Accomplishments constitute the bread and butter of personal statements and application essays. That may sound straightforward, however, a fascinating brainstorming session of Accepted admissions consultants reveals that applicants don’t always know what an accomplishment is. What goes into this application staple? And how can you analyze your own profile to find compelling accomplishments to write about?
The Bread = Impact.
Your accomplishment must show you as a contributor who has had a significant impact on a person, organization, or entity. Your accomplishment could be that you increased membership, led a team to victory, built a coalition in student government that did something fantastic, increased sales, cut costs, or found a solution to a problem that enabled a critical deal to go forward.
Notice we didn’t say that an accomplishment is simply an award you won – though some accomplishments do result in honors. The key thing for you to think about is your impact and initiative.
One way to start thinking about (and identifying) your accomplishments is to review your CV. What have you done, both in your professional and extracurricular roles? Which experiences stand out to you? Where did you really have an impact?
The Butter = Obstacles Overcome.
This is not fluff. Overcoming lack of resources – like time, money, innate talent, or people – magnifies your accomplishment manifold. Since we rarely have enough of everything for plans to go smoothly, make sure you tell the story of the difficulties you faced.
And what if you like jam with your bread and butter? What would sweeten the dish?
The Jam = Leadership.
Yes, your accomplishment could be a purely individual and personal one. And that dish would satisfy, but for most fields, an accomplishment involving others where you influence, motivate, persuade, cajole, and lead will turn your bread and butter into a delectable delicacy.
Think about how you worked with other people – how you led a team, what you learned, and so on. How did you demonstrate leadership skills? What did you learn about leadership, and how have you grown as a leader through this experience?
These are the factors that add depth to your essay – and lift your accomplishment from being a bullet-point on a CV to the heart of your application essay.
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