Disclosing Disability In Personal Statement

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
logicman86
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Disclosing Disability In Personal Statement

Postby logicman86 » Thu Mar 11, 2010 2:33 pm

Hey, I am first starting to think about my personal statement now that LSAT is out of the way, and I am curious about something. I have asked a few law schools, and the responses are all very vague and beat around the bush.

I have stuttered since I was a small child. It is now very manageable, and most people would be surprised if I told them I stutter (my job is pretty much entirely based around public speaking). However, it was a much stronger and very negative influence in my life up until a few years ago when I developed a "screw it" mentality, and sought out as many debates and public speaking opportunities I could get my hands on as an attempt to perfect my speech as much as possible.

With that said, I have found during the course of my life a great deal of people to be biased against individuals who stutter, and a big part of what attracted me to law initially was the fact that most people would have presumed this is something I would not be able to succeed in... a sentiment I take strong issue with. I do not want to seem cocky, but I believe that there is a reason I stuttered severely growing up and a reason I was inherently strong at logic, and I believe that with a successful career in the public spotlight I can do a lot to shed stereotypes against the stuttering population.

My fear is that I don't want to be characterized as a stutterer who happens to be applying to law school, but as a strong law school applicant who happens to stutter. I do have many other things I can also make the focus of my statement. The issue is that I cannot think of anyway to have a second major in my personal statement without it seeming cluttered, as though I am just going off on various tangents so I'm thinking I'm going to have to pick a thesis and stick to it.

Thoughts? Past experiences you can share? All will be appreciated.

sdv
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Re: Disclosing Disability In Personal Statement

Postby sdv » Thu Mar 11, 2010 2:37 pm

I managed to slip my muscular dystrophy into my personal statement without making it a focus - i think overcoming adversity is ALWAYS a good thing, especially if you have public speaking credentials.

With that said, I don't think it matters all that much. No one is going to accept or reject you based on whether or not you have a disability, or whether or not you disclose it. So if you have a way to slip it in in a "my battle with x disability led me to develop x character trait" type of sentence, that might be a good compromise so you can keep your PS the way you want it.

logicman86
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Re: Disclosing Disability In Personal Statement

Postby logicman86 » Thu Mar 11, 2010 2:54 pm

sdv wrote:I managed to slip my muscular dystrophy into my personal statement without making it a focus - i think overcoming adversity is ALWAYS a good thing, especially if you have public speaking credentials.

With that said, I don't think it matters all that much. No one is going to accept or reject you based on whether or not you have a disability, or whether or not you disclose it. So if you have a way to slip it in in a "my battle with x disability led me to develop x character trait" type of sentence, that might be a good compromise so you can keep your PS the way you want it.


On this note, how LSAT like and how standard college essay do you recommend the personal statement is. I got mostly A's on my papers through undergrad, but after the LSAT when I read them, I think wow, these are some pretty dumb arguments with holes galore. Will a statement like, "struggling with X led to me to develop Y" be looked at like well, it's also possible that experiences A, B and C led to Y or you would have developed Y anyway?

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HazelEyes
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Re: Disclosing Disability In Personal Statement

Postby HazelEyes » Wed Mar 31, 2010 5:26 pm

I'm actually in the same boat as you, i'm a lifelong semi stutter-er. I'm loud, opinionated, and very rarely stutter now. I also avoid trigger words. Personally, i'd say don't disclose that info. People have a HORRIBLE opinion of people who stutter, and think of them as simple, idiot like children. Oddly enough, we usually stutter because our brains work faster than our mouths.

I'd vote no on this. Lawyers are known for public speaking, and without sending them a videotape of your speaking skills, they will assume the worst case scenario.

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robin600
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Re: Disclosing Disability In Personal Statement

Postby robin600 » Wed Apr 21, 2010 6:20 pm

HazelEyes wrote:I'm actually in the same boat as you, i'm a lifelong semi stutter-er. I'm loud, opinionated, and very rarely stutter now. I also avoid trigger words. Personally, i'd say don't disclose that info. People have a HORRIBLE opinion of people who stutter, and think of them as simple, idiot like children. Oddly enough, we usually stutter because our brains work faster than our mouths.

I'd vote no on this. Lawyers are known for public speaking, and without sending them a videotape of your speaking skills, they will assume the worst case scenario.

I think disclosing it is fine, especially since it's a major hurdle you've overcome, just make sure you say that you don't stutter as much as you used to.
I'm blind in one eye and I disclosed it in my PS, in fact it's a majority of what my PS is about. I had eight surgeries between freshman-junior year for it. Am I concerned that adcomms won't think I can handle the law school curriculum, yeah, but if they don't believe I can (I've 4.0ed every class since surgeries), I'll prove them wrong. Disclosing your disability shouldn't be something you hide. In fact, it makes you unique! If you want a copy of my PS, PM me.

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NALSWD
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Re: Disclosing Disability In Personal Statement

Postby NALSWD » Sun Apr 25, 2010 7:14 pm

It sounds like you have a really disability-positive mindset logicman86. That's really great.

I'd agree in general with the advice so far, that mentioning a disability - if you do so in a positive way that doesn't distract from your overall essay - can be a modest plus factor for an application. However there are risks of course that you may run into an adcom with particularly bigoted view about your particular disability. It's a personal choice.

I'd recommend you take a look at the National Association of Law Students With Disabilities' FAQ for law school applicants. Goes through in more detail the pros and cons of disclosing a disability in your application as well as the most effective ways of doing so. You can find it at: --LinkRemoved-- or http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=103293

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mi-chan17
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Re: Disclosing Disability In Personal Statement

Postby mi-chan17 » Sun Apr 25, 2010 11:16 pm

I wrote a PS about overcoming a disability, and I don't feel that it in anyway negatively impacted my cycle. If anything, it seems to have helped. Just make sure you keep the positive spin on it and, if you think stuttering is a disability the admissions folks may not understand, you might want to add a medical addendum to explain it.

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amputatedbrain
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Re: Disclosing Disability In Personal Statement

Postby amputatedbrain » Wed Apr 28, 2010 3:05 pm

I think almost any PS statement idea can work if you're a good enough writer to make it happen. Write up some drafts and give them friends/advisors etc to critique. If it works, it works.

Overcoming a disability was large part of my PS and it worked very well . . . my cycle went much better than expected. Without having any experience with stuttering, I think my only caution would be to keep things in perspective and discuss overcoming your disability with the right nuance. I would be careful not to over dramatize stuttering as if it were quadrapelegia. Not saying you don't have the right perspective, but I've seen other PS crash and burn by dramatizing a problem that, while not minor, is doesn't sound to the lay person as terribly dehabilitating. It is important to remember that ideally (IMO) you should not be writing about your disability per se, but it's impact on how your decision to practice law, the actual disability narrative being incidental to the latter

afinnst
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Re: Disclosing Disability In Personal Statement

Postby afinnst » Tue May 04, 2010 11:57 am

I agree with most everyone on here that you should include it in your personal statement. I think if it is important to you and if it is something you have overcome, it can only have positive implications. I myself stutter, probably as often as you do, and it has gotten significantly better over the past few years or so. I am a teacher right now, so I public speak to teenagers every day. I applied this cycle and mentioned it in my personal statement. It was not the main focus, but I did emphasize how it has shaped me. I would be happy to pm you my personal statement if you are interested. I think I did pretty well this cycle, and I don't really think it had much affect. Also, I got a few comments from law schools that they enjoyed my PS. Let me know if you have any questions :)

OnWisconsin
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Re: Disclosing Disability In Personal Statement

Postby OnWisconsin » Tue May 04, 2010 12:06 pm

If you are including information pertaining to adversity due to disability it's advisable to send any clinical documentation you have along with it for verification.

Don't be embarrassed to do so. You were born with it, you've worked through it, and the powers that be in admissions should have all the information available to acknowledge that fact.

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romothesavior
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Re: Disclosing Disability In Personal Statement

Postby romothesavior » Tue May 04, 2010 12:16 pm

Just don't sue the school if you don't get in.

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amputatedbrain
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Re: Disclosing Disability In Personal Statement

Postby amputatedbrain » Tue May 04, 2010 1:33 pm

OnWisconsin wrote:If you are including information pertaining to adversity due to disability it's advisable to send any clinical documentation you have along with it for verification.

Don't be embarrassed to do so. You were born with it, you've worked through it, and the powers that be in admissions should have all the information available to acknowledge that fact.


Really? I'm not saying this is a bad idea, I just don't know. I figured if a school didn't believe you they would ask for it. I've never heard of a school not taking a disability claim at face value.

OnWisconsin
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Re: Disclosing Disability In Personal Statement

Postby OnWisconsin » Tue May 04, 2010 2:08 pm

It's more for good measure.

LateNight
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Re: Disclosing Disability In Personal Statement

Postby LateNight » Thu May 06, 2010 11:18 pm

HazelEyes wrote:I'm actually in the same boat as you, i'm a lifelong semi stutter-er. I'm loud, opinionated, and very rarely stutter now. I also avoid trigger words. Personally, i'd say don't disclose that info. People have a HORRIBLE opinion of people who stutter, and think of them as simple, idiot like children. Oddly enough, we usually stutter because our brains work faster than our mouths.

I'd vote no on this. Lawyers are known for public speaking, and without sending them a videotape of your speaking skills, they will assume the worst case scenario.



That is sad! My best friend stutters and I look up to him for how much he has improved. I certainly don't find that people hold a bad opinion of those who stutter.

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HazelEyes
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Re: Disclosing Disability In Personal Statement

Postby HazelEyes » Sat May 08, 2010 5:17 pm

LateNight wrote:
HazelEyes wrote:I'm actually in the same boat as you, i'm a lifelong semi stutter-er. I'm loud, opinionated, and very rarely stutter now. I also avoid trigger words. Personally, i'd say don't disclose that info. People have a HORRIBLE opinion of people who stutter, and think of them as simple, idiot like children. Oddly enough, we usually stutter because our brains work faster than our mouths.

I'd vote no on this. Lawyers are known for public speaking, and without sending them a videotape of your speaking skills, they will assume the worst case scenario.



That is sad! My best friend stutters and I look up to him for how much he has improved. I certainly don't find that people hold a bad opinion of those who stutter.


Well then you're a good friend!
In my case stuttering is genetic and one of my family members stutters significantly, and i've seen how horribly discriminated against that person is. Maybe I just feel like that's such a small part of who I am- that I don't need to mention it. I just don’t want to point out a disability that may not be obvious, and may do more damage than help.
I guess every person knows what works for them.
Then again, lots of famous people who stuttered too… so I guess it’s a toss-up. http://www.stutteringhelp.org/Default.aspx?tabid=128




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