TSCPA: A Day in the Life

CPAs throughout Texas work in a myriad of organizations, large and small, in countless capacities. Check out TSCPA’s new series called “A Day in the Life.” See how CPAs across the state “show their letters” working in most any and every kind of enterprise in Texas.

Read more about how one TSCPA member uses her experience and expertise to “show her letters” for a few of her family’s businesses in the Austin area.


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The Art of Learning

Aaron HeadshotBlogger: Aaron Blankenship

When I was younger, studying was always an item on a chore list, something you wanted to do quickly and then be done with it. If asked why I studied I doubt I could have come up with any answer other than “if I don’t I will fail.” Luckily, I was a pretty efficient studier. I memorized fairly well, I could regurgitate equations, and I wasn’t easily distracted by my environment when studying. By the time I was a senior in high school I had perfected the study method of “If I look at this long enough it will make sense and I will remember it for the exam.” Unfortunately, that studying method could not possibly be more incompatible with preparing for the CPA exam. There simply isn’t enough time to memorize every little thing. Even if you somehow were able to memorize, say, 75 percent of the material and recall it directly from memory, the random nature of the exam will often punish you for neglecting the other 25 percent. Studying for the CPA exam requires a more active approach. Lucky for me, studying in college prepared me for this by promoting more active learning. Becoming an active learner is one of the best things you can do when starting your college career. You will be tested in your collegiate years to adapt to different teaching styles and find ways to learn material in many different ways. For a lot of students this proves to be the toughest challenge in adjusting to college life.

I’ve been told all my life that your brain is a muscle and learning, as it relates to studying, is a skill. I was told you must practice this skill and that if you do it enough, you will inevitably succeed. In some ways this is true. You are much more likely to succeed if you study as opposed to not studying. However, at a certain point it is common to hit a “wall” of sorts. For example, if I study four hours a day for a section of the CPA exam I will clearly score better than I would have if I studied 30 minutes a day. But how much better would I do if I studied six hours a day? Probably not much better. What if I said goodbye to my friends, ate two meals a day, and studied for 12 hours a day? I would probably do much worse than if I studied four hours a day like I had originally planned. If studying effectively is a better way to prepare than using the amount of time I study as the sole measurement of success, then I need to focus on what makes me an effective studier.

This is where you come in. Only you, through experience, can determine what works for you. Behavioral scientists have observed up to eight or nine different learning styles that are unique and vary from individual to individual. Discover what learning style suits you as early as you can and you will be rewarded handsomely in the future. In that way, studying is an art form more than anything else. It is a personal process that tests your creativity as much as it tests your cognitive abilities. Learning should be fun (or in the very least not painful) and if you aren’t having any fun, it might be time to try something different.






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The Importance of Being Involved

April HeadshotBlogger: April Crawford

Hi everyone!

I wanted to talk a little bit about the importance of being involved in extracurricular activities. I know, this sounds like a boring or obvious topic, but I’ve found it to be the single most important thing that I have done at UTD. Here are some of the highlights of the things I have done in the past few years:

Vice President of Beta Alpha Psi (a national accounting honors fraternity)

  • Professional Program in Accounting, a five-year program that allowed to me get a Masters degree one year after receiving a Bachelors, and exposed me to prestigious accounting firms
  • Teaching assistant
  • Participated in the Deloitte FanTAXtic Case Competition
  • Won 1st place in the National AICPA Case Competition (and won $2500!)

Obviously this has kept me really busy, but it has been SO worth it! Because of my involvement on campus, I’ve had so many opportunities available to me. I’ve travelled to Baltimore, Washington DC, and Anaheim for school-related activities. I mentioned before that I won a pretty nice prize for competing in one of the competitions. These experiences have done so much for me. Not only have they boosted my resume, but I also learned really valuable lessons that I could not have learned in the classroom.

I’ve gotten to improve on many very important soft skills, such as leadership, public speaking, teamwork, among others. And even though I think my GPA could have been slightly higher if I hadn’t spent my time participating in these things, I would never trade any of them for a 4.0! I think being well-rounded and involved is much more impressive than having a 4.0 and not participating in any extracurricular activities. It gives you the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned inside the classroom, but in a fun way!





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First Day of Doing VITA

Joyce WangGuest Blogger: Chunmeng (Joyce) Wang

February 13th was a remarkable day for me because it was my first day of doing VITA. I volunteered at St. Luke’s Community House.

Although I had heard some stories from other VITA volunteers and had taken hours of training, I still felt a little nervous on the eve of February 13th. I didn’t know what I was going to face and thus didn’t know what to prepare. As an international student, I was worried about both English language and body language communications with the clients who have diverse backgrounds; as a new volunteer, I was worried that there would not be enough time to learn in the real site; and as a fresh tax preparer, I was worried that if I encountered a complex tax situation, I would not be able to handle it and would mess up the client’s tax return. I had even seen in my imagination that all the clients were in a rush and my coworkers were all having serious faces.

However, all my worries were relieved from the moment I opened the door of this site. When I walked into the tax preparation room, I saw several clients waiting in the lobby, patiently. A site assistant saw my VITA T-shirt, so he came and led me to the site manager’s office. People working in the office were all very nice. They got everything ready for me very carefully. Several minutes later, I received a specific login account for tax returns and a name tag with my name on it. I was then led to the room where we do tax returns. Surprisingly, I received a super warm welcome and found that the majority of the tax preparers in the room are my classmates in UTD: February early birds!

There were three first-day volunteers including myself and three experienced volunteers who had more volunteer experience. So each of us first-day volunteers were assigned an experienced volunteer as a temporary teacher. My teacher was Zoe Zhou. I was lucky because I got enough time to learn from Zoe about how to check clients’ documents and where to input the tax information into the system. There were not many clients that day, so Zoe Zhou and I waited and finally got three clients in my three and a half hours. I saw Social Security Cards and real W-2 forms for the first time! There were also other documents such as Cancellation of Debt statement, charitable contribution records, and so on. Those various original documents reminded me that I was preparing a REAL tax return. Sometimes, I felt excited when the knowledge I learned could be exactly used for my client. For example, when we prepare the return for a 2013 divorced client, we could use the last day rule to conclude that this client belonged to “single” status for tax return. But given that the client supported several children, the client’s status could be head of household. After doing two returns, I got a sense of about how much the refund would be according to the number of dependents. That sense helped me corrected my incorrect return for the third client. After completing the tax return for the third client, I found the refund amount they received was relatively small and this did not make sense to me. Since I wasn’t sure, Zoe Zhou and I went back to check, and Zoe found that I missed some information about the dependents when inputting data. I want to give a big thank you to my patient teacher!

There was a relatively complex tax situation that day. One of my coworkers had a client with a lot of documents and spent at least an hour to prepare that client’s return. I saw the site manager and site assistant were always there to back up that coworker and answer all questions. After that return, I am sure that this coworker learned a lot from that one-hour tax return. I also learned how to deal with the cancellation of debt under the help of the site assistant.

After three and a half hours of volunteering, I was so happy because of the clients who casually talked with us, because of the coworkers and site staff who guided me and discussed tax knowledge with me, and because of the tax knowledge I practiced and newly learned. We each received a thank you letter from St. Luke’s site manager Linda Edwards for the volunteer work. I would also like to thank Linda who helped us complete such meaningful and rewarding volunteer work.

Thank you, Linda and thanks to the VITA Program for giving me a chance to help the community!

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Why do you want to be a CPA?

YunjeongBlogger: Yunjeong Kim

If you are reading this blog, I think it is safe to assume that you have some interest in becoming a CPA. My question for you then is, “Why do you want to be a CPA?” There is not one correct answer; however, becoming a CPA is a big commitment which will demand a lot your time and effort.

When you are having a tough time studying for accounting classes or CPA prep courses, I hope that you can justify your decision to become a CPA. I sincerely hope that your reasons are not just for the money or job security. Because at the end of the day, if you hate your job what good is it for you? If your goal is just to make a lot of money or have a secure job, maybe you should consider being an investment banker or a dentist, right?

I have my own motivation that pushed me to come this far. I am finishing my graduate degree in MS-Accounting this December, did two accounting internships, was involved in many school organizations, and will start a full-time job at a public accounting firm when I graduate. I think I could have achieved all of those things without my personal motivation or goals, but it would not have been a fun journey. I am so thankful for what my accounting education has brought forth in my life, and I cannot wait to see what lies ahead of me. I wish all the best to every one of you and your future career in accounting!


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National Meet the Firms Week

Land Your Dream Job While Still Wearing Your PJs!  The Texas Society of CPAs is partnering with National Meet the Firms Week to help hundreds of accounting firms meet thousands of accounting students, and to give students the opportunity to get their resumes in the hands of firms in their state.

The event is online and FREE for students to participate.

Why participate?

  • A CollegeFrog profile that reflects your collegiate and professional achievements and helps firms get to know you.
  • Webinars that prepare you for the CPA exam and the professional workplace.
  •  Introductions to accounting firms from your state.
  •  Access to accounting firms and job postings from around the country.

Find more details and register at http://meetthefirmsweek.com/.


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It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

anna-headshotBlogger: Anna Knutson

Hello Everybody!

I hope you all are having an excellent January, and haven’t fallen behind on New Years Resolutions yet! I resolved to pass the CPA exam and to stop texting and driving, and I’m having mixed results thus far.

This semester, I have really jumped into the CPA exam headfirst. I’m in the process of getting approved to sit for the exam, and, as soon as all that paperwork comes through, I intend to sit for my first section, Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR). My ideal date is mid-February, likely around the 17th.

The cumulative pass rate for the Financial Accounting and Reporting section of the CPA exam in 2013 was 48%, per the AICPA’s website. In the software I’m using to study, there are 241 individual “lessons” over topics covered in Intermediate Accounting I, Intermediate Accounting II, Advanced Financial Reporting, and Governmental and Not-For-Profit Accounting. This gives me roughly five weeks to review material I’ve learned over the course of four college classes, a daunting task to say the least.

While I’m finding the process produces a wide variety of emotions (stress, frustration, confusion, confidence, anxiety, apathy) I am also finding it especially important to remember to take time for myself. There are four sections to the exam, and, if I study 24/7, it would be impossible not to burn out and become overwhelmed. The test is a marathon, not a sprint. While I’m studying a lot, more than I have ever studied in the past, I also have to make sure I take breaks for myself. I workout several times a week and I’m finding this is a very good method for clearing my mind and winding down. Staying in contact with friends is keeping me sane, and enjoying a night off every once in awhile is refreshing.

Overall, I am finding it is incredibly gratifying to watch the efforts of my education over the past five years come to fruition. A large portion of the material is familiar and coming back to me, despite not having seen it in 2+ years. Some of the material is utterly foreign; but with the base knowledge my educators have provided me in my accounting classes, I am equipped to tackle unfamiliar material. I feel widely unprepared to take FAR right now, but I know over the next few weeks of studying my confidence will continue to increase and that I will get where I need to be in knowing the material.

And it’s ok that I don’t know everything right now, because I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m running a marathon, not a sprint. Good luck to all my other fellow comrades studying for the CPA exam, and to all you “youngins” still in the earlier stages of your accounting years – for the sake of your future self, PLEASE PAY ATTENTION IN YOUR CLASSES!! It will help you so much later!!

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