Emma Hayes is a senior at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois, where she is majoring in actuarial science and accounting. Emma is the president of Olivet Nazarene’s Investment Club, and she is also involved in the ONU Tiger Marching Band. We spoke with Emma in June 2021.
Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.
Outside of classes, studying, and work, I spend quite a bit of time with the School of Music at Olivet. I play the snare drum in our marching band, and I sing and tour with our university choir.
What has your experience at Olivet Nazarene University been like?
Olivet has a very uplifting atmosphere and a close-knit group of students. One of the best things about my experience and the reason I wanted to attend a small school is the ability to make connections. I have been able to establish great relationships with peers, professors, and other instructors and advisors that have allowed me to gain wonderful experiences outside of the classroom.
Even if you do not want a career as an actuary, an actuarial science major will challenge you in ways that a mathematics or business-related major will not.
As I mentioned, I am involved in the marching band where I serve as the drumline captain and I play the snare drum. I love being a part of the marching band because it enables me to get to know so many other students from various academic disciplines, and it has also allowed me to become close friends with people outside of my graduating class.
I also sing in our university choir, which is called Orpheus choir. We tour at various churches in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and we also sing at many university functions.
Lastly, I have been a member of Olivet’s Investment Club for the past three years, and I have the honor of being the club’s president this upcoming year. We manage a portfolio of real money. This portfolio contains a student engagement fund and a scholarship fund. This experience has taught me a lot about equity securities and how to research and pitch stock picks.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose Olivet Nazarene?
By my senior year of high school, I had only applied to private schools in Illinois with the exception of one Christian university in Michigan. I chose Olivet because it really was the best fit for me as it had all of the things that I was looking for in a University: my program of study, Christian atmosphere, marching band, a reasonable distance from my hometown, and I saved a lot of money by going here.
What influenced you to pursue an actuarial science program?
I have always loved numbers, and early on in high school, I realized that my niche would be in the business world and not in STEM, education, or healthcare. I actually began my college career as a finance major, but I quickly realized that I wanted to study something more challenging and with a higher degree of focus on mathematics.
I first heard about actuarial science from my mother and had considered studying actuarial science before. Actuarial science seemed like an area where I could use my passion for finance and economics while sharpening my mathematics and analysis skills.
Why should other students consider a focus in actuarial science?
You will hear over and over again that a career as an actuary is a great option. Even if you do not want a career as an actuary, an actuarial science major will challenge you in ways that a mathematics or business-related major will not. When you study actuarial science, you will become an excellent problem-solver and more analytically minded. It’s a great addition to other majors, but know that you have to really enjoy math to pursue this option.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
Olivet has a small but very closely-knit mathematics department. Over the past few years, the department has drastically changed the mathematics and business curriculum to design an actuarial science program that allows its students to pass exams and meet VEE requirements. I have been able to take two math courses specifically designed to help me pass SOA Exams P and FM.
Also, the mathematics faculty are great at helping students connect with mathematics alumni. I have been able to hear the accounts of many alumni and see which companies they are working for and what paths they took after college.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
I took a number theory and proof course before I declared my actuarial science major. I did not think that I would enjoy this course because its content includes very foundational and pure mathematics, such as the concepts of division and number spaces. Fortunately, this course stretched me and strengthened my critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which I feel helped me later in my actuarial coursework.
What is unique about focusing on actuarial science relative to other majors you could have chosen?
Actuarial science is very focused on one vocational path in one or two very specific industries. You’ll always know what career path to aim towards when you study actuarial science, which gives a sense of direction.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
My experience has been that the actuarial vocation is pretty difficult to get in to. I personally do not have the connections that many other students have to help them get jobs and internship experience. Also, this field of study takes a lot of discipline and perseverance. Being a math major is extremely time consuming, but very rewarding. And studying for exams is not a task to be taken lightly.
One thing that I wish I had known ahead of time is that I could have begun taking my exams sooner than I did. I assumed that I needed to go through certain coursework to sit for the first two exams, but that really was not necessary. I began studying this past year when I likely could have begun before or during my freshman year of college.
What are the latest developments or trends in insurance that are of interest to you?
I am very interested to see if and how insurance will change with the rise in the popularity of universal healthcare.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
When I graduate college, I plan on starting my career in accounting. As of right now, I do not think that I will have the qualifications to be hired into an entry-level actuarial position once I graduate college because I have not attempted the exams yet, despite studying for them. I would really like to shadow an actuary or have an actuarial internship before I decide to invest in the career path. I hope to start working in this field or a related field and make my judgements about my career path as I move forward.
Do you have any favorite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in insurance?
Actuarial Exam Tactics by Mike Jennings and Roy Ju is a great resource for a student who is going to begin studying for exams. It has many insightful tips on how to study for the exams, and it is a short read.
» If you liked Emma’s interview, check out our other actuarial science student interviews.