First draft of PS - please critique! Pretty nervous.

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
roxyoresox
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Dec 29, 2009 12:14 am

First draft of PS - please critique! Pretty nervous.

Postby roxyoresox » Sat Feb 20, 2010 12:18 am

I was really unsure what to write about, and so I threw this together. Tell me what you think, how I should develop it, or if I should try something else. My worry is that I don't have any "unique" experience or characteristic to write about. I was grasping at straws here. Especially the ending -- I'm afraid it might be too sappy. Anyway, here goes:

My experiences growing up were nothing out of the ordinary. I have never faced any serious adversity or been in an environment where I felt out of place. I was, however, obsessed with learning, especially things foreign and seemingly worlds away. Perhaps it was because I wanted to reach out and experiences things beyond the familiar. The earliest memory I have of this appetite was around the first grade. I had a collection of story books from Disney detailing the journeys of Mickey Mouse and friends to all corners of the globe. As a curious first grader I read those books what must have been countless times. I read about India, China, Japan, and Russia and their different customs, ways of dressing, and cuisines. It was around this time that I resolved to learn Spanish. I had my parents buy a tape that taught children Spanish through songs. I would sit in my room, pop in the tape, and sing along to jingly choruses of “Como Estas” and “Que Tal” while trying to sound the words out.

My favorite part of the elementary school library was the international section. I remember reading a pair of books that told a story of intrigue and mystery while simultaneously teaching Spanish or French—I read both. During the 4th grade, I wrote various entries in my class journal about how different and interesting Judaism and Islam were, and how I was thinking about converting one day. My interests were not limited to language and culture, though. I read a biography on Bill Clinton, and afterward wrote a letter to the president thanking him and the Democrats for Social Security, because without it my grandparents would be poor. I think it was also in the same 4th grade journal where I listed my favorite book as being a physics book on Einstein. I actually had not read far at all into the book because it was baffling, but at the time it seemed fascinating and worth mentioning.

By the time I had entered high school, my curiosity became more mature. I still had interest in foreign cultures: this time it was Asia. I taught myself how to read Korean and became fully entrenched in all things Japanese. Joining the debate team broadened my interests to politics, economics, and societal issues. The case writing and arguing turned out to be an eye-opener. One of our first topics questioned whether a government’s obligations should lie foremost in economic development or environmental protection. Previously, in my wise musings as a sophomore, I would have claimed that all environmentalists were radical tree-huggers who were not to be trusted. However, my coach made me leave my close-minded universe and consider all the nuances and implications surrounding the topic. After all, we did have to debate both sides at tournaments. I suspect for most of the time I was in the minority on my team regarding our opinions on the topics, but I learned to evaluate my thoughts beyond a superficial level, and then to defend them vigorously.

When I came to college, my focus shifted to economics and China, where it has stayed since. Perhaps the most intellectually satisfying class I have taken in college was Comparative Systems in the economics department because it fused the two halves of my academic and personal interests: economic and political issues that take place in international settings. In this class and a subsequent one taught by the same professor, I was able to indulge my interest in China on an academic level. I studied small village elections, and the effect of name branding on production quality in one of China’s original centers of the reformed economy. I was also able to explore the impact of China's agricultural reform as well as the extent of foreign telecom access to China after its WTO ascension as research for final class papers.

One Chinese writer in my classes that I read and with whom I identified is Confucius. Describing his dedication to learning, he wrote, “At fifteen I set my heart upon learning. At thirty, I was firmly established. At forty, I had no doubts. At fifty, I knew the will of heaven. At sixty, I was ready to listen to it. At seventy, I could follow my heart’s desires without transgressing what was right.” Comparing learning to the joy of seeing a faraway friend, he thought it was a lifelong process to be loved. While I'm still young and have barely begun my life’s journey of learning, I have carried the same love of knowledge with me since I was small, and I hope to continue the journey further as a student at [BLANK LAW SCHOOL].

User avatar
pa.wink
Posts: 27
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 3:08 pm

Re: First draft of PS - please critique! Pretty nervous.

Postby pa.wink » Sat Feb 20, 2010 7:10 pm

My experiences growing up were nothing out of the ordinary. I have never faced any serious adversity or been in an environment where I felt out of place.


I've always been tempted to open an application essay like this because people who've had such experiences seem to have a leg up, but I think it's a temptation that should probably be ignored. Since personal statements are so short, I would try to get one of your main points in the first sentence: "My critical childhood experiences did not come from my environment but from books." or something like that.

The only other thing I would say is to make the transitions point more towards an overall narrative thread, especially at the end of each paragraph. You should have a one sentence conclusion after the anecdotes in each paragraph that leads into the next thing.

roxyoresox
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Dec 29, 2009 12:14 am

Re: First draft of PS - please critique! Pretty nervous.

Postby roxyoresox » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:54 am

Ok, I have draft 3 --> Draft 2, which added in transitions / tried to make the essay more thematically coherent, actually ballooned in size, and so I spent a good while cutting it down to two pages exactly. I hope people don't mind my posting the whole thing again.

------

When I was around seven years old, I would often sit in my room, pop in a cassette tape, and sing along to jingly choruses of “Como Estas” and “Que Tal” while articulating the weird sounding words. The tape was meant to teach children Spanish through songs, and I had made my parents buy it because I was dying to learn Spanish. I have always been fascinated with learning things seemingly worlds away, perhaps because I wanted to experience ideas, people, and places outside the boundaries of my everyday life. While I started small, I have carried and matured my love of learning throughout each stage of life.

The earliest memory I have of this appetite was around the first grade. I had story books from Disney detailing the journeys of Mickey Mouse to all corners of the globe that I read countless times, soaking up stories about different countries and their customs. During the 4th grade, I wrote several entries in my class journal about how different and interesting Judaism and Islam were, and how I was thinking about converting. My interests were not limited to language and culture, though. After I read a biography on Bill Clinton, I wrote a letter to the president thanking the Democrats for Social Security, because without it my grandparents would be poor. It was in the same 4th grade journal where I said my favorite book was one on Einstein and physics. I had not read far into what was a baffling book, but it seemed fascinating and worth mentioning. My interests were diverse—when bored I would read various long articles in the encyclopedia—but this was part of the process to find my niche that I would hone in later years.

Joining the debate team in high school broadened my interests to politics, economics, and societal issues. The case writing and arguing was an eye-opener. One topic questioned whether governments should first focus on economic development or environmental protection. In my wise musings, I claimed all environmentalists were radical tree-huggers not to be trusted. However, my coach made me leave my close-minded universe and consider the topic’s nuances and implications—we had to debate both sides at tournaments. My opinions were often in the minority, but I was forced to evaluate them beyond a superficial level, and then to defend them vigorously. I was still interested in foreign cultures in high school—I taught myself how to read Korean and was entrenched in all things Japanese—but debate expanded my focus from learning basic facts to including critical thinking skills, such as learning how to analyze all the facets of an issue, judge sources, weigh pros and cons, and make a persuasive argument.

When I came to college, my attention shifted to economics and China. The most academically rewarding class I have taken was Comparative Economic Systems because it fused the two halves of my academic interests: economic and political issues that take place in international settings. In this class and a subsequent one taught by the same professor, I was able to indulge my interest in China on an academic level. I studied small village elections, and the effect of name branding on production quality in one of China’s original centers of the reformed economy. I was also able to explore the impact of agricultural reform as well as the extent of foreign telecom access to China after its WTO ascension as research for class papers. Being a double major in Economics and Chinese, I have been able to take numerous classes in both areas that have allowed me to focus my passions and weave a deep, sophisticated knowledge and appreciation of modern China and its issues, and the experience has been intellectually satisfying.

One writer who I studied in several of my Chinese classes and with whom I strongly identify in terms of personal philosophy is Confucius. He described learning as a journey through gradual stages, and compared the joy one receives from learning to the joy of seeing a friend come from afar. While I’m still young and have barely begun my own journey of learning, I have carried the same thirst and joy of knowledge with me from a young age, and I hope to continue the journey further as a student at BLANK LAW.

User avatar
Lawl Shcool
Posts: 763
Joined: Tue Oct 27, 2009 6:44 pm

Re: First draft of PS - please critique! Pretty nervous.

Postby Lawl Shcool » Tue Feb 23, 2010 4:38 am

i think it is really good

NewtonLied
Posts: 77
Joined: Sat Feb 20, 2010 6:16 pm

Re: First draft of PS - please critique! Pretty nervous.

Postby NewtonLied » Tue Feb 23, 2010 5:04 am

I don't know about other people, but I feel like the whole INSERT LAW SCHOOL HERE thing should be dropped. Unless you've really tailored something specifically for a school, mentioning their name will just come off as shameless pandering. I could be wrong, just seems like something they always see through.

Good statement though, especially for just being thrown together. As others have mentioned, a little work to keep everything tied together.

User avatar
dhatfie1
Posts: 141
Joined: Sat Jan 02, 2010 7:09 pm

Re: First draft of PS - please critique! Pretty nervous.

Postby dhatfie1 » Tue Feb 23, 2010 6:39 am

NewtonLied wrote:I don't know about other people, but I feel like the whole INSERT LAW SCHOOL HERE thing should be dropped.


I absolutely agree, plus you run the risk of accidentally inserting X law school's name into an application meant for Y law school, which is never good. I assure you, the addition of a name will not make you, but if used improperly it could absolutely break you in some cases. Just a thought!

User avatar
ccs224
Posts: 465
Joined: Fri Sep 18, 2009 11:27 pm

Re: First draft of PS - please critique! Pretty nervous.

Postby ccs224 » Tue Feb 23, 2010 7:31 am

Erm, I don't want to sound negative, but I would say that this still needs a lot of work. The structure reminds me of the "5 paragraph essay" everyone learns in middle school (Thesis - I love learning, and learning about other places. Paragraph one - as a child, I read books on such topics. Paragraph two - in high school I matured and opened myself to more diverse viewpoints. Paragraph three - In college, I was able to learn about foreign lands firsthand. Conclusion - I love learning and would love to learn at your law school.)

I would start with something particular and specific; maybe a bit about what you actually learned when studying Chinese ag reform illustrated with some descriptive writing and working backwards to your childhood (but we don't need every step!). I would have two main images that show us, but don't tell us, how you've evolved academically. I would also try to tie this into something more than just "I love learning." If you love learning, there are plenty of things you could do to continue learning. Why law school?

Also, I don't really buy your interpretation of Confucius. I would avoid it overall, because it almost reads as though it came off a "inspiration of the day" calendar, but I certainly wouldn't call it 'comparing learning to the joy of seeing a faraway friend.' Where is that in the passage quoted? There is, in fact, no subject at all besides "I."

Alright, that does sound negative. I don't mean to be, but there's nothing here that seems to stand out at this point, though there is some potential if you can work with it. (Also, isn't it really late to be writing your PS? I'm assuming this isn't for this cycle, right?)

roxyoresox
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Dec 29, 2009 12:14 am

Re: First draft of PS - please critique! Pretty nervous.

Postby roxyoresox » Tue Feb 23, 2010 7:00 pm

ccs224 wrote:Also, I don't really buy your interpretation of Confucius. I would avoid it overall, because it almost reads as though it came off a "inspiration of the day" calendar, but I certainly wouldn't call it 'comparing learning to the joy of seeing a faraway friend.' Where is that in the passage quoted? There is, in fact, no subject at all besides "I."


Well I took out the original quote from the first post because it was too long and then paraphrased/combined different parts of the Analects, so no that part specifically is not from the passage quoted. That part about the faraway friend does exist, though. Very first "verse" of the Analects:

To learn and practice what is learned time and again is pleasure, is it not? To have friends come from afar is happiness, is it not?


Anyway, I can see your point about the "daily inspiration" nature of the paragraph. The whole idea of putting something down from a sagely, Asian philosopher sounds cheesy, but Confucianism as a whole speaks to me a great deal, and I looked forever to try to get some quotation in from either Confucius, Mencius, Xunzi, etc. So I guess it's a bit forced, and if need be I can take it out.

And yes, I agree that the statement overall is unfocused and acts more of an overall survey / simple middle school essay rather than a real insight into who I am. I couldn't think of anything else to write about, though.

ccs224 wrote:I would also try to tie this into something more than just "I love learning." If you love learning, there are plenty of things you could do to continue learning. Why law school?


Yeah I'd say this is my biggest problem. I'd like to make the essay more focused, but I can't seem to direct it past its very general state right now.

User avatar
ccs224
Posts: 465
Joined: Fri Sep 18, 2009 11:27 pm

Re: First draft of PS - please critique! Pretty nervous.

Postby ccs224 » Tue Feb 23, 2010 7:29 pm

roxyoresox wrote:
ccs224 wrote:I would also try to tie this into something more than just "I love learning." If you love learning, there are plenty of things you could do to continue learning. Why law school?


Yeah I'd say this is my biggest problem. I'd like to make the essay more focused, but I can't seem to direct it past its very general state right now.


I would start simply by brainstorming the reasons why you actually want to study and/or practice law. Include even the stupid ones, like I want to make a lot of money or have my parents respect me, then cross them out and see if there's any you can build something strong out of. The China part read as the most interesting to me; I would try to tie your knowledge and experience of China (but be specific and illustrative about it) with your desire to study law.

That said, PSes are an awful form. You want to capture as much of yourself as you can in them, and you end up with two pages of generalizing about your life. You try to use a moment in your life to illuminate a greater theme, and you start sounding like a doe-eyed twelfth grader. It's a miserable genre no matter how you cut it. At least know that your PS won't matter nearly as much as your LSAT or GPA (for better or worse).

CMDantes
Posts: 420
Joined: Thu Feb 04, 2010 2:37 pm

Re: First draft of PS - please critique! Pretty nervous.

Postby CMDantes » Wed Feb 24, 2010 3:31 pm

I like the learning/evolving thread that runs throughout the piece, but I agree that you need to focus it more on why you should go to law school.

User avatar
Zannie1986
Posts: 70
Joined: Sat Sep 26, 2009 7:43 pm

Re: First draft of PS - please critique! Pretty nervous.

Postby Zannie1986 » Wed Feb 24, 2010 3:41 pm

I would go into more why law school is the perfect place for you to continue your studies, I would try to say how your internationally-centered perspective makes you unique among most american applicants, and what you plan to do with your JD--are you going to help Chinese villages in development? are you going into international law? what's the benefit of giving you a spot at X law school over someone else?




Return to “Law School Personal Statements”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.