th-year, I was off the hook for starting classes early, I found out that to catch the first class for the on-campus CPA exam review, I had to be here on January 2…again.

After my initial grumblings about cutting my stay at home a little short, I made it back to campus and realized that being here before school starts is actually not that bad, as long as you know where to look for the silver linings. Funny thing is, since school started back up I have noticed these perks are applicable to early mornings too.

Top 5 Perks to Being on Campus Early
5. Fewer Distractions – It’s always a bummer to be back in Austin when nobody else is here, but the flip side is that there are significantly fewer distractions. Hopefully that serves me well this year and lets me get a head start on this CPA exam prep!

4. Solidarity – Since lots of MPAs are here and pretty much nobody else is, it’s a great chance to get to know other people in the program when you all have more free time. Whether it’s working on a group project or grabbing something to eat, you can revel in the solidarity that comes from getting an early start to the semester.

3. Peace and Quiet – Okay, so admittedly, I typically enjoy walking around and seeing a million things going around on campus, but a calm, quiet walk through campus is pretty nice once in a while, especially when I’m not quite ready for the chaos that this semester is sure to bring.

2. Open study spots – Whether you like to study at the business school, the library, or at a coffee shop, everywhere is less crowded before the flood of students hits the campus. It makes those golden study spots (like an empty table at my favorite coffee shop) a breeze to find.

And probably the single greatest thing about being on campus early…

1. Parking – No matter what time I need to drive to campus, I can always find a pay-to-park spot or permit parking pretty close to where I need to be (a welcome relief, since the buses aren’t running yet). Just be careful that it doesn’t make you even more frustrated when you can’t find parking spots in a few weeks.

So if you find yourself forced into coming to campus early, make the most of it! Scope out some good study spots, take a quiet walk through campus, and use the chance to be productive!

Lessons We Can Learn from College Football

I’m sure it is no surprise that Longhorn football is an inherent part of the culture and collegiate experience at the University of Texas at Austin. I personally have been raised to understand and love the game, but I know not everybody has the same passion for the game that I do. I believe that football is so popular because it can be so much more than a game and I have learned a few key lessons about life and management from being a football fan.

Lesson 1 – You can’t control everything –as frustrating as it is, you just can’t. This ability to accept a lack of control is a good lesson for life, because as much as we try to, the future is inherently uncertain. Events will occur no one could have predicted, and it good to be aware of what you can control and what you can’t.

Lesson 2 – Odds are that there are people more skilled for a particular task than you are –no matter how frustrated I get, and think I could get the get the job done, it’s always wise to remember that I may not be the most skilled. I also have to remind myself that my Longhorn team is only human, and mistakes will therefore be part of each and every game, and I shouldn’t be upset when they happen. Each player  had to have been very talented in order to make the team, and it’s important to rely on them and their skill sets and trust in their ability to do their job.

Lesson 3 – Success takes time –when a college football team wins a national championship, it’s easy to overlook the 3-4 years of building preparation and effort on the team’s part. National champions aren’t born overnight, success takes time.

Lesson 4 – Practice and preparation are key – I think two quotes can sum up this lesson pretty handily. The first is by Sun Tzu from the Art of War, “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” The second is by our own beloved former football coach Darrell K. Royal, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Lesson 5 – Don’t let the odds get you down –my high school cross country coach always had this little gem of wisdom: “there’s a reason they don’t play sports on paper.” Upsets and unpredictable outcomes are an inherent part of college football and life. Just because success may appear unlikely, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Lesson 6 – Adjustments mid-game can make all the difference –many football games are won or lost during halftime based on the coach’s ability to make adjustments to his strategy based on how the opponent is playing. There seems to be a strong correlation between changes made at halftime and the outcome of the game. Play the game and make the adjusts needed  along the way.

Congratulations to our Longhorns and their victory in the Valero Alamo Bowl!

Happy New Year!

Last year I wrote a blog about New Year’s resolutions, so this year I thought I’d switch it up and look at the past year in review. And because accountants love numbers so much, let us take a look at the past year in numbers.

300: Hours of lost sleep

268: Number of Intermediate Accounting problems worked

750: Cups of coffee drank

64.5: Hours spent researching tax law

90: Number of hours spent at McCombs studying during finals

10: Number of Esteemed Lyceum Speakers

13: Number of football games I wish I we had won

9: Number of football games actually won

11: Number of interceptions thrown by UT quarterbacks in 2012 (ugh, this just pains my heart)

28: Number of volleyball games won on the pursuit of the national championship (and this one warms my heart right back up!)

13: Number of Longhorn medals in the 2012 London Summer Olympics (6 gold, 5 silver, 2 bronze)

67: Number of all-time gold medals won by Longhorns (not a 2012 fact, but this picture definitely went viral in the UT network during 2012)

309: Number of new MPA candidates admitted

2: Number of MPA Council awards given at 2012 spring commencement

100: Number of years UT Accounting has celebrated

7: Number of years in a row UT Accounting has been ranked #1 at the graduate level

2: Number of National Championships won by Longhorns this year

1: Number of med schools coming to the UT Austin community

2012 was clearly a fantastic year, and here’s to 2013 being as equally memorable and classy!

Keep it classy, Longhorns.

Preparing to Prepare for the CPA Exam

From my very first semester in the MPA program, the importance of preparing for the CPA Exam has been drilled into my mind. As a 5th-year student in the integrated program, I plan to take the exam in the spring. What I never realized, though, was how much preparation is involved before I can even begin studying.

The first step I took this semester was to submit my Application of Intent to the TSBPA. I knew about all of the eligibility requirements to take the exam, but the list of documents I had to submit was longer than I expected:

  • The application itself
  • A $50 application fee
  • Transcripts from every college I’ve ever attended
  • Notarized copies of my driver’s license and social security card
  • Various other notarized forms

Now that my application is submitted (albeit with several deficiencies to clear before I can sit for the exam), I’m starting to look at CPA Exam review courses. The firm I’m going to work for provides a few options for review courses they will pay for, so I started reviewing comparisons of the course materials, lecture styles, pass rates, etc., but nobody seems to agree on which course is best.

Last week, I attended an information session with the academic advisors, which helped to clarify exam requirements, testing periods, fees, and all the other things I need to juggle before sitting for the exam. There were also representatives there to tell us about the CPA review course that will be offered on campus next spring. After going through about 12 handouts full of information, I’m feeling a lot better about managing all the things I need to do.

The next step (after I get my bachelors degree in December and clear my application deficiencies) will be to schedule my exams and actually start studying! It’s exciting, but also pretty intimidating. My review course materials are on their way, so here’s to a spring semester jam-packed with caffeine and exam prep!

Accounting…and Chemistry? A Match Made in Heaven

The diversity of the tMPA program is impressive. Radio, Television, and Film, Mathematics, Russian Language and Literature majors are sprinkled amidst the Accounting, Finance, and Economics degrees. However, my Chemistry degree was an immediate object of curiosity. Four months ago, the question of why I made the switch from science to accounting was difficult to answer.

Today I’m relieved to say that I’ve almost figured it out, and for those who haven’t heard my reasoning, I’ll explain now. Here’s how chemistry and accounting are more alike that you might think:

1) Chemistry is all about research. Data collection and analysis, not to mention designing experiments, drives the daily life of any scientist. Modern accounting is strikingly similar. The intuition that I developed over the four and a half years I spent as a chemistry major transfers very neatly to accounting, especially auditing.

2) Scientists understand that numbers aren’t just numbers; every digit you see printed on a page relates back to something actually happening in the physical world. So when I look at an account on the balance sheet or income statement, I can see what transactions and business processes went into making that number. This helps take the abstraction out of accounting and make it more relatable.

This is all very well and good, but it only answers the question of how chemistry related skills relate to accounting. But why did I choose accounting? Chemistry was lacking a couple of things that I discovered were very important to me in a job.

1) Chemistry is not an inherently social profession. But accounting is. Especially as an auditor, you have to build strong relationships in order to do your job well. This includes the team you work with, your clients, your pool of potential clients, non-accounting experts, and regulators. The challenges and opportunities that this presents fascinate and energize me.

2) The questions you tackle in research can take longer than several researchers’s lifetimes to answer. For me, this was stifling. In contrast, accounting is extremely dynamic and operates on a much shorter cycle. You will see a wide variety of industries, sizes of clients, and business models and will have to find personalized solutions for each one. This is another incredibly exciting piece for me.

It makes a lot more sense than you might think at first. Next time I’ll talk about what it was like to go through recruiting with a non-business background and my observations on success.

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