Personal Statement Advice?

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
OmbreGracieuse
Posts: 254
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:39 pm

Personal Statement Advice?

Postby OmbreGracieuse » Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:59 pm

So, I need some advice, if anyone has time. I am trying to figure out where to go with my personal statement.

I had originally decided I was going to write about my thoughts on foreign policies since I plan to specialize in international law. I have worked at a Center for the Homeless for over two years now and wanted to talk about the disparity in social systems across the globe. I think the U.S. addresses other countries from the top down (ex: Darfur is at war with itself, lets make them stand in opposite corners and our job is done because they can't reach eachother to fight) and I feel we need to spend more time working from the bottom up (help solve the political unrest, social inequality, and poverty). This is just an example; it is a little more involved than that. I was awarded a position with the Washington Internship Institute's Embassy Scholars program and was supposed to go to one of the embasies in DC.... and then I got sick.

I was diagnosed with what my doctors believe is ovarian cancer (it isn't 100% diagnosed until they get the biopsy results back) right before midterms my last semester of undergraduate school. Consequently my grades have slipped and I have to miss the internship to get healthy and go for a full hysterectomy. My director at school is suggesting I write about cancer rather than political beliefs, but I have no idea what to say. I don't want to write about how sick I feel, how depressed I have gotten, and how poorly my grades have slipped. I don't want to be just another pity case that gets dismissed-- I am a lot more than that. After this semester my grades will have gone from a 3.8 to something between a 3.4-3.55. I am not too sure, but it would be in that ballpark. I am taking my LSATs in June and expect something near a 170. I have tested relatively high on all of my pretests and study guides.

With this, am I still considered a strong candidate? What would you suggest I write about?
I was thinking about writing something that is a mix of both. That while I have been diagnosed with cancer and my grades have slipped (brief mention) this semester, I am grateful because I realize that in so many countries cancer would be a death sentence. … and use this as a segue into my thoughts on politics. I feel the need to mention it because I trust his advice and feel he is right (this is something they probably should know) but also want to show that I am so much more than someone who has cancer.

What do you think?

cao0008
Posts: 56
Joined: Sun Jun 07, 2009 12:25 pm

Re: Personal Statement Advice?

Postby cao0008 » Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:07 pm

Write about your personal experiences, about how much stronger battling with cancer has made you as a person, about the impact that working with the homeless has had on your life. Do not write about your political beliefs. Your personal statement is not an opinion essay for your political science class. It's your opportunity to show the adcoms who you are as a person, what you have to offer, and how much you have grown through your experiences. Don't lecture them about whether or not the US's foreign policy works.

KG_CalGuy
Posts: 142
Joined: Sat Apr 03, 2010 2:18 am

Re: Personal Statement Advice?

Postby KG_CalGuy » Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:15 pm

cao0008 wrote:Write about your personal experiences, about how much stronger battling with cancer has made you as a person, about the impact that working with the homeless has had on your life. Do not write about your political beliefs. Your personal statement is not an opinion essay for your political science class. It's your opportunity to show the adcoms who you are as a person, what you have to offer, and how much you have grown through your experiences. Don't lecture them about whether or not the US's foreign policy works.


You've got to remember that the people reading your personal statement are going to be experts in law, the last thing you want to do is expose your own limits and misconceptions.

Personally, I believe the best personal statements are always "Why X?" statements. Schools have egos and like to be reminded of their superiority. Your task should be to take your personal experiences and subtly weave them into an argument that explains (1) Why you deserve to be admitted (2) Why you want to go to school and (3) Why you to go to law school X.

You can write about your own political beliefs, but do it in the most subtle way possible (i.e., "these are the things I want to work toward" as opposed to "these are are the things that are best"). Again, take your personal experience and incorporate it into your quest for a legal education.

OmbreGracieuse
Posts: 254
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:39 pm

Re: Personal Statement Advice?

Postby OmbreGracieuse » Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:42 pm

I really appreciate your advice, and both of your willingness to help me figure out where to go. I feel so lost, but have always figured it would be okay since I am taking a year off of school and am don't have to apply until September. It occurred to me a few days ago how really, truly close that is.

If you don't mind my asking, what did you two write about?

Thanks again. :)

xyzzzzzzzz
Posts: 463
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2010 6:28 pm

Re: Personal Statement Advice?

Postby xyzzzzzzzz » Tue Apr 06, 2010 3:49 pm

:D
Last edited by xyzzzzzzzz on Thu Jul 08, 2010 10:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

cao0008
Posts: 56
Joined: Sun Jun 07, 2009 12:25 pm

Re: Personal Statement Advice?

Postby cao0008 » Tue Apr 06, 2010 9:18 pm

OmbreGracieuse wrote:I really appreciate your advice, and both of your willingness to help me figure out where to go. I feel so lost, but have always figured it would be okay since I am taking a year off of school and am don't have to apply until September. It occurred to me a few days ago how really, truly close that is.

If you don't mind my asking, what did you two write about?

Thanks again. :)


I sent you a PM about my personal statement.

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Drake014
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Joined: Tue Jan 13, 2009 4:22 pm

Re: Personal Statement Advice?

Postby Drake014 » Tue Apr 06, 2010 9:32 pm

Write about your cancer. Over any other illness, the last study I read showed that cancer gets the most sympathy. Writing about politics is a really Really REALLY bad idea.

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Bert
Posts: 458
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2010 12:37 pm

Re: Personal Statement Advice?

Postby Bert » Tue Apr 06, 2010 9:56 pm

I think everything above is really good advice.

Avoid polarizing topics and talk about yourself, something that is uniquely you. From the topic you choose and the way you write, it should give the adcoms an idea of who you are as a person.

OmbreGracieuse
Posts: 254
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:39 pm

Re: Personal Statement Advice?

Postby OmbreGracieuse » Tue Apr 06, 2010 10:38 pm

xyzzzzzzzz wrote:I would avoid writing about "International Law" since it is my understanding those jobs don't really exist(outside of YHS anyway).


I actually want to be an international lawyer for the US embassies (hopefully the Central African Republic or Israel). What do I say then, on what I hope to be? I mean, international law is my goal. I am seeking schools with an international program, those preferrably who offer an LLM in it.

OmbreGracieuse
Posts: 254
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 10:39 pm

Re: Personal Statement Advice?

Postby OmbreGracieuse » Tue Apr 06, 2010 10:41 pm

Drake014 wrote:Write about your cancer. Over any other illness, the last study I read showed that cancer gets the most sympathy. Writing about politics is a really Really REALLY bad idea.


I want them to know though, that I am so much more than cancer. I know it would explain my drop in grades this last semester, but says nothing else about me. I feel like it almost degrades my own personal being to overemphasize the fact I was diagnosed with cancer. I was hoping somehow to tie that into what I want to do (international law). Someone else suggested though I not mention that because it isn't a popular field; what do I tie cancer into, then? I mean, I work at the Center for the Homeless (for my area) and will have been there almost three years when I write my statements. I don't see the connection between homelessness and cancer though, other than one of our previous guests was there because she was diagnosed with cancer, her family couldn't afford the bills, and it drove them to our Center. That seems like a weak, unrelated connection however. What do you recommend?

KG_CalGuy
Posts: 142
Joined: Sat Apr 03, 2010 2:18 am

Re: Personal Statement Advice?

Postby KG_CalGuy » Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:45 am

Just write vaguely (that is, don't pretend to be an expert), about what interests you in the law, what experiences you've had with the legal profession/issues of social justice/etc. that has fueled your desire to study the law, what TYPES of things you want to be able to use your J.D. to accomplish, and, most importantly, why school X will be the best for you (and why you are a good fit for school X).

I wrote very broadly about my undergrad credentials, why I studied what I studied in undergrad, the role of law as a vital component of society's operation, ways in which I had explored this component of law in my undergraduate studies, my personal experience in Italy during a study abroad program that illustrated the problems of a preponderance of poorly written laws, the effect going to a Scalia lecture had on my interest in the law (not that I agree with his conclusions, just some of his approach), and what centers/programs/clinics/faculty at each school made me want to go there. When schools did not have a page limit, I submitted a 4-page statement that elaborated on these points (in contrast to the standard 2-page statement).I didn't even try to complete Yale's personal statement. Beyond the fact that I had very slim odds of getting accepted, a 250-word statement is ridiculously challenging.

In short, I tried to demonstrate that I had an interest in law that I was slowly exploring in undergrad without going so far as to claim that I had any authority on the subject matter.




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