Our experiences, insights and advice on our path to UC Davis
(Editor’s note: Master of Professional Accountancy (MPAc) students Winnie Zhang and Yifan Zou recently sat down to reflect on their experiences applying and joining the UC Davis Graduate School of Management community. Their conversation provides valuable advice for prospective students considering an MPAc degree. Zhang and Zou have volunteered to serve as MPAc Student Ambassadors for the 2022-23 academic year.)
What advice can you give to individuals exploring graduate degree programs? Why did you choose MPAc?
Winnie Zhang: Begin the research and know your goals as earlier as possible. During my sophomore year of college, I spoke to a counselor regarding my career path. Immediately, I knew I wanted to pursue a CPA license and obtaining a master’s in accounting would be my ideal way to meet the CPA licensure education requirements.
I choose the MPAc program because UC Davis has always been one of my favorite schools. After browsing through every section of the MPAc website, and the MPAc Instagram, I knew that this program had everything I wanted.
You work closely with the career development team to prepare for a career in accounting, including preparation for an exclusive Meet the Firms opportunity early in the program that is only available for UC Davis MPAc students. The program is constructed with a small class size, which gives me more opportunities to interact with classmates and get more personal attention from professors. At that moment, I knew this program was the right fit for me.
How did you approach writing your application Personal Statement? How did you go about strengthening your UC Davis MPAc application?
WZ: When I built my personal statement, I wrote multiple drafts before it went into the final editing stage. I also listed a few questions about how to improve the personal statements, and I asked my friend and a professor to read over it to learn what else I was able to improve from that feedback.
Yifan Zou: First, I wrote more about my previous internship experience and extracurricular activities, in addition to my coursework at school. I knew that for graduate students, it is not only important to focus on the technical skills that I learned in school, and I want to show how well I understood the accounting program and why I am a good fit as an MPAc candidate. This requires a lot of research and repeatedly sifting through the experiences that match your own experience. Another critical point was to consider your potential contributions to the MPAc program and as your relationship with the MPAc program must be complementary and mutually fulfilling.
What was your timeline/process for applying?
WZ: Because I had researched the program thoroughly a year before I started on my application, I was able to submit my application during the first round.
Key steps I recommend that prospective students take are:
Step 1: Fill in all the required information, and read carefully to ensure the accuracy of your information. From there, you will be able to complete all the necessary documents step by step.
Step 2: Ask for recommendation letters from professors that you have built a strong relationship. You could ask in person or send them an email. Make sure you are showing your passion, your insights from taking their classes, and the reason why they should be the best fit to write your letter of recommendation. Lastly, attach your personal statement, resume, and unofficial school transcripts for your recommender.
Step 3: Schedule your GRE/GMAT test, or complete the GRE/GMAT waiver if you have a GPA of 3.2 or above and have completed undergraduate studies at a domestic institution.
How did you prepare for your MPAc interview?
YZ: Be sure to know yourself well before preparing for an interview. Understand and be able to articulate your strengths and weaknesses, and also understand your abilities and expectations for the future.
In preparing for the graduate school interview, you must focus on why you chose the program, why this school, and why you are a good fit for the school. In my preparation, I looked up a lot of online interview questions. I practiced in front of the mirror many times to make sure I would be able to present myself best in the interview.
WZ: Be confident and show the interviewer your best smiles! Be conversational with the interviewer and share something that makes you unique and memorable for them to remember you. For example, your interest and hobbies could make them curious about you!
How did you handle the anxiety and juggling of priorities while applying to graduate school?
WZ: I do understand the anxiety during the time when it gets close to graduation from undergraduate and preparing for graduate school. And it is normal to feel anxious and full of self-doubt. But tell yourself not to give up believing in yourself. Remember, the cream always rises to the top, and hard work pays off. The temporarily stressful time will be worth it all when you receive a verbal offer from admissions.
YZ: I would spend a lot of time watching movies at that time; movies could make me forget my worries for a while. Most of the movies I chose were war or historical documentaries, and I learned a lot about history. In the process of watching movies, the characters in them are very inspiring which makes me feel that the challenge for me today is nothing compared to them.