Posts Tagged ‘Achievement’

Achievement: Is there anything to be proud of?

I guess, yes. It’s something that you have achieved on your own. I don’t mean it should be something to which nobody else contributed. Of course, not. If we examine our achievements, we’ll see that at least some of their aspects have been brought about by other people, even if they served just as inspiration.

It could be something little. The best essays are usually about little accomplishments, because in such cases we tend to dig deeper and examine from a broader perspective, trying to find little gems. If the achievement is big, we rely on its speaking for itself, thus coming up with superficial flat descriptions.

People are not interested so much in WHAT you achieved but in HOW you achieved it. Your way, your struggle should reveal some of your merits.

Thus committment to something small other people find useless (e.g. learning how to juggle with 5 tangerines) might turn out to be the gem because you show you’re brave and confident enough not to care about other people’s opinion as long as you believe in your cause. You’re also patient, etc. Well it’s just another possible scenario.


Achievement: Don’t be proud of being a good student

I have already warned against writing about things which could be found elsewhere in your application. Well, actually, it’s ok to elaborate on some of these, but in your case being a good student is not one of these, I guess. If you come from a family which values education and does its best to provide you with educational opportunities, you have not gone through hell to become a good student. It would be a shame if you did not get good marks, so what’s so special about your academic accomplishment?

Of course, valuing education does not necessarily mean you have developed the best philosophy of education, but we cannot tell admissions officers that our parents are not interested in whether we learn or not but rather in whether we get excellent marks or not, can we?

Of course access to educational opportunities is not the same as educational quality, but we cannot tell admissions officers that teachers at prestigious selective high schools are ignorant and negligent, can we?

Even if it is true that your parents and teachers are not educationally enlightened, you cannot brag about being an excellent student because you were not born and raised in a ghetto / mistreated minority, and, you haven’t actually made the most of your blessings. How many books have you read this year? Well, just forget about being a good student, OK?

Achievement: reread the Holy Scriptures

Before you start writing essays about achievement, reread this text.

Essay ≠ List

When asked to write essays on topics related to growth / achievement, students are usually tempted to write a list of their achievements, high exams scores and academic competition awards usually topping the list.

You should truly realize that an essay is NOT a list. You’ll be asked to list your achievements on the pages of your application form, so you don’t need to offer the same information in your essay. Don’t worry, college admissions officers will see all your grades, scores and awards; some of your teachers will probably elaborate on the most significant ones in their reference letters. To discuss these again in the essay will be labouring the point. Besides, it ill show colleges that you’re not more than a file of statistics, and what they are really interested in is accepting persons, not numbers.

An essay might be your only real chance to stand out as a person and be remembered.

Don’t you need to fit in, to match the profile of the average Dream College student? Well there’s no such a clear-cut thing as “the average College X student”, but that’s what we should discuss later. And then … I cannot emphasize enough how much you have to stand out.

I know it’s hard to get used to the concept after having lived for 18 years in our country and studied at our schools, which do their best to make you fit in, and if you don’t, you’re in trouble, man!

If you’re deeply interested in success, you could research topics like branding (especially personal branding). Now I’ll focus only on college context.

Imagine a college admissions officer. For 2-3 months he is busy reading applications – from dawn to dusk. He has a huge pile for the day, and he has to sift through it, so that he keeps and submits just a few applications to the next committee.

He will surely keep the few applications that have impressed him. Can you impress anyone by being so much like everyone else?

People have limited memories, so they can remember just a couple of items at a time (a couple of students a day), and what they remember best is the extraordinary.

If you list too many items in your essay, chances are none (or probably not the most important) will be remembered, so what you have to do is focus and paint a memorable picture, focusing on a single episode or trait.

An application essay should be like a haiku poem – telling little, and thus showing a whole unique universe. To get the metaphor, do try reading a bit of haiku, and you’ll feel that every little (three-line) poem places you in a wildly different universe.

If you write a list of 15 awards from math competitions, an admissions officer will know that you’re good at math, and as you’ll probably have good math grades and SAT Math scores, and a recommendation from your math teacher, he’ll be sick and tired of math.

Well, if you can show him your special relationship with math through a fascinating story, he’ll be impressed, and he’ll remember you, and, hopefully, pass your file on to the next committee. You cannot possibly write a fascinating story about math? Well, why not try some other topic for a change?