A College Candid – Jessica

As some as you might suspect, this is my College Candid about my college experience at Illinois State University and with Actuarial Science.  It’s written like I’m interviewing myself to keep the format consistent with the other College Candids.  I hope you enjoy it!

Why did you choose ISU?

First, I considered ISU because it was one of the few colleges certified as a Center of Actuarial Excellence, and they offered me a large scholarship and in-state tuition so it ended up being my most inexpensive option.  I also really liked all of the people I interacted with throughout my decision process, which was incredibly helpful.

What is one of your favorite things about ISU?

I really like the campus itself.  The buildings, parking lots, athletic complexes, etc. kind of form rings around the quad which is really nice and makes the campus feel compact. The landscaping is beautiful in the spring and summer months and the quad is actually an arboretum – every tree native to the state of Illinois can be found there.

What is one of your least favorite things about ISU?

It’s difficult being at a public university in Illinois right now – the state is constantly cutting education funding, which is frustrating.  The College of Fine Arts was supposed to receive a large amount of money from the state for building renovations, but that hasn’t happened and I haven’t heard an updated timeline, which is discouraging.  So, I dislike that we’re in the state of Illinois, but there’s not much we can really do about that.

What are some organizations you’re a part of?

I’m not in a much actually.  I’m in the Actuarial Science club, which is a sub-organization of the insurance fraternity Gamma Iota Sigma.  In those two clubs, students learn a lot about insurance careers, companies, and the insurance market.  It’s a great way to learn, but also a great way to network with future employers.  I also used to be in Christian Business Leaders, which was a really cool organization a few of my friends started – it won Small Registered Student Organization of the Year two years ago, and won Large Registered Student Organization of the Year last year, both of which were really exciting.

What jobs have you had while at ISU?

I’ve worked in the Office of Admissions since the beginning of my freshman year, which is what sparked my interest in higher education.  I’m currently working with public data and ISU’s admissions data to look at any trends in where our students are coming from.  I also teach piano lessons for elementary students.

Have you studied abroad?

Kind of!  I went on a 10-day trip to Germany at the end of my freshman year with the Honors Program, which was my first time out of the US and was an incredible experience.  Short trips like that are nice for students in programs that may not be offered at universities around the world, like Actuarial Science. It’s also great for students who may not want to spend a few months in a new place, but still want to travel.  I fell into both of these categories, and I really enjoyed my time in Germany!

Do you have a favorite restaurant in Normal or Bloomington?

I have two!  One is a Mexican restaurant called Fiesta Ranchera.  The other is a bar / grill / driving range called Swingers, and I love their french fries and cheeseburger.

What do you like and dislike about Bloomington-Normal?

I like that it’s very much a college town.  You can’t go into a grocery store without seeing ISU shirts, which is cool since we aren’t a big-10 school or anything like that.  I wish that the town had a nicer mall – ours is pretty old.  There are nice malls in Peoria though, which is only about 45 minutes away.

Why did you choose to major in Actuarial Science?

I was really good at math and I really enjoyed it.  After taking AP Physics and AP Chemistry, I knew I didn’t want to be an engineer, so when I heard about this other financial field that requires difficult math and statistics, it seemed like a good fit.

How is the Actuarial Science program structured at ISU?

It’s kind of confusing – while I’m definitely an Actuarial Science major, my degree is technically a mathematics degree and Actuarial Science major is a sequence of the Math degree.  It’s a unique program because of that – most programs that are just sequences or concentrations don’t prepare students for nearly as many actuarial certification exams as ISU’s program, and aren’t usually certified through both of the major U.S. actuarial societies.  For the Actuarial Science major, we take math, business, finance, insurance, IT, and accounting courses.

Do you have any favorite courses?

I really enjoyed MAT 350, which was my probability course.  I had a really great professor which helped tremendously, and it really prepared me for actuarial Exam P / 1 (the second exam I took).

What classes did you dislike?

I didn’t like FIL 242 because it was virtually a repeat of MAT 280 (they covered the same material but the FIL course was more conceptual while the MAT course focused on the math).  I also didn’t like FIL 341 because it was hard to follow what was being talked about throughout the class.

What do you want to do when you graduate?

I thought I was going to be an actuary, but I think I’m going to try to go into higher education administration instead.  Like I said, I’ve worked in the Office of Admissions since I started college, and I’ve really enjoyed the work and the people that I work with.

Wait, so if you don’t want to be an actuary, didn’t you just waste the last four years of your life?

Sometimes it feels like that, but majoring in actuarial science has helped me in more ways than the ways I might regret it.  I’ve studied math at a high level, taken a variety of business classes, learned some programming, and had a few really interesting, highly paid internships.  Now I have a unique background in data and analysis that most people in other fields I’m interested in, like higher education, won’t have.

Do you know if you will go to grad school?

I 100% plan to go to graduate school.  Right now, I’m thinking about getting my masters in Statistics, and then from there getting my Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration.


Thanks for reading everyone!  Hopefully it was interesting to hear about my educational background, since that’s a lot of what I blog about.  If you have any questions or comments about ISU or Actuarial Science, leave them below or send me a message!  I’d love to hear from you!  If you want to read more about Actuarial Science at other schools, check out Nick or Marissa’s College Candids.


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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