Critique, please....

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
sk_mcbride
Posts: 12
Joined: Thu Dec 10, 2009 8:53 am

Critique, please....

Postby sk_mcbride » Tue Jan 05, 2010 10:15 am

You may safely be as brutal as you like. I kind of like the thing, but I'm obviously partial.



I awoke one March day during my eighth grade year with an insatiable desire to plant a vegetable garden. Time has dulled the memory of whatever exactly inspired the sentiment, but I vividly recall how strong it was. Thus I began digging, although I must confess that my labor was as much influenced by sheer fourteen year-old boredom as it was loftier ideals like hard work, self-sufficiency, patience, environmental responsibility, or even great tasting, nutritious food. I just had an itch to try something new. With time I would come to realize how inextricably linked these are.

Like most things in life, however, gardening turned out to be more difficult than it looked. To say nothing of the manual labor required to break ground, I had no knowledge of what made a garden work. Basic questions like when and how to plant prompted my first venture into something like comparative research. I spent a good portion of that summer devouring any books I could get my hands on, in addition to talking with some older people who had successful vegetable gardens.
I read a good bit as a kid, but had never tried to wade through all the literature on any one topic. My “research” was normally a simple thumb to an encyclopedia article. If the encyclopedia said it, it was good enough for me. Having now taken the time to consult numerous books over vegetable gardening, I could see I had my hands full. It wasn’t possible to just take one at face value, for they all seemed to say different things and offer different instructions.

The entire process invigorated me. As I continued to work through the material I discovered both a love and aptitude for critical thinking, to say nothing of the fact that I was becoming pretty knowledgeable about vegetables. The ten years since that first garden have obviously brought about significant changes in my ability to think critically as well as my methods for growing vegetables. Different as they may now be, however, it is fundamentally the knowledge and interests gained in that first garden that is driving my decision to attend law school.

The story continues on throughout my time in high school and college as I moved from an interest in my garden alone to an interest in the larger issues surrounding food and agriculture. With all I was learning about an individual’s ability to grow his own food, it struck me that our present means of production and distribution are seriously flawed. Whereas I was able to grow nutritious, delicious vegetables in an economical way while exercising good stewardship over the environment, the food I grew up on in the grocery store tasted inferior and put an unnecessary strain upon the environment without much concern for the future of agriculture.

If my time as an undergraduate flew by without much intellectual development, my time in graduate school stood at the opposite end of the spectrum. I read between 500 and 700 pages every week during seminary with an accompanying writing schedule that constantly forced me to closely consider my reading material. I learned to read quickly without sacrificing comprehension or my ability to carefully weigh the argument. I learned to see through an individual’s presuppositions and identify the important while discarding the unimportant. I learned that the “answer” to a question is rarely black and white and that it is often better to just embrace a tension rather than try to offer something definitive. I finally learned to actually use some of those principles I had learned in my first garden.

My decision to plant my first vegetable garden set two different but complimentary trajectories in my life. The first is my interest in sustainable agriculture; the second is my appreciation for divergent opinions. Through pursuing a law degree at the University of Arkansas, I know that I will be well-equipped to use these two personal convictions and pursue a career working to achieve better practices in the production of food. I do not consider myself to be on some sort of crusade, nor do I think I can alter the face the American agriculture alone. The fact remains, however, that there is a great deal of work waiting to be done to bring healthy, better-tasting food to consumers while maintaining a commitment to sustainability. The University of Arkansas School of Law continues to demonstrate their excellence in the field of agricultural law and provides the finest opportunity to pursue this field, both regionally and nationally.
Last edited by sk_mcbride on Tue Jan 05, 2010 10:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Helmholtz
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Joined: Wed Sep 17, 2008 1:48 pm

Re: Critique, please....

Postby Helmholtz » Tue Jan 05, 2010 10:25 am

do not like

Bored me, felt disjointed, some parts were a little eyeroll-worthy.

sk_mcbride
Posts: 12
Joined: Thu Dec 10, 2009 8:53 am

Re: Critique, please....

Postby sk_mcbride » Tue Jan 05, 2010 10:27 am

I struggled in describing the two main ideas without sounding disjointed, and may have even failed miserably.

I cannot imagine a personal statement which is not eyeroll-worthy. The whole endeavor is cheese.

Neelio
Posts: 530
Joined: Wed Sep 30, 2009 10:21 am

Re: Critique, please....

Postby Neelio » Tue Jan 05, 2010 10:40 am

I see where you are going... and it is a good start. A few transitions between paragraphs were rather choppy and disjointed (especially the paragraph that starts "If my time as an undergraduate..."). Also, in the first paragraph, the line "With time I would come to realize how inextricably linked these are." I wondered what "these" might be. These concepts of hard-work, etc? If so, please clarify.

On the flip side, I think it has a great personal touch. It tells a lot about who you are as a person, and what interests you. That is lacking in many of the other PS posted on this website. I think with some clarifications, smoother transitions, and possibly a more concrete link between your passion for sustainable agriculture and law, you will have a really good PS. Good luck!

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fl0w
Posts: 1404
Joined: Fri Jul 10, 2009 9:46 am

Re: Critique, please....

Postby fl0w » Tue Jan 05, 2010 10:45 am

sk_mcbride wrote:You may safely be as brutal as you like. I kind of like the thing, but I'm obviously partial.

I awoke one March day during my eighth grade year with an insatiable desire to plant a vegetable garden. Time has dulled the memory of whatever exactly inspired the sentiment, but I vividly recall how strong it was. Thus I began digging, although I must confess that my labor was as much influenced by sheer fourteen year-old boredom as it was loftier ideals like hard work, self-sufficiency, patience, environmental responsibility, or even great tasting, nutritious food. I just had an itch to try something new. With time I would come to realize how inextricably linked these are.


I'm not sure if this is "in" now or something, but it seems like a lot of people like to write an entire first paragraph without giving a drop of information about themselves or the purpose of their statement. After reading the introduction I have no desire to read on.

Now I'm through the third paragraph and what I'm getting is that the knowledge gained planting veggies is what is what is driving you to go to law school. 1) if that truly is the focus of your essay it should have been made clear much earlier. 2) is that really what you want the focus of your essay to be?

sk_mcbride wrote:If my time as an undergraduate flew by without much intellectual development, my time in graduate school stood at the opposite end of the spectrum.


Uhh, you basically just said you wasted your time in undergrad. I'm not sure how you meant to use this sentence, but that's how it reads. You then continue to try to explain why that's ok because you actually did your work in grad school.

sk_mcbride wrote:I learned that the “answer” to a question is rarely black and white and that it is often better to just embrace a tension rather than try to offer something definitive. I finally learned to actually use some of those principles I had learned in my first garden.


While the answer may not always be black and white, in the legal field you are almost always on one side or the other of an issue. Embracing the tension may not be a skill sought after by law schools particularly as opposed to understanding the tension and being able to direct arguments to resolve (in either way). Also you say that these were the principles you learned in your first garden? How? You didn't mention learning these things earlier when you talked about your first garden.

sk_mcbride wrote:My decision to plant my first vegetable garden set two different but complimentary trajectories in my life. The first is my interest in sustainable agriculture; the second is my appreciation for divergent opinions.


You have not demonstrated this in the preceding paragraphs. This is the kind of statement, however, that should have been present in the introduction while I was wondering what this essay had to do with anything. But the major issue is that your essay does not sufficiently support this statement. You've said that you read books to learn about veggies and you asked old people who knew about veggies. Your appreciation of divergent opinions seems to come more from grad school than from veggies.

Overall: Veggies to law is a huge stretch and you have not done it effectively. The one thing in your essay that I am more interested in is the mention of your time in seminary. Surely you could write a more compelling statement around this as I would imagine having attended seminary is something that will make you seem unique and engaging in the eyes of the admissions committee.

All just my opinion.

sk_mcbride
Posts: 12
Joined: Thu Dec 10, 2009 8:53 am

Re: Critique, please....

Postby sk_mcbride » Tue Jan 05, 2010 10:48 am

Thank all of you. Very helpful.

sk_mcbride
Posts: 12
Joined: Thu Dec 10, 2009 8:53 am

Re: Critique, please....

Postby sk_mcbride » Tue Jan 05, 2010 10:51 am

If I am interested in "veggie" law, would it not be worthwhile to keep the veggies and make it a bit more compelling?

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fl0w
Posts: 1404
Joined: Fri Jul 10, 2009 9:46 am

Re: Critique, please....

Postby fl0w » Tue Jan 05, 2010 11:06 am

sk_mcbride wrote:If I am interested in "veggie" law, would it not be worthwhile to keep the veggies and make it a bit more compelling?


Keeping veggies may not be a bad idea, but I feel like there's entirely too much focus on this garden for how much you've demonstrated that it actually taught you. I mean really you can just use the veggie patch from your childhood as the basis for your love of agriculture, then maybe something in seminary helped you develop the skills and love of complex arguments. The combination of the two makes someone who is able to think critically (most likely demonstrated much better by a seminary story than a veggie tale) and has a deep rooted love of agriculture and is passionate about bringing change to the industry, so to speak.

It would be more compelling, to me, if you demonstrated your passion for agriculture and then demonstrated that you have developed the skillset and desire to pursue an education that will help you make a difference. The veggie tale handles the demonstration of passion, but it doesn't do it for me when we start talking about the skills that will 1) be attractive to the admissions committee and 2) help you accomplish your goals.




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