Alumnus Kyle Jakubeck earns one of the top CPA exam scores in the country

Young white male stands outside in front of a business building.

Kyle Jakubeck, who won the Elijah Watt Sells Award after earning one of the top scores in the country on the CPA exam, stands outside RubinBrown, where he works as a full-time accountant. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

Kyle Jakubeck had always been a stellar student, graduating from Christian Brothers College High School in 2016 with a grade point average above a 4.0 due to his honors classes. But when he got to the University of Missouri–Columbia, his academic performance started to decline.

In his first semester, Jakubeck earned a 3.1. In his second semester, his grades dropped to a 2.6. The standout high school student had gotten lost in his newfound freedom, and the lack of structure and accountability had taken a toll.

He decided, reluctantly, to move back home and enroll at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. It was local, affordable and his parents had also attended. It turned out to be one of the best decisions of his life.

Jakubeck turned his academic career around, graduating with a bachelor’s in accounting in 2021 and then a master’s in accounting from UMSL last summer when he also sat for the CPA exam. Out of 67,000 people who also took the test last year, he was one of 50 to get the highest score. He earned the Elijah Watt Sells Award from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, which recognizes those who achieved a cumulative average score above 95.50 across all four sections of the Uniform CPA Examination. Jakubeck also secured a full-time role as an assurance accountant at RubinBrown.

After transferring to UMSL, Jakubeck was able to re-focus, get his grades up and develop his own work ethic. He realized the support and accountability he had in high school were instrumental in his academic success. The absence of responsibility had made it challenging for him to stay on course in college.

“I never had to handle anything like that before,” he said. “It was a difficult transition. I had a good time at Mizzou and have a lot of great friends from there still, but UMSL ended up being a little better for what I needed at the time. And then I just stayed there for the rest of my school.”

Jakubeck found the smaller classes and attentive professors to be helpful. He worked very hard to rebound from his semesters at MU, finding a new motivation to do well. Looking back, he’d realized that even though he’d excelled in school, he hadn’t been very interested in it. Upon entering MU, he couldn’t identify a major.

But when he started taking accounting classes at UMSL, something clicked.

Things were finally coming together and making sense, and Jakubeck could now see a career path in front of him. Identifying an area of interest where he was doing well motivated him to continue his hard work. He even secured an internship in his senior year.

Though UMSL helps students get internships and his professors had made it clear that they were there to help as well, Jakubeck relied on his own efforts to find an opportunity. He applied to several accounting firms and landed at RubinBrown after a referral from a friend.

After his undergraduate studies, Jakubeck went straight to graduate school while simultaneously studying for and taking the CPA exam, figuring he’d have less time once he had a full-time job. The CPA exam, which consists of four parts that are four hours each. He only wanted to pass. After taking it, he thought he failed, having no idea he’d earned a top score.

“I was pretty proud of myself,” Jakubeck said. “I know they’re really hard exams. I would have been proud of myself just to pass them all on my first try. So it is pretty awesome. I tend to downplay most things I do. I wish I would enjoy my accomplishments a little bit more.”

His colleagues at RubinBrown have congratulated him, and Steve Moehrle, professor and chair of UMSL’s Department of Accounting, also holds Jakubeck in high esteem.

“I cannot understate the magnitude of this accomplishment,” Moehrle said. “Over 60,000 candidates took the CPA Exam in 2022, and about 50 achieved the level of performance to earn the Elijah Watt Sells Award. Further, I always feel the need to add that the 60,000 candidates are not random people taking an exam. They are all young professionals that have just successfully completed their studies in the rigorous field of professional accountancy. Several of our students have won the award over the years, and I am in awe of every last one of them.”

Though Jakubeck did a lot of work on his own to prepare for the CPA exam, what he learned at UMSL provided a foundation for him to succeed. He also credits Tim Kennedy, a partner at RubinBrown, for being part of his success. His start at MU served as a motivation for him to move forward with more determination.

“I feel like the best way to learn is through mistakes,” he said. “I feel like you don’t learn nearly as much from when things go well as you do when you don’t handle something like you would have wanted.”

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