Written by Charlie Jin:
I started actuarial science at 25 years old. It was June of 2012 when I decided to re-enroll at the University of Texas (where I had gone a few years back). I’ve always been uncertain about what I wanted to do, and in my younger years I seemed to have been disinterested in most of the options available and could not find much meaning behind even being in college in the first place (during 18-22 years old). You could have called me a…. weird kid.
However, I did have a major transformation at age 24, and it was actually my mother who recommended actuarial science. But…she has always said I’m not anything special in Math, and she stuck with that thought until my mid-20s. However, never close the book on anything! I seem to find actuarial science interesting. I always consider all possible scenarios when presented with practical problems, and I realized actuaries have to deal a lot with those. On exam P, there certainly was no shortage of those types of problems. I like to think about what I learned from actuarial books and consider how it applies to a practical circumstance, and that is where I find some of the material interesting.
However, at 25 years old, I had to begin actuarial science on page 1 by taking my first course: Probability 1. I had a long way to go, didn’t I? And at that age, there is a need to get things done fast. I dropped Probability that semester. In the Fall semester, I got a C- in it. I also got a D in Theory of Interest. On paper, it seemed like I was making very, very slow improvements, not very good for someone who was 25 and had to start all over again. I even left UTEXAS after that semester (again) partly because the classes moved too fast (a decision I did not regret), and tried my hand at self-studying. I took Exam P 4 times, and Exam FM 5 times. Yes, it took me a combined 9 total times to finally pass Probability in March of 2014 and Financial Mathematics in June of 2014. I seemed to have hit my peak around that period.
Maybe that looked like a sad academic history, but…. I’ve discovered that with studying for actuarial exams, there is always a slow processing/beginning period, then right after that comes a period of a strong upward climb and then finally…a peak. And always believe that those will be the 3 phases of each exam. With that mentality, you will develop a stronger will to power yourself through the exams. Your mind will tell you many times that this is too hard, and it will always feel the need to convince you to put it off and wait for another day. Studying will take a lot out of you and your mind will often get cramps. Pick yourself up and try again!
You will run into many things that are outside your comfort zone, but you have to make your un-comfort zone your comfort zone and that won’t be just one time. You CANNOT give up. It is easier to give up, but that is the one way you’re guaranteeing yourself that you will never succeed. Because everything takes work, that is the reality, difficult tasks cannot be done without work. However, I do believe it gets easier after the initial 2 exams.The exam content increases in difficulty, but your ability to handle the difficulties also increases. That makes your studying easier, but more importantly, you develop a stronger belief that you will pass later exams. I now move forward, attempting to begin my next task on the road to becoming an actuary.