Getting the high score: Blake Applegate

MICHIGAN CITY — Blake Applegate, a former Michigan City resident who is now an accountant in Chicago, is one of 39 winners of the 2012 Elijah Watt Sells Award, which is bestowed upon candidates who have a cumulative average score above 95.5 across all four sections of the Uniform CPA exam.


More than 92,000 candidates took the exam in 2012 and 39 candidates met the award criteria, including Applegate.

Applegate, 24, began his public accounting career at Applegate & Company CPAs in his junior year at Michigan City High School. He is the son of Paul and Sharon Applegate of Long Beach. He currently works at KPMG (a Big Four CPA firm) in Chicago, in its financial services tax practice. Many of his clients are banks and insurance companies.

Applegate said the CPA exam has four parts, divided into tax and business law, audit concepts, financial accounting and reporting and business environment concepts. He said it is comparable to the Bar exam for attorneys or a doctor’s board exam.

“In order to hold yourself out as a certified public accountant, you must pass all four parts of the exam and become licensed by the state you are practicing in,” he said.

Applegate said he began preparing for the CPA exam the day after he graduated from graduate school.

“Most people will take a few months to study for each part due to work/life constraints; however, I took the Becker FastPass review course,” he said. “This is an accelerated course in which you take 10 classes that cover each part, which last four hours each day. The class goes five days a week and typically lasts two weeks for each section. After the class, I would review on my own for a week, and then take each exam.”

The pressure created by the exam can be “overwhelming” Applegate said, adding that he would be a bit aggravated when he would answer a question wrong while studying.

“However, I used the aggravation to push me to understand the concepts more which ultimately helped me in the end,” he said.

Applegate attended Edgewood Elementary School, Barker Middle School and then graduated as valedictorian from Michigan City High School in 2007 with a 4.0 GPA. He then attened Kelley School of Business at Indiana University-Bloomington, majoring in accounting, also with a 4.0 GPA, and graduated first in his class. He then earned a Master of Science degree in accounting from Kelley School of Business with a 4.0 GPA.

According to Applegate, accounting is really a “family” endeavor.

“I grew up in a family of accountants starting with my grandpa and then my dad, so I joke that going into the accounting field was probably genetic,” he said. “I was fortunate to start working for my dad’s firm, Applegate & Company, at the age of 16 in which I prepared individual and business tax returns. The experience helped me immensely through college and on the regulation part of the CPA exam. Having such a head-start in the accounting field made choosing an accounting career a slam dunk.”

Applegate said his father was the most influential figure in his decision to choose accounting as a career.

“Additionally, my business law/tax professor at Indiana University, Professor Sandra Owen, recognized my passion for accounting, specifically tax, and took me under her wing,” he said. “She got me involved with tax research and even sponsored an independent study course I took on a topic that wan’t offered in any other classes. Overall, Professor Owen really improved my experience through undergrad and grad school.”

Applegate would like to eventually return to Michigan City and work with his father’s firm.

“I also look forward to becoming more active in the Long Beach Volunteer Fire Department, an organization I joined as a senior in high school,” he said.

He would also like to try to get more high school students involved in the accounting field.

“Mr. Reed did a great job teaching accounting at Michigan City High School when I was there, so it would be great to encourage more students to try out that path,” he added.

“I look forward to taking part in the Michigan City business community and working with a lot great people in our community,” he said.