When I initially found out about the Undergraduate of the Year awards, I just saw it as another university email among my many others. I completely disregarded it as I believed I did not fit the bill to be recognised at such level. However, upon further reflection of my skills, experiences and achievements, and the many awards on offer, I decided that I mostly aligned with the Future CFO award and that I should throw my hat in the ring to give it my best shot. My thought process was this – even if I do not reach the latter stages of the competition, it will nevertheless serve as great application practice as the process differed slightly from others I had previously done.

Overall, the application process was smooth and seamless. When it came to answering the sponsor’s question regarding CFOs, I repeatedly drafted my response and shared with friends to review. After getting through this stage, I took psychometric tests, where I once again practised online with the many free resources available to students. The most challenging, but fun, part of the application process was pulling together my video submission. It challenged me to think creatively outside the box, but also provided me with the space to flex my knowledge surrounding the topic area of ethics.

Being invited to the ACCA’s London office was another particular highlight of my experience. I was initially quite apprehensive as I wasn’t sure quite what to expect, but these nerves were quickly quelled. Welcomed into the office with croissants and cups of tea, this eased my nerves and allowed me to network with the other assessment centre participants. Consisting of a roundtable session and a group presentation, this was definitely the most unique assessment centre I have been to! Particularly with the roundtable session, I was humbled to have had the opportunity to intellectually challenge myself among such high calibre students. Walking away from the assessment centre, I felt that I had done myself proud but, importantly, that I left a good impression with everyone that I had met.

I vividly remember the day I received the email that I had been selected for the grand final as I was on a cold train home back to London. When I saw the words ‘We are delighted to...’, I couldn’t contain my excitement as I tried my best not to scream down the whole train carriage! At this point, I already ticked this off as an achievement as I had managed to achieve one of my goals for 2018. It was humbling that the ACCA saw something in me so much so that they could recognise me as a future CFO. This definitely served as a great confidence boost!

Prior to the grand final ceremony, other finalists and I were invited to another roundtable session to help the ACCA formulate ideas surrounding the future of learning. This, once again, provided a space where I could express my views but also have those thoughts challenged by the other finalists. After the roundtable session, we were whisked off to East Wintergarden in Canary Wharf for the grand final ceremony. This was a beautiful setting, befitting of a grand finale that was bringing together the UK’s brightest and most promising students. I had the privilege of sitting alongside and networking with esteemed company such as Clare Bennison, head of ACCA UK and Helen Brand, ACCA CEO – both of whom were greatly impressed by the calibre of finalists that had been brought together. Reflecting back to when I first started applying, I never believed for a second that I would have made it this far in the competition, so I certainly believe this should serve as motivation for anyone who has any doubts about applying!

Despite not winning the actual award, I truly believe I was still a winner. The opportunity to network and rub shoulders with such talented people reminded me that I could honestly do great things in life if I put my head down and grafted at it. To anyone having any doubts about applying, my top advice would be ‘what have you honestly got to lose?!’. Apart from sacrificing my time, every single stage of the competition taught me vital lessons and firmly reminded me that I have the aptitude to be a future CFO. So, go on: take the plunge and you never know – you might just surprise yourself along the way.