Kaplan Professional Master of Financial Planning student Nicole Gardner has been announced as the winner of the FPA’s prestigious University Student of the Year Award for 2021. Nicole is the first Kaplan Professional student to win the award and says she’s ‘honoured and proud’ of her achievement. “I just hope that I can encourage more women and parents to take up study and re-enter the workforce too. “I’ve worked really hard with my studies and it’s a juggling act with three kids, but hopefully others can see that if I can do it, they can do it too. “I’m lucky to have such a supportive network around me, especially my husband and mother-in-law,” she said. Nicole has completed the first six months of her Professional Year and was most recently an Associate Adviser with Tribeca Financial in Melbourne. She’s recently relocated to Brisbane and will take up a new role with Acquire Strategic Group as a Provisional Adviser. Although Nicole completed a bachelor’s degree to meet the requirement for new entrants, she was immediately inspired to go above and beyond and continue with the Master of Financial Planning. “I love learning, so my motivation was to further my professional development and continue to set a high standard for myself … I think this is important ethically too. “I’m personally interested in areas such as aged care and margin lending. I’ve tailored my studies to focus on those electives, in addition to completing the CFP® Certification Program as part of my Master of Financial Planning pathway,” she said. Nicole is maintaining a high standard of academic achievement in the Master of Financial Planning, balancing her studies with work and supporting a young family. “I’ve found my experience of studying the masters degree to be extremely rewarding both personally and professionally – the things I’ve learned and the interactions with other students make it so worthwhile … it has significantly enhanced my knowledge and skills. “I’ve benefited from Kaplan Professional’s online learning model and the flexibility of the six intakes to schedule my studies to suit my commitments in a way that works for me. “I was fortunate to have received a Women in Finance Scholarship from the FPA and Kaplan Professional, and I’m really grateful as it’s a big help; I hope there’s more women inspired to study with these kinds of scholarships too,” she said. After beginning her career in journalism and then banking, Nicole was determined to pursue a career in financial advice after experiencing first-hand the financial hardship that an immediate family member had to endure due to a situation beyond their control. “I thought about what I could do to educate, help and support others who need it to ensure something similar won’t happen to them. “I think financial advice is a great way to help women or those entering aged care build up some wealth to provide them with freedom and independence to make choices if things go off track. “I want to help people; that’s what inspires me,” she said. Nicole’s goal is to become a Certified Financial Planner® and a financial adviser who provides holistic advice to people from all walks of life, whether that’s women or those entering aged care. Everyone at Kaplan Professional is extremely proud of Nicole and her achievement. We look forward to continuing to support her to achieve her personal and professional goals. Another Kaplan Professional student, Aaron Skow, was a finalist for the award. Aaron is currently studying the Master of Financial Planning and is a Relationship Manager at Lipman Burgon & Partners.