Carlie Banchi is a senior at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania, where she is majoring in Actuarial Science with minors in Computer Science and Spanish. Carlie is president of the Math and Actuarial Science Club at Arcadia and is interning at Penn Mutual this summer. She is expecting to graduate in May 2020. We spoke with her in May 2019.
Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.
One thing that’s not on my resume is that I am very passionate about nature, especially animals. I learned to scuba dive, thanks to my dad encouraging my fascination with the ocean. At home, we have two dogs and a saltwater fish tank, but we’ve seen different animals come and go out of our house, including chameleons, frogs, turtles—you name it. I also raise monarch butterflies in the summertime. I go out and find the eggs or caterpillars, and then I raise them to be butterflies, and I release them in August or September.
What has your experience at the Arcadia University been like?
My experience at Arcadia has been incredible. I feel that Arcadia has really given me the full college experience. I’ve been able to get involved on campus and take advantage of different opportunities, both academically and personally. Academically, I have two minors. I’m also in the honors program, so I feel I’m getting that well-rounded education by exploring my different interests.
I think the key component at Arcadia is really the faculty. One of the things that Arcadia really pushes here is personal attention, and being a small university, we’re actually able to achieve that.
Arcadia also is a very strong advocate for studying abroad, and I’ve taken advantage of those opportunities as well. My first year, I took a class about Greek mythology, and then I went to Greece over spring break with my class. Last fall, I was actually studying abroad in Granada, Spain. I spent a whole semester there speaking the language and really immersing myself in that culture. At the end of the day, Arcadia has really given me a global experience that I think will help in the world, in my career, and just in general, in interacting with people.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose Arcadia?
I grew up in the Philadelphia area, and then I moved to Wisconsin right before I started high school, so I was kind of looking in both areas for college. But ultimately, my heart was set on the East Coast. In Wisconsin, I looked at a big school, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and then a small school, Carroll University. I picked these schools specifically because I knew they had the actuarial science major, so I immediately narrowed down my search to only schools with that major.
In Pennsylvania, I was looking at the University of Pennsylvania, St. Joseph’s University, Temple University, and Arcadia University. I really was stuck between Temple and Arcadia because they both have incredible actuarial science programs. I felt it would be easy for me to fit into them and benefit from them, and both schools also offered me similar scholarship amounts. So it really came down to where I felt at home, and Arcadia just really did that for me.
As soon as I stepped on the campus, it felt like home. I felt comfortable here. I felt like everyone knew each other, especially between faculty and students. That was an important connection I wanted to have because I went to a small high school. Having that experience then, I figured, would help me as I move on towards graduation and starting my career. That’s really how I chose Arcadia.
What influenced you to pursue an actuarial science program?
I actually didn’t decide until my junior year of high school. For most of my life, I was planning to be a marine biologist, hence the passion for nature. But I realized very quickly during my high school biology class on dissection day that I just did not have the stomach for it. So I looked elsewhere, and it took a lot of reflection and discussion with my family, but I realized that one of the constant things in my life has always been mathematics.
I’ve always been really good at math, but I never really paid attention to it. Because everyone always just says, “Oh, I hate math. I hate algebra. I hate calculus.” So I never gave it a second thought until I was looking for a new career path to follow.
At that point, I started to pay more attention to how I was enjoying my math classes and how numbers really fascinated me. I really didn’t decide on actuarial science until I actually took an economics course. I remember sitting in class one day when we were discussing marginal curves, and I saw the worlds of calculus and economics collide right in front of me.
I realized I wanted a major that would combine both business and math. I did some research, and I talked to my mom, whose college roommate was studying to be an actuary. I looked more into that, and actuarial science seemed like a really good fit. I’ve been happy with my decision ever since.
Why should other students consider a focus in actuarial science?
Actuarial science is the perfect field for anyone who has a strong math background but would like to work in the business realm. It’s a highly analytical field, but it has real-world application, so it’s not theoretical numbers all the time.
Of course, the field also pays very well, and it tends to be accommodating for either working from home or paid time off to study for exams. It is a lot of work, but I think the rewards from it are incredible. The field is also constantly evolving and changing as the insurance industries change or we develop new processes. I think it’s a great field for anyone who wants to have that personal growth and constant intellectual stimulation, whether from actual experiences or taking those exams.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
Arcadia’s actuarial science program has actually grown since I started here. Before, it was set to prepare students for two exams, but now we actually offer the ability to prepare for up to four. This is a huge improvement.
But ultimately, I think the key component at Arcadia is really the faculty. One of the things that Arcadia really pushes here is personal attention, and being a small university, we’re actually able to achieve that. The faculty here has been extremely helpful both in and out of the classroom. They’ve helped me secure jobs and even just get different experiences even like this, like talking to you. You really can’t quantify how much Arcadia’s faculty has helped me. They’re always there, even if it’s just checking in on me to see if I’m stressed during the semester.
The program here is flexible. It’s made so that people can come in if they want to pursue actuarial science, but they’re not stuck to it. So if someone starts as an actuarial science major and they realize that teaching is really their passion, we can accommodate that very easily. I think the flexibility of the program is a huge bonus, but ultimately it’s the faculty that has made a huge impact on my academic career.
We also have a Math and Actuarial Science Club on campus, which I’m actually the president of. This club was created roughly two years ago to help accommodate the growing population of students we have in that department. But it is also a resource for students to connect with their peers, and talk about studying for the exams or really anything they need.
One of the big things we have on campus is the annual career fair, specifically for actuarial science majors. We partner with West Chester University, and we alternate every year which campus it’s on, and we bring in employers from the local area. Often times, our students will get internships from this fair.
Arcadia’s program also is very accommodating. While I was studying abroad, my professors actually helped me secure a bunch of different phone interviews for that same career fair, and I was able to secure a job with Penn Mutual through that.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
My favorite class has less to do with the class itself and a lot more to do with the professor. It was Mathematical Statistics I with Dr. Ned Wolff. Dr. Wolff has had a huge impact on my undergraduate career here. When I was picking schools, Dr. Wolff actually allowed me and my dad to meet with him just to see what the actuarial science program is like here at Arcadia. And that day, he introduced me to all the other faculty in the department.
He’s been a huge resource for me, whether it’s helping me get a job by putting my name out there, or doing an independent research study, which we did this semester. He’s always been there for me, even just checking in to see how I’m doing. He is such a great professor. He even won a Teacher Excellence Award from the Philadelphia branch of the American Statistical Association. I don’t know how much longer he’s going to be teaching, but I think he needs to keep teaching forever because it’s clearly his passion.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
I think the most challenging thing is going to be the same as what any actuarial science major will tell you, and it’s the exams. Each exam is different, and the way you prepare for them is always different, as well as your life that’s going on while you’re preparing for the exams. Nothing is ever the same. Honestly, that’s the most challenging part because you have to learn how to study, how you study best, and then you have to also make sure that you take the exams well. The day of the exam is super stressful. That’s something I knew coming into it, but you also don’t really know until you experience one.
Something that incoming students should know is that these exams are a bit intimidating. But I know Arcadia’s programs—and I’m sure other programs as well—really help you prepare for them.
The other thing with the major is that because it has the business aspect to it, you not only have to understand your own work and how you got to a certain point, but you also need to understand how to explain it to someone who doesn’t have that same math background. I think that’s a really key component. You have to have strong communication skills to succeed with actuarial science. It’s not just all math and numbers. It’s a lot of communication, whether it’s with clients, with your boss, or whoever it is.
Have you had any insurance-related internships? If so, how was your experience?
Last summer, I worked for the Society of Actuaries. Their headquarters is located just outside of Chicago, and being from Wisconsin, I was able to live at home and do a bit of a long commute every day, but it was well worth it. I worked in the research department there, so while I wasn’t working specifically as an actuary, I was working in the same department as a lot of actuaries and getting exposure to things I might be dealing with in the future. The biggest takeaway from that internship was honestly my Excel skills. I worked with Excel every single day, and now I’m kind of a whiz at it!
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
This summer, I’m working for Penn Mutual, so I’ll get some exposure to life insurance. Right now, life insurance is the field I’m most interested in. I like the strong probability with it, rather than the financial aspect. I’m interested to see how that goes. It’s a ten-week internship, and I’m very much looking forward to that and making new connections with the people at Penn Mutual.
Right now, I believe that my heart is set on life insurance, but that could change. I’m really hoping to find that insurance company that feels like home where I’m working. I want to enjoy what I’m doing every day and be happy at the place I’m working. That’s my goal—to find that place. That might not happen right away after graduation, but hopefully it does.
I am also looking to continue my actuarial exams, of course. Currently, I’ve passed Exam FM and Exam P, and I’m on track to prepare for the next two exams during my senior year, hopefully completing them by the end of summer 2020. Down the line, I’m looking to obtain my associate with the Society of Actuaries and eventually the fellowship.
Ultimately, my very long-term goal, is that I actually want to come back and be a college professor. I’m looking to work as an actuary, of course, and I want to spend my time doing that. But the connections I’ve made with the faculty at Arcadia have really inspired me with their care and attention to students. So I hope one day, I can follow in their footsteps.
What advice would you give someone interested in the insurance field?
Definitely do your research on the field. I did my research and picked my major accordingly, and it really benefited me. But the biggest thing for someone who is genuinely considering this is, again, those actuarial exams. They’re constantly changing the curriculum that they cover, but the core knowledge is always the same. But those exams really are very difficult. They’re meant to be difficult. Not everyone’s supposed to pass them. But if it’s the right field for you, you’ll know it because you’ll be able to conquer them. So definitely do your research and see if it’s the right field for you.
Do you have any favorite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in insurance?
When I was doing my research to pick my major, I went on the Be An Actuary website. It has a lot of information about the field in general and what it means to be an actuary in different industries. And, of course, the Society of Actuaries has a plethora of resources for students to use. They also publish The Actuary Magazine, which covers very interesting topics in the insurance industry, so you can really find whatever piques your interest.