Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.

Student Ambassador Shares Her Perspective on Becoming a CPA Today

Savannah LesleyBy Savannah Lesley

On Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, I had the incredible opportunity to serve on the PICPA panel at the Hershey Hotel. The panel featured two Student Ambassadors – me, from Elizabethtown College, and Gary Druhl, from King’s College – alongside PICPA Firm Ambassadors Jessica Markellos and Katelyn Hoover.

During the panel discussion, we answered various questions covering our perceptions of the CPA Exam, our journeys to accumulate 150 credit hours, experiences securing internships and full-time positions after graduation, potential barriers in our licensure journey, and the sources of support we relied on. We found that, despite being at different career stages, we all shared similar perspectives.  

Prospective CPA hard at work studyingWhen speaking of the perception of the CPA Exam, one thing that was noted is that there is a lot of stress when preparing to become a CPA due to the inability to replicate such a one-of-a-kind exam. The unique nature of the exam makes it challenging to prepare for, and this challenge often goes unaddressed in college. It was surprising to us how little information is offered to students about the CPA Exam unless they actively seek it out from professors. This lack of clarity can be a significant hurdle that may deter many from taking the plunge into the CPA realm. Another big barrier that we brought up was the fact that there are not many mentors available for students in accounting until they have already placed a job. Recognizing this gap, we proposed the establishment of a mentorship system that pairs CPA professionals with college students. Such a system could provide much-needed guidance and reassurance to aspiring accountants. When reflecting on our personal support systems, it became clear that most of us have been quite independent in both our academic and professional pursuits. While we’ve received some guidance from advisers in college and support from family, the idea of having a mentor in the field is something we wish we had earlier on. Lastly, we all agreed that one striking opportunity for the accounting profession that we observed first-hand was the limited awareness among high school students about the field of accounting and the role of a CPA. As PICPA ambassadors, we see the need to eliminate stigmas surrounding accounting, especially when high schools lack accounting classes. Many students are uninformed about the profession.

Following the panel, we received warm welcomes from different professionals in the audience, which offered a chance to connect with experienced individuals in the accounting field. I was then invited to join a subsequent discussion on how CPAs can contribute to improving the accounting profession based on the insights shared by the panel ambassadors. The depth of passion and concern demonstrated by the PICPA toward the younger generation left a lasting impression. After a brief intermission, I decided to stay for the following discussion, where I gained valuable insight into what CPAs can do to enhance the field. I returned to Elizabethtown College with newfound knowledge and a sense of inspiration.

Entering Hershey that morning, I was uncertain about what the day would hold. By day’s end, I was grateful for the valuable information, advice, and connections I had gained. Meeting passionate professionals and learning from their experiences has fueled my excitement for a future career in accounting.

Savannah Lesley is a junior accounting major at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pa. She serves as a PICPA student ambassador and is a member of the Delta Mu Delta society. She also works as a bookkeeper at Graffin Associates and is an upcoming summer 2024 intern at EY. She can be reached at slesley2235@yahoo.com.

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Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of the PICPA's officers or members. The information contained herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For actionable advice, you must engage or consult with a qualified professional.

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