A College Candid – Marissa

Marissa is an Actuarial Science major at the University of Connecticut.  I met her because we both had internships at the same company outside of St. Louis, Missouri this past summer.  It was really interesting for me to hear her story because I actually considered going to UConn for Actuarial Science!  The program at UConn seems to have both very similar and very different opportunities from ISU’s program, which is why it’s so important to look around at different schools and see how programs compare. Anyway, here’s Marissa’s College Candid!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Why did you choose to go to UConn?

Both of my parents went to school there and they had good experiences.  When I had to decide what school I wanted to go to I knew that I wanted a big campus experience. Between the facts that it has one of the best Actuarial Programs in the nation and it was the best for my budget, it just made sense.

What is one of your favorite and least favorite things about UConn?

I really like that it’s a big campus, even though that involves a good amount of walking.  There is a lot to do and a ton of ways to get involved, which you don’t always get on a small campus. You are more likely to have a problem choosing a club than finding a club that matches your interests.

That also means there’s a little bit of a fight to register for classes because we have such a popular Actuarial Science program and it’s such a large school.  So, there are positives and negatives to going to such a large school, but overall I think it makes for a better experience.

What are some organizations you’ve been a part of?

One is Gamma Iota Sigma (an insurance fraternity).  It’s nice because there are a lot of speaker events where companies would come and talk to us. You get the opportunity to hear about the company and learn about possible career paths while eating dinner, which is included and delivered to the lecture hall. They host a few other types of events throughout the year which I personally didn’t get the chance to take advantage of. The club is what you make of it and can be a good way to network.

I’m also in an a cappella group.  We have community service and charity events, do a little traveling, and have a decent amount of performances each year.

Did you ever think about studying abroad?

I probably could have if I had planned it earlier, but it’s somewhat difficult with Actuarial Science.  It’s a major with a lot of specific course requirements that you can’t really fulfill while abroad.  I did get to travel to St. Louis for my summer internship, so that was kind of my big travel experience for college.

Can you describe the location of UConn?

UConn is located in Storrs, Connecticut. I would say that by Connecticut standards the campus in in the middle of nowhere.  Connecticut is a small state though so nothing is really that far away. It’s about a 30 to 45 minute drive to get to Hartford, under 2 hours to get to Boston and under 3 hours to get to New York City. There is a lot to do on campus and it seems like new restaurants and shops are opening up all the time in Storrs Center, but to the freshman and sophomores who are not yet allowed to have cars on campus, it might start to feel small because there isn’t much surrounding the campus.

Do you have a favorite restaurant?

I really like Dog Lane Cafe.  It’s just a casual place that’s good for meeting up with people or studying, and the food is great. When I have friends from other schools visiting I usually end up taking them to Dog Lane. I typically also take any visiting friends right next door to Insomnia Cookies. It’s definitely one of the most unhealthy options on campus but they are some of the best cookies I’ve ever had.

I would also say that there a lot of delivery options and the Hungry Huskies app very useful for online orders. Some campus favorites are Wings Over Storrs and D.P. Dough.

Switching to focus on Actuarial Science, how did you choose to major in it?

My dad is an actuary, so I learned about actuarial science through him.  I loved statistics and calculus and wanted to know if actuarial science would be a good fit for me. One of the reasons I chose UConn was because there are so many different majors to choose from and most of the time it is easy to switch early on. I figured that if I started the actuarial program and didn’t like it, I could switch to the statistics program or something related.  I ended up really liking that Actuarial Science is such an analytical field, as well as the fact that it can be challenging.

How is the Actuarial Science program structured?

The program is in the math department, and the classes give you insurance, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Access, and VBA knowledge.  We take full credit courses related to the first two exams, FM and P, as well as one credit prep courses that go through questions and practice exams.  We take full credit courses related to MFE and MLC as well as courses designed to meet VEE requirements.

It’s a large program and in many ways that also makes it a great program with a large staff with diverse experiences.

What courses have you liked and disliked?

My favorite courses tend to be the ones that I can see a relationship to my career, which applies to more courses as I get farther into the program.  I ended up really liking the Economics VEE courses, which led me to tack on an Economics minor.  The first FM course I took sophomore year was a challenge, but it was good because it lets students get used to the fact that taking actuarial exams won’t be easy. Usually when I talk to people who dropped the program it happened after that course.

During my last semester I will be taking a Writing for Actuaries course, which I’ve heard is challenging, but I think it will be very useful so I’m looking forward to it.

I also took a lot of interesting gen eds during my freshman and sophomore year like Human Development and Family Studies, Psychology, Philosophy and an American folk song class where we would literally get up and learn old dances and songs in the middle of the lecture.

Do you know where you want to look for actuarial jobs when you graduate?

I’m really just keeping my options open.  New England is nice and there are a lot of insurance companies in Hartford, Connecticut, so I know that’s a possibility.  I’m planning on working to get my FSA.

How do you feel like the Actuarial Science program at UConn has helped you with your future career?

Beyond all of what I’ve learned in lectures, I’ve had a lot of networking opportunities. We have a giant career fair that is exclusive to prospective actuaries each year.  Over 40 companies come and it’s really helpful because you get to talk to recruiters at companies you’re interested in.  There are other ways to get internships beyond the career fair, though.  I also know that I wouldn’t have passed some of the exams without the prep classes. I’ve gained a lot of transferrable skills that I know are going to be useful wherever my career takes me.

Interested in sharing your college story in a College Candid?  Send me an email at JessicaAckley7@gmail.com with your university and major!

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