Hi! I am thinking about applying to a MAcc program for the fall (most likely Penn State or William and Mary) and have some questions about the recruiting process for big 4. I've heard that most of the recruiting starts right away in the fall, is this true?
I guess my main concern, if recruiting does start in the fall, is that my undergrad GPA was kind of low (3.3). If big 4 firms start recruiting in the fall, I wouldn't have any official MAcc grades to report yet.. so my resume would most likely still list my undergrad 3.3. Would this be a problem?
Or would firms understand if I tell them that half way through the semester I have excellent grades in my MAcc program etc... which figures would they place more weight on? Is the undergrad GPA even relevant at all to big 4 firms once you are enrolled in a MAcc program?
The other option I was considering was to enroll in a program and wait until the end of 1st semester (once I've registered some grades) to even try for big 4. Would this be feasible? Do others try this?
I know this is a lot, but I'm really trying to decide if getting a Masters in Accounting would be worth the cost if I don't have a good chance at a big 4 position. If anyone has any information or input, about my questions or the recruiting process in general, I would love to hear it. All of your help is appreciated! Thank you.
Hopefully I'm not too late on this -
I graduated from William & Mary's Macc program in 2010. I was in even worse shape than you - my undergrad GPA was 2.9. I was able to land a job with one of the Big 4 in DC, and I now work with one of the other Big 4 firms in Brazil (I wanted a transfer - my original firm was slow to make it happen, so I was able to land an offer with another one of the Big 4).
My overall advice is to not sweat the GPA. In the grand scheme of things, recruiting is a people-driven process, and grades are secondary. Your goal needs to be to make a great impression on everybody you meet down there: your teachers, other students, and especially the recruiters. At the end of the day, the recruiters want to give offers to people that they like. When talking to recruiters, the less time you spend talking about school, grades, work, and other boring stuff, the better you are probably doing.
In terms of how recruiting works, it is my suspicion that the process starts as soon as you walk in the door. I believe that the recruiters (who are typically former students) maintain contact with the professors there, and when push comes to shove they take the advice of the professors with respect to who is qualified and who is not. So your first goal is to make sure that you show up to class every day prepared not just to survive, but to impress. That means doing your reading and HW assignments the night before they are due, so that when your teacher discusses them in class you have already thought out your answers, and your only questions are for more nuanced parts of the material.
Additionally, one of the hallmarks of the program is that during the second module of the semester, the faculty will invite actual EY, Deloitte, KPMG, and PWC managers, senior managers, and partners to give weekly presentations on areas in which they are subject matter experts. Again, don't treat this as just another class. This is an opportunity to ask nuanced questions that show that you understand how this stuff actually works. Some of the guys giving the presentation will be the same ones giving input into the hiring decisions. These sessions go hand-in-hand with impressing your teachers (as mentioned in the previous paragraph) - if you're asking good questions in class, and taking a strong, well-supported stance in debates with the teacher, the teacher will possibly point you out during these sessions and give you an opportunity to present your arguments to the subject matter experts. That's when you really stand out - it's an implicit endorsement from your teacher.
As for the official recruiting process, it starts in September with a job fair where all of the major and minor public accounting firms from DC, Richmond, Norfolk, etc. send their recruiters to talk with students in the Macc program. This is a great opportunity to put yourself on the recruiters' radars. These guys are generally extremely extroverted people who have no problem remembering huge lists of people, so don't worry if you only get a chance to talk for 5 minutes or so. They will remember you. And remember - while some talk about work and school is inevitable, the real goal is for them to get to know you as a person.
In early October, the interview process starts. You'll submit your resume through W&M's online portal, and the employers will either accept or reject you for an interview. You do the interviews on campus. Supposing you make it to the next step, you will be contacted anywhere from several hours to several weeks after the interview, notifying you that they'd like to bring you to their office for the final round of interviews. That typically occurs towards the end of October to mid November (I have heard that the earlier you go, the better). Finally, you'll pretty much know whether or not you got an offer by Thanksgiving.
In my opinion, William & Mary was fantastic. If you have any more questions, let me know.
In terms of final placement numbers, if I had to guess it would be something like the following (based on memory - don't hold me to this):
80 total people
~25 were W&M undergrad accounting majors who already had internships with the Big 4 (and therefore basically were guaranteed full-time offers)
~25 other people (most of whom were not accounting undergrads) got full-time offers with the Big 4 (mainly EY and PWC DC)
~25 other people got full-time offers with non-Big 4 public accounting firms
~5 people got full-time offers in industry/government