|1.2| Jumping out of the canoe

Continued from Who’s canoe are you paddling?

As I leapt out of that oppressive pre-built canoe and landed into the warm inviting water, I quickly realized I needed to build a new canoe. How on earth do I do that? I know! I can use this canoe my mom built as a model!

Entering into University of Washington, I knew one thing: I will obtain a degree from the Foster School of Business. As I took the prereq courses to get into business school, I discovered Accounting was considered the most difficult and prestigious concentration. Naturally, being internally wired to reach for the most prestigious opportunities, I applied for the accounting program. I got accepted into the program and off I went, paddling forward in this new canoe.

Now, as you can imagine, accounting isn’t the easiest of topics to study. I mean, it’s basically a whole different language. Debits and credits, income statements and balance sheets, liquidity and profitability ratios…and you thought it was just bean-counting, right? It was explained to us that the business school grades on a competitive bell curve. That means the median student received a 3.2. I received my first intermediate accounting midterm back. 2.8. Yikes. This is the lowest score I’ve ever received in my academic career. “What do I do?! I’m not even at the median!” I freaked out to myself. I decided that it was a sign. Accounting was not for me.

I visited my professor at her office hours to express my thoughts.
“Professor, I think I want to drop accounting,” I started.

“Oh? Is that so? Why…?” she suspiciously asked. “Is this about the midterm?”

“Kind of…I didn’t do too well so I’m having second thoughts as to whether or not this is the right program for me.”

“You want to drop accounting because you didn’t score well on an exam…? Let’s take a look. 2.8. It’s not the best, but it’s not horrible either. It looks like you have a firm grasp of the concepts but just need more practice on the complex problems. Let me ask you this: did you enjoy the case study we just did?”

“Well, yea. The WorldCom case was fascinating to me. The magnitude of the scandal and what they did in the accounting to ‘achieve’ it…it was really a fun and interesting case to study.”

“Thompson, that’s a sign that you may actually like accounting. Remember this: Stop worrying so much about your scores and grades and start worrying more about if you’re actually learning the material and how you would apply it in the real world.”

That struck a chord with me. I’ve never thought about education in that way before. I’ve always been so tunnel-visioned on scores and grades. I adopted the new mindset of focusing on learning and real world application instead of test taking.

You’re probably thinking, “You’re out of your mind! How will you ever get a job if you don’t do well on exams?”  Now hold on, I didn’t say forget the exams. I’m saying stop stressing out so much about the exams that you forget to actually learn and know how to apply the material.  We go to school to learn, not to mindlessly regurgitate answers to questions.

I kept this in mind for the rest of my college career. Funny thing, because of this mindset, I started learning more and scoring better. I ended up staying with the program and earned a BBA-Accounting.

Onward to the next chapter in life: Starting my career at a Big 4 accounting firm, the accounting major’s ultimate goal as taught by our professors.  I paddle on towards the dream.

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