(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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Postby soaponarope » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:18 pm

Thanks Guys/Gals! Starting over...
Last edited by soaponarope on Tue Jan 26, 2010 11:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: This is the worst personal statement ever!

Postby yeff » Fri Jan 22, 2010 1:35 am

The following advice absolutely jumped into my mind reading your first paragraph. Your statement is like that one described with dread in italics, except you don't even end with the "I want to help the girl in rags" part.

The following was written by a member of the Berkeley Law faculty (and past member of the Admissions Committee) in response to trends they were seeing in personal statement content and tone. We offer this feedback for you to consider when developing your personal statement:

The statement should avoid simply summarizing what is in the resume. It should avoid simply asserting how able, accomplished, and well suited for law school the applicant is. It should avoid uninformed attempts to ingratiate oneself through exaggerated claims of one’s interest in Boalt...For instance, more than a few applicants stressed how much they want to work with named individuals who are at best passingly related to a Center or the like and aren’t even members of the faculty; these claims make one doubt the applicant’s due diligence...

The statement should avoid self-absorbed autobiography. What we need is something that doesn’t simply assert, a.k.a brag about, how qualified and impressive the applicant is, but rather demonstrates it through the substance of what is said in the personal statement. If it is going to be autobiographical, I for one would prefer it to generalize a bit; that is, instead of, 'How I changed as a result of this experience and now am so special,' it should talk about how and why such experiences can affect people.

“I felt the cold, sharp edge of a knife at my neck.” “ ‘You rich Americans are all alike,’ she screamed.” “I’ve never been so scared in my life.” “The child’s belly was swollen and scabbed.” You get the picture. Start the essay with a dramatic, unexplained sentence designed to grab the startled reader’s attention. (In fact, what it does to the reader is produce a dismayed feeling of, “Oh no, not another one of these.”). Continue this dramatic episode for a short paragraph without tipping off its relevance to the application. Begin the next paragraph by switching to expository style and informing us of what you were doing in this dire situation and how it was part of the background that makes you a special applicant to law school. Develop why you are so special in the rest of the statement. Conclude with a touching statement returning to the opening gambit, about how now, after law school, you can really help that little girl in rags.

It is very clear that many applicants have been coached by someone that this is how to write a compelling personal statement...This format is transparently manipulative, formulaic, and coached. Except for the occasional novelist we admit, none of our students or graduates is going to write in this style again; none, thank goodness, is going to begin a brief with, “He stood frozen in fear as the gunman appeared out of the darkness.” So, this artifice is irrelevant to law and counter-productive: Once it ceases to surprise – and it did so more than 10 years ago – it just becomes a cliché which really ought to be held against the writer. Not only using clichés, but also having been coached ought in an ideal world to discount an application. Needless to say, however, I did not hold these statements against the writers; you don’t feel you should do that. Often the bulk of the statement does report on impressive activities that are relevant to admission. [I]t is transparent when essay formulas have been coached, and we (should) strongly advise applicants to write in their own voice and style and without trying to dramatize what they have to say in order to attract our attention." http://www.law.berkeley.edu/5188.htm

Your personal statement is unnecessarily dramatic, summarizes your resume, doesn't tell the reader much about you other than "I overcame great adversity...like an apple hitting me, and eating vegetables, and being obnoxious," and does almost nothing to show the reader why you want to become a lawyer.

REALLY? That's the adversity? An apple? How was that a "bout with adversity"? And vegetables? And being a jerk to your family?

Here's the thing - I don't doubt that you've overcome challenges, but your statement provides only a very shallow window into who you are as a person. Your thesis is basically "I did hard things and my brother says law school is hard so I want to go to law school and I'll do well." And the supporting evidence for your claim that you overcame adversity is that you overcame adversity.

You don't have to have escaped from a crack den or war zone to write about overcoming adversity. Whatever you do write about, though, you need to demonstrate your ability to overcome adversity rather than simply declare it.

Compare what you've written to the examples in Chapter 11 of Ken's book:

Then go ahead and read the whole book.
http://www.top-law-schools.com/guide-to ... ments.html

The good news is you are capable of writing sentences that are interesting and readable. The ones you have written just don't fit into the logical framework you need to have in a personal statement.

HTH and good luck!

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Re: This is the worst personal statement ever!

Postby Zapatero » Fri Jan 22, 2010 1:47 am


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Re: This is the worst personal statement ever!

Postby sundevil77 » Fri Jan 22, 2010 1:48 am


I agree with this commentary. First and foremost, you need a THESIS!!! Your personal statement should center around something (see: thesis) that demonstrates why you want to go to law school, why you'll do well in law school, or why you'll be successful as a lawyer. This PS you've written is a potpourri of random occurences in your life that aren't tied together at all. You need to brainstorm a little longer and give Ken's book a good read.

And seriously, the apple thing doesn't fit. I don't see it fitting into any good PS, but maybe you can make it work. It just doesn't work here.

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Re: This is the worst personal statement ever!

Postby rocross1 » Fri Jan 22, 2010 1:51 am

You need to scrap most of it and refocus on the part when you grow up and move away with out even being accepted to FSU. I think that is the meat that adcoms want, you went out and worked to support yourself and pursued your dream, eventually getting a degree from FSU. The apple in the face and veggie stuff is not good, it is good to write about your easy childhood and your bad behavior and then how you changed into a man who wanted to make himself and his family proud. That said, you need to do it in a more serious manner, speak to your family's disappointment and how it hurt you to let them down. Talk about how you were on the wrong road and decided to make some serious life changes, even though you didn't know how you went for it and it worked. You believe that led you to where you are now, pursuing a law degree. Emphasize how important becoming a lawyer is to you and why, don't just say my bro is a lawyer and I can do it too.
This is my humble, good luck.

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Re: This is the worst personal statement ever!

Postby soaponarope » Fri Jan 22, 2010 11:01 pm

Thank you guys so much!!!! Special thanks to Yeff... after reading the information in the links I have a whole new perspective! Wow. My PS might actually be the worst :shock: That said, I'm going to start over... probably avoid the whole adversity card...

Many thanks!

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Re: This is the worst personal statement ever!

Postby Vincent Vega » Fri Jan 22, 2010 11:04 pm

Yours wasn't the worst I have seen - believe me, there are much worse. But the TLS PS writing guide should definitely help you improve it some.

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Re: This is the worst personal statement ever!

Postby BaiAilian2013 » Fri Jan 22, 2010 11:10 pm

soaponarope wrote:And my goal was to attend a four year University and move far away to be independent and start a new leaf. My destination was Florida State University. So after 2003, still living in Pennsylvania, I took off from school working as much as I could to save money for my move to Tallahassee. In October of 2004, I finally arrived. I quickly realized that I was out of my element, jobless, friendless, and lost. I was scared. What did I get myself into? I had not applied to Florida State, let alone get accepted, and nor did I have my Associates of Arts degree. Facing this challenge the old adage echoed in my head “boys do what they want to do, and men do what they have to do.” Emboldened, I ventured out, got a job, and began the application process to attend Tallahassee Community College. Failure would not be an option.

makes you sound really, really dumb.

yeff wrote:The good news is you are capable of writing sentences that are interesting and readable.

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