About to go final, desperately need critique

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
342848386278
Posts: 131
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:59 pm

About to go final, desperately need critique

Postby 342848386278 » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:49 pm

Oy, anyhow, all opinions / criticism greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

168 / 3.85, weak softs (though I'm currently teaching in France). Are my chances completely shot applying this late in the cycle? Will it kill my chances if I send off at the end of this week?

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EDIT : SEE DRAFT IN LATER POST
Last edited by 342848386278 on Thu Jan 07, 2010 1:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.

madcherrylimas
Posts: 40
Joined: Sun Nov 08, 2009 12:41 pm

Re: About to go final, desperately need critique

Postby madcherrylimas » Tue Jan 05, 2010 3:41 am

My upbringing in Oklahoma was marked by a troublesome contradiction – I was acutely aware both of being gay, and of the disapproval expressed (at times violently) by peers and adults in the face of homosexuality. While this dilemma painfully precluded my ever being at home within my home state, it also sparked within me a restless fascination for identity formation that continues to drive my personal and academic evolution. <mention how this ties into law here>

My earliest memory is of standing on the front porch of my parent's home with ears perked in awe at the harmonies trickling through the cracked window. Bundled and barely four years old, I wandered inside to find my father hunched over a rickety upright piano newly tucked behind the Christmas tree. While the first Oklahoman snowfall of the season softly dusted the empty fields and steakhouse parking-lots on the horizon, I spilled myself across the keybed, harmonically articulating thoughts I didn't speak for fear of rejection. Music quickly became a second tongue, giving me the only voice with which to express the continual frustration that boiled within me.

Eager to escape the stifling plains, I trekked off to my first year of University expecting at last to feel at home within New England. <why?> Yet though applying my musically ingrained instinct for pattern analysis to the study of textual structure left me intellectually fulfilled, piano remained my sole means of uncensored personal expression, and the streets felt just as vacant as the fields from which I'd fled. With the weight of my hidden homosexuality still heavy upon my shoulders, I set off to find work in Dublin the following summer[strike]eager to again increase the distance between myself and the native state in which I'd never felt welcome.[/strike] Living on a shoestring and working alone in a foreign country greatly strengthened my independence[strike](as well as my tolerance for less than ideal lodging)[/strike], but as I passed my free hours in a Steinway store off Grafton Street, I realized that my second tongue had served as a crutch for far too long. <this and the following sentences -- very good> The musical passion which laid the foundation for my intellectual interests had also been providing an emotional escape valve which prevented me from saying what needed to be said – and that insistent? silence lay at the root of the perpetual homelessness that had long haunted me.

I entered my sophomore year armed with the realization that a sense of belonging can only arise from a firm sense of self. - I think you can make reference to your plans with law here as well.

...Through international and human rights law I will combine my passionate interests in identity, community formation, and structural analysis to fight for the rights of marginalized individuals and communities both within my native state and abroad.
-how? what kind of experience or knowledge do you have with law, and that you have an idea of what you would be doing at home and abroad.

I think you make a decent case for yourself as a passionate, interesting, and intelligent person, but the thing I don't see in all of this is why are you interested in becoming a law student? You begin to set it up when you talk about being angry at the local government, and I think you can continue with this to make the why law case stronger. I think you could also begin to mention that you have general plans for a law school education earlier on as well.

I'm not sure what the last paragraph actually means. It sounds good. But -- what exactly do you want to do? -- Not that it has to be specific, but show that you have a general idea at least of what you want to do and how. Public interest for gays? Marginalized people at home and abroad is such a vast population and so vague. How do you know a law school education is the best way for you to help? Show that you are making an informed decision.

moi je trouve que tu aies des bons "softs" et que ton PS soit, pour la plupart, bien ecrit. juste -- pourquoi le droit? quelle est ta motivation? tu dis pas beaucoup sur ce sujet, mais elle est la partie la plus importante.

j'espere que mes annotations t'aideront, bonne chance avec tes candidatures.

BenJ
Posts: 1353
Joined: Mon Dec 28, 2009 12:58 pm

Re: About to go final, desperately need critique

Postby BenJ » Tue Jan 05, 2010 4:37 am

342848386278 wrote:Edit : 168 / 3.85, weak softs (though I'm currently teaching in France). Are my chances completely shot applying this late in the cycle? Will it kill my chances if I send off at the end of this week?


Depends where you're applying, but generally no. Obviously would have been better earlier, but you're okay.

Just some general advice: You're very, very wordy. Go through and remove any and all words that are not necessary to what you're trying to say. Avoid the passive voice, especially in your very first sentence: It sends entirely the wrong message. Generally speaking, you need to do a better job of bringing together your entire PS in the opening paragraph: We learn that you're gay and faced an unaccepting family, but not much about how you became interested in the study of identity formation as an academic discipline or how that would be relevant to law.

I hate to be really critical, but being gay myself, I would expect to feel pretty emotional reading a piece about a gay man (or woman?) coming from a conservative Oklahoman family and yet achieving success. But your PS didn't move me at all. I think clearing up the wordiness would definitely help, but you also need more focus.

At first, it sounds as if you're going to be writing about your academic career in music and how it allowed you to express yourself in a repressed environment, but then suddenly you're talking about how music hampered you and how you studied LGBT identity. The whole paragraph about your freshman year and traveling to Ireland does not fit well with the rest and could be reduced to just a single sentence. (Ireland, in particular, seems irrelevant--presumably your resume shows that you worked in Ireland, and you don't say anything more about it here.) You need a singular narrative, presumably one about realizing you were gay in a hostile environment, searching for an identity, finding one, and then embracing that identity and entering law school to help others. I can see the glimmers of such a PS in here, but it could definitely use a lot of work.

Also, and maybe this is just me finding the word "homosexual" a little bit uncomfortably medical, but just stick with "gay" and "LGBT identity" (GLBT, queer, whatever you prefer).

/Je ne parle-pas Francais.

342848386278
Posts: 131
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:59 pm

Re: About to go final, desperately need critique

Postby 342848386278 » Thu Jan 07, 2010 1:21 pm

Thanks for the critiques, exactly what I needed. Here's a largely reworked and potentially final draft... anyone care to give it a skim before I send-off tomorrow? Any and all criticism regardless of how brutal will be helpful!


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Last edited by 342848386278 on Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

342848386278
Posts: 131
Joined: Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:59 pm

Re: About to go final, desperately need critique

Postby 342848386278 » Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:59 pm

Bump? Sending this off Friday afternoon, so any last minute thoughts will be hugely appreciated...

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WhatSarahSaid
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Re: About to go final, desperately need critique

Postby WhatSarahSaid » Fri Jan 08, 2010 5:16 am

A troublesome contradiction marked my upbringing in Oklahoma – I was acutely aware both of being gay, [no comma] and of the disapproval expressed (at times violently) in the face of homosexuality. While this dilemma painfully precluded my [this is a bit awkward. Cut "precluded my" and put something like "prevented me from"] ever being [I don't like "being" -- maybe "feeling"?] at home within my home state, it also sparked within me a restless fascination for identity formation that drove my personal and academic evolution and now compels me to the study of law. [make this "compels me to study law" or "compels me toward the study of law"]

My earliest memory is of standing on the front porch of my parent's [if two parents lived there, put the apostrophe after the s. If not, I'm a huge jerk] home with ears perked in awe at the harmonies trickling through the cracked window. Bundled and barely four years old, I wandered inside to find my father hunched over a rickety upright piano newly tucked behind the Christmas tree. While the first Oklahoman snowfall of the season dusted the empty fields and steakhouse parking-lots [cut the hyphen] on the horizon, I spilled myself across the keybed, harmonically articulating thoughts I didn't speak for fear of rejection. Music quickly became a second tongue, giving me the only voice with which to express the continual frustration boiling within me. I trekked off to my first year of University hoping to find a new home in the culturally foreign and formidably more snow-swept streets of New England. But, still burdened by my hidden homosexuality, those streets remained as somber as the fields from which I'd fled.

I set off to find work in Dublin the following summer [comma here] eager to escape the stifling legacy of the plains. Pausing between bouts of Rachmaninoff one afternoon in an old workshop off Grafton street [assuming this is a specific street, capitalize street], I stepped out into the alley and unwittingly stumbled upon the city's gay pride procession. Bewildered by the crowd, I realized with heady clarity that my second tongue had served as a crutch for far too long. The musical passion which laid the foundation for my intellectual interests had provided an emotional escape valve preventing me from saying what needed to be said – and that insistent silence lay at the root of the perpetual homelessness that had long haunted me. Fighting the urge to return to the warm piano bench from which I'd just risen, I marched out into the street and for the first time in my life publicly embraced the whole of who I am.

I entered my sophomore year armed with the realization that a sense of belonging can only arise from a firm sense of self. [this is a pretty bold generalization. Unless you're really committed to it, make it apply only to yourself or change it in a different way] Determined to put forth in language and action what I'd previously expressed only through music, I finally came out to friends and family and joined a student-run extracurricular course exploring gender construction and heteronormativity within a collaborative workshop. The following summer I was awarded an undergraduate group research grant to document the oral history of Rhode Island's cultural underground. Combining narrative historiography with identity politics, I sought out the remaining members of a gay rights movement driven nearly to extinction during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Enraged by a local government that acknowledged neither the existence of the queer community nor the crisis it faced, the voices I encountered shared a burning frustration that echoed the hopelessness I myself had felt growing up in Oklahoma. As I collaborated with my fellow researchers [comma here] however, I found that the testimonies I gathered were deeply woven within the narrative fabric of the region, overlapping with social projects and artistic endeavors that still enrich the area today. The unification of my personal and academic fascinations later culminated [add a word like "during"] my senior year in an independent research course I designed exploring corporeal transgression and community formation within New Weird fiction (a recent literary movement ripe with the problematization of particulate [do you mean "patriarchal" here? What you have here makes no sense to me, but I'm not familiar with the topic] identity). But rather than remaining ensconced within the literary world, I am driven now to dedicate what I have learned and who I have become to pursue concrete change.

Documenting the assimilation of a once marginalized group into an enlivened regional community shattered the alienation I had long felt from my native Oklahoma and imbued the fields I'd always considered to be barren with a profound sense of potential. Having found my own voice, I am compelled to ensure that others may be free to do the same without crippling fear of intolerance or ostracization. I am particularly interested in the intersection of sexuality and public policy with regards to the role of legislation in the reconciliation of personal and communal identities. Through international and human rights law [comma] I will combine my passionate interests to fight for the rights of marginalized individuals and communities both within my native state and abroad.

This is really well-written and paints a pretty vivid picture of who you are. I fear, though, that your writing might be a bit too elevated. You clearly enjoy to wax poetic, but the sentences you devote to barren fields might be better spent telling the reader more about you.

The comment made earlier about the emotional connection is spot-on. You have a story here, but it gets lost when you start trying to impress the reader with your impressive vocabulary and when you start stating things off of your resume. Maybe you can tell a story about not being accepted? You tell us over and over that you were ostracized, but we never see it [not that I don't believe you].

Making the focus something like "I was ostracized, but I decided to fight it by doing X, Y, and Z at school" would probably be better than what you have. The part about music doesn't really add anything.

Again, you have a lot of good stuff here. If you can share more of yourself and your past and make it more focused, this will be a great PS.




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