Filing Your Income Tax Return

In addition to the NFL play-offs in January and the college basketball play-offs in March (aka March Madness), the January to April period is also known as tax season. Tax season is the period when individuals are required to file their taxes with the government to determine whether a refund should be issued by the government (to an individual) or if an individual tax payer needs to pay more tax to the government.

In this post, I will explore a few of the many cost effective options that are available for students. A very good example is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. VITA is a national operation, and most business schools operate a work-site every year, which offers free tax help to people who generally make $55,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. Here at Fisher we do have a VITA work-site administered by the Department of Accounting and MIS. Furthermore, VITA is not only free for students to get their taxes done, it is also a volunteer opportunity for students who want to gain experience in tax preparation.

For international students, another free resource is the Glacier Nonresident Tax Compliance System. This resource allows students to prepare their federal income tax return, Form 1040 NR-EZ, and  Form 8843 for free. This is an excellent free resource because the only thing one needs to do is to print and mail the forms to the IRS.

Finally, for both domestic and international students, the state of Ohio provides  I-File, which allows individuals to file their Ohio state tax returns online in a quick and relatively easy process. In my experience so far, this is unique to Ohio so definitely make use of this platform because filing state tax returns can get a little costly.

Managing the Uncertainties of Life After Fisher

As our time as Fisher students wraps up, our priorities shift more and more toward the next phase of life: the professional career. Be it through an entrepreneurial venture or formal employment, we each have the responsibility to secure a stable future for ourselves and loved ones. This realization, though necessary, often brings stress and anxiety due to the uncertainties of the future.

As time passes, graduation day get closer and fellow classmates secure jobs, the pressure increases causing some to even doubt or question their abilities. For international students who wish to stay in the US to get some work experience, the thought of having to go back home without realizing this goal may cause extreme sadness or even sleepless nights. So how can one effectively manage the responsibility of securing a stable future? How can one overcome the stress or anxiety that might arise as a result of delay or uncertainty?

One of the key solutions to these questions is resilience. As defined by psychologytoday.com:

Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back at least as strong as before. Rather than letting difficulties or failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.

What makes resilience so important is that it helps improve one’s attitude. And attitude is a big factor in achieving goals because a positive attitude usually leads to positive outcomes. Therefore, my encouragement to you current or future Fisher student is that during times when your efforts may seem unfruitful, it is imperative to demonstrate resilience and find the courage to keep on keeping on. Find the courage to continue networking with professionals in your target industries, to continue reaching out to recruiters at your target companies and to continue applying to your target jobs because if you give up, no one is going to do it for you. In other words true failure exists when you stop trying; true failure is when you give up.

 

Buckeye Basketball

Over the past couple of months, the blog posts I wrote have centered around class, class activities, and life in the SMF program from an academic point of view. As a result, for those who’ve been reading or following my posts, it may  seem as if I don’t do anything much outside homework, projects, assignments and attend class- which is somewhat true but not entirely.

Aerial view of the basketball arena

One of my hobbies is basketball, both playing and watching it. And if you are wondering, my favorite players are Lebron James (hopefully I don’t lose any readers) and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

 

What I love about basketball is the intensity of the gram. For 40-48 minutes, pretty much every ounce of muscle in the human body is tested. And on top of that, players need the mental resilience to ignore the body’s plea to give up before the game is over.

About a month, ago I got the opportunity to see our men’s basketball team

Getting some love from Brutus

in action vs. Rutgers. Certainly, the intensity which I love to see in a basketball game did not lack as both teams were hungry to get that W. Despite Rutgers’ sincere attempt to overthrow the Buckeyes in the second half, our boys proved equal to the challenge and managed to maintain the lead and win the game.

Overall, I had a wonderful experience at the Schottenstein Center, especially because this was my first men’s basketball game. I totally recommend this as a leisure activity, but before you leave the arena, be sure to get some love from our mascot, Brutus the Buckeye.

All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy

As many of you know, the Specialized Master of Finance is a 9 month program that allows students to take on a heavy load of elective courses, which is a good thing because as students our main goal is to learn and grow our professional competencies. The danger though, is that one can easily get too wrapped up in the demands of the program, causing one to forget or pay very little attention to other aspects of student life. And without a balanced student life, one’s performance may be negatively affected.

One thing I have truly enjoyed  here at OSU, is the extent to which the campus is endowed with facilities and opportunities to have fun. That is, to develop a balanced student life. As much as I work hard to get stuff done, I also make sure I play hard because all work and no play makes jack a dull boy. One way I do this is by utilizing the recreational facilities here OSU. Six Rec Sports facilities are located conveniently throughout our campus with a wide range of operating hours and amenities. Also, over 90 acres of outdoor facility space stretch across campus.

RPAC Aquatic Center

 

ARC soccer

One thing I love about the recreational facilities on campus is that most sports and activities are catered for. For those who like squash, there are many courts to play squash, for those who like to run- you can do so indoor or outdoor, and even for those who like adventure activities such as wall climbing- there is a facility for that as well. My personal favorites are basketball and soccer. I played both sports in high schools and have had the opportunity to compete in intramural competitions here at OSU.

Finally, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with various people from other colleges and departments through recreational activities, which has helped enhance my experience here at OSU. With this in mind, I highly encourage all current and future OSU students to get out and have some fun at the rec centers we have on campus- it’s worth it!

Financial Software Training

One of the unique aspects of the SMF program is the extent we utilize various software applications to advance our professional competencies. With the rise of artificial intelligence and data analytics, being proficient  with different software applications has become a must in the corporate world.

For example, I had an interview with three different people from the same company, and each of them emphasized that their company is seeking students who have had a significant amount of exposure to software applications other than Microsoft Excel. Luckily for me, my time in the SMF had provided me enough exposure to unique software applications that I could confidently bring up in the interview.

Two of the software applications that I have enjoyed learning and using the most are Statistical Analysis System (SAS) and the Bloomberg Terminal.

The Bloomberg Terminal is used extensively in investment management firms, in sales and trading and in financial markets. It provides access to more than 15,000 indices and 100+ metrics, coverage of 45,000+ companies in 108 countries, as well as 2,800 fundamental data items and financial ratios. Bloomberg news offers more than 5,000 original news stories each day from 30,000+ aggregated news sources with coverage from 146 bureaus in 72 countries.

At Fisher, we use the Terminal throughout the duration of the program to conduct research on investment funds, stock performance, bond prices and many more.

Bloomberg-Terminal

SAS is a widely used tool for data management and business analytics, including statistical and econometric analysis, and has strong capabilities with large data sets, such as those used in quantitative investments and risk management.

This program affords students the opportunity to develop coding skills in a relatively easy to understand environment. We use SAS in our Data Analysis class offered during the autumn semester, with the opportunity to dive deeper into the program by registering for the Financial Statement Analysis course offered during the spring semester.

SAS Log & Editor windows
SAS results window

In conclusion, with the trend toward heavy use of artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics, the Fisher SMF curriculum offers students ample exposure to some of the leading and most widely used software platforms, which allows students to be better prepared for post graduation roles.

Lessons From the Second Session

At the end of the first session, I wrote a post about two things that I learned during the first session. I shared them with you because I believe they are important for you to learn and expect if you are admitted into the program. In this post, I want to share one more important lesson from the second session.

The Importance of Teamwork

The importance of teamwork cannot be overemphasized for many reasons. One big reason being the fact that every organization relies on teams and groups of people collaborating together to accomplish goals and drive results. As a result, the SMF program is structured in a way that simulates real life experiences as most of our assignments are team-based assignments.

For this reason, it is important for current and future SMF students to develop teamwork skills. That is, the ability to effectively cooperate with others in a manner that leads to the actualization of the desired goal. There are many teamwork skills that team members can employ to be effective teammates. These include communicating well with others, contributing equally to discussions, completing agreed upon tasks e.t.c. But, there’s one skill I would like to focus on in this post: the importance of striking a healthy balance between virtual meetings and in-person meetings.

In my own experiences in this program, our team has achieved success by striking a healthy balance between meeting virtually and meeting in person. I believe as tech savvy as our generation is, we are susceptible to overly relying on virtual platforms to plan how we will conduct and finish projects.  But  we ignore the adverse effects of relying on virtual platforms, such as misunderstanding each other and failure to promote the development of deep interpersonal relationships. Therefore, my biggest encouragement to future SMF students is to strive to balance between meeting in person and meeting virtually. This will enhance team performance because it promotes clearer communication between team members and promotes the development of deep interpersonal relationships between team members.

Our team before the core capstone project presentation #greatestteammatesever

Tips On the Video Interview

As an applicant to the Fisher College of Business, the final piece you will submit is the video interview. To complete the interview, the platform will require you to submit three or four video responses and one written response. Also, the platform affords students the opportunity to respond to some practice questions before starting the recorded interview.

The best way to approach the video interview is to view it as an excellent opportunity for you to add character to your application. By this, I mean try your best not to be nervous or feel overwhelmed by this process because this is an area were you can really shine and create a lasting impression. Two tips for you to remember as you tackle this task are to practice and to express yourself with confidence.

Practicing allows you to familiarize yourself with the types of questions you will encounter in the actual interview. As you practice, assess your rate of speech. You want to make sure you can get your main point across within the allotted time, while avoiding the pitfall of speaking too fast so that you only use, for example, 10 seconds out of the 45 seconds available for you. Also, check were you look as the video is being recorded. This is important because you don’t want to appear as someone who is reading a response. Rather, you want to appear engaged and interested in the task at hand.

Another element that will help you excel in this interview is confidence. When it comes to confidence, I encourage you to imagine yourself as the reviewer of your interview. Would you trust or believe a candidate who is shy and seems unsure about the responses the candidate is giving? The answer is probably “No.” So it’s important to be confident and passionate about your responses. The response you are giving is yours so express yourself in a way that causes the reviewer to experience the emotions you feel about the subject in question.

Good luck as you complete your applications! And remember, practice before your interviews and deliver your responses with confidence. You’ll do great!

SMF Night Out

The past two to two and half months have been all about work for SMF students. We’ve already completed the majority of our core classes, engaged in multiple team projects, and written three final exams. To cut the long story short, SMF students have been very busy. They say, however, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” So to maintain a healthy balance between work and leisure, members of the SMF Council organized a dinner for the the class. The idea was to facilitate an informal setting for students and faculty to interact with each other whilst enjoying something that almost everyone loves (especially me)—food.

My excitement was sky high as we arrived at Hong Kong House, which is about 20 minutes from campus. I was looking forward to exploring Asian cuisine so you can imagine how anxious I was to dig in when the waitress was laying down our dishes.

Many thanks to the SMF Council for organizing the dinner. The food was absolutely amazing and the company was even better. Our night out was perfectly timed because it gave us the opportunity to reflect on the previous session of classes and to build stronger bonds with each other and our faculty members. As you continue to consider the many grad school options you have, be confident that although The Ohio State University is a massive school, there is still plenty of room for you to build meaning friendships, and to learn about different cultural norms and practices.

 

Lesson From the First Session

As I write this, it’s October 10 at 3:33 p.m. and the first session of the fall semester has come to a close. Memories of my first week here are still fresh and palpable. I can still remember the nervousness of being in a new school and the gazillion questions I had about the weeks and months to come. Yet just like that, more than two months have already passed  and the next two months won’t go by any slower.

As you prepare your applications or consider multiple offers, you might ask yourself, “What kind of experience will I get at Fisher?” or “What is it like being in a one year Master’s program?” Well, this blog post is for you. I want to share one important lesson from the first session to help give you an idea of how things might be for you as an SMF student.

Time flies in this program, so it can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

Seriously—time flies when you enroll as an SMF. Events and activities will come at a fast pace that you never expected. As some of you might know already, our semesters are divided into two sessions and we have a different set of classes in each session. For you to succeed in this program, you will have to adapt quickly to this set up if you are not used to it. Second, deadlines for assignments are a little shorter than they would be if the classes were spanning the whole semester. This means time management is very important. In fact, time management is one of the top three skills students in this program need in order to excel.

If you fail to manage your time wisely, you would have declared war on time, and very few people succeed when they have time as their enemy. With time as your enemy, two things could happen: you could either find yourself missing deadlines or  having to stay up too late trying to complete your work. Missing deadlines or turning in sub-par work will affect your grades and ultimately hurt you GPA.

In contrast, if you are proactive about your work and avoid waiting until the last minute to start or complete an assignment, you will have a much smoother experience because you won’t have to sleep at odd hours doing homework, nor will you miss assignments. Also, you will have enough time to visit your professors in the event that you need help with a certain topic or concept.

Application advice: If you are a person who has great time management skills, use examples and find a way to relay your skill to the Admissions Committee through your essay or video interviews.

 

A Beast Called GMAT

One of the application requirements for admission into the SMF program is submission of standardized test scores of either the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Exam (GRE). In this post, I seek to describe my experience with the GMAT exam and offer advice on how to tackle the exam.

Merriam-Webster.com defines the word “beast” as “something formidably difficult to control or deal with.” This is exactly how I felt about the GMAT when I was preparing to sit for the exam. The nature of the exam—computer adaptive, time allocation per question and question type—are aspects that I struggled so much to adjust to. By reflecting on the things I did good versus the mistakes that I did, I realize that I made more mistakes than good. It’s through sharing about these that I hope to help you achieve your desired goal of getting a satisfactory score without experiencing the agony of sitting through for the exam multiple times like I did.

Respect the exam

The biggest mistake that I made was underestimating the exam. When I heard that the exam covers Math and English principles that I had encountered already, I thought that the exam would be nothing but just a revision of concepts. With this attitude, as you can imagine, I did poorly on the exam the first time I took it and this served as a wake up call for me to respect the exam and properly study for it. My advice to you, therefore, is to not underestimate the exam. No matter how strong your quantitative or verbal skills may be, do no think the GMAT will be easy because the GMAT takes those concepts students have learned already and then reconfigures them into upper-level application-based questions.

The preparation materials you use matter

The GMAT exam was unlike any other exam I had ever encountered. The way the questions were structured and the reasoning behind the answers were not always easy for me to comprehend. With this said, I realized that the prep materials I used the first time were not enough to help me understand the logic and intuition behind why an answer was correct.

My advice, therefore, is for you to avoid going for the cheap options. This is a short-term solution that will only save you a couple of dollars in the short run, but you might end up screaming in pain if you have to retake the exam due to a low score. Although a higher quality prep course doesn’t guarantee a high score, it increases the chances of a good score.

If you are deciding on which preparation materials to use, I suggest you go for online prep courses that offer a variety of delivery methods such as videos or webinars. Such courses are usually better than just a stand alone book because more information can be packed and concisely explained through a video compared to a book. By using this method to prepare, you can leverage the power of video and audio delivery to your advantage.

Although this blog post was brief and not comprehensive, I hope it provides quick pointers for you all as you prepare for the GMAT.

Good luck!