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How Should an Academic Zero to Hero Approach Recruiting Season?

Ed. note: Have a question for the career advice brain trust? Email us at

Going Concern,

I’ve been worrying about this for so long, I’m hoping some people in the profession can shed some light on my fears. When I was 18, I was an idiot. I attended a school far away and I literally never attended class. I also never dropped any classes. Needless to say, I flunked out with many Fs on my transcript (almost a full year’s worth). Later on, I went to a community college and remained an idiot. I did the same thing. My GPA was ~0.9.

Fast forward a few years in a new location, and things are a different story. I went to a community college down here and after screwing up yet again in the first term, I had a 4.0 GPA for the remaining 18 classes. I matriculated to a 4 year school (automatic admission in Florida for AA graduates) and continued. My last 64 credits have been straight As, and I have taken some of the hardest accounting classes – including Cost and two Theories.

I am absolutely dreading recruiting. My institution tells me that my “real” GPA consists of the grades I’ve earned at the school – which would make my GPA a 4.0. However, my transcript is going to have my overall GPA of 2.6 on it. To make matters worse, my actual coursework from the newer community college won’t be on the transcript so they won’t even notice much of an admirable grade trend.

I am also not a member of Beta Alpha Psi. To be an accounting major at my school, you need a 3.0 GPA – I was ineligible my first semester. Since I did not have an accounting GPA before last week, I have to submit my application in the next few weeks. I hope their admissions process isn’t so slow that I miss out on any of their opportunities. OCR is next month.

I know this is a scattered story that very few people can relate to. I don’t know what happened in those years and can’t understand it either. If anyone has some direction for me I would be extremely grateful.

Thank you and I love the site. It’s easily my favorite place for shameless mental masturbation when I’m feeling anxious.

– Zero to Hero

Dear Z to H:

Whatever you did to break out of the unfortunate streak of bottom feeding failures in the classroom and get yourself up to a 4.0-GPA-earning level, please tell me. I would like to make it, bottle it, and sell it to the masses.

The way that your college calculates “real” GPAs is standard for the industry; realize that this is absolutely to your advantage. The 4.0 you are currently carrying should be reflected on your résumé. Also on your résumé should be the time you spent at the community college. The time there launched you to where you are now.

Do not be afraid to approach recruiters. That said, I recommend talking to every firm regardless of size. Some might be turned off by your unconventional path to Dean’s List. Be prepared to be honest with the recruiters about your first attempt at college and the years you took off and when you began to right the ship. Honesty is absolutely the best approach here, because come offer time you will need to provide a transcript of your academic history. You want the transcript to be confirmation of your story, not the bombshell. Good luck.

What Is the Most Difficult Sentence to Understand in the Tax Code?

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The IRC is probably the last thing many of you want to think about right now but, yes, I’m going there.

David Foster Wallace’s posthumous novel, “The Pale King“, is set in an IRS office in Peoria, Illinois and you’ll be shocked – SHOCKED! – to learn that the protagonist is fighting extreme boredom at his job. Wallace did extensive research prior to writing his final book including taking accounting classes at Illinois State University and carrying on “lively correspondence with tax lawyers and C.P.A.’s, peppering them with questions about the Tax Reform Act of 1986, compliance studies, I.R.S. office furniture, and an exotic tax shelter called ‘the Silver Butterfly,'” the Times reports.

One of the accountants Wallace corresponded with was Stephen Lacy who wrote this about Section 509(a):

“[L]egendary as the most difficult sentence to understand in the tax code,” adding: “I find that although I can never quite understand what it says, after I read it several times and concentrate, I can actually get into a kind of weird Zen-type meditation high! (Then again sometimes it provokes a profound anxiety attack.)”

“Legendary,” not only because its Mr Lacy’s drug of choice, but because Ronald Reagan quoted this passage back in June of 1986 when he set forth on his divine mission of reforming the tax code. A mission he ultimately achieved and thereby canonizing himself in the hearts and minds of many (can’t you picture the shrine in Grover Norquist’s house?). Anyhoo, here it is, in all its glory:

For purposes of Paragraph (3), an organization described in Paragraph (2) shall be deemed to include an organization described in Section 501(c) (4), (5), or (6) which would be described in Paragraph (2) if it were an organization described in Section 509(a)(3)

Not exactly Stieg Larsson is it? Anyway, if any portion of the code is still haunting your dreams and you feel as though it tops 509(a), you’re invited to exorcise it out now and your conscience will finally be clear.

David Foster Wallace and the Literary Tax Accountant [NYT]

The Two Best Comment Letters Written to the FASB You’ll Ever Read

Last month we told you about how the American Bankers Association encouraged anyone that disagreed with the FASB’s proposed fair value rule to write a letter telling Herz & Co. how much the proposal suind enough to provide a template for said “FASB Blows” correspondence so the anti-fair value crowd could get the gist of what needed to be said.

The ABA did warn, however, that the FASB hates, loathes, DETESTS form letters, so in order to make a valid point, it was advisable to not simple slap your name in the appropriate place but to articular your own special brand of hatred for the FASB.

As you may recall, many ABA groupies did not heed this warning, which no doubt resulted in Bob Herz and the rest of the Norwalk team using the letters to stoke their mid-summer weenie roast bonfire.

As disappointed as the ABA must have been with the lack of originality, we were sent this shining example that has been making the rounds at the Big 4 (or so we’re told). Our guess is that this is more of what the ABA had in mind:


Bravo, James C. Blaine. Bravo. You are most definitely into the brevity thing. You have, presumably, made the ABA proud. But wait, there is a pro-fair value letter worthy of these pages.

Granted, it was written back in May but Brian Cowell is no less passionate than Mr Blaine:


Nicely done, both of you. Everyone take note.

(UPDATE) What Can We Learn From Yesterday’s Quitting Heroes?

While you were sitting at your desk yesterday doing whatever it is you do in August*, countless Americans quit their jobs. Due to the state of our barely-above-stagnant economy, it can be assumed that the majority of those who put in their two weeks actually had another job lined up in the wings.


Neither Steve “I always wanted to use the slide” Slater nor Jenny the Hot Piece of Ass assistant had a job to wake up to this morning yet their stories are the talk of your water cooler. Airport security and Internet privacy issues aside, it’s impossible to deny that Slater and Jenny both quit in style.

We have all been there: at the same job for two, five, ten, maybe twenty years and that moment – clear as the cloudless sky – happens that makes the tiny voice of reason insanity common sense scream I’ve HAD IT with this job.

What were your “I’ve had it!” moments? Have any of your colleagues or friends outside of public accounting ever gone down guns ‘blazing? Would you hire Jenny? Share your stories, tales, and opinions of the mystery passenger** who drove Slater nuts below in the comments.

* – No, seriously – help us out – what do you actually do in August? [Ed. Note: Tax peeps, forgive him, he knows not what he says]

** – Does anyone else want to hear from the moronic passenger that rose from their seat prior to the plane being gated? How shitty does that person feel? My guess is that they are too dense to realize they did anything wrong.

UPDATE: By now, you may or may not be aware that the entire Internet was duped by the “Jenny” quitting tale. We’re completely okay with this, mostly because it’s August and there really isn’t anything else going on.