Critique anyone? (IRAQ VETERAN, SECOND DRAFT)

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
aristotle1776
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Critique anyone? (IRAQ VETERAN, SECOND DRAFT)

Postby aristotle1776 » Wed Feb 10, 2010 2:17 pm

If anyone has the time, I would love a no-holds barred critique. I have gator-skin, so please don't pull any punches. Even if you are an undergrad student who has never been/will never go anywhere near a battlefield, please feel free to do your worst - I need all the help I can get! Thanks again!

PS - I should mention there is no definitive conclusion and I'm not so sure about the structure of this - so if anyone care's to offer specific advice on those points, that'd be great!

removed
Last edited by aristotle1776 on Wed Feb 24, 2010 3:06 pm, edited 3 times in total.

aristotle1776
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Re: Critique anyone? (military-related, first draft)

Postby aristotle1776 » Wed Feb 10, 2010 3:08 pm

One more thing I should mention, the count is 500-1000 words. I'm within 1000 words but barely (there's around 970, maybe a little more). Is flirting with those left and right limits a bad thing?

aristotle1776
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Re: Critique anyone? (military-related, first draft)

Postby aristotle1776 » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:30 pm

*bump*

aristotle1776
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Re: Critique anyone? (IRAQ VETERAN, SECOND DRAFT)

Postby aristotle1776 » Fri Feb 12, 2010 10:02 am

*bump* again - any takers?

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holydonkey
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Re: Critique anyone? (IRAQ VETERAN, SECOND DRAFT)

Postby holydonkey » Fri Feb 12, 2010 10:33 am

Take my advice with a grain of salt, but I think it would be more compelling if you start it in present tense. Something like...




It is the night of January 6th, 2008. I’m leaving for Iraq in the morning.

Alone at my desk, I try to comprehend how I ended up in this situation. I sit with a notebook and pen, trying to organize my thoughts, make sense of my choices, and divine my future.

I remember my mother’s death. I still don’t know how I managed to finish college. At twenty-three I planned to be in law school. She would have harassed me with phone calls every day as I tried to get work done. Now I will be marching into the heart of a war-torn country alone.

bcollinssig
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Re: Critique anyone? (IRAQ VETERAN, SECOND DRAFT)

Postby bcollinssig » Fri Feb 12, 2010 10:38 am

I think you could take away your whole first paragraph and begin with the second. You would have to change your opening sentence some, but the point would come across. I assume you put your trouble in school after you mom's passing because of your grades were sub-par and I think that is a great way to do it.

The third paragraph explains the fear you felt. Figure out a way to condense these feelings in one sentence rather than a whole paragraph.

In your 4th paragraph you talk about how you were thrown in as a team lead and the leadership experiences you gained... I would take a specific firefight or a specific convoy that you portrayed yourself as a leader. While in the Army you are not alone as a veteran but in law school you will be unique. Remember, less than 1% of America chooses to serve our country. Embrace that and do not be modest in your writing. Sell yourself and your service.

I would then figure out a way to condense your heart condition to discharge. I can't think of how to do that really but, if you can save words there then explain why you want to study law.

I would reduce the paragraph after the heroin overdose to an intro sentence for the paragraph beginning with "Once I was discharged." Something like - After his death I was driven to research the legal basis for military disability separations. This drove me even further to seek employment with company X...

These are just a few things I would do. This by no means is what you have to do. Just remember to not sell yourself short but also don't get to wordy. I think you have a good start.

CPT C

olsonl
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Re: Critique anyone? (IRAQ VETERAN, SECOND DRAFT)

Postby olsonl » Fri Feb 12, 2010 10:39 am

aristotle1776 wrote:If anyone has the time, I would love a no-holds barred critique. I have gator-skin, so please don't pull any punches. Even if you are an undergrad student who has never been/will never go anywhere near a battlefield, please feel free to do your worst - I need all the help I can get! Thanks again!

PS - I should mention there is no definitive conclusion and I'm not so sure about the structure of this - so if anyone care's to offer specific advice on those points, that'd be great!

It was the night of January 6th, 2008. I was sitting at my desk with a blank notebook and pen. I began asking myself, “How did my life lead up to this moment? How did this happen?” In the days leading up to January 6th, I asked myself these questions at most every idle moment. It was during these days I found my life was gradually flashing before my eyes. I knew the only way to organize my thoughts was to write them down.

The next morning I was leaving for Iraq. My thoughts and emotions were in frenzy. I took a deep breath and told myself to calm down, to start from the beginning. I began slowly scribbling descriptions of my life, pausing every few moments to appreciate memories of great sadness and of profound happiness. I reached a point in my writing where I began describing my mother’s death and my trouble in college afterward. I fought back tears as I realized my troubles during this period of my life most directly lead to my enlistment. I was twenty-three years old and had envisioned myself fully engaged in a legal education where mom would be harassing me with phone calls on a near daily basis – not willingly marching in to the heart of a war-torn country.

I knew this would be the last time I could think about my own life and goals for a long while. It was difficult to escape the thought that I may never have a chance to return home, see my family and friends, or have a chance to go to law school. I wrote until midnight, feeling relief from organizing my range of feelings from all ends of the emotional spectrum. Yet I remained infinitely fearful that I would not have a second chance to achieve my goals.

About one week later, I arrived in Iraq. I was immediately put in charge of a forward observer team and thrown in to the fight. My experience in Iraq was very common of any combat veteran who served there: I was subjected to high levels of stress, little sleep, moments of absolute terror, and brushes with death over and over again. Notwithstanding the bad things, it was the greatest leadership experience one could ever ask for. I had the pleasure of working with Soldiers who operated with the highest levels of discipline, commitment, and teamwork. As the days slowly went by, I began to learn how many great things could be accomplished on raw motivation and discipline alone.

Months later, I returned home and found myself appreciating everything from running water to the presence of moisture in the air. However, this jubilance was short-lived. During a routine check-up I learned that I had a heart murmur that did not exist prior to my deployment. Army cardiologists performed a full work-up and determined I had a bicuspid aortic valve with several complications. I was told the complications were severe enough to prevent me from serving in the Army but did not necessitate a valve replacement for the foreseeable future. Doctors stated that the stress of combat most likely aggravated the valve to a point where it began to cause complications.

I took this diagnosis as a blessing in disguise. I felt I had greatly matured, learned innumerable lessons and good habits from serving, and could now return to the civilian world a little earlier than expected. My heart condition presented no immediate danger to my health nor did it take away from my life expectancy. I was excited at the new prospects I could pursue in light of my military experience, with law school being at the forefront of these possible career paths.

The military, like it does with everything else, takes quite a while to process medical discharges. In my case, it took six months for them to process. What I witnessed in these six months became my driving force and primary reason to attend law school. I had always considered law school a goal, but now a legal education was imperative.

While awaiting my medical discharge I found myself in the company of other injured Soldiers facing separation. One Soldier whom I knew personally had his lower back essentially destroyed by an explosion in Iraq, he could not stand nor sit for long periods of time without feeling intense pain. He had little education, a disability that prevented him from performing manual labor, and no “home” to return to. The Army separated him with a few thousand dollars and a disability that would affect him forever.

Not even a month after he left the Army, he was found dead from a heroin overdose.

After his death, I began researching the legal basis for military disability separations. I found myself naturally passionate on the subject, since it affected me and so many others who sacrificed for their country. I watched one-after-one, as Soldiers with lifelong injuries were sent home with little to no compensation.

Once I was discharged, I gained employment with a veteran’s attorney in (state X). I discovered that representing servicemembers on disability appeals was a hugely underserved practice area. Due to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the client pool is increasing almost daily. There is a huge need for attorneys to represent servicemembers during their initial military disability process and subsequently upon discharge during the Department of Veterans Affairs claims process.

Receiving a J.D. from xxxx law school would allow me to represent injured servicemembers, allowing me to play my part in ensuring other veterans receive the care they deserve. xxx law school's externship program is especially beneficial for the type of law I wish to practice. Given the opportunity to work with veteran’s attorneys during my time as a law student, I could develop the high-level of technical expertise necessary to practice military disability law effectively.



I think the topic is good, but you need to tighten the structure so that it doesn't wander so much. The first paragraph can be axed. These are your most important lines, so use them wisely.

You seem to have a good theme going: the events in my life indirectly lead me to law school in a very unique way. Your mother dying, your combat experience in Iraq, losing a friend bc of the inadequacies of the law. The problem is that these points aren't resolved in a very compelling way. You mention them all, but don't really bring together why they brought you to this point, or how they made your previous desire to practice law much more forceful. You have a good set up to make an emotional appeal that is backed up by good reason, and it seems that one should never go without the other.

A minor thing, also. When you were diagnosed with the valve problem, it sounds from you're writing that you were relieved to get out. I'm sure this wasn't the case but maybe throwing in a "While I was immensely disheartened to leave the comrades that I had grown so close to, I thought perhaps it was a blessing in disguise." Just so the adcomms know that you didn't get to Iraq and think "shit, this sucks. Thank god I have a heart problem." Like I said, I'm sure this wasn't the case, but you have to make sure that they know that too.

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Eruannon
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Re: Critique anyone? (IRAQ VETERAN, SECOND DRAFT)

Postby Eruannon » Fri Feb 12, 2010 10:40 am

holydonkey wrote:Take my advice with a grain of salt, but I think it would be more compelling if you start it in present tense. Something like...




It is the night of January 6th, 2008. I’m leaving for Iraq in the morning.

Alone at my desk, I try to comprehend how I ended up in this situation. I sit with a notebook and pen, trying to organize my thoughts, make sense of my choices, and divine my future.

I remember my mother’s death. I still don’t know how I managed to finish college. At twenty-three I planned to be in law school. She would have harassed me with phone calls every day as I tried to get work done. Now I will be marching into the heart of a war-torn country alone.


+1000

AsylumPB
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Re: Critique anyone? (IRAQ VETERAN, SECOND DRAFT)

Postby AsylumPB » Fri Feb 12, 2010 10:53 am

aristotle1776 wrote:If anyone has the time, I would love a no-holds barred critique. I have gator-skin, so please don't pull any punches. Even if you are an undergrad student who has never been/will never go anywhere near a battlefield, please feel free to do your worst - I need all the help I can get! Thanks again!

PS - I should mention there is no definitive conclusion and I'm not so sure about the structure of this - so if anyone care's to offer specific advice on those points, that'd be great!

It was the night of January 6th, 2008. [strike]I was sitting at my desk with a blank notebook and pen. I began asking myself, “How did my life lead up to this moment? How did this happen?” In the days leading up to January 6th, I asked myself these questions at most every idle moment. It was during these days I found my life was gradually flashing before my eyes. I knew the only way to organize my thoughts was to write them down.[/strike]

The next morning I was leaving for Iraq. My thoughts and emotions were in frenzy. I took a deep breath and told myself to calm down, to start from the beginning. I began [strike]slowly[/strike] scribbling descriptions of my life, pausing every few moments to appreciate memories of great sadness and of profound happiness. I reached a point in my writing where I began describing my mother’s death and my trouble in college afterward. I fought back tears as I realized my troubles during this period of my life most directly lead to my enlistment. I was twenty-three years old and had envisioned myself fully engaged in a legal education where my mother would be harassing me with phone calls on a near daily basis, not willingly marching in to the heart of a war-torn country.

I knew this would be the last time I could think about my own life and goals for a long while. It was difficult to escape the thought that I may never have a chance to return home, see my family and friends, or have a chance to attend [strike]to[/strike]law school. I wrote until midnight, feeling relief from organizing my range of emotions [strike]of feelings from all ends of the emotional spectrum[/strike]. [strike]Yet[/strike] I remained infinitely fearful that I would not have a second chance to achieve my goals.

[strike][strike]About one[/strike] week later[/strike]The followiing week, I arrived in Iraq. I was immediately put in charge of a forward observer team and thrown intothe fight. My experience in Iraq was [strike]very[/strike] common of any combat veteran who served there. I was subjected to high levels of stress, little sleep, moments of absolute terror, and [strike]brushes with death over and over again[/strike]countless brushes with death.. Notwithstanding the bad things, it was the greatest leadership experience one could ever ask for. I had the pleasure of working with soldiers who operated with the highest levels of discipline, commitment, and teamwork. As the days [strike]slowly went[/strike] drudgedby, I began to learn how many great things could be accomplished on raw motivation and discipline alone.

Months later, I returned home and found myself appreciating everything from running water to the presence of moisture in the air. However, this jubilance was short-lived. During a routine check-up I learned that I had a heart murmur that did not exist prior to my deployment. Army cardiologists performed a full work-up and determined I had a bicuspid aortic valve with several complications. [strike]I was told[/strike]The complications were severe enough to prevent me from serving in the Army but did not necessitate a valve replacement for the foreseeable future. Doctors stated that the stress of combat most likely aggravated the valve to a point where it began to cause complications.

I took this diagnosis as a blessing in disguise. I felt I had greatly matured, learned innumerable lessons and good habits from serving, and could now return to the civilian world a little earlier than expected. My heart condition presented no immediate danger to my health, nor did it take away from my life expectancy. I was excited at the new prospects I could pursue in light of my military experience, with law school being at the forefront of those possible career paths.

The military[strike], like it does with everything else,[/strike] takes quite a while to process medical discharges. In my case, it took six months [strike]for them to process[/strike]to complete the necessary paperwork. What I witnessed in those six months became my driving force and primary reason to attend law school. I had always considered law school a goal, but now a legal education was imperative.

While awaiting my medical discharge, I found myself in the company of other injured soldiers facing separation. One soldier whom I knew personally [strike]had his lower back essentially destroyed[/strike]was injuredby an explosion in Iraq, he could not stand [strike]nor[/strike] or sit for long periods of time without feeling intense pain. He had little education, a disability that prevented him from performing manual labor, and no “home” to return to. The Army separated him with a few thousand dollars and a disability that would affect him forever. Not even a month after he left the Army, he was found dead from a heroin overdose.

[strike]Not even a month after he left the Army, he was found dead from a heroin overdose.[/strike] moved this to the above paragraph

After his death, I began researching the legal basis for military disability separations. I found myself naturally passionate on the subject, since it affected me and so many others who sacrificed for their country. I watched [strike]one-after-one,[/strike] as soldiers with lifelong injuries were sent home with little to no compensation.

Once I was discharged, I gained employment with a veteran’s attorney in (state X). I discovered that representing servicemembers on disability appeals was a hugely underserved practice area. Due to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the client pool is increasing almost daily. There is a [strike]huge[/strike] need for attorneys to represent servicemembers during their initial military disability process and subsequently upon discharge during the Department of Veterans Affairs claims process.

Receiving a J.D. from xxxx law school would allow me to represent injured servicemembers, allowing me to play my part in ensuring other veterans receive the care they deserve. xxx law school's externship program is especially beneficial for the type of law I wish to practice. Given the opportunity to work with veteran’s attorneys during my time as a law student, I could develop the high-level of technical expertise necessary to practice military disability law effectively.


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badwithpseudonyms
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Re: Critique anyone? (IRAQ VETERAN, SECOND DRAFT)

Postby badwithpseudonyms » Fri Feb 12, 2010 11:08 am

+1 on just ditching the entire first paragraph. You have an interesting story to tell, but I barely made it past that paragraph because it's such a hokey, overused personal statement gimmick. I imagine adcomms throw up a little in their mouths every time they have to read another ps that begins with some ill-defined situation in which the writer is in crisis.

I'm at work so I can't go through and pick apart every paragraph, but my advice would be to find someone with a Masters in English and have them take a look at it for ways to tighten up the language. (e.g. You start two paragraphs in a row with [amount of time] later...) You benefit from having a very good story and good reasons for your interest in law school. (Although I might not mention the part about always wanting to go. Personally, I think it's a more compelling reason if your friends death led you to it.) And - assuming your ug gpa is in fact sub-par - I like how you allude to the fact that personal issues are the reason for this. I'm not of the "need a separate statement for everything" school of thought.

One more thing: You're right, you need a more cohesive ending, and if you're going to go school specific that last paragraph isn't really cutting it. You need to do some research and find out if they actually have externships/classes/professors that work for what you want to do. Generic references are easy to spot, and it comes across as lazy. (And if any adcomm can't tell immediately that you just stuck the name of their school in there, they may be reading this.)

Hope that helps. Good luck to you.

aristotle1776
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Re: Critique anyone? (IRAQ VETERAN, SECOND DRAFT)

Postby aristotle1776 » Fri Feb 12, 2010 12:05 pm

Thank you for all the tremendous advice - all things I would have missed without the objective eye of strangers.

My GPA is sub-par, so I wanted to mention it in passing without directly addressing it (it seems everyone here inferred it, so that is good). I still may throw in an addendum, however.

Never thought that adcomms would see me as taking my discharge as "phew, I can finally get out of here" moment. I will alter the language to account for that (FYI, as you predicted, that was not the case).

My conclusion and "bringing it all together" was limited by how many words I had in the body. I do plan on tailoring one conclusion for one law school, and going 'generic,' so to speak, with the rest.

CPT C - I sent you a PM.

So trying to put together all the advice here...I should cut away the first paragraph, condense the wordiness of the prior deployment stuff, shorten the medical discharge part, lengthen and better describe the desire to practice law, and bring it all home with a much better conclusion.

I must admit conclusions have always been my downfall, any suggestions on that end?

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PowerPro64
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Re: Critique anyone? (IRAQ VETERAN, SECOND DRAFT)

Postby PowerPro64 » Fri Feb 12, 2010 12:16 pm

I just pm'd you the corrections. I put in a suggested conclusion. Should help. Take care.

CPT T

nguyenr22
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Re: Critique anyone? (IRAQ VETERAN, SECOND DRAFT)

Postby nguyenr22 » Fri Feb 12, 2010 8:53 pm

glad to see you used some of my revisions. But you haven't follow through with your end of the bargain?

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bees
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Re: Critique anyone? (IRAQ VETERAN, SECOND DRAFT)

Postby bees » Fri Feb 12, 2010 9:00 pm

Couple quick things that may have been mentioned (I didn't read the comments too carefully):

-"great sadness and profound happiness" has to go - bad writing

-is "Soldier" really capitalized?

-the dig at the military also needs to be cut, it's petty

Other than that I liked it. I also agree with everyone else on shortening the intro paragraphs.

aristotle1776
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Re: Critique anyone? (IRAQ VETERAN, SECOND DRAFT)

Postby aristotle1776 » Sat Feb 13, 2010 1:32 pm

Capitalizing Soldier is a habit one takes from the military - a few years back a very high-ranking General (there's the capitalizing again) decreed that "Soldier" will carry a capital 'S' in all Army memos, orders, documents, etcetera. He also requested that the dictionary and several other prose and language references capitalize 'Soldier' as well. I'm not sure what came of the dictionary/reference appeal, but it is supposed to indicate respect and honor for the Soldiers you serve with - so it becomes somewhat habitual.

Aside from that, thanks for pointing that out - if it is not grammatically correct (which I don't think it is) it does not belong.

nguyen - Apologies for the delay, I'm PM'ing you now.




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