E&Y's Keys to Campus prepares students for transition to college

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Ernst & Young's New York headquarters in Times Square was the setting for the firm's inaugural Keys to the Campus program, which focuses on preparing high school students from diverse communities for the realities of college life and the tools they will need for success in college and their careers.

The students who participated in the program, held on March 22 and 23rd, attend one of the 30 career academies in New York City sponsored by the National Academy Foundation (NAF). Over 500 NAF academies nationwide provide underserved high school students with access to industry-specific curricula, work-based learning experiences, and relationships with business professionals. E&Y and other Big Four accounting firms are among the 2,500 companies that support NAF.

"At Ernst & Young LLP we have long been invested in the education of students and are pleased to build on our history with NAF by launching Keys to Campus and look forward to partnering with other schools across the nation as we grow this program", said Ken Bouyer, Americas Director of Inclusiveness Recruiting.

"We are committed to diversity at E&Y. Our clients want to see inclusive teams", Americas Campus Recruiting Leader for Assurance and E&Y, Laurie Brady, told AccountingWEB. "We are setting up Keys to Campus because we want to help these students make a better entrance into college and show them the things they need to do in order to be a success. We also want them to know more about us."

"Many of the students who attended the Keys to Campus sessions will be the first in their families to attend college. We wanted to do our best to help them make the transition from a high morale, small school to a large university." Brady said. "It's a leap from being a big fish in a small pond to being a small fish in a very big pond."

Following opening remarks by E&Y executives and a presentation, the Keys to the Campus speakers opened the sessions to questions, Brady said. "We were amazed at how engaged the students were, how ready they were to ask questions and throw out answers. They were hungry for any information we could give.

"One of the first questions they asked was, how important are grades in hiring decisions? The answer, from a recruiting perspective, is that while we are looking for the well rounded person, grades are very important", Brady said. "The freshman year is critical to grades, because that is when patterns are formed and it very hard to change those patterns. At E&Y we are looking for people who have developed time management skills, individuals who can balance academic demands with extracurricular activities, who have taken responsibility for planning their schedule.

"We told them that they will be in courses where they have only two exams in a term. How do they form study habits to prepare for these exams when they no longer have parents to remind them to study? They need to think about finding people on campus who can help them, who can help make that very large environment seem smaller. One way is by joining an accounting club or Beta Alpha Psi, for example.

"We also wanted to show them how to gain leadership experience and how to develop a personal brand and resume." Brady said. "They have to prepare that 30-second elevator speech -- to be able to articulate about themselves very quickly.

"Students should try to go out of their comfort zone in college and stretch themselves. One way would be to attend a recruiting function where they introduce themselves, and practice that 30-second elevator speech. We told them to look for extracurricular or work experience where they would develop leadership or team experience."

Over 100 students attended the Keys to Campus sessions in New York. E&Y participants were energized by the give-and-take with students, Brady said, and felt that they had really made a difference. As a follow up, E&Y will create a Facebook page for participants so they can to stay in touch with professionals at the firm and each other and find ongoing guidance on how to succeed in college and their early career.

E&Y plans to expand the Keys to Campus program to offices around the U.S., reaching out to students in traditional high schools as well as the career academies.

NAF academies focus on one of four career themes: finance, hospitality and tourism, information technology, and engineering. E&Y has collaborated with NAF in a number of initiatives; the firm hosts internships with NAF every year, and has developed a business ethics curriculum, taught by E&Y personnel, that is available to students in NAF's Academy of Finance.

NAF also recently announced a partnership with the KPMG Foundation and KPMG LLP, another Big Four accounting firm, to strengthen high school accounting education at its Academies of Finance (AOF) nationwide. The KPMG Foundation will make a substantial cash contribution to NAF over a period of years and KPMG LLP will work with NAF on their accounting curriculum.

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