Schuyler Call is a senior at Towson University in Towson, Maryland, where he is majoring in Mathematics with a concentration in Actuarial Science and Risk Management. Schuyler will be president of the Actuarial Science and Risk Management Club at Towson next school year, and he is interning this summer at Transamerica in downtown Baltimore. We spoke with Schuyler in May 2019.
Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.
I am an Eagle Scout, and I worked at a Boy Scout camp for five summers, and that was a very wonderful experience. That’s something that has fallen off my resume but is something that I still consider a proud achievement.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose Towson?
I applied to a total of nine colleges and universities. All but one of them were schools with at least the Universities and Colleges with Actuarial Programs designation by the Society of Actuaries, and the only one that wasn’t was the University of Maryland at College Park.
One of the best feelings I’ve had in college so far was every single time I pass an actuarial exam. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that your hundreds of hours spent studying has really paid off.
I chose Towson because I heavily valued the quality of their actuarial program. I had it narrowed down between Towson and Robert Morris University because those were the two Centers of Actuarial Excellence as designated by the SOA. When it really came down to it, the in-state tuition cost was a big selling point for me. The two main factors for me choosing Towson were the very strong actuarial program, the fact that it’s considered a Center of Actuarial Excellence by the SOA, and the in-state cost.
What influenced you to pursue an actuarial science program?
Early in my junior year of high school, when your counselors and academic advisors are encouraging you to start looking at schools for further education, one of the big things that I was thinking about was, “What do I want to do after school? What do I want to do with a degree that I might want?” Because I could spend a year-and-a-half in school and just take a bunch of gen-ED or required classes and still not really know what I want to do.
I wasn’t too thrilled about going into a university with that much uncertainty, so I decided to do some research on programs that were heavily embedded in math. I was always a math person. I used the Internet a lot as a resource to research potential options for me in the math field, and of course, the actuarial career was something that came up.
It turned out we actually had a family friend who worked at a company called Voya Financial, located in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He was able to schedule a morning where I could go to work with him, and I would be able to speak with actuaries at different levels in the company. He was helpful enough to give me that opportunity. I went to work with him one day, and I was able to speak with some people, and I was able to gauge what they do on a day-to-day basis, what their continuing education is like with studying for exams, and what they did in college in order to land an actuarial position. It was after that, that I realized, I could see myself doing this for 30, 35, even more years after that.
Why should other students consider a focus in actuarial science?
I enjoy the program because it’s very regimented, and it’s very rewarding. You know exactly the skills and qualifications that you need in order to advance your career.
One of the best feelings I’ve had in college so far was every single time I pass an actuarial exam. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that your hundreds of hours spent in class and outside of class studying and learning the material has really paid off and given you a skill that you can use in the career field. I can’t think of many other programs that have this sort of level of a reward for your hard work.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
I thoroughly enjoy the classes that I’m taking, and it’s heavily due to the professors and how dedicated they are. They gear the material in their classes to the content and difficulty of actuarial exams. For newer students who are just taking one of the preliminary exams, it helps them gauge the level of difficulty for these exams and the amount of work and preparation necessary in order to succeed.
I especially have to praise the head of the actuarial science department at Towson. She goes well out of her way to make sure that she knows almost all the students in the actuarial department and that they’re meeting graduation requirements. She really motivates them to pass their exams. For the classes she teaches, she has extra study sessions outside of her office hours in her class that she hosts, and she’s not the only professor that does that for her classes.
Almost every professor who teaches an actuarial class takes time outside of their regularly scheduled office hours and outside of class time to host study sessions for these classes. As someone who frequently attended these sessions, I can say that over-the-top level of dedication to their students is something that I can really respect, and it’s something that really helped me pass all of the exams that I’ve passed thus far. Without their help and support, I wouldn’t be nearly as advanced as I am now. Because of their hard work and dedication, I have nothing but praise for the actuarial science program and the faculty in it.
Next semester, I’m going to become the president of the Actuarial Science and Risk Management Club at Towson, which is more of a career-development-based club. Every month, we typically invite someone from the insurance industry to come to Towson and give a talk about what they do, what their career is like, and how they got to this point in their career. They give us advice on how to pursue our goals in the actuarial field.
These talks have been very useful for me. When I was interviewing for internships for this summer, I was interviewing with some P&C companies, and I had never considered that before someone from a P&C company came in to give us a talk. These talks really broaden the horizons of a lot of students, and a lot of times they often plug their own companies for job openings or internship openings, which is also useful for students.
Have you had any insurance-related internships? If so, how was your experience?
I had an internship last summer that wasn’t an actuarial or insurance-based role. I did more of a data analytics, data science, and data mining type of internship. I turned down a potential opportunity to work for a government health insurance company, but with the syllabus change with predictive analytics and statistics and risk modeling being extremely important, I wanted to learn more about the data science part of the actuarial industry. Even though it wasn’t specifically in the actuarial industry, I wanted to learn a lot more about data science. I had an opportunity that summer to use RStudio, so that was a big pulling factor for me.
This summer, I have an insurance internship lined up. I’m working at Transamerica in downtown Baltimore. They’re a life insurance company, and they have very good relations with Towson and Towson students.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
Towson has a class that they call Theory of Interest. It’s geared towards the material in the Financial Mathematics exam through the SOA and CAS. It’s been my favorite class because it was the most useful for me. The class basically set the foundation for my study habits and for moving forward and studying for exams. FM was the first exam I ever took, and I was able to pass it on the first try, and that was because of the professor going out of his way to hold study sessions for us outside of his office hours.
It was a two-hour class, and the professor would stay an hour after class with us to go over sample exam questions. He would spend four hours on a Sunday for any students who were willing to come to his study sessions. That’s the level of dedication that he had for his students. His class was extremely rigorous, and he was able to help myself, as well as two other peers, pass the FM exam on our first try. That really set the foundation for how I study and my work ethic moving forward for all the other classes I take and all the other exams I’m going to look forward to take.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
I wish I would’ve known the time commitment that I would need to put in. I was very overwhelmed when I took that Theory of Interest class, at first. I did not do well at all on the first exam because I had no clue the amount of time, effort, and dedication it took to perform well at a level that is required for professional development and to pass these professional exams.
I realized you have to have a lot of dedication to your career and to your degree. You have to have a very good sense of organization, and that mostly is in regard to your schedule. You need to learn how to budget your time. You need to learn how to prioritize what’s important.
Sometimes, I may not be able to go out on a weekend, and it’s okay because I know that I’m putting in the hours to succeed in a class or to study that extra topic for an actuarial exam. It will pay off. If I get a job offer from this summer, it will all be worth it in the end.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
I would love to be hired full time at Transamerica because it’s in a great location, and it has a wonderful actuarial development program that helps new hires and assists them with study materials, paid study time, and all sorts of other resources to help them with their exams. If not Transamerica, I would like to work at another company with a strong actuarial development program for their new hires that really encourages and motivates their new hires to pass their exams.
I would like to get my associateship for the SOA within two years of graduation. After that, maybe I’ll decide to work for another company so I can go into a different aspect of the actuarial field, and then maybe gear my FSA track to the career that I feel would be the most interesting for me.
Hopefully, I’ll get my FSA around four to six years after I get my ASA. And of course, there’s so much more after I get my FSA, but I know that in the end this is where all my studying finally pays off.
What advice would you give someone interested in the insurance field?
There will be times when you may have a setback. I have seen peers fail exams, and they have gotten so demoralized because of all those hundreds of hours of studying that you feel like have gone to nothing. But there have been people that I’ve talked to who have failed more exams than they’ve passed, and they are doing very well in their career.
Don’t get too burned out by minor setbacks. Almost everyone’s going to fail some exams, and it’s how you bounce back from it, not how long you dwell on it. How well you react to failing is what determines a good worker sometimes, to see how they react to adversity, instead of just having the ideal outcome every single time.
Do you have any favorite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in insurance?
Be An Actuary has a lot of useful information about the actuarial career. It gives you a very broad overview, whereas the SOA and CAS websites are geared towards their paths and their educational programs. But all three of those sites were very instrumental for me in learning everything that I know about the actuarial field.
There’s another website that has helped me with all of my exams that I’ve studied for, and it’s called Adapt through Coaching Actuaries. If you’ve already gotten into the actuarial field and you’re interested in passing the exams, that’s something that I would recommend for you.