Non-Traditional Applicant Seeking Personal Statement Advice

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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Non-Traditional Applicant Seeking Personal Statement Advice

Postby Benvenuto10 » Mon Mar 01, 2010 7:21 pm

I am a 31 year old law school applicant a decade removed from my most recent formal education. I have reviewed the sample personal statements available on this website, and have been left mildly perplexed.

At the risk of sounding audacious, or perhaps narcissistic, I believe my situation is truly unique and I am unsure how to summarize my experiences into a two page statement.

A very brief synopsis of my experiences include my brother dying when I was a kid, followed within a year by my godfathers murder. Shortly thereafter, my mother walked out on my father and I, and I was left to be raised in a terrible neighborhood by a sociopath father. I was essentially homeless by the age of twelve, and when my mother did come back into my life it was to inform me at age 13 that she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. My father was profoundly mentally ill, and we spent many years on the run for fear of our safety following my uncles conviction and sentence to 25 years in federal prison.

My life continued with this same pattern of madness through high school and college including an assault charge, my need to leave school after my best friend was put in a coma, and I spent my senior year in high school raising his younger brothers in the absence of his parents. Eventually, I graduated undergraduate studies with a 2.1 GPA, having barely balanced my mother fighting cancer, my father living on the street, and missing nearly 50% of my classroom time.

I went onto become an advisory consultant for numerous foreign hedge funds, built a very strong reputation, and earned protective status through the ICC and the FSA, both in London. During this time I also broke my back in a car accident, saved a little girls life, and contracted a MRSA infection which hospitalized me for 90 days. Although multiple surgeries later, I beat the infection and the injury.

In 2008 our hedge funds got shut down, my domestic clients went bankrupt, and soon I lost my houses, cars, and livelihood. Eventually I contacted my mother, who beat cancer, and who I hadn't lived with in 27 years, and flew home to Boston to live on her couch with all my assets which remained in my pockets. Now, I am trying to once again rebuild my life and apply to Law School.

I am a member of MENSA, the IHIQS, and scored in the mid 160's on my LSAT's. However, my undergraduate academic record is terrible, and I am ten years removed from formal education.

I wrote my personal statement, and it was, quite possibly, the longest personal statement of all time. I do not know what to condense, nor what to omit. I am genuinely looking for some advice as what the true objective of the personal statement is. I have been told it is to "tell your story and why your story separates you from other candidates". Well, my story is absurdly long, and even the above summarizes perhaps 25% of my story.

I am blatantly frustrated at this point. Any words of advice or council would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You in advance for any or all responses.

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Re: Non-Traditional Applicant Seeking Personal Statement Advice

Postby KMaine » Mon Mar 01, 2010 7:28 pm

Wow! That is quite a story. Fellow non-trad here. Not nearly as many interesting stories to tell.

My advice is pretty straightforward. I know you want to say everything, but DON'T. Give a slice of your life. Tell one story well and let your personal characteristics shine through.

You have a few minutes of your time at best, and you have a great mine of experience. Give them a diamond rather than a bucket of coal.

Best of luck. Your LSAT will get you considered at many schools, and your life experiences may make them take a chance on you.

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Re: Non-Traditional Applicant Seeking Personal Statement Advice

Postby Rawlsian » Mon Mar 01, 2010 7:33 pm

I agree with the above post: pick one story that showcases an aspect of yourself. You'll have some leeway on your LORs since you're so far removed from ug. Strategically pick them; pick people that can tell about those other aspects you couldn't cover in your personal statement. You're a big splitter, so try taking risks. Your recommenders do not have to be educated, just someone who knows you and your struggle. And, your recommendations can be as long as your recommenders want...

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Re: Non-Traditional Applicant Seeking Personal Statement Advice

Postby Benvenuto10 » Mon Mar 01, 2010 7:47 pm

Thank you to both of you for your timely responses. I will hold them in the highest regard.

My LOR's are substantial and impressive, including one from an undergraduate professor whom was very generous in his assessment of my intellectual, academic, and personal abilities.

It's rather enlightening as a non-trad to look back on my life and to be asked to condense it into a two page synopsis.

Might I ask, in choosing one example specifically, and how it has qualified me as a candidate, would it be better to write of a personal or professional experience?

Thank You again.

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Re: Non-Traditional Applicant Seeking Personal Statement Advice

Postby TonyDigital » Mon Mar 01, 2010 8:03 pm

Fellow non-trad here. I faced a similar situation when I was trying to write my personal statement, I've seen and been through many different situations in life that might be unique in the context of the average law school applicant. But like others have said before...pick one situation.

You can touch on some of the other topics lightly, but do it where it's not to grab the attention of the reader away from your main topic but rather to enhance it. You could go with a theme: overcoming adversity where many others would just give up.

One option could be losing your job, sucking up your pride, and relocating to your mom's couch to regroup and start over. A lesser man would wallow in self-pity, not you. That type of thing.

As far as all the crazy stuff you deem important and a contributing factor to your poor gpa, you can touch on those in a GPA addendum and leave it out of the PS.

For me, some schools would accept a 3 page PS and some a 2 pager. I wrote my 3 page PS first, then when I was happy, I condensed it to two pages. The story is very important, but remember, almost just as important is how you write and your writing skills. Good Luck...

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Re: Non-Traditional Applicant Seeking Personal Statement Advice

Postby Sangiovese » Tue Mar 02, 2010 12:05 am

One option is to split it up.

You can talk about the career, losing it all, and starting to rebuild your life in your PS.

The family story can be turned into a really powerful diversity statement (remember, diversity isn't just racial).

The assault charge can be (and needs to be) dealt with in an addendum. Don't use what you were going through as an excuse, but if it contributed to the cause of the events, you should be able to at least mention it. It will let the adcom see some of the adversity you faced.

The low GPA can also be addressed in an addendum. Again, don't take the stance that you were a victim of circumstances... but mention what you were dealing with and state something about how you feel that with all the demands on your time, you don't feel that your GPA is an accurate reflection of your academic potential.

So there you go... instead of trying to fit it all in 2 pages, you go with a 2 page PS (you can probably get away with 3 at some places), a 2 page diversity statement, and 2, 1/2-page addenda.

Another thing you have going for you is that you have 10 years distance between the GPA and your application. It's still important (curse the rankings) but much more likely to be overlooked than if it was still fresh.

Good luck!

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Re: Non-Traditional Applicant Seeking Personal Statement Advice

Postby Benvenuto10 » Tue Mar 02, 2010 8:00 pm

Thank you..........all of this insight is much appreciated.

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Re: Non-Traditional Applicant Seeking Personal Statement Advice

Postby lostjake » Wed Mar 03, 2010 6:45 pm

Cancer isn't terminal if you don't die from it. Secondly you shouldn't try to say that you went from being a 2.1 GPA student to someone super awesome to someone who didn't know how to handle their finances and had to live on a couch. What happened to you growing up after getting a 2.1? You also should retake the LSAT. How do you only score a mid 160 with being in the super awesome smart clubs? Thats what I would be asking!

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