It is that time of year again; HSC exams are underway in New South Wales, studying seems like a never-ending tunnel, and a genuinely relaxing break from study is long overdue.
Many HSC students may have, at some point of their last year at school, thought “So what’s next?”, “What do I want to achieve in my life?”, “What am I really good at?”, “Do my subject choices matter?”.
But, what most of us have said, and the phrase that is heard a lot is “I have no idea what I will do after high school.” Rarely will someone tell you exactly what you are good at and exactly what your next steps should be for the next decade.
These are questions that students should consider based on their own experiences, likes and dislikes, and discussing with parents, caregivers, teachers and school guidance counsellors. In fact, anyone that has a fulfilling career and can share their journey.
Given the challenging circumstances that HSC students have faced in the last two years with COVID-19 disruptions, guidance is critical to help Year 12 students make well-balanced choices over the next few months.
The following advice has helped me transition from the structured school environment to self-managed university actuarial studies – applicable for all university students – not just actuarial students!
1. Familiarise yourself with concepts early. A good habit to adopt is to start reading content before the university term is well underway. This will strengthen your ability to understand complex ideas and enable you to raise questions early with your tutors and lecturers. Many courses may upload content early. Alternatively, there may be resources and study notes available through student communities and study groups.
2. Actuarial subjects usually occur at defined times and content can pile up ‘exponentially’ if several heavy subjects are undertaken simultaneously. Be informed about your subject choices to schedule efficiently.
3. Learning continues well beyond the high school gates. The classroom is merely a foundation for further knowledge acquisition. Online courses, made more accessible to manage studying through the COVID-19 pandemic, can help you to develop skills in programming, effective communication and report writing. It is in fact an amazing way to boost your knowledge, showcase your capabilities to others, and add value to your academic and professional pursuits.
4. When choosing a major, don’t choose something just because your peers are doing it! Something that lies close to your interests will make for a more enjoyable experience.
5. Try to not get discouraged easily when things get too challenging. Keep your morale high by sharing your ideas and concerns with peers regularly and ask for help – most of your peers have likely been in your shoes before.
Actuarial studies frequently appear at careers fairs, in STEM-related career magazines and university brochures, alongside other STEM studies including business, risk management, science and finance.
Actuarial studies are incredibly versatile[i]; and can be combined with other degrees and majors including commerce, finance, economics, science, advanced mathematics, statistics, information systems, and a new option, computer science[ii]. Actuarial studies can also be studied alongside more unconventional options such as arts, music, engineering and law.
Delving into these options further, finance, commerce and statistics overlap with actuarial concepts and provide deeper knowledge of financial accounting and probability. Other disciplines, such as computer science, are a suitable alternative if you are interested in programming, automating tasks, and solving problems.
Recently, proficiency in programming languages has become highly sought after by employers. Fields like engineering and music are still good choices and may help you make longer term decisions if you are still undecided about career choices.
Actuarial studies are cumulative as many subjects build on concepts and algorithms studied in school. The transition into actuarial studies can be easier for those HSC students who have studied intermediate or higher maths subjects, and science subjects.
Nevertheless, graduating with a degree or major in actuarial studies, irrespective of combination with other fields of study, offers an avenue of learning that can give you a competitive edge, and open several doors of opportunity.
Actuarial studies help students gain knowledge across several functional areas including finance, maths, economics, business management, accounting and data science.
This knowledge is used to predict and assess the long-term impact of financial and managerial decisions, as well as resulting costs for investments and insurance – all which solve real commercial problems and ensure business viability. Valuable skills are learnt through actuarial studies such as problem-solving, communication, team-work, time management, decision-making, and the ability to present complex problems in a non-technical manner.
These skills are highly valued in critical business situations, working to tight deadlines – an area that many HSC students have managed balancing multiple subjects and online learning. As big data and data analysis becomes more needed, actuarial studies that include data analytics are growing in popularity and usefulness.
Actuarial studies, and even broader STEM courses require students to have personal qualities to overcome challenging situations.
Perseverance, showing initiative, being curious about the world, learning independently, and a crucial one – the ability to prioritise! Linking back to time management and decision-making, prioritisation is vital in order to improve the uni-work-life balance; stress and burnout have become more common during the COVID-19 pandemic and being able to balance responsibilities and knowing when to take a break will increase engagement and boost satisfaction in the long run.
All the best for exams and university course selections – I hope that you are looking forward to your long-awaited holiday, and that you find what suits your interests for a fulfilling career.
To find out more about UNSW Business School’s Risk and Actuarial Studies, click here.
To find out more about UNSW Business School’s Information Systems and Technology Management Studies, click here.
To find out more about UNSW Business School, click here.
[i] Accredited universities can be found on the Actuaries Institute, https://www.actuaries.asn.au/becoming-an-actuary/how-to-become-an-actuary/university-courses
[ii] A student can study a single or double degree of their choice, https://www.uac.edu.au/undergraduate/courses/unsw/424350.shtml
This article has been republished with permission, originally published here: https://www.actuaries.digital/2021/11/09/im-thinking-about-studying-stem-so-what-now/