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Young professional reflects on ups and downs of CPA certification journey

Written on Apr 4, 2024

By Jessica Salerno-Shumaker, OSCPA senior content manager  

While the CPA Exam is a long journey, Jill Kowalski said she found the process well worth the effort.  


“A lot of work went into it,” Kowalski said. “I'm glad it's over now, but it was a rewarding process overall.” 

When beginning her CPA Exam journey while enrolled in the master's program at Ohio Northern University, Kowalski failed the Audit section at the end of 2021 and then failed the Financial Accounting Regulation section in the beginning of 2022.  

While it wasn’t the start she was hoping for, she leaned on family and friends during the more difficult moments. They supported her and gave her encouragement when the process seemed overwhelming, and she says that provided her with the motivation to keep going. She switched up her study habits and found a new approach that worked better for her and began passing sections while also working as an assurance staff member at EY in Cleveland. 

In 2023, she passed the last section she needed, Business Environment and Concepts, and Kowalski said she felt an immediate sense of relief that all her hard work had finally been worth it. 

She said she learned a lot about herself over the course of taking the CPA Exam and has a newfound respect for anyone with the letters “CPA” behind their name, regardless of how long it took them to pass.  

“The CPA Exam taught me so much about hard work and resilience,” she said.  

She said having her CPA credential now gives her extra confidence to pursue a wide range of potential career opportunities, giving her more options and control over her future. Her advice to other candidates is to remember the goal you’re working to achieve, especially during the more discouraging times.  

“Just remember that it is possible, especially with hard work, dedication, and figuring out the best way to study for you,” she said. “You learn a lot of accounting knowledge, but you also learn a lot of things about yourself throughout the process. It’s tough, but ultimately very rewarding and your future self will thank you.” 

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