September 11, 2023 • By The UCI Paul Merage School of Business
Many young students lack access to vital information that could help them prepare for college, future careers, and the harsh realities of adult life.
Only 15 states, not including California, require high school students to take a course in financial literacy. This can prevent students from particularly disadvantaged communities from having the funds to attend college, which can contribute to a cycle of poverty.
Similarly, students from underserved communities may not have been exposed to college life and face barriers to learning important networking, strategic planning, and leadership skills. These educational gaps can contribute to a lack of diversity in the higher education and corporate worlds.
Luckily, students like Parsmi Rajput won’t have to deal with those setbacks because of the Merage School’s Future Leaders Initiative and Pacific Life LIFEvest programs, which are filling a gap for Southern California communities and making dramatic change in the lives of students. Rajput and many other local students took part in these initiatives over the summer, learning valuable skills they can use to earn a degree and secure a strong career.
“Many young people don’t have a sense of how important it is to start planning your life early on,” said Rajput, who is from Los Angeles. “But I learned that being intentional with your planning and decision-making will benefit you throughout your career. The choices you make in early adulthood will carry throughout your life and into retirement.”
Learning the path to success
Rajput first discovered the FLI and LIFEvest programs in February and was immediately interested in how each program could support her career aspirations. In particular, each program provides wonderful opportunities for leadership development and networking with other ambitious students.
She was one of 115 students who attended this year’s six-week FLI program, where she learned about STEM-related fields and numerous aspects of business by taking part in simulations, group activities, and listening to lectures from renowned faculty members and business leaders. The program seeks to expose students like Rajput to new possibilities and strengthen the talent pool by providing companies with a pipeline of potential employees from diverse backgrounds, worldviews, and passions.
During the FLI program, Rajput learned that success is not a linear path. Many successful people started their journeys in a state of poverty or lacking resources. Hard work and feeding your passion are essential parts of the path.
“It really showed me that it is possible for me to do the same things they have done,” she said. “As long as you are intentional and set your mind to it.”
Finding your calling
Rajput was also among dozens of high school students who learned during the week-long LIFEvest program that strategic planning is an essential component of a successful life.
She noted that young people can often attribute financial success to an instantaneous event, like becoming famous or “making it big.” But Rajput learned that strategic saving and budgeting is the key to becoming a millionaire.
“I also learned how important it is to be strategic about your education,” she said.
She became one of hundreds of students who have benefitted over the last decade from the program, which is run by the Center for Investment and Wealth Management.
Both Merage School programs helped provide Rajput with a roadmap for the future. She’s planning on applying to UC Irvine and other University of California schools and she aims to pursue a career in risk management or budget planning, both of which she learned about during the programs.
“The programs really helped me realize what profession aligns with my own values,” she said. “I have always enjoyed working with people and critical thinking and this really fits with these careers.”
A network for the future
Although she has finished the programs, Rajput will continue to receive guidance and support from the Merage School in a number of ways.
The LIFEvest program hosts annual events for program alumni to stay connected, and it has mentorship opportunities that match alumni with UCI undergraduate students to help with high school and college preparation. The FLI program has an integrated learning track that helps students up to college, through college, and into their careers with mentorship, college application preparation, and career coaching.
In addition to the lessons she’s learned, Rajput has also gained a network of fellow students and professors that will provide her with support in her educational and professional career.
“The cohort for LIFEvest and FLI had such a variety of students with so many different interests,” she said. “So having connections and friends from different industries will definitely help me down the line in my career whether that comes to getting opportunities or just having their guidance.”