Stephanie Mattson is a senior at Bentley University pursuing a double major in actuarial science and business studies. She plans to graduate in May 2019. We spoke to Stephanie in November 2018.
Tell us about your experience at Bentley.
My experience at Bentley has been really great. As I’m preparing to graduate in May and start my full-time job, I’ve come to really appreciate all the experiences and opportunities that Bentley has provided.
I’ve had wonderful professors who are passionate about what they do. They’re always willing to help with questions or concerns. I also have had great academic and career service advisors. They’ve been a really valuable resource in guiding me through all my years here.
Although classes have been demanding, I’ve been able to manage my workload. I’m also on the track and field team, and I’m a captain this year. I’ve had a great all-around experience and have grown personally in addition to getting my education. Bentley has really prepared me for life after college.
Why did you choose to study at Bentley?
I chose Bentley for a number of different reasons. When I first visited, I really loved the campus and enjoyed learning about all the academic opportunities and programs it offers. Before going to college, I knew that I might be interested in actuarial science. Out of the top three schools I was considering, only two offered actuarial science, and Bentley was one of them.
My decision came down to evaluating the opportunities that each school offered and having the opportunity to pursue actuarial science made Bentley the best choice for me.
Please tell us about campus life.
I’m on the track and field team, and I’m a captain this year. Having the opportunity to compete in the sport that I love has been awesome. Being able to take time out of my day every day to practice and get physical activity is a great break from studying.
I’m also an actuarial peer mentor for incoming freshmen. It has been great to give advice and share my experience as well as see them grow throughout their freshman year.
During my time at Bentley, I’ve also participated in different clubs and events. I’ve been a member of the math club and also the outdoors club. There are a lot of opportunities for you to get a well-rounded college experience.
Bentley is in Waltham, Massachusetts, which is about 10 miles outside of Boston. Waltham is a busy town, and it’s also great being so close to Boston. There is a free shuttle that goes from Bentley to Harvard Square, so it’s also really easy to get to Boston.
Why did you decide to study actuarial science?
I’ve always loved math, and I became interested in business around middle school. In high school, I had no clue what path I wanted to pursue in college. One of my family members was working for a college that offered an actuarial science major. She knew that I liked business and math and mentioned actuarial science to me. When I looked into actuarial science, I loved that it is a combination of math and business and that it is a challenging field requiring exams and multiple skill sets.
They emphasized that their work was rewarding, and they felt like they were making a difference, which is important to me.
Another factor that influenced my decision is that actuaries have a great work-life balance. Also, at Bentley, I’ve attended presentations given by actuaries that graduated a few years ago. They emphasized that their work was rewarding, and they felt like they were making a difference, which is important to me.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
The actuarial science program here is very strong and is growing a lot. There has been huge growth in the number of freshmen and sophomores coming into the program now, compared with my class. All of my courses have been really interesting and challenging, and the teachers really try to relate the material to real-life applications, which I find really valuable.
So far, I have passed two actuarial exams, and I’m currently studying for my third. We have specific courses offered here to prepare for the exams. I was able to take the exam prep course and study for another month on my own after the semester. I sat for both exams, and I passed them both. So the classes really prepared me well, and I hope to pass my third exam soon.
Emmy Roth is our advisor for the actuarial science program, and she’s been extremely helpful with everything from course selections to general advice. She was the professor for my first exam prep course. If you visit her office hours, she can help you make a plan for your college life and help you choose all the courses you’ll be taking.
Have you had any insurance-related internships?
My internship this past summer was in Boston with John Hancock, the life insurance company. I was on the team working on developing and implementing new products for the direct-to-consumer business. The internship was a 12-week program where I had the opportunity to interact with many other actuary interns.
My team worked on various aspects of products, including development, implementation, and performance tracking. The work was very diverse because there are many different roles that actuaries can perform, such as pricing, reserving, and development. My responsibilities included some pricing work, legal documents, budgeting, and performance analysis. I had a chance to see many different aspects of the job. Everyone in the company was friendly and supportive and willing to answer any of my questions.
John Hancock also provided really good experiences for their interns. We had the opportunity to speak with successful actuaries within the company, as well as senior leaders such as Fellow of the Society of Actuaries designees, Assistant Vice Presidents, and Presidents. We had a lot of fun events where we could network and speak with people.
One of the most important things I took away from my internship this past summer is that there are so many different roles that actuaries can play. When I originally decided to study actuarial science, one of the concerns that my parents expressed was that being an actuary is a very specific job without much flexibility.
This summer, I learned that there is actually a huge amount of flexibility with an actuarial science major. You can work in other fields such as math and finance. Specifically, within the actuary profession, there are many different types of insurance such as health, life, and property/casualty insurance. Within these insurance types, you can also focus on many different areas such as data analytics or product development. Those are very different roles requiring different skill sets that you have the opportunity to pivot into as an actuarial science graduate.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
Although it’s not a typical answer for someone in actuarial science, some of my favorite classes at Bentley have been courses in environmental sustainability. I’m actually doing a double minor in data technology as well as earth, environment, and global sustainability.
I’ve always been interested in the environment and what impact we are having on it. I’ve really enjoyed my courses in math and business as well, and I know that in my career I’m going to have a lot more exposure to those subjects. The science and sustainability classes have been my favorite since I know I won’t have as many opportunities to study them after college.
Looking forward, if the company that I work for has any opportunities to participate in sustainability initiatives, having some sort of involvement in that would be really great.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
In actuarial science, the exam process is very demanding for obvious reasons. I think the most challenging thing for me is being able to set and stick to study plans for the exams. It’s kind of difficult to focus on studying when you know your exam is months away, but it’s really important because each exam contains so much material.
Being able to understand and complete problems quickly is really key to passing the exams. Sticking to the study schedule is really important so that you can learn all the material and have time to practice completing the problems quickly.
What are the latest developments or trends in insurance?
I think one of the biggest trends right now is data analytics. Data technologies is one of my minors because I know how important it is for the insurance industry right now. Data is a huge trend in all of business, but it’s going to greatly impact the insurance industry because the ability to gather and analyze huge amounts of data can provide valuable insights for insurance companies.
Data is a huge trend in all of business, but it’s going to greatly impact the insurance industry because the ability to gather and analyze huge amounts of data can provide valuable insights for insurance companies.
Data analytics can also save a lot of time instead of manually analyzing quantitative data. By adopting this technology, actuaries will have more time to interpret data to produce qualitative results and make business decisions. The trend of big data is not going to go away—it’s just going to keep growing. Being able to understand and analyze data is really important in actuarial science.
From classes, I’ve learned a lot about how to work with Excel and Access. I’m also in a class where I’m learning R, and I’m signed up for a class to learn Python. There are many different tools for actuaries I’ve been exposed to at Bentley. I’ve also learned how to use the results from these programs to analyze data and make decisions.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
Next year after graduation, I’m returning to John Hancock, where I did my internship, for a full-time job. My career aspirations are to become an actuary and complete all the exams and requirements to receive the Fellow of the Society of Actuaries designation. In the future, I’d love to be a business leader in the company and be able to make a positive impact on both the company and the people that I work with.
What advice would you give someone interested in the insurance field?
One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to ask as many questions as you can and talk to as many people in the field as you can. If you are unsure if actuarial science is the right field for you, talking to many people is a really easy way to learn from people who were in your shoes at one point. Hearing about the real-life experiences and knowledge of professionals or recent graduates can be very valuable.