Actuarial science major Tim van Laarhoven has accomplished something so extraordinary, even Dr. Patrick Van Fleet, a professor in the University of St. Thomas' Math Department, is wonder-struck.
Van Laarhoven, who graduated in December, passed all five exams and completed eight online modules – which together are known as Fundamentals of Actuarial Practice (FAP) – required to become an Associate of the Society of Actuaries (ASA). Professional actuaries are expected to pass this hard-fought gauntlet of exams and modules. Each exam demands between 300 to 400 hours of study, and each module about 40 hours to complete. Most employers who hire actuaries expect new graduates to have completed at least one exam.
Even more extraordinary, van Laarhoven completed all of the preliminary work to receive the ASA credential (officially, he will become an ASA after he takes one more professional course in February) and graduated in two and a half years.
Van Fleet put his accomplishment into greater perspective: "It is typical for the new Ph.D.s in actuarial science we hire as professors to still have some work to do on the FAP modules. The fact that Tim has already completed the modules and graduated in two and a half years is utterly amazing. I for one would love to know the secret of his success!"
Actuarial science graduates usually leave St. Thomas with two to three exams completed but ultimately face the imposing task of successfully completing the FAP modules en route to the ASA credential.
Van Laarhoven, 21, laughed off any notion of a secret to his success. "I spent way too much time in the library!" he said.
Earning college credit through a PSEO program while in high school helped to pave the way for him to take a lighter than average course load (12 credits) and devote more time to getting his ASA.
Also driven by his ambition to graduate from college as inexpensively as possible, van Laarhoven knew a fast track through college was the way to go. Along the way, he built a momentum that boosted his stamina. "Because I had less time to squeeze in internships and exams before I had to find a full-time job, I pounded through the exams as fast as I could," he said. "It felt good to be on a roll, so I guess you could say I got addicted."
Over the course of his time here, he also managed to pack in two internships, one season on St. Thomas' swim team and two seasons on the cross country team, and win (with his team) the Fowler Business Concept Challenge sponsored by Schulze School of Entrepreneurship during 2015-2016 academic year. This past fall, when he wasn't training for the Twin Cities Marathon (finishing in a speedy 2:49:26), he worked part time for Wakely Consulting Group, where he is now employed full time as a health care actuary consulting on Medicare and Medicaid.
Van Laarhoven, who is recently engaged and now lives in Denver, plans to continue specializing in health care, an area he always has been passionate about.
"I've been shocked by all of the changes in health care policy," he said. "In the U.S. we have the highest percentage of GDP that goes toward health care and it's increasing and not stopping. I'd like to helm an insurance company and say, 'How can we control these costs?' Medicare is running out of money, drugs are too expensive ... I want to be able to have a say in that."