Friday, August 9, 2019

The Keys to Academic Success: Balancing School and Life

By Alyssa Dingus, Appalachian Chapter Student Ambassador

Remaining successful in your academic career is tough. The further you advance towards your degree, the more demanding school feels. The desire to have a blooming social life and also stay a top student can seem like an impossible task for young accounting students. Let’s be honest, the prospect of studying for the CPA exam and taking those tough accounting courses all while still having time for friends and family is overwhelming to even think about! However, there is no need to despair; I have five keys that have helped me balance my academic and social life to maintain academic success. If you keep these five key things in mind throughout the year, staying on top of your grades and still having time to relax will seem much more manageable. 

1.      Prioritize
Prioritization is vitally important to balancing most things in life and academic/social balance is no exception. Before setting out to complete your tasks for the day, sit down and compile a list of everything you need to get done and rank them by importance and time to completion. Seeing all your class deadlines and appointments in one place and analyzing their importance to your grades will do wonders by helping you stay focused on what truly matters for the day. This applies to social situations as well. Going out with friends can be a great escape from a tough day, but you need to be able to prioritize social events in the same way you do academic work. 

2.               Apply yourself wholeheartedly 
Whether you're taking hard major-related classes or an elective for fun, you should try your best to apply yourself wholeheartedly. This doesn't mean you need to dedicate every waking hour to schoolwork. It simply means you should do your best to learn and apply the material in some way and not give up simply because it seems too hard or not worth your time. If you try to take a genuine interest in every class you take, it will make learning the material so much easier. You can’t love every class you take, but you can still apply yourself to make the best of the experience. 

3.               Know your limits
This might be the hardest key to follow, but knowing your limits is very important in keeping your grades balanced with your social life. While pushing yourself to do better is great for helping you grow professionally and personally, pushing yourself beyond reasonable limits will end up wrecking your grades and social life. This means setting realistic goals and recognizing when you are capable of doing more or when you have set out to do too much. Striking this balance will help you stay on top of your grades without overloading yourself. 

4.               Be aware of emotional, physical and mental health
Another key to maintaining academic/social balance is to listen to your body and be aware of your emotional, physical and mental well-being. Become familiar with all the resources on your campus available for you to use in times of crisis and never put off your health for the sake of academic success. While success in school is incredibly important in the accounting field, your health should never take a back seat. Every now and then just take a minute to check in with yourself and see if you need to slow down for the sake of your health.  

5.               Build a healthy support network
The last and most important part of maintaining a good academic/social balance is to create a healthy support network. Surrounding yourself with supportive, caring people not only improves your happiness and social life, it also provides you with a network of people you can trust to help you out when school just feels like too much. I encourage you to make friends in all your classes and join any club that sounds interesting to you. You never know where you will meet a supportive friend! Whether you are struggling academically or just need a fun night out, a healthy support network can help you find balance in academics and school. 

Much of your academic success depends on how you handle life outside of class. These keys have helped me stay on top of my academic career while still having fun in college. I hope my advice will be of some use to you in your accounting journey!

Friday, July 19, 2019

Top CPA Exam Scorer Katherine Griesemer on Studying, Work-Life Balance


At age 23, TSCPA member Katherine Griesemer, CPA already has an impressive list of achievements in her accounting career. She was a top student all through college at Lee University and received many awards, including three scholarships from TSCPA’s Educational and Memorial Foundation and a place in the Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges® for 2017. She graduated with a 4.0 GPA with her Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Bachelor of Science in Business, Finance Emphasis in 2017. This spring, Griesemer was awarded TSCPA’s John Glenn Award for being the top scorer on the CPA exam in Tennessee in 2018.

Griesemer currently resides in Ooltewah, Tenn. and is a member of TSCPA’s Chattanooga Chapter. She has been a member of TSCPA since 2013. She is passionate about nonprofit financial management and currently works as CFO, Assistant Director and Principal Touring Artist at Unity Dance Troupe in Cleveland, Tenn.

What drew you to the profession of accounting?
My mom, a former CPA, encouraged me to take a dual enrollment accounting class, which I did my sophomore year of high school. My professor, Dr. Hart, truly made accounting fun. With that experience and the knowledge that accounting can open a variety of opportunities, I decided to study accounting at the age of 15.

Why did you decide to join TSCPA?
I joined TSCPA as a student member while attending Lee University. The professors encouraged involvement in TSCPA and the accounting profession as a whole. Working as an intern to Lee University’s CFO Chris Conine, I was able to attend TSCPA events with my colleagues as well as apply for TSCPA scholarships.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to those currently studying for the CPA exam?
I wish there was a magic secret! The best training tool is time. Start early because cramming is impossible. Stick to a weekly study schedule and be consistent to avoid last minute stress. As Nike says: “Just do it”: Review ALL the material and do ALL the practice problems and tests. I created detailed outlines of the material to review instead of re-opening a huge review book with hundreds of pages, which feels overwhelming.

You have always been very active in school, work and your community. What is your advice for staying balanced?
Staying balanced is tricky! I saw 4 a.m. more times than I would have liked while studying for the CPA exam. My grandfather says if you enjoy what you do, you won't work a day in your life. Enjoy the process to fill each step of the journey with joy. If you remember the reason behind what you do, you will have all the passion and energy you need to accomplish it. On a practical note, it is important to have something you do just because you love it! For me, this is ballet. I enjoy the physical exertion and creating something beautiful. Finding your own version of ballet will help shed the stress of life and refuel you for what is next.  

Where do you see yourself in your career in ten years?
My ultimate goal is to build a network of sustainable funding sources to support orphanages in Eastern Europe. Whether or not this will happen in just 10 years, I am not sure, but hopefully in 10 years I will be on the path toward that end.

Originally published in the July/August 2019 Tennessee CPA Journal

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Get Involved: Tips to Successfully Engage with Your Community


By Michael Murphy, CPA

If your city is doing great things for its people, do you ever wish you could be more actively involved? If the answer is yes, then you are in luck. I can guarantee that if great things are being done in your community, there are abundant opportunities for you to get involved. If the answer is no or you are unsure, consider this: Helping your community grow and thrive provides a strong sense of belonging and pride in the best possible way. In addition, being involved in the community can build great relationships, both business and personal, and help develop soft skills such as communication, professionalism, leadership, negotiation and more.

Getting Started
You don’t have to look far to find evidence that volunteering is personally and professionally beneficial. So, put aside whatever may be keeping you from volunteering in your community and just go for it! Here are a few steps to help you get started.

1. Google it.
One great way to find volunteer opportunities in any community is to utilize an online search tool such as Google. And it already knows where you live, so you don't even have to specify the community in which you are seeking opportunities. Later on, it may even provide advertisements related to volunteering when you are browsing the internet.
Besides Google, there are countless resources online to enable you to find out what opportunities are available in your community and how to get involved.

2. Ask friends or co-workers.
Ask people in the community that are already giving time to or leading community events for volunteer opportunities or suggestions. Nonprofit employees or volunteers are very eager and willing to explain what they do and how you can help. They are usually passionate about the causes they serve and ready to recruit more helpers. These inquiries don't have to be face-to-face either. A beneficial conversation can occur through email or social media.

Finding a Role
Finding opportunities to volunteer in your community may be easy enough. It may be more difficult to find your ideal role in volunteering and which organizations you should get involved in. I have listed several things to consider while searching for the right volunteer opportunity.

1. Know what you have to offer.
It is easy to think that you are not qualified to serve on certain boards or have a leadership role in volunteer groups. However, most nonprofit boards are eager to recruit anyone willing to put forth time and effort for a cause. Quite often, there is a lack of young talent in many positions within nonprofit organizations, and there is a high demand for the talents of this demographic. The greatest asset you bring to the table is not years of experience; rather, your value can be your passion, intention and a genuine desire to serve. If you use the resources around you, ask for help and harness your passion about an organization, you can be of more benefit than you probably think possible.

2. Choose a mission you’re passionate about.
This may be the most important suggestion of all. If you are not fully committed to an organization’s value, volunteering will most likely become a chore and your service will become ineffectual. Being passionate about your cause changes your perspective on service.

3. Remember that you will get out what you put in.
If you choose to become engaged in a community service organization, invest as much as you can. It's easy to sign up to serve on a board and show up for meetings once every other month. It's not so easy to put forth effort and time outside of the minimum required meetings. This is where you can truly make a larger impact.

4. Do not take on too much.
Now that you’ve decided to get involved, and you’ve found your special call to service, take care not to overdo it. There is an abundance of worthy community programs and organizations in which to invest. Spreading yourself too thin does a disservice to you and your organization(s) of choice. You can't be a benefit to anyone if you don’t have spare time to volunteer or help out in a special situation. It is best to fully commit to one or maybe two community outreaches that you truly care about rather than overcommit yourself.  

If you are interested in getting involved in your community but have been putting it off until now, just open a new tab on your browser and start a new search. Opportunities are everywhere once you decide you’re ready to commit.