Monday, May 21, 2018

“Being” Involved in College

By Morgan Montieth, Knoxville Chapter Student Ambassador

In high school, every student is told they need to get involved. Teachers emphasize that admissions look for involvement on college applications, and then once in college, professors tell you employers look for campus involvement when hiring. While the definition of involvement is technically just participating in something, I like to think of involvement as more than just showing up, but choosing clubs and organizations you are passionate about and actively engaging with those like-minded individuals. 

I don’t know how many times I have heard students say, “I am involved in ten or more things.” At first I think “Wow!” but then I think, “Are they really involved in all of them?” Spreading yourself too thin between many organizations could be detrimental to you gaining anything from a club. Taking your studies into account while in college, you will not have time to really be a part of a large variety of clubs. Pick a few favorites and try to learn as much as you can about them. To truly be involved in something, you should actively listen, participate and network. Limit yourself to two or three clubs and organizations and really commit.

Being involved is a perfect opportunity to be a role model. Being attentive and taking on leadership roles allow you to teach underclassman about events or opportunities you are passionate about. Asking, learning and teaching will help you build lifelong relationships, from strong friendships to connections in the business world. Just because you show up, eat the free food and drink the free drinks does not make you involved.

Employers will ask you what you have learned in school, but more importantly, they will ask about how involved you were in school clubs, professional organizations, internships or jobs. If you can’t tell them that you did anything with your time while in college outside of school, that will show your employers that you may not be a real team player. An employer wants to see what you have learned and how they can benefit from you for being part of their company. If you have shown up to all your clubs meetings and events and learned and networked, then you will be a great addition to any company hiring you.

From being a part of AIM Accounting Alliance at the University of Tennessee, I have met countless accounting firm professionals, made lifelong friends and had endless opportunities to get my name out to numerous professional organizations. So, take my experience into consideration; it sure has helped me be truly involved in college.

Curiosity & Attention: Two Words that Solve Problems in the Classroom

By Austin Reppart, Appalachian Chapter Student Ambassador

Many of us have heard the common phrase, “Curiosity killed the cat,” from the famous paradox, Schrödinger’s Cat. But how can curiosity help accounting students? If your goals are to improve grades or retain more information in the classroom, you must give these goals the necessary attention in order the attain them. Today’s fast-paced world, coupled with constant advertising on devices we interact with daily, creates an environment in which attention is one of your most valuable assets. It is a common misconception that the amount of time you spend on a task is equivalent to the amount of attention you give it. Those are not the same statements. Most of us work on a computer and are likely to have some music or a podcast playing in the background, with our phones by our side. How much attention are we really dedicating to the task at hand? Our phones are the best and worst thing to happen to us in the modern age. We are more connected than ever, enabling us to reach thousands of people in a matter of minutes. At the same time, we are unable to keep our attention away from the phone in the face of other, possibly more pressing, tasks. Think about it. Have you ever left your phone at home and NOT immediately turned around to get it? We couldn’t get through the day if we weren’t connected. The point here is if we gave half as much of our attention to our phones, and shared the same eagerness to engage in the classroom material as we did our social media news feeds, then learning accounting material and preparing for the CPA exam would just become second nature. So...

How do we increase our curiosity in the classroom?
  • Ask more questions. I am amazed at how many students never ask questions about the material covered.
  • Ask yourself why does the material exist? Try to figure out the origin of the material and how or why it was developed in accounting.
  • Try to find ways to build on material covered in previous classes. One of the worst things we can do as accounting students is forget what was covered in our principles classes. Connecting the dots from class to class will help your understanding.
  • Find additional resources that cover the same content. Sometimes reading someone else’s perspective will help you understand the material better.

How do we increase our attention in the classroom?
  • Become Curious! These two principles build on each other. The more curious you are the more attention you will have and the more you pay attention the more curious you will become.
  • Sit in the front of the room. It is easier to ask those questions we talked about if you are a few feet away from the professor. If you are shy this may be very beneficial.
  • Put your phone away and on silent. Eliminating this distraction will keep you engaged in the classroom discussions. If you pay attention in class, you will spend less time out of class studying and trying to figure out what is going on in the text.
  • Record lectures…if permitted (aka. expressed written consent). Buy a cheap recorder and download the files to your computer. I listen to them on the treadmill or when driving as well.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Internships: Getting Ahead in the World of Business

By Brittany Taylor, TSCPA Memphis Chapter Student Ambassador    

At the age of 15, most teens are not concerned with working. Thoughts of lounging by the pool or hanging with friends at the mall are more along the lines of what normal high school students think about on summer breaks. In April, those thoughts preoccupied my mind as well, until I received an unexpected offer. The company my dad worked for was looking for accounting/accounts payable interns for the summer. I was extremely hesitant at first, but I thought, “It is only a few days a week, it pays minimum wage and it is an opportunity to see if I could potentially enjoy working in a business environment.” So began my exhilarating summer of filing, matching, stapling, handing out mail and writing up boxes for storage.

The next summer, the summer before my senior year, my dad mentioned it again, and I thought, maybe I will try a “normal” teenage job. I began waiting tables at a local deli, but realized that I missed the office environment, so I decided to work both jobs the remainder of the summer. I gained more experience, taking on additional assignments and responsibilities. I continued to work a few hours a week as needed throughout my senior year. The summer after my senior year, I began my third summer at the company. At this point, I had taken accounting classes in high school and was beginning to see the connection in what I had learned in school and what I was seeing at my internship. I was able to ask pertinent questions and further my understanding about property accounting and financials. As the summer began to come to an end, I thought so was the time with the company. After a change in plans though, I ended up taking a year off between high school and college. While it seemed like a daunting decision at the time, it was probably one of the best I have made thus far. The company offered me a promotion: a paid, full-time position as an Accounts Payable Clerk with on-the-job training. I was grateful, as not only did I further my knowledge of accounting, but I gained valuable experience as an employee and how to handle conflicts with colleagues, vendors, etc. that can arise. The next year, I decided that I needed to begin my college career, and made the decision to move to California. It was saddening to leave, as I felt that they had all become like family, but I knew it was the best decision for me at the time.

Fast forward a year into my Cali adventure. I am looking for a new job as I had become relatively burnt out at my position as a grocery store deli clerk and felt as though all that I was learning could be better applied in a business setting. At this point, I was still at a community college, but I had decided I definitely wanted to pursue an accounting degree once I moved on to a four year university. I landed a job interview at a local non-profit volunteer hospice. I walked in, and they were surprised. They had presumed I was much older, based off all of my work and internship experience. And even though I had only recently turned 20 years old, they took a chance on me, based off of my extensive resume and personality. I remained in the office assistant position for around nine months until the position above me, office manager, opened up. I was still very young to be filling this position, and it required more use with QuickBooks then I had ever been exposed to as well as being supervisor to the office assistant and volunteers. But once again, they took a chance on me as they had seen my work ethic, knew my accounting knowledge and were aware I was a quick and efficient learner. I never thought I would have been working at a non-profit, but it was one of the best experiences of my life. None of it would have been possible if I had not gained such immense experience at my internships.

Fast forward once again, and everything comes full circle. Due to another change in life plans, I ended up back in Memphis and was offered an opportunity to work at the place where I had interned/worked three years before. Now, I work as the Corporate Accounts Receivable Clerk, and while I may be one of the youngest employees at 23 and still in school, I love my job and I am learning so much everyday not only through my work, but also the bright and intelligent coworkers I am surrounded by that are always willing to help me grow.

Takeaway Tips:
  • Start early! It is never too early (or late!) to begin looking for internships.
  • Don’t be afraid to take chances! Whether it is working for an organization you have never even heard of or applying for a position that may be out of your comfort zone, take the risk! It could end up being the opportunity of a lifetime.
  • Ask questions! There were times when I was unaware of how to run a report or how to handle a situation with a subordinate, but I was never afraid to ask. Fortunately, I was always surrounded by colleagues and supervisors that wanted to help me thrive and succeed.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Make a Great Impression in Interviews by Asking Better Questions

  By Blake Hise, TSCPA Nashville Chapter Student Ambassador    

If you were to search the internet for tips on acing an interview or networking at a career fair, you would find many of the basics such as bring a resume, dress professionally, deliver a firm handshake and so on. All serious internship candidates should already be applying these basic principles, so you will need additional skill sets to market yourself competitively. In my experience, the ability to ask insightful questions is one of the greatest assets outside of a resume that you can bring to any career fair or interview.

When I was a junior in the accounting program at MTSU, hiring firms invited me to interview after interview, but never followed through with an offer. After reflecting on my networking approach during senior year, I realized I was failing to ask recruiters the questions they wanted to hear. Shortly after having this epiphany and implementing the advice in this article, I secured two internships within a couple of months.

When firms seek to hire college students, one of their most common concerns with this demographic is lack of experience. To overcome this barrier, ask meaningful questions with a demonstration of competence and professionalism based on the recruiter’s oral representation of the firm’s services. Learning to ask better questions can be extremely resourceful in your job search as an aspiring accountant.

In almost every exchange, the recruiter will provide an overview of the company’s services. This information can challenge many students, because it is often industry-specific and outside the scope of accounting taught at the undergraduate level. Many students may become inattentive, nod and smile politely, or simply wait to ask the next question they have rehearsed.

However, the recruiter’s representation of the firm’s services presents a unique opportunity to demonstrate your accounting knowledge. If you can repeatedly ask insightful questions based on the recruiter’s information, you will successfully project competence, an ability to think on your feet and a genuine interest in the organization. This will, of course, work alongside your communication skills and resume to make a great impression.

The key question, then, is how do we learn to ask better questions throughout the recruiting process? Here are a few steps that are helping me to develop this critical skill.

Listen Actively: The first step to asking better questions involves making the effort to listen attentively to understand the firm’s services.

Relate Information To Your Accounting Knowledge: The differences between the recruiter’s experience and your overall knowledge of accounting create an opportunity for you to ask questions that “bridge the gap” between academia and real-life application. Draw on your accounting knowledge to understand the services the firm provides. Then, ask questions that relate what you already know from your accounting coursework to the recruiter’s description of the firm’s services.

Imagine This Will Be Your Job:
To identify which questions are best to ask, I have found it helpful to maintain the mindset that you are going to be hired by this company in the following week. What concerns would you have with the details of this position? What would you want to know about the industry?

Use Current Events: Relating a firm’s services to current events is an excellent way to learn more about the industry and indicate that you stay abreast of developments in the field. Tax reform, healthcare reform and the new revenue recognition standards are a few example topics that can lead to interesting conversations.

Repeat and Practice: Be sure to repeat this process throughout the exchange with the recruiter. Employers frequently interpret a candidate having too few questions as being disinterested or inexperienced. Asking too many questions is more favorable than asking too few. You should constantly be probing for better, more insightful questions to ask.

Professionals in the accounting field are generally passionate about their work and enjoy discussing it in detail with interested students. Next time you are in a career fair or interview situation, take the time to consider if you are asking questions that project competence and give the hiring company a great impression of you as a candidate.  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

How Being a Well-Rounded Student Can Set You Up for the Future

By Bailey Blair, TSCPA Upper Cumberland Chapter Student Ambassador 

Over the course of my time as a student at Tennessee Tech, I have found that balancing the different elements of life as a college student can be challenging, but also rewarding. From classes and homework, to making time for clubs and a social life, every day is full. So how can students manage to do all of these things well?

Let’s first take a look at two main goals of college students: academic success and campus involvement. Students should aim for academic success, because it can lead to scholarships and valuable relationships with professors. Good grades also reflect a strong work ethic and a wealth of knowledge of one’s field of study. Studying hard can lead to greater opportunities for students. 

Becoming a part of campus life also plays a major role during a student’s time in school. Students should aim to participate in clubs they are interested in, organizations relating to their major and events offered by their university. Students find networking opportunities, professional growth and a community to be a part of through campus involvement. Going the extra mile by investing time and energy into a club as a member and a leader will set you apart from others when applying for internships or jobs. Also, the strong relationships with professionals and university faculty that you might gain are helpful when you need advice or letters of recommendation. Getting involved is a valuable use of your time. 

Academic success and involvement clearly play an equally important role in the life of a college student. Learning how to balance the various responsibilities of college life can be overwhelming at times. What are practical steps students should take toward balancing the chaos of college? The following tips helped me get more organized and manage stress. First, I use a planner to plan out my schedule for the week. Planners are crucial to keeping a busy schedule organized and minimizing wasted time. Next, I frequently check my student email account to stay up to date on important announcements from my professors, the university and the on goings of campus. Most importantly, I am continually making an effort to eat healthier, exercise more and get more sleep. By taking care of myself, I am able to avoid getting sick and getting behind on my to-do list. Taking a few small steps in the right direction can go a long way. 

Effectively balancing your hectic schedule as a college student will ultimately lead to greater opportunities upon graduation. Employers want to know you are capable of handling the stress of a job and all of the different responsibilities they may give you. By staying involved on campus and making good grades, you can effectively show recruiters that you can handle the stress of your own life and the stress of a potential job. Competition is fierce in the job market, and it is crucial to set yourself up well early on in your career. Ultimately you want to be a well-rounded student who is ready to enter the workforce upon graduation, and learning to balance life as a student should set you up well for that.

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Path to Success: A Guide to Mastering College Advising and Organization

By Megan Jones, TSCPA Chattanooga Chapter Student Ambassador 

From my experience in college, I have found that students constantly compare themselves to others to determine the "right" path to success they should be taking. Although following this way of thinking may be extremely helpful for a few scenarios, it can be detrimental to the success of the individual student. Certain students are more successful academically and professionally than others, and it is not because one student is more knowledgeable on a specific subject than others; it is based on the ability to gauge your own strengths and weaknesses. Once you understand where you are more advanced and where you need improvement, you have the ability to cater your performance where it will be optimally beneficial to personal success. Students need to focus on themselves individually rather than copying the techniques of others. Here are my two best pieces of advice to achieve ultimate success:

1) Obtain appropriate advisement in order to efficiently and effectively schedule courses. The advisement process can oftentimes be a balancing act of time and workload. Knowledgeable collegiate advisers can be a critical element in the student’s overall success with scheduling courses. In my experience, when I have the ability to obtain course requirements for a specific major prior to advisement, the scheduling process goes much smoother. Preparing a tentative course schedule prior to meeting with an adviser is critical. Once the schedule is presented to the adviser, certain alterations can be made due to the adviser’s knowledge of the workload of each course; therefore, the student will not become overwhelmed by the work throughout the semester.

2) Get organized. Organization is the key to not only a successful academic career, but also a professional one. In college, organizing myself was the most critical way I was able to balance everything from my academic courses, my athletic career, my extracurricular activities and my professional development. Obtaining and using a planner is the true key to success. Along with a planner, preparation is also essential. Some students have the ability to walk into a classroom with luck on their side and make an A on an exam they spent exactly zero minutes studying for; however, for most of us, studying and preparing is key to the successful completion of a task. Whether it be a term paper, homework assignment, final exam or daily discussion, preparation and organization will only aid in the successful execution of the specific engagement.

All in all, there never will be a universal step-by-step guide to collegiate success. The simple truth to success is solely based on the individual. What makes Bill Gates successful is completely different than what will make me and every other student successful. The true key to success, whether it be in college, work or life, is knowing yourself. If you can recognize your own flaws and showcase your strengths, then the path success has already commenced.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Healthcare Revenue Recognition Update – ASU 2014-09

by Michael Wade, CPA, Watkins Uiberall, PLLC

In today’s world of healthcare and financial reporting for health systems, assisted living programs and health insurance, it’s imperative to stay connected with the updated accounting standards and regulations in the industry. As the outside auditor or the inside CFO of a company in this industry, maintaining this compliance can require continuous monitoring throughout your career as current legislation dictates several of the accounting and financial reporting standards that affect the healthcare industry. One of the most important set of standards that are crucial for GAAP compliance in this industry are revenue recognition updates.

In May 2014, FASB rewrote the rules for revenue recognition in the healthcare by issuing Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2014-09 - Revenue from Contracts with Customers. This new standard created a principle-based framework for healthcare organizations in determining when and how an entity recognizes revenue from its customer contracts. Effective dates for this standard to take effect in the financial reporting regulations are Dec. 15, 2017, for public entities, and Dec. 15, 2018, for all other entities.

Regarding the changes to the new update, FASB has decided to base the new standard on a core principle for recognizing revenue: revenue should be recorded only when services are provided or goods are transferred to customers at the agreed price. To summarize the highlights of the new standard, healthcare organizations will now determine revenue recognition based on the following 5 factors:
  1. Identify the contract with the customer.
  2. Identify the performance obligations in the contract that are to be met.
  3. Determine the transaction price.
  4. Allocate the transaction price to the performance obligations in the contract.
  5. Recognize revenue when (or as) the entity satisfies the performance obligations
For several organizations in the industry, implementing these changes will present new and possibly significant challenges in conforming their current recognition policies to the new standard. For organizations that are seeking help on implementation and/or issues that they might face when implementing the changes, one source they can look to for help is the AICPA Health Care Entities Revenue Recognition Task Force, which is just one of 16 industry task forces created to identify potential implementation issues and provide guidance.

Some of the healthcare type industries that will be affected by the new standard are continuing care retirement communities, hospitals and health systems, and third-party payer settlements. For hospitals and health systems specifically, one example of a challenge that organizations in this healthcare industry will face is the providing of emergency services to uninsured or self-pay patients. Under the new standard, the organizations must determine all the factors listed above. These considerations will impact both the timing and amount of revenue that is ultimately recognized.

FASB, AICPA and several trade associations have begun studying the issues facing healthcare organizations, but formal guidance is not expected soon, as most guidance associations have taken a “wait and see” attitude before developing formal guidance. As noted earlier however, several task forces are being put together to assist in implementation guidance along with accounting firms across the country taking on the initiative to help their clients in the challenges their facing with interpreting and implementing the requirements from the new standard.

Both public and non-public healthcare companies should prepare to adopt the new standard requirements by reviewing their current revenue cycles and recognitions policies for areas that will be affected by the new requirements. As with the industry itself, healthcare accounting and financial reporting standards are constantly evolving and compliance in this industry will require dedicated individuals with high-levels of experience and expertise.