Kristina Olenick is a junior at the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Connecticut. She is majoring in Mathematics with a minor in Actuarial Science and is expecting to graduate in December 2019. Kristina is president of the Actuarial Science Club and will be interning this summer with Aetna. We spoke with Kristina in April 2019.
What has your experience at the University of Hartford been like?
I have loved it so far. I’ve made a lot of really close, lifelong friends, and we’ve had so many fun experiences together. With the location of the university in West Hartford Center, there’s so much to do downtown. It’s just a lot of fun on nights and weekends, walking around downtown Hartford, grabbing dinner, and going shopping. Overall, I’ve made some really great memories, and I’m really grateful for that.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose UHart?
My top three schools were UHart, Bryant University, and the University of Connecticut. I’m originally from Connecticut, and I think the biggest driving factor for choosing Uhart was both its size and its location.
I went to a really small high school, and I graduated with only about 90 kids. I didn’t want to go to a huge college because I didn’t want to get lost in the crowd or be overwhelmed by the size of the school. I also didn’t want to go to a small school because I had already experienced that in high school. Hartford is right in the middle as a medium-sized university.
UHart’s location was also important. I knew I was going into college to study actuarial science, and UHart is right in downtown Hartford so it’s really close to the industry I wanted to work in.
What influenced you to pursue an actuarial science program?
Math has always been my favorite subject in school, but I never really thought anything of studying it past high school because I, like everyone else when I tell them I’m a math major, assumed that the only thing you could do with a math degree is teach. I definitely did not want to teach.
I thought about exploring the business world, but I wasn’t entirely sure which avenue I should take. One of my dad’s friends was an actuary at the time, and she suggested I look into the career. She encouraged me to research it, and she thought it would be a good fit for me. After doing a lot of research and talking to my teachers in school, I decided actuarial science was definitely going to be the path that I would pursue.
What is unique about focusing on actuarial science relative to other majors you could have chosen?
I really like that actuarial science is still a business field, but it’s also very heavily math-based. A lot of business industries and majors involve math, but they don’t involve much advanced math like calculus. At UHart, what really interested me about the major and minor that I’m doing is the fact that I could take advanced math classes, which I really enjoy, but also get the business aspect as well.
If you’re math-minded and business is also something that you feel you could be interested in, then actuarial science is definitely a good field to go into, especially with the way the field is headed and its future growth.
Why should other students consider a focus in actuarial science?
If you’re math-minded and business is also something that you feel you could be interested in, then actuarial science is definitely a good field to go into, especially with the way the field is headed and its future growth. Actuarial science has a lot of opportunities, and a lot of companies are taking advantage of this field and looking for students who are looking into this field early.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
It’s been really good. The actuarial science program here is relatively small, which has its ups and downs. It’s nice because it’s so intimate, and I have a really close relationship with the advisor of the Actuarial Science Club. The club puts on a lot of events that support students who are pursuing or looking into pursuing the actuarial science minor.
I’m actually president of the Actuarial Science Club, and we organize a lot of events and activities to provide exam support and bring in industry leaders and professionals to come talk with students. The club provides a really good networking base for students looking to go into the field, as well as a lot of great exam prep.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
Probability Theory has been one of my favorites so far. I really like calculus, and I’ve really liked all the calculus classes I’ve taken. I know that makes me sound nerdy, but I just really like the math behind calculus, and I think that translated over into me enjoying Probability Theory because that class starts to bridge the gap between the business world and the math world.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
I think the biggest challenge in studying actuarial science is the actuarial exams. I’ve never been much of a studier in school. I never really studied too much for tests, and I would put off studying and just look over my notes at the last minute. So when I started taking actuarial exams, I had to not only teach myself the material, but also teach myself how to study it, which was definitely one of the hardest things for me.
It was hard because I was doing so many things all at once. I had to figure out what worked for me, and I had to keep studying in a timely manner so I could get all of the information down before my exam. I think I would have preferred to know that sooner so I could have started teaching myself how to study sooner, before having to dive into something as heavy as the actuarial exams.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
I have an actuarial internship coming up this summer with Aetna. I’m stationed in the Overland Park office in Kansas, which will be interesting because I’ve been local to Connecticut my whole life. I’m excited for that.
My big goal is to have a job in actuarial science upon graduation, so hopefully this internship works out well for me, and I can get something to come out of that.
Aside from jobs, I would like to have all of my actuarial exams passed in the next six to seven years, at most. I like to consider myself a pretty driven and motivated person, and once I finish school, finishing my exams is going to be my next step and next big driving force.
What are the latest developments or trends in insurance?
Considering the fact that my internship is with Aetna this summer, and throughout college I’ve worked at CVS Pharmacy, the merger between Aetna and CVS has been something that I followed a lot. I’m really excited to see what those two companies can do together to help further improve the healthcare industry and provide healthcare that’s accessible to everyone.
What advice would you give someone interested in the insurance field?
If you’re looking to get into actuarial science, you should definitely be comfortable with math. Math is going to be a huge part of what you’re doing, especially with the beginning exams, so you’ve got to make sure you’re okay with that.
You should also make sure you know yourself well and are disciplined enough to be able to sit down and study for all of the actuarial exams, because they’re not a joke. These exams are harder than any tests I’ve taken before, so being able to know the best way for you to study is really important.
Do you have any favorite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in insurance?
For exam preparation and studying materials, I live on the SOA website. I also follow not only the SOA account, but also a number of different insurance companies on LinkedIn. I find myself just scrolling through and reading the latest posts all the time because it has such new information about advancements in the field, accomplishments that are happening in actuarial science, and the latest industry news.