Business School Essays: Accomplishment Questions

Describe the two accomplishments that occurred in the last five years of which you are most proud. (Columbia)


Describe your three most substantial accomplishments, and explain why you view them as such. (Harvard)


Describe your achievements within the last five years that are good indicators of your potential for a successful management career and why you view them as such. (Michigan)


What is your most valued accomplishment? Why? (Kellogg)



Your answer to this question will say a lot more about you than simply what you have accomplished. It will show the committee what you value, what makes you proud, and what you are capable of accomplishing. Applicants make a common mistake when answering this question-they repeat information found elsewhere in the application. A good student, for example, will be tempted to fall back on stressing his or her high G.P.A. or G.M.A.T. score. A person who has won a number of awards or acknowledgments will try to include all of them and end up turning their essay into little more than a prose list. Many of the questions specify that you choose one, two, or three specific accomplishments as a way of avoiding this kind of response.


If you do choose an accomplishment that the committee is already aware of-such as your induction into Phi Beta Kappa or a promotion that appears on your resume-then bring the experience alive. Demonstrate what it took to get there and how it affected you personally. Do not be afraid to show committee members that you are proud. This not the place for modesty. However, do not fall to the other extreme either-you can toot your own horn, but do it without being didactic or preachy. You will not have to worry about either extreme if you keep your essay short and to the point. Spend the bulk of your essay simply telling the story.


If you are having trouble choosing something to focus on, then remember that the best essays are often about modest accomplishments. What you accomplished does not matter as long as you found it personally meaningful and can make it come alive. Unless specified, the accomplishment can be professional, personal, or academic. Did you get a compliment from a notoriously tight-lipped, hard-driving manager? Did you lose the race but beat your own best time? As an English major, did you work around the clock to bring a C in physics up to an A? Do not think about what they want to hear-think about what has really made you proud.


SAMPLE ESSAY:


Describe the two accomplishments that occurred in the last five years of which you are most proud. (Columbia)


Strategic Advisory for American Savings Bank


In January 1994, my group was engaged by Robert Bass’ Keystone Partners to evaluate their investment in California company, the culminating point of a five-year banking relationship. Keystone Partner however, engaged Goldman Sachs as co-advisor, thereby infuriating the Lehman team. We swore to keep control of the valuation process by solely handling the modeling work including complex simulations and projections, which I was solely responsible for. I quickly drafted a couple of pages that I distributed to both teams. Overnight, the Goldman team reproduced them line by line and sent them directly to the client as their work. It was a great strike against our team. I decided to design a completely different model, and to draw upon the information that I could gather from a long and fruitful client relationship with Lehman Brothers. I convinced the senior vice president, vice president and associate who had covered the company for years to pass on their knowledge, persuaded them to be available for 36 hours straight to answer all my questions, and for four more hours to be trained by me on the model. I designed a 23 page model, stuffed with information, that we presented to the 42 person working team, gathered at our request. The presentation, led by myself for technical explanations and the senior vice president for strategic conclusions, was a great success. The Goldman Senior Partner, recognizing the “excellency” of our model, proposed that I remain in charge of “all the number”.

I value this experience because I gained respect from the senior executives at all three firms. But most of all, although one of the most junior banker, I was able to inspire a cohesive spirit to our team in pursuing our goal to produce a high quality presentation.


Learning to Surf


My move to Los Angeles in August 1992 represented not only a great professional challenge-to work with only two senior bankers and cover all California financial institutions-but also a personal opportunity, a chance to broaden my horizons. I grew up in Paris and lived in the capital for 21 years before moving to New York; I definitely was a city girl! Los Angeles demanded however that I adapted to a whole different world, where sport rather than opera rhythms the season. I knew that my first year in the Los Angeles office would be extremely busy due to the small size of my group. In fact I averaged 90 hours of work per week that year. To keep my sanity and maintain a good spirit, I resolved to try and learn a sport that had always fascinated me: surfing. Thus I bought a brand new wetsuit and longboard and started the experience bright and early on a sunny Saturday afternoon under the merciless scrutiny of the local surfers, all males, who did not hide their contempt for my pale skin and weak arms so typical of investment banking Corporate Analysts. Surfing seemed at first an impossible mission: my board always mysteriously rebounded on my head, while the waves would break exactly where I was paddling. At work, there was an explosion of laughter when I proudly exposed my (only) personal project: why, a twenty-six year old Parisian, surfing? This had to be French humor! I resolved however to practice every week-end before coming into the office. Last summer, I finally stood up on my board and rode the wave to the beach. It was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life and although I still surf regularly, nothing matches my first wave nor the pride that I felt. Because I received little help and encouragement but prevailed, I cherish this experience which was actually a tremendous confidence builder.


COMMENTS:


The writer demonstrates a nice balance between her professional and her personal achievements. Her first accomplishment shows the essayist to be a savvy business professional and highlights her good political sense, dedication, and technical skill. The second accomplishment rounds out the image by painting a picture of a young, healthy, active woman willing to take risks and learn new skills at the expense of laughter and embarrassment. The latter may have been a personal achievement, but these translate into very lucrative professional skills as well.



  1. Why Do You Want an MBA Questions 
  2. Contribution and Diversity Questions 
  3. Accomplishment Questions 
  4. Leadership Ability Questions 
  5. Hobby and Extracurricular Questions 
  6. Role Model Questions 
  7. Failure Questions 
  8. Very Personal Questions


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