How to Get the Most Out of Your Accounting Education Part II: Classroom Etiquette


In part 1 of this article series, Professor Bennet Tchaikovsky, CPA and Associate Professor of Accounting, talked about how to get the most out of your accounting education by getting to know your professors. In part 2 of this series, Professor Tchaikovsky goes over how to get the most out of your accounting education on how to interact in the classroom and with your instructor.

Grades and Social involvement.

Do not take accounting courses from lenient instructors to boost your overall GPA. You will be only cheating yourself. I can almost immediately tell which of my managerial students did not have a good financial accounting instructor. Because they took it “easy”, the student now has a future uphill battle to succeed in accounting. Therefore, aim to take classes from instructors that will challenge you and give you the best practical education possible. 

Accounting grades are important. However, be careful about arguing over exam points.

If a student comes into my office and is solely focused on their points/grades, I generally will not look favorably on this student in the future. Why? It’s not about the grade; I’m more concerned if you have learned and retained the information. When going over exams, ask non-threatening, non-accusatory questions.

Many students can become extremely hostile when it comes to exam points and will immediately place the instructor on the defensive. If you are pushy and fighting over something that in life will overall be relatively insignificant (5 points out of a class that’s graded on 1,000 points), consider becoming an attorney. If you believe that your answer was correct or partially correct, you can ask your instructor to explain the exam question to you. Then, using their language, you may be more successful in explaining how you answered their question and should have your exam reviewed or regraded. 

If you have read any of my other articles, you will notice a common theme: social involvement.

This is just as important as grades when obtaining a full time accounting position. Your ability to interact with clients and others in accounting are critical for your professional success. When writing student recommendations, by far the most amount of time I will spend will be for students that are involved on campus or if I noticed that they were helping others in the classroom. 

Consider taking non-major classes P/NP.

When I was a student at UCSB. I took almost one third of my classes on a Pass / No Pass (“P/NP” also referred to as “Party/No Party”) basis. Why? I wanted to focus on my accounting classes which took a considerable amount of time compared to my regular subjects.

For example, by taking a political science class P/NP, I was able to devote more time to accounting and did not have to compete with potential ambulance chasers. From my experience, employers generally look at two items: overall GPA and accounting GPA. I have not heard of an accounting employer caring if a student took a certain number of classes on a P/NP basis as long as the P/NP election was within school guidelines. Note that if you are transferring to a four year school or planning on going to graduate school, you want to make sure that P/NP grades are acceptable. 

Carefully read the syllabus. Accounting classes take more time than others.

The syllabus is not a traditional “contract”, but most college professors and their Dean treat the syllabus this way. Understand how you are to be graded, when exams take place, and how they are administered. If you are asking a professor a question that you could have found by easily reading the syllabus, this will not leave a good impression.

Studying accounting takes time.

You are learning a practical science requiring problem repetition to understand the underlying concepts. My intermediate accounting courses at UCSB took more time to study for than any of my law school exams. Make sure that you are giving yourself enough time to study. Remember the more accounting courses that you take and the more challenging the courses are, the less studying you will need to to for the CPA Exam–which will be a great benefit when transitioning from school to licensure.  

Other articles you may be interested in 
How to Jumpstart Your Accounting Career
How to Survive & Thrive During Your First Years at an Accounting Firm

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