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AICPA Accounting Competition Challenges Undergraduates

I’m a pretty competitive person. Whether it’s pickup soccer, playing against my friends in our fantasy football league, or a game of Yahtzee with my wife – I enjoy the thrill of competition. The process of giving it my all is one of the things that keeps me motivated in both my professional and personal lives.

In the spirit of competition, the American Institute of CPAs recently announced the opening of the 6th annual AICPA Accounting Competition. This year, the AICPA is challenging undergraduate students to think like management accountants as they help a business hone its strategic plan. This means students will be analyzing complex financial issues and business operations in the context of the market environment and recommending strategies for growth and sustained success.

The competition has a number of different steps. Fifteen teams will be selected from the first-round submissions as the semi-finalists for the competition. The top three teams will each earn $10,000 as well as an opportunity to present their cases to an executive panel of judges at the AICPA’s offices in North Carolina. Faculty advisors will accompany their teams to support them as they present. The teams will compete for a first place prize of $5,000, a second place prize of $3,000 or a third place prize of $2,000 to be awarded to their schools.


With the deadline for first-round submissions coming up soon (2:59 pm ET on September 28), I sat down with AICPA’s Erin Carson, Manager of Student Recruitment and Engagement, for more details on the competition and what students need to know to put their team in a position to succeed. 

Case Competition Pyramid Infographic-02

James Schiavone: What are some common themes you’ve noticed in successful teams over the past few years?

Erin Carson: Most of the teams that make it to the finals have advisors. An advisor serves as a sounding board and a coach to a team.

We’ve also seen that most successful teams have a team captain with great time management skills. It’s hard to coordinate several busy people’s schedules. But those who are able to figure out a good process for managing their team’s time usually do well in the competition.


JS: Tell me how the AICPA chose management accounting as the topic for this year's competition?

EC: The AICPA chose management accounting as the topic for this year’s competition because we’ve seen that this is an area students are interested in but may not get a lot of exposure to in the classroom. We want the competition to allow students to think critically and apply what they’ve learned in class in a real-world scenario. The management accounting focus of the competition allows students to pull together many different areas of knowledge into one assignment.

JS: How was the case itself developed – it seems like a lot of work?

EC: Each year the case is developed a little differently. This year we worked with our CGMA joint venture partner, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, to adapt a case study they had. We then worked with volunteers to make sure the case would be appropriate for college students.

JS: What tips would you give students on getting started on their initial entry?

EC: The earlier you start, the better. We’ve seen that the more time students have to think about the different possible outcomes for their recommendations, the more successful they will be. Also, make sure you form your team and pick y

JS: Who will be judging the competition?

EC: We have a great panel of judges this year. The first round judges are mostly young CPA volunteers who have participated in the AICPA’s Leadership Academy. The semi-final judges are all members of the AICPA’s Student Recruitment Committee. We’re still working to finalize all the final-round judges, but the chair of the AICPA Board of Directors, Tommye Barie, will be a judge in addition to other high-level CPAs. For a full list of the judges this year, visit https://competition.thiswaytocpa.com/judges.

JS: Anything else you’d like to add?

EC: It’s not always the big schools that make it to the finals or come in 1st place in the competition. We’ve had several really small schools do extremely well in the competition.

More information on the AICPA Accounting Competition is available online.

-James Schiavone, Senior Manager – Public Relations

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