Personal Achievement Essay

Naomi K. (Admitted by Wharton)

In Great Application Essays for Business School, which will be released in December 2005 by McGraw-Hill, publisher of BusinessWeek, author Paul Bodine provides an inside look at successful application essays. Bodine offers suggestions throughout each of the essays to give readers an idea of what admissions committees consider a well-thought-out and insightful response to their essay questions. The following is one of four essays from the book that is being made available on BusinessWeek Online:

Essay prompt: Describe a personal achievement that has had a significant impact on your life. In addition to recounting this achievement, please analyze how the event has changed your understanding of yourself and how you perceive the world around you. (3 pages, 1000 words)

Since 1997, I have been volunteering as a Big Brother for a 12-year-old boy named Lonnie through the Alameda County United Way's Big Brother/Big Sister program. [Naomi's story is strong enough that she can get away with a direct, "uncreative" lead sentence] When I joined the organization, it was clear that Lonnie needed someone to boost his self-esteem. At the end of his school term, Lonnie's mother told me that he did not do very well in math so I also started to help him with his homework. We spent last summer doing extra math work, and I tried to spark his interest in math by explaining things to him using examples from his favorite activity: sports. Once he understood that math had practical value for things in his own life, he was able to catch up to other students. In the fall term Lonnie improved his grade from a C to a B. Hearing this news was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Later in the spring term, however, Lonnie experienced behavioral problems emanating from his inability to control his anger at his school, and the school authorities moved him to a special school. [Effective use of a "plot reversal": apparent happy ending leads to deeper challenge] He told me he missed his old school a lot and was willing to do anything for a chance to go back. He also admitted that he knew he might get his chance if he could control his anger. Seeing that Lonnie needed somebody to help him control his emotions, I worked to give him a sense of security and urged him to reason out the implications of the actions his anger drove him to. I also encouraged him to get a summer job to develop a sense of responsibility. He listened to and practiced my advice, and by the end of summer the authorities allowed him to return to his old school.

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