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How to quantify business/monetary achievements?

YieldProtectedYieldProtected 24 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
Hi all,

I am applying soon as a prospective business major and a lot of my extracurriculars revolve around the businesses that I have started and consulted for, but I'm not sure on the best way to incorporate this into my apps.

For example, how do I state how much money I have made from a certain venture without coming across as embellishing/bragging or just flat-out lying? Most of my essays right now talk about some of the unique challenges I came across while running my businesses (cliche, I know) but I want to know how this can be expressed, say, in my Common App achievements section. Do I just directly say how much I've made? Also, would this come across as irrelevant or detrimental since it can't really be proven without me sending them my bank statements? Please let me know how to go about this, and if you have any additional tips or experience on how running a successful business impacted your application, thanks!
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Replies to: How to quantify business/monetary achievements?

  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34123 replies377 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    How much you made isn't an admit factor.
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  • cypresspatcypresspat 328 replies8 threadsRegistered User Member
    I think what I would do is describe the businesses as one would in a resume. For example, their annual revenues, number of FTEs, perhaps amount they sold for, if applicable. No need to report your personal income.
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  • austinmshauriaustinmshauri 8930 replies334 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    How much you made may be of interest to financial aid. Did you earn enough to have to file a tax return? Did you earn more than the amount that's excluded from financial aid applications? Your income can add to your EFC, so it matters for that. But it won't help with admissions.
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  • YieldProtectedYieldProtected 24 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @lookingforward Okay that makes sense, I was unsure after seeing many people post about their monetary achievements. I think it would just come across as braggadocious rather than add credit to my application since it's so hard to prove.
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  • YieldProtectedYieldProtected 24 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @cypresspat I'm not sure what you mean. Are you saying it's okay for me to post my revenues? I started and ran two businesses throughout the past two years of high school, and also consulted for other businesses. I would be able to find the exact numbers for my personal businesses but I can't find the revenues for the companies I consulted for. In this situation, the business revenues are basically my own; how do I report that? On a similar note, wouldn't it be just as hard to prove FTEs/work hours with no punch cards/records being sent in? Thanks for the help.
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  • YieldProtectedYieldProtected 24 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @austinmshauri I didn't really think about that, thanks. I think at this point I don't qualify for financial aid so it doesn't matter, but you're saying I can't/shouldn't talk about my income in my application? Rather, I should just focus on talking about my role and progress in these businesses. Let me know, thanks.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34123 replies377 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 15
    Thing is, the tippy tops on your list can like dedication, but can shy away from kids who appear too pre-professional. They like to think of students' fuller/broader and open experience during the four college years. Not that you're all done and packaged up, a career in progress. Not that you're already situated with employees, et al.

    Imo, you have a fine line to walk. Yes, kids do chance threads with lots of $$$ or "founded" in them. But that's not the primary of what gets an admit. We'd need to understand a lot more about you, to advise.

    You want- and need- to show the same core traits others need to. And an openness to more than just career prep. Not give them the sense that their degree will just seal your future career. Don't forget, they're trying to build a nicely interatve community.

    This *might* be a case where you either add a quasi resume for the business, using discretion in how you state things. Or just create a link to a web page with further details, if they are curious.

    As I said, a fine line. Imo, it's a case where you want to understand as much as you can about what they do look for, 'think like an adcom.'
    edited September 15
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  • YieldProtectedYieldProtected 24 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @lookingforward Wow, this is super helpful. Yeah, it's definitely very important to come across as a real human with true academic pursuits, not just the next faceless investment banker/plastic surgeon. I'll definitely keep this in the back of my head when I finish the rest of my essays and apps.

    For me, I think I valued a lot of my monetary achievements to the point where it surpassed my academic goals at one point (you can see it in my less-than-optimal gpa sophomore year) and realizing this helped me get back on track, knowing that I really wanted to pursue a top-tier education first and foremost. Maybe I should write more about the learning experiences I had (without sounding cliche) and my goals and pursuits in business besides making money. Thanks again, this is so helpful!
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  • cypresspatcypresspat 328 replies8 threadsRegistered User Member
    @YieldProtected Others have noted that by describing what appears to be a career already started could work against you. However, so many college applicants list that they started some revenue-generating entity, which anyone with $50 and internet access can do. What most cannot or no not do is start a financially sustainable entity. That is quite an accomplishment; there are colleges which will recognize that as such.

    Most of what is put on college apps is not verified (not suggesting you lie or embellish). But, for example, you could say something like: ‘started a for-profit web design consultancy junior year which grew to include two other part-time employees within first year.’ Point is not to show precisely how much money you earned, but that you were good enough and mature enough to provide a service which could support three people’s part-time wages. Again, the idea is to show that you were skilled & and mature enough to create a sustainable venture, all while in HS. A lemonade stand wouldn’t be that impressive, but a consultancy, or other entity which serves consumers or other entities (something that an adult could/would do) would be.
    The revenues of your clients are irrelevant.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6712 replies57 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 15
    Maybe I should write more about the learning experiences I had

    This. As @lookingforward said: how much you made is not an admission metric. Lessons you learned in the process can be.
    A lemonade stand wouldn’t be that impressive, but a consultancy... would be.

    Not necessarily...
    Running a profitable lemonade stand for two years could arguably be a more impressive achievement. A lemonade stand requires having the right amount of the right ingredients at the right time to make a product to a given standard on a continuing basis, and then selling it on a repeated basis to people you mostly don't know, at times and places that suit your prospective customers, for enough money that the whole thing is profitable. It can have more bureaucracy to deal with than a consultancy, as permits may be required and food safety issues dealt with.

    A "consultancy" on the other hand can be as simple as an adult friend of the family hiring you to do a project for them or the company they work for (build a PowerPoint presentation, update their computing resources, etc), requires no more resources than the laptop you already have for school and can often be done around other work / mostly on nights and weekends (aka a 'nixer' in some places) and is thus profitable on the face of it.

    And, yes, I am dissing my own business :-)

    ...and I am not suggesting that this was the case for the OP - just pointing out that 'consulting' can sound far grander than it sometimes is, and colleges are as aware of that as anybody.
    edited September 15
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34123 replies377 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Thing is, coming on too strong, one way or another, can misfire. (It's NOT a job app.) Think of the Chance threads where kids claim to have multi employees internationally (and usually with Wharton or Stanford in mind.) They "think" this sort of achievement is a hook- and some even carry it down to silly levels, like how many youtube followers.
    Holistic isn't as much about quantitatives (after the academics are there.)

    OP, not just "a real human with true academic pursuits," but the other ECs matter, as well. They show the rounding, willingness to engage with peers and contribute your part, not just building your own business success. Plus, openness to variety, new things, the right sorts of community action, and more.

    It's really a sort of not being "all work and no play." A lot is made on CC of pursuing your own interests (and I say it, re: being involved in the future major, in some way.) But they want to know you can climb out of your own zone, take on some stretch, try new things, give to others, etc, etc, and make their campus a great place.

    OP, you've got sports and music as ECs. I'd suggest you take a look, see if there are other ways you're active, even if not official school clubs. Maybe *not* write the essay about the business, but about another aspect of you that they want to see. The essay isn't where you plead you case, as much as show yourself via some narrative, where the traits they like can come through. Openness, good will and inclusiveness, resilience, ability to learn from experiences.

    And it needs, "show, not just tell." It's the idea readers can see you, your point, not just need to take your word for it. The right examples.

    Who are you clients, btw? Mostly family or friends?
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  • YieldProtectedYieldProtected 24 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    My main business ventures include running a boutique "consulting" (more of a marketing business) firm, which I started from the ground myself, and to date, I have hired three part-time employees to help with automation and copywriting. I also established a "mini-hedge fund", with non-solicited donations from SEC-accredited investors making it perfectly legal, even as I am a minor without proper hedge fund/CFA certs. The former consisted of completely random clients
    Who are you clients, btw? Mostly family or friends?
    while the "hedge fund" (basically an IBKR account that I managed) got its funds from mostly family friends and is beginning to have other investors that are friends of friends. On another note, would I come off as too pre-professional if I mentioned my intention to take the Series 65 (Investment Advisor) certification test this fall?

    @cypresspat I will keep in mind to portray my businesses as completely self-made, sustainable ventures that were clearly not made just for college apps, something a lot of my peers have done.

    @collegemom3717 I totally realize the issue of using such a vague term as consulting to describe a business' purpose; to be clear, I provided services to local B&M businesses that aimed to include paid traffic through online advertising, and a lot of this job was me having hours-long talks with these business owners about how they could make their businesses more future-proof/attractive to prospective younger customers. I went into substantial depth about this in my essays, it's just hard to reveal/explain all the details on a post right now. Thanks for the clarification about the merits of each business type (lemonade stand vs. consulting), both have their merits.

    @lookingforward That's true, the holistic picture of me as someone who will contribute to their campus and eventually alumni network is uber-important. I won't forget to mention my achievements in lacrosse and piano, and a lot of my unique experiences through some other EC activities (such as being the only Asian American on a varsity lacrosse team in a wide radius of my area).
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6712 replies57 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @YieldProtected, my post was really more in response to the poster who was comparing the two paths, not so much about yours in particular. But....
    a lot of this job was me having hours-long talks with these business owners about how they could make their businesses more future-proof/attractive to prospective younger customers. I went into substantial depth about this in my essays,

    Golly, I hope those essays are still in draft form and that you have somebody who doesn't already love you reading them before you send them. I am *not* asking you to answer this question here, but to think about it: what do those essays tell an AO about you as a student, as a potential member of the community, or as a human that is additive to, and different from, what they will learn about you from the rest of your app? Are you trying to prove how good at your consulting work you are, or to show the AOs something about you as a person? Your phrasing makes me wonder if you are writing it more like a job applicant.

    I am willing to take at face value that you are that good, but you should be aware that there are people who might not. In particular, picture a 40 yo AO reading an essay in which a 17 yo discusses his part-time job (b/c being a HS student is his full-time job) in which he spends hours telling business owners how to attract more young people as customers. It is not impossible that instead of being impressed with your business acumen, they might roll their eyes at what they see as youth / naïveté / arrogance or whatever. It's a fine line to walk in an essay.

    I'm not really clear what you want from going to college. In one thread you list some tippy tops (4 years no matter what), and in another you mention wanting to barrel through UCLA in 2 years to get college at of the way. You are already earning more than anybody who will be reading your application- be sure you have an answer to the 'why us' question that has the ring of truth to it.
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  • YieldProtectedYieldProtected 24 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @collegemom3717 My bad, I just wanted to clarify if it was relevant about the type of work that I do, I wasn't clear in my earlier posts by saying "consulting". As I said above, I am really putting a lot of effort into portraying the best qualities of myself and to not seem like too much of a pre-professional robot. I apologize if the way I've posted on here comes off just like that, but in my applications, I truly believe I detailed out a narrative of myself that can hopefully portray me as a good fit for each school.

    As for my intentions, I know it seems futile for me to attend college with solid, profitable businesses under my belt, but I really want a higher education for myself, as is the expectation of my family (which I am fine with). I worked so hard in the past three to four years, balancing school and business, when I could've just dropped out and started making a living full time, enamored with my intention of seeking higher education. I'll be the first to admit that although my businesses may be great now, they will probably not last forever, nor do I plan on running them forever. A top-tier education would give me the benefit of studying with world-class professors and gaining invaluable knowledge, as well as having a sturdy, reputable degree to my name, at the bare minimum. As for income, I am fortunate enough to maybe make more than the AOs reading my essays, but that was never the goal. Funnily enough, I initially started my businesses with the intention of making some money to help out my parents with my college tuition.

    The schools I list as my apps are mostly coinflip T20-type schools as well as some safeties. The thread I started a few days ago regarding possibly applying to UCLA as a transfer was just a pathway I learned about in the months between my initial "Chance me" post and now. UCLA is one of my top choices and given that my college coursework is completely transferable to UC campuses, I wondered if I could get in with much higher chances than expected.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29422 replies58 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Here is the problem with these sort of accomplishments:

    1) Verifying that it is indeed all yours.
    Parents have too often set up their kids in enterprises. And right now fraud of this sort is very much on everyone’s mind.

    2) Schools are most interested in academic achievement. They are interested in the core academic subjects, not business or ancillary courses. You would think business schools would like to see a student already having taken accounting, management, finance, etc from their local college. Nope. They want to see English, Math, Science (Bio, Chem, Physics) , History, Foreign language ideally all 4 years with some latitude for electives.

    3) Unless it’s truly big time, on a national recognition basis, highly selective schools, tend to casts jaundiced eye towards individual endeavors.

    AOs cannot easily differentiate among non standard ECs. Kids are claiming publication, research, inventions, achievements all of the time. They give the most weight to achievements recognized through certain channels that are established and known to colleges.

    Do you understand how a parent could set up a business, give the seed money and the kid sort of runs it?

    Do you understand that Admissions has about 10 minutes maybe to assess each application? Look at the number of Admissions employees handling however many apps in a tight time period
    and do the math.

    Do you understand why those who had opportunities to run promising businesses like Steve Job, Bill Gates, Elizabeth Holmes dropped out of school? When a student at NYU Tisch gets a Broadway or movie role, they drop out, take a leave . Schools do not support career focus. You are there to toe their line. They don’t particularly care that you have a successful business. They want to see a commitment to their curriculum, their community.

    You should come up with a very good and concise explanation of your business as an Ec With a link to your web site. You should go into detail about the business and tie it into how you are going to be focusing on the school’s offerings to go to the next steps.

    Most important of all, you should win over your school GC as to how great this enterprise is so s/he can describe it in the all important LOR that accompanies your application. Your GC is going to be able to spend more time assessing the academic impact of your business activity than the Admissions Officer reading your file is. You need to get a concise compelling story for him/her to pass onto the colleges. You need to write it up yourself and give it to the GC to use.

    I also suggest sending your promo material that you give prospective clients.

    I had a small business for years performing statistical analyses for research. Most of my kids were proficient in the models and were instrumental in keeping things running for me. None were interested in the business, but they could have talked a good talk and a case could have been made to attribute the business to them, had that been a plan. My clients tended to be in academia and research. When I sold the business, it was to someone who gave it to his kid straight out of a top school to run and gain entry to a top business school. These things are done a lot, I found out.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34123 replies377 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    "relevant about the type of work that I do"

    That's not relevant to what they look for. You risk a reaction that you're too professional already. And unaware of what they do look for, what makes them tick, what makes you one they want. It's incomplete.


    Your writing here shows you're smart. But these colleges are looking for match. You have to make sure you understand what that means.

    These aren't incubators. Nor internships, funding sources, or contests.They're communities. Even if you were a Steve Jobs, they're looking for how you fit, what you'll contribute to the whole, as a mortal. Even H says, would you make a great roommate? You've got to be more than this business.

    "A top-tier education would give me the benefit of studying with world-class professors and gaining invaluable knowledge, as well as having a sturdy, reputable degree to my name"

    Not a solid answer to a Why Us. It comes across as the college as a commodity, to meet your purposes. Focuses too much on the college rep. Lots of non tippy tops have world class profs, fab opportunities, etc. TT adcoms know this.

    It's what they call a generic answer. They don't feel the love. Or knowledge of them.

    I agree with collegemom3717 and cpt. We're trying to explain something dufficult in short responses.

    Many kids see getting into a tippy top as hierarchical. Best grades, more leader titles, more money made, better this or that. But it's holistic.

    Try not to tell them you just want them cuz they're the best and so are you and your dreams.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34123 replies377 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    So, who are you, besides this money making?

    Other than sports, how do you integrate with peers? What good are you doing for others, including the community around you? When do you climb out of this business box?
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  • YieldProtectedYieldProtected 24 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @cptofthehouse I understand the time restraints on reviewing applications, which is why I'm trying to figure out the best way to include my personal achievements in business in the most concise way possible. For the tippy-tops, I have worked really hard in reputable school clubs and reached national levels of recognition in several known competitions, which could help solidify my credibility. Could you give me an example of how I could demonstrate clearly that my enterprises were self-made? Neither of my parents has any background in the fields of the businesses I began, and the formation of the LLC for my marketing firm was solely under my name.

    In terms of course history, I have 7 years of non-CS math classes on my transcript, 5 years of history, 2 years of art, 6 years of science, and 5 years of a foreign language, which handily meets the graduation requirements. I maxed out the number of courses I could take each year while also maxing out the summer/online class cap, so I would say that I have a very balanced transcript before mentioning my CC business classes. I have also been sending my HS counselor information about my businesses, including bi-monthly updates over the past year or so. About once a month, if I could visit her in school I would; we have a pretty good relationship and she is very informed about my endeavors.

    As for each individual school, I have done a good amount of research and visited five of my top ten choices, and I wrote genuinely from my heart when answering questions such as UPenn's "Why Penn", and I tried to exemplify my personality honestly when explaining what I would add to the campus in terms of value. Thanks for the suggestions!
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  • YieldProtectedYieldProtected 24 replies3 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @lookingforward I think I'm talking too much about my businesses on this thread; it is just one aspect of my apps that I am concerned about because it's kind of harder to define (in terms of achievement) even though I feel accomplished with what I have done with them. The "generic" answer I gave earlier was in response to when you asked what I wanted out of college, but I only applied to schools I was absolutely in love with, and I wrote proper explanations as to why I would be a good fit for each. I completely structured my apps around the holistic aspect of my non-safeties' admission processes by displaying my full character and history, not just my interest in business. Some of the things I talked about, for example, included my eventual philanthropic intentions, and an essay about educating minorities on how to be fiscally responsible. These essays are among my weaker and replaceable ones, and I'm still editing them daily.

    I also included a letter of rec from the CTO of the biggest company I worked with, which should provide some insight into how I work with others in a professional environment. If that is too "pre-professional", do you think I should ask my club or school lacrosse coach for a LOR? Or is there a better way to talk about how I will fit in? I think I answered it pretty well in the essays asking questions such as Penn's "how will your identity affect your community".
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 34123 replies377 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    But you said you're writing the essay about running the business. The traits they want to see (not resume descriptions or explanations) are best handled as, "Show, not just tell." And now you mention "philanthropic intentions?" They aren't looking for post grad plans, they're looking for the 4 years. And they make some measure of how you'd fit there based on what you've done so far, those choices. Plus what you choose to emphasize in the app and supps will show an inherent understanding of what they do want to learn. Or Not. Add to that, other than sports andmusic, you're nearly unilateral.

    Not to mention how "educating minorities on how to be fiscally responsible" sounds so cocky. What experience with others, what shows your humility? And a present record of doing for others, rolling up your sleeves and doing for the needy in your community, first hand?


    What do you do as comm service now?
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