Since graduation season is once again upon us, we thought we’d revisit a time tested favorite question from CPA exam candidates: When should I apply for the CPA exam?
First, find out when your school posts degrees to transcripts and whether or not the state you are applying to requires a degree before you can apply. If you are unsure of your state’s requirements or which state you might qualify in, NASBA has a really handy search tool you can use ($10 for 24 hours of access). Or just check out the website to read up on your state’s requirements. If you need a degree before you can apply, you’re going to need to know how long you’ll be waiting for your school to post it. Don’t apply any earlier as your application will be rejected and you’re out the initial exam fee.
If you’re planning on jumping right in to studying, you can generally apply to sit for the exam right after your degree posts. Remember, at this point you want to have tied up all the loose ends in your life that will keep you from studying; crazy ex-girlfriend, slave-driving boss, roommate drama… you get it. Sweep all that aside and submit your application (and fees!) as soon as you can. Don’t forget, just because they cashed your check does not mean you have been approved to sit so don’t get excited if you see it clear a week after you sent it in. That’s usually the first thing they do since you’re out the fee whether or not you qualify and hey, who doesn’t want money?
Now, should you start studying right away? It depends on how long your state takes to process applications. If you are looking at a 6 – 8 week wait, you may want to hold off on cracking the books, especially if you plan to start with something small like BEC. If you start studying too soon, you run the risk of being denied to sit for the exam and losing precious CPA review time (many programs have expiration dates – always ask!) catching up on units you need to qualify. Don’t invest in a review course until you’re absolutely sure you will be able to start sitting for exams right away. If you come from a quick processing state (usually a search through the CPAnet forums can reveal more detailed information from other candidates in your shoes) and are absolutely certain you meet your state’s requirements, you can start studying as soon as you send in the application.
Congrats to the spring grads and feel free to get in touch if you’ve got any questions about the CPA exam!