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Accomplishment Essay -- too generic? [#permalink]
08 Apr 2008, 11:17
I am currently brainstorming what I should write about for the 'what accomplishment, either professional or personal, are you most proud of' and had a question...
Is it preferred to be a specific accomplishment or can it be an "in-progress" accomplishment. Is it too generic and cliche to talk about all the small accomplishments thus far that lead me to where I am today? I honestly am proud of where I am today and I KNOW that I worked hard for it and deserve it - I busted my butt off all throughout undergrad (B.S in Mechanical Engineering, 3.5 GPA with a minor in Applied Mathetmatics and working 15 hrs) and then proactively searched for internships to land a good job at a major defense contractor (where in a class of ~400 students only 1/10 of the class got a good job at a good company).
I know that I was fortunate to have strong support from both my family and friends but one of the toughest things, in my opinion, that I had to overcome was the stigma of being a girl in an engineering field/industry. Dont get me wrong, there was no explicit descrimination or anything but there were SEVERAL times when I was underestimated (just because I know the latest fashion trends and MAYBE I take a little extra time to get ready in the morning, it is autmatically assumed that I am not capable of any analytical/engineering work -- otherwise, they make it pretty clear that they're surprised if I get something right) and had to prove myself. Sorry, I digress...
Anyway, I guess what I am trying to say is that, I dont think one's success is entirely dependent on one major event, but rather a series of several small accomplishments. But, is that sort of a given in that the adcoms will read my essay thinking, 'no sh*t, all other applicants had to bust their butt off to be where they are at'
Even at work, I have made some accomplishments that I am proud of, but I dont think I can write a 500 word essay on it. I was thinking of possbly writing about a few accomplishments that are somewhat related in topic or approach, but I noticed that 'accomplishment' in the question is singular and not plural -- 'what accomplishments were you proud of'....
Personally, I will focus on one accomplishment. You will be amazed that 500 words may not be enough - talk about the why, how, and what you learned from it. My suggestion is to pick an accomplishment that will complement the way you are packaging yourself for admission. The reason why I wont do a series of different accomplishments is that it is not explicitly answering the question "select your greatest(one) achievement" which is a pet peeve of some admission officers
I digress - Its funny, I can completely relate with your comment about being underestimated initially in male dominated environments (just because I may wear heels and makeup to class does not mean I cant keep up with the academic rigor). I loved the shocked looks on some of my classmates after the first exam. At work, it takes even longer but everyone is really awesome now
gmat blows, if the essay question asks for one accomplishment, write about one accomplishment only (of course, you should mention that it's not the only one, but don't dwell on it for too long - 500 words is little space, as futuredukemba already mentioned) I do not see the AdCom appreciating your not following the precise instructions. Also, in my opinion, "my best accomplishment is what I am now" is not such a good idea. At best it shows that you cannot really pinpoint something worth telling, at worst - you may come out as an arrogant person. Just my 2 cents Dude, you have an early start for 2009 applications, respect! I am sure you will come out with a great story after many hours of self reflection
PS also, are in there essay question refers to you, not to accomplishment
pick ONE instance of your life that you're most proud of. You won't have much "text real estate" to write much more than that, and if you write about your entire life, you'll sound unfocused and won't tell them much in 500 words.
You might think about using the accomplishment essay to address a part of your candidacy that is not addressed elsewhere. The adcom should already be impressed with a 3.5 in a tough major from reading the paperwork you submit, so there is no need to reiterate that in the essays. Remember, in your application, you are basically trying to check off as many boxes as possible -- academics, leadership, work ex, unique story, fit, goals, etc. You could do yourself a favor by utilizing the essays to discuss any of these areas that are not apparent elsewhere. Discussing leadership or a volunteer activity or a personal accomplishment adds an extra dimension to your application, since this will not be found elsewhere. In my own case, I am a younger applicant working in financial services, which means that I have basically zero leadership opportunity (and they know this). For this reason, I wrote about the leadership experience I have gained volunteering outside of work.
I would add too that your issue of feeling discriminated against as a girl with style in a man's world might also make a good culture shock or outsider essays, depending on which schools you apply to. The schools want to see that you can thrive in a diverse set of environments, and you appear capable of that, so you might want to utilize your story if those essay topics come up.
I think you can get away with talking about smaller accomplishments as long as they all sum up to a bigger "accomplishment" that reflects your strength of character.
I'm simply extrapolating from the information you posted, but that could easily be woven into an essay about "learning to be successful despite being the odd one out, and without sacrificing personal integrity or trying to conform." You could then talk about how people didn't think you were capable, but that you busted your butt, proved you were, built stronger relationships, and earned their trust.
That kind of material would easily lead into an opportunity to write about the characteristics that make you a good leader.
I would pick one memorable accomplishment and stick with it. Writing about a series of smaller accomplishments is risky as you may come through as a person who has not really accomplished anything significant. It also may make AdComs wonder about your maturity.
Write about one. You will be surprised that 500 words is not a heluvalot of space to play with.
Wow - thanks everyone, I honestly was not expecting so many replies.
After reading everyone's responses, it definitely clarified the importance/need to just choose one accomplishment rather than several (it really is nice to have this forum because I did not consider how such an approach to this question could drastically distort my message)