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Getting Too Personal on the Essay

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Getting Too Personal on the Essay [#permalink] New post 19 May 2006, 20:50
Background:
BS - Computer Science - U of Missouri - St. Louis - 3.2 GPA
MS - Computer Science - U of Chicago - 3.4 GPA
GMAT:640 (38V/40Q)
About 5 years work experience, no real management experience although I have been in charge of several teams at work.

I am currently working on my essay questions for the Kellogg part-time program. One of the questions asks for my greatest personal accomplishment (in 250 words). Here is what I have:

Code:
My greatest personal accomplishment is the life that I have built for myself.  As a teenager, I was rather lost and confused, and ended up joining a gang.  Through this gang I ended up living a rather wretched lifestyle, which eventually led me to dropping out of high school, and later going to prison.  I was 18 when I made these mistakes and have since built a rather remarkable story.  Just before prison I did manage to earn my GED.  While in prison I started to work with computers and found I had a knack for it.  I started taking college courses, evaluating the choices I had made in life to get me where I was, and planning how I was going to turn my life around. I was released in 1999, and immediately continued my college career at the local community college.  Eventually I went to the University of Missouri – St. Louis and graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science.  While in college, I met my wife and married her.  Determined to achieve more, I enrolled at the University of Chicago to pursue my Master’s degree.  I received my Masters in Computer Science in March of 2005, one month before my first child was born. 

While it is somewhat hard to tell this story in 250 words or less, I hope you get the general idea.  I have overcome the odds, learned from my past mistakes, and have never stopped seeking to be the best I can.


Given my low GMAT and next non-existent extracurricular record, is the above helpful, or harmful? Is this the "moving personal story" admission committees are looking for, or will they peg me for being an "ex-con"? This is my greatest personal accomplishment, and I am sure it isn't one they see every day.
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Re: Getting Too Personal on the Essay [#permalink] New post 22 May 2006, 10:24
Expert's post
mfdii wrote:
Background:
BS - Computer Science - U of Missouri - St. Louis - 3.2 GPA
MS - Computer Science - U of Chicago - 3.4 GPA
GMAT:640 (38V/40Q)
About 5 years work experience, no real management experience although I have been in charge of several teams at work.

I am currently working on my essay questions for the Kellogg part-time program. One of the questions asks for my greatest personal accomplishment (in 250 words). Here is what I have:

Code:
My greatest personal accomplishment is the life that I have built for myself.  As a teenager, I was rather lost and confused, and ended up joining a gang.  Through this gang I ended up living a rather wretched lifestyle, which eventually led me to dropping out of high school, and later going to prison.  I was 18 when I made these mistakes and have since built a rather remarkable story.  Just before prison I did manage to earn my GED.  While in prison I started to work with computers and found I had a knack for it.  I started taking college courses, evaluating the choices I had made in life to get me where I was, and planning how I was going to turn my life around. I was released in 1999, and immediately continued my college career at the local community college.  Eventually I went to the University of Missouri – St. Louis and graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science.  While in college, I met my wife and married her.  Determined to achieve more, I enrolled at the University of Chicago to pursue my Master’s degree.  I received my Masters in Computer Science in March of 2005, one month before my first child was born. 

While it is somewhat hard to tell this story in 250 words or less, I hope you get the general idea.  I have overcome the odds, learned from my past mistakes, and have never stopped seeking to be the best I can.


Given my low GMAT and next non-existent extracurricular record, is the above helpful, or harmful? Is this the "moving personal story" admission committees are looking for, or will they peg me for being an "ex-con"? This is my greatest personal accomplishment, and I am sure it isn't one they see every day.


mfdii,

Using the theme of overcoming your past as your greatest personal accomplishment is fine--no problem there. I personally would find a way to tell your story in more detail than you did in the 250-word version you posted. It doesn't provide enough detail, and I think the school would want to know more. Having a criminal record is not a deal-breaker, but it definitely needs to be explained thoroughly. I don't think 250 words is enough.

Good luck,
_________________

Linda Abraham
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Re: Getting Too Personal on the Essay [#permalink] New post 23 May 2006, 22:35
Accepted.com wrote:
mfdii,

Using the theme of overcoming your past as your greatest personal accomplishment is fine--no problem there. I personally would find a way to tell your story in more detail than you did in the 250-word version you posted. It doesn't provide enough detail, and I think the school would want to know more. Having a criminal record is not a deal-breaker, but it definitely needs to be explained thoroughly. I don't think 250 words is enough.

Good luck,


Unfortunately, 250 words is all the school provides and since it is an online form I don't want to risk anything getting cut off. I have rewritten the essay and removed everything that is repeated in other places on the application (eg they will know I have a MS degree from U of C). My plan is to focus more on what I learned from the experience rather then what I have done. With this approach, I feel I am writing more towards the reasoning behind the question.

There is a spot on the application to provide "any additional detail" for things I may need to explain. I am hesitent to write too much there because I don't know how it will end up presented once they print/view the application.

I have learned through my job hunting experience that I can control the damage better by getting in the door first, and explaining things after I have made a good impression. Would the interview be a better place to get in depth? How much of the information would make it back to the addmissions committee?

I do have a current student, who is also a Director at my current employer (as well as a former supervisor of mine), writing a reference letter for me. Also, I am trying to tap an Alum for any help he can provide.

Thanks for your response. It helps to bounce things off as many people as possible (everyone so far thinks I should go for it.)
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Re: Getting Too Personal on the Essay [#permalink] New post 25 May 2006, 08:08
Expert's post
mfdii wrote:
Accepted.com wrote:
mfdii,

Using the theme of overcoming your past as your greatest personal accomplishment is fine--no problem there. I personally would find a way to tell your story in more detail than you did in the 250-word version you posted. It doesn't provide enough detail, and I think the school would want to know more. Having a criminal record is not a deal-breaker, but it definitely needs to be explained thoroughly. I don't think 250 words is enough.

Good luck,


Unfortunately, 250 words is all the school provides and since it is an online form I don't want to risk anything getting cut off. I have rewritten the essay and removed everything that is repeated in other places on the application (eg they will know I have a MS degree from U of C). My plan is to focus more on what I learned from the experience rather then what I have done. With this approach, I feel I am writing more towards the reasoning behind the question.

There is a spot on the application to provide "any additional detail" for things I may need to explain. I am hesitent to write too much there because I don't know how it will end up presented once they print/view the application.

I have learned through my job hunting experience that I can control the damage better by getting in the door first, and explaining things after I have made a good impression. Would the interview be a better place to get in depth? How much of the information would make it back to the addmissions committee?

I do have a current student, who is also a Director at my current employer (as well as a former supervisor of mine), writing a reference letter for me. Also, I am trying to tap an Alum for any help he can provide.

Thanks for your response. It helps to bounce things off as many people as possible (everyone so far thinks I should go for it.)


mfdii,

The interview would be a good place to go into more detail. However, my philosophy is that people (adcoms) will always assume the worst about application negatives unless you give them enough facts to show them that the reality of your situation is not "the worst." So I recommend using the "personal accomplishment" and/or "any additional detail" sections to at least tell them what you were imprisoned for--e.g., why let them assume it was for a capital offense? I also agree that your reco letters will be important in establishing that you are rehabilitated.

As far as everyone thinking you should "go for it," if you mean apply to Kellogg I certainly agree. I just believe in eliminating application question marks right up front.

Good luck,
_________________

Linda Abraham
Accepted
310-815-9553

Co-Author of: MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools

Follow Accepted on Twitter
Friend Accepted on Facebook
Subscribe to Accepted's Blog

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