The MBA Essay Writing Guide: #14 – Building a Better Achievement

by on November 10th, 2012

If you’re applying to a top-ranked school, you’ll almost certainly have impressive academic and professional achievements under your belt. Unfortunately, too many applicants either brag about or undermine their achievements in their essays, doing more harm than good. Here are a couple of sentences from a prospective applicant that attempts to demonstrate his can-do attitude but doesn’t quite measure up:

In the record 70 days that it took to reorganize operations, I had to think outside the box and work within limited resources: operating out my apartment, and even sometimes, my car. Without disrupting company procedure too much, I tried to make the most of shared resources among EchoRinse companies.

Let’s begin with some questions: what did this applicant even do? We know he reorganized operations, but what does that mean in this context? Why did he have to work out of his car? Finally, what did he accomplish and can he prove it?

The first thing this needs is a point… an accomplishment that justifies even mentioning this story. By telling us what he did and what he accomplished, these sentences can go from obtuse claims covered in jargon to a powerful demonstration of the writer’s abilities. Furthermore, it can shift his bizarre aside about working out of his car into a new light.

Take a look at what he sent us back after our comments…

In the record seventy days I took to reorganize EchoRinse’s operations (20% ahead of schedule and 10% under budget), I had to find creative solutions to such problems as our lack of office space. Working from my home and even occasionally from my car, I not only set up our Indiana branch but also used company resources to ensure we’d have 7.3M$ contracts from clients such as Whaley Motors from day one.

What a difference. We now know what he did (found office space and negotiated contracts) which justifies his working out of his car. We also have hard numbers, which not only PROVE how big of an accomplishment this is but also make it seem EVEN MORE impressive. Finally, he uses simple language so we understand EXACTLY what is happening. With these quick changes, this accomplishment has gone from puzzling to perfect.

So remember:

  • Find the accomplishment behind the story.
  • Use numbers to back up your claims.
  • Use direct language.
  • Avoid using jargon to cover up a lack of clear information.

Check out the other articles in this series:

The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #13: Avoiding “Application Fatigue”
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #12: Writing On A Deadline
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #11: Researching Your Dream School
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #10: Sentence Breakdown: Career Transition
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #9: A Guide to Fantastic Essay Conclusions
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #8: Simplify Your Writing By Avoiding Buzzwords
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #7: “Your School Is Ideal Because…”
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #6: Breaking Down Technical Jargon
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #5: Getting Specific With Goals
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #4: Writing About Sensitive Topics
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #3: Quantifying Success
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #2: Making Your Personal Qualities POP!
The MBA Essay Writing Guide – #1: Building a Catchy Intro

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