Samantha Shortino is a senior at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey, where she is majoring in Math with a minor in Economics. Samantha is currently president of the Actuarial Science Club on campus, and she spent the last two summers interning at Selective Insurance in Branchville, New Jersey. We spoke with Samantha in February 2020.
Tell us one thing about you that’s not on your resume.
I really love to go river rafting. My aunt and uncle live really close to the Delaware River, so every summer, my entire family goes up to their house, and we spend the entire day rafting down the river.
What has your experience at William Paterson University been like?
My experience at William Paterson has been really great. There are about 11,000 students at this school, which is smaller than some of the other schools in the area. I think there are a lot of great benefits to be at a somewhat smaller school. The math department at William Paterson is also pretty small, which has allowed me to form closer relationships with professors and students, have smaller class sizes, and also be exposed to more opportunities.
Throughout my time at William Paterson, I’ve developed and improved upon so many skills, like technological skills, analytical skills, critical thinking, problem-solving, and many more skills that are transferable to different companies and different jobs as an actuary.
I also live close to campus, so I decided to commute to school. Even though I don’t live on campus, I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything, as the math department is such a closely-knit group. And even though I’ll be graduating soon, I can definitely say that I will miss coming here every day.
What other schools were you considering, and why did you choose William Paterson?
It’s a funny story because my top three schools were actually Rutgers, Seton Hall, and the College of New Jersey. Funny enough, William Paterson wasn’t even on my list of schools that I was going to apply to, but I ended up receiving an application fee waiver in the mail, so my parents insisted that I apply. After I applied to William Paterson, I wound up receiving a full scholarship and acceptance into their Honors College. I visited William Paterson’s campus a few times, and I decided that it was an opportunity I could not pass up. I’m really extremely happy with the decision that I made to come to William Paterson.
What influenced you to pursue actuarial science?
When I was in my junior and senior years of high school, I was beginning to research different colleges and different majors that I could pursue in college. I decided then that I wanted to do something in math because I’ve always had an aptitude for math. But I wasn’t really sure what I could do with it career-wise.
At first, I thought that I should become a math teacher because I love kids, and I love tutoring and teaching. But I did some research to see what other options I had, and I came across actuarial science, which was something that I had actually never heard of before. I began researching the actuarial profession more to see what actuaries do and what types of companies actuaries work for. The profession really stood out to me, so I ended up majoring in math and going down the actuarial path.
What has been your experience with the actuarial science program at your school?
When I first started at William Paterson, there was no actuarial science major. It was still a work in progress, and the school didn’t know when it was going to be completed. I didn’t know if the major would be ready after my first year so that I’d be able to jump right into the major, or if it would take a few years, and I would miss the opportunity of majoring in actuarial science. So, ultimately, I ended up majoring in math and minoring in economics, but I have taken most of the courses within the actuarial science major. They started offering the major in the fall of 2018.
Even though the actuarial science major is still relatively new, and the program is still small, the classes that I’ve taken have really helped me grow and develop as a student. The classes are small, so you really do get that one-on-one time with the professors. And all the professors that I’ve had have been really amazing and really do want to see their students be successful not only in their classes, but also in passing exams throughout the actuarial exam process.
The professors also really emphasize teamwork. They encourage the entire class to work together on homework and study for exams, which is great because we’re able to bounce things off one another and learn from one another. This has really helped me build better relationships and friendships with my classmates.
William Paterson also has the Actuarial Science Club, where I serve as president. Throughout my time being the president, we’ve had multiple guest speakers who are actuaries come in to speak to our club and tell us about job opportunities, internships opportunities, and what it’s like to be an actuary.
What is your favorite class so far and why?
My favorite class so far is Mathematical Models in Finance because it’s one of the more applied math classes that I’ve taken. I found the material to be super interesting because it’s something that I can apply to real-life situations. I think it’s useful for many types of jobs. Also, the class allowed us to use Excel for some of the homework and projects we worked on, which is an extremely important skill to have in any corporate job.
What is unique about focusing on actuarial science relative to other majors you could have chosen?
Something unique about focusing on actuarial science is the number of opportunities that you’re going to have as an actuary. Even though I’m a math major, I have taken most of the course requirements for the actuarial science major, and I feel that I’ve really developed a skill set that will allow me to be successful in a variety of different job areas. Throughout my time at William Paterson, I feel that I’ve developed and improved upon so many skills, like technological skills, analytical skills, critical thinking, problem-solving, and many more skills that are transferable to different companies and different jobs as an actuary.
What has been most challenging about studying actuarial science? Is there anything you wish you would have known ahead of time?
Something that’s been the most challenging for me is how much time it takes to study for the actuarial exams. You can’t expect to pass an exam if you don’t put in the hundreds of hours that are really necessary for learning all of the material. It’s not always easy to balance school and extracurricular activities on top of studying for the exams, but if you’re really committed to putting in the time and effort to pass, eventually you will be successful.
Something that I wish I would have known ahead of time is that my school would have an actuarial degree, and it would be completed before I graduate so that I could’ve ended up majoring in actuarial science. But I think the fact that I have a major in math and minor in economics will still allow me to go down the actuarial path.
Have you had any insurance-related internships? If so, how was your experience?
Over the last two summers, I interned at Selective Insurance, which is a property and casualty insurance company. One of my internships there was in the actuarial personal lines department, and the other internship was in compensation. Throughout my time at Selective, I really enjoyed learning about the insurance industry and the different departments that I worked in. I was able to learn a lot from all the different projects that I worked on.
One important thing that I took out of both of my internships was how important it is to have good Excel skills because that’s really a skill that will benefit you no matter what job you’re in. Selective also had group projects where interns would work on a project together and present in front of the CEO and other company executives. This was a really great experience because we were able to form better relationships with the interns and other people in the company, and we also learned about different departments in the company. I also think that we were able to gain a more well-rounded understanding of the insurance industry, more so than if we had just stayed working in our own individual departments.
What are the latest developments or trends in insurance?
One of the latest developments in insurance that has piqued my interest is the handling of big data. Big data is something that’s too complex for traditional data processing techniques, and big data is also able to influence things like underwriting, pricing, rating, marketing, and much more. There are also so many things that insurers can do with big data, such as accurately underwriting, pricing risk, reducing risk, reducing fraud, and improving customer experience.
What are your future aspirations or career plans?
Right now, I am interested in pursuing a career in actuarial science, but my first goal is to get a job at an insurance company as some sort of analyst. In a few years, one of my major goals is to go back to graduate school to get my master’s degree. Five or ten years down the road, I envision becoming either the manager or vice president of an actuarial department at an insurance company.
Do you have any favorite books, websites, or media that you would recommend for someone interested in insurance?
For someone interested in the actuarial profession, the resources that I use to find out more information are on the SOA and CAS websites. I also like BeAnActuary.org. I’ve been using the ACTEX study manuals to study for the actuarial exams, Actuary Exam Tutor, and Coaching Actuaries. I think all these resources are really great for not only learning about what an actuary is and what to expect when you’re working as an actuary, but also in studying for exams.
» If you liked Samantha’s interview, check out our other actuarial science student interviews.