Recently, we’ve begun to wonder how different universities teach the next generation of accountants. While everyone has a unique college experience, the university or college you attend will determine a lot of common factors.
We had the opportunity to sit with Cole Gabriel, a recent graduate from the University of Florida, a top-ten public university, and talk to him about what it was like being an accounting student at the University of Florida. He had quite a few interesting points to share about his time at UF and the Fisher School of Accounting.
When asked to describe his university experience in one sentence, Cole said, “It was an adventure.” He explained that between the CPA Exam, academic coursework, and a variety of extracurriculars, he’d put a lot into his university experience and got a lot out of it. It quickly became clear that UF had some unique elements about it, and that these had shaped Cole’s experience.
I was always one of those students on campus who was looking for more to do, regardless of how busy I was. In my last year at UF, I was studying for the CPA Exam, finishing my last credits, volunteering in multiple facets for the Boy Scouts of America, a member of the Florida Blue Key honor society, and active in Alpha Phi Omega, a national service fraternity. It was a lot to handle, but I was happy to have all of the growth opportunities that I did as a UF student.
The University of Florida has a competitive reputation, and the Fisher School of Accounting is one of the more competitive programs to get into. “When I first attempted to switch into the accounting school, I was a bit behind and was told to switch into another business major until I had caught up. Even our introductory accounting courses share the common theme of proving yourself.”
It turns out that a lot of savvy non-accounting undergraduates opt to take introductory financial and managerial accounting courses outside of the University of Florida, as they are considered the most challenging. That said, accounting majors have to take these introductory courses at UF and find out if they truly have a penchant for the field.
Once making it through the introductory courses, most accounting students find that the coursework does not get easier. Students are not recommended to take more than two accounting courses per semester due to how time-intensive they are. However, these students are not without hope. “The faculty in the school of accounting are amazing. When you’re completely lost in your intermediate financial accounting course, the professors are incredibly helpful if you’re willing to take the extra steps to ask for help in office hours.”
And the professors at UF are helpful beyond academic coursework, assisting students in figuring out what they need to do to get a job once they graduate. “One particular professor explained the process of applying for summer leadership programs, internships, and full-time roles to me. He also shared what recruiters are expecting from applicants and how to network effectively. Thanks to him, I was able to land a great spring tax internship.”
The Fisher School is an incredibly cooperative environment. No courses outside of the introductory level have a competitive curve, and students are encouraged to work together. “Everyone in your cohort has struggled with something along the way, and all of us are more than willing to help friends that are having difficulty.”
For the most part, students are not particularly competitive in academics. Provided that you are above the grade threshold required for the firms you are applying, there is no need to worry about that extra point in class or that other classmates scored a bit higher than you on an exam. We were all just looking to get good enough grades to be admitted into the master’s program and start working full-time afterward. As a result, all of my peers were incredibly helpful and uplifting when working with others.
This challenging environment comes with good reason. Graduates from the University of Florida’s accounting program are aggressively sought after by large accounting firms.
The first thing anyone would notice when walking into Gerson Hall, the heart of the Fisher School of Accounting, is the Gleim atrium. Especially at the beginning of the semester, the halls were filled with students looking for their next big relationship with a potential employer. In the weeks leading up to our ‘Career Showcase,’ accounting firms would set up a booth in the atrium with free lunch and information about upcoming recruiting events.
In fact, the program is so well-known that Cole went as far to say, “Once a part of this network, it is challenging to not end up with a full-time position by graduation.” Between the rigor of the academic program and the strong relations the faculty at the Fisher School of Accounting maintain with the Big 4 and other national and regional firms, it is no surprise that UF students are a hot commodity in the industry.
Outside of the classroom, UF provides plenty of ways for a budding accountant to prepare for their career. The school of accounting hosts a chapter of Beta Alpha Psi and is frequently involved in case competitions and other presentations.
One of my most interesting projects done for the accounting school was presenting a session at a conference for the FICPA (Florida Institute for Certified Public Accountants). With a group of three other students, we prepared a CPE course to discuss integrated reporting. After the presentation portion, there was a question and answer session where we essentially discussed the feasibility and benefits of our topic with all of the conference participants. We had plenty of face time with local accountants and had a chance to hear their insights on our research.
Between rigorous coursework, extracurriculars, and recruitment sessions, accounting Gators still find time to have fun. “UF frequently had concerts and other student events to attend during the week and weekends. I had a chance to learn from an improv group on campus, and someone even taught me to juggle at a Relay for Life event. I also had plenty of chances to provide service to the campus and the community through Alpha Phi Omega.”
Situated in the center of Gainesville, Florida, the University of Florida is the heart of the city. Over the years, much of Gainesville has developed to cater towards university students. Between a robust bus system that covers most of the town, food from all over the world, and some of the best state parks Florida has to offer, there is always something to do.
One of my favorite places I went with friends was the High Dive. High Dive was essentially a multi-purpose performance area that hosted local talent, movies, and musical performances in downtown Gainesville. Though it certainly wasn’t your typical concert, quite often the local bands were incredibly entertaining and produced some great music. Downtown Gainesville, in general, is filled with life and plenty of things to do.
Our article wouldn’t be complete if we discussed the University of Florida and didn’t bring up Gator Athletics. UF has competitive teams in most sports and is renowned for their athletic training programs. In fact, UF athletes boast more than 50 Olympic gold medals. While UF students are proud of all of their athletes, one sport stands out—Gator Football.
I had a chance to attend a variety of different sporting events as a student, but there was rarely anything that compared to the raw enthusiasm that is a Gator football game. From the early morning until the game, alumni would set up tailgates on campus and students would spend the majority of the day getting excited to go and see a home game. There was really nothing quite like cheering for your team with hundreds of thousands of your closest orange and blue friends.
At the University of Florida, we are a people of purpose. We’re committed to challenging convention and ourselves. We see things not as they are, but as they could be.
This statement stands out, proudly displayed on the University’s website. Based on my conversation with Cole, I can attest that it rings true.
The best piece of advice that I was given about attending a university like UF is to invest in your experience. Get involved, learn a lot, create relationships, and experience everything your university has to offer. Thankfully, that strategy worked well for me, as I start a job with a Big 4 firm in just a few short days. It is a great day to be a Florida Gator.
No matter where you get your education, we all strive to excel in accounting. Cole shared his journey with us, now it is your turn. Reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter or email us using the button below and tell us about your university and your journey in accounting.