“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
― Benjamin Franklin
Just like Clay, I am burnt out on school. Ever since I came back from my full-time internship, I have found it very difficult to find the motivation to study. Part of me thinks, “I already signed my full time offer. I really just have to do enough to pass!” That statement might be true, but the reality is that the classes I am taking will be covered on the CPA exam. I could only study what will be covered on the in-class test and do the minimum to get the grade I want, but the more I learn now, the easier the CPA exam will be. I use some of the same tactics (short-term goals and small rewards) as Clay to get through some of the reading, but I also have found other ways to stay dedicated.
To stay interested in my classes, I look for the benefits I will receive from each class. I am currently taking Government and Not-For-Profit Accounting. It is easy to get bored reading about accounting, but I just keep in mind how this knowledge will help me. I am interested in politics and our government. By understanding governmental accounting and being able to read their CAFRs (Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports), I can look at different government entities and see exactly how they are spending our tax money. I can look up the city of Dallas CAFR or the Texas CAFR and determine how efficiently they are using our tax dollars. On the not-for-profit side, I can look up how an organization is spending the donations they receive. If I donate to Susan G. Komen, how much money is going to pay employees versus being spent on research, education, screening, or treatment? While some of the chapters may be pretty dry material, I just remember that it will help me in the future.
Some of you may be in undergrad having to take the core courses or a bunch of non-accounting classes. For those, I had the same attitude. When I was younger and complaining about school, my father used to tell me, “All knowledge is good knowledge,” and I would roll my eyes. Now I understand what he meant. For example, I had to take art history my senior year (yes, I put it off as long as possible). I thought to myself, “Why do I have to take this stupid class that is going to take hours of studying when it doesn’t apply to my career at all?” I am now glad that I suffered through that class. I have some friends who are interested in art, and it is nice to be able to carry on a conversation about art with them. Networking is much easier when you can find common ground with someone. Most men hope to sit next to other men during the pre-interview dinner so that they can talk about sports the whole time, but what if you are seated next to someone who has other interests besides sports? It is nice to have a little knowledge about a wide range of things so you can carry on a conversation with almost anyone.
Another way to stay engaged in class is to be inquisitive. If you have a question about something that is not mentioned in class, then don’t be afraid to ask. If you don’t want to ask during class, go to the professor’s office or send him/her an email. Many accounting classes tell you the rules about how things are done, but they do not cover every scenario. Perhaps you read an article such as “UBS whistleblower nets $104 million reward”. You could discuss whistleblowing in your ethics class to relate what you are learning to current events. You could also ask your tax professor, “Birkenfeld is going to prison for his part in UBS’s tax evasion program; how exactly did UBS help wealthy Americans hide their assets?” While the answers to those questions will not be on your next test, it will at least keep you engaged in the class, and you will still have a deeper knowledge of the subject which can only help you in the future.