Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

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monkeyhead817
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Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby monkeyhead817 » Mon May 24, 2010 5:30 pm

***Edit: I have my first revision at the bottom of the page.

I posted this on here a ways back, but had to delay apps for the year. So I'm looking for some fresh criticism, so I can get my apps out the first day possible. Any criticism is welcome!


The stench was bad, but my worry that the van would fall apart distracted me. Nestled snugly between a distinguished Syrian gentleman and a mysterious wanderer we had just picked up from the desert, I sat eagerly as our overcrowded van cruised along the fabled Euphrates in eastern Syria. The driver held a begrudging respect for me – a respect I had earned after learning the hard way that a bus fare is rarely fixed and never fair. The men in the front spoke exuberantly to me with frantic gestures amidst broken English, while the women sat silently in back. I had grown to love my good-humored conversations with these welcoming, yet complete strangers, and strangely enough, it is these conversations that drove me to study the law.

As I developed my usual rapport with the other passengers, the tone of the conversation abruptly changed. The newly emboldened stranger pointed at me and exclaimed about the “Qur’an”, “America” and “Allah.” As the elder gentleman to my left leaned over my lap and shouted furiously at the man, I realized that I was caught in the midst of a cultural war. I combed their words for any indication of what was happening, but before I could discern the intentions of the frantic stranger, he signaled to the driver that the desolate and unending scenery to our right was his destination. Once he disembarked, the man sitting in the front immediately turned to me, almost embarrassedly, and exclaimed in a heavy Syrian accent, “He’s crazy.” To my surprise, the van was on my side. I later realized that this dispute was a microcosm of my experience in the Middle East – an overwhelming majority of unquestionably hospitable people whose global image was spoiled by the outspoken invectives of the few.

As I sat torn between the cultural hostilities in the battered van in eastern Syria, I realized the fundamental need for conflict resolution through rational discussion rather than aimless shouting. However, I also realized that without legal mediation to facilitate disputes, arguments like these are more likely to end in mindless bickering than a sensible resolution. During my undergraduate studies in philosophy, I developed a commitment to judicious discussion, and through my very real experience of a conflict that occurred over my very lap, I decided to study the law.

However, my experiences during my travels encompass only a portion of my desire to study the law. My previous passion for philosophy and foreign languages first prompted my aspirations, long before my two-month journey across the Middle East. I majored in philosophy at Xavier University, which led me to an unconventional study abroad program in Rome. Rather than follow the blueprint of typical overseas study, where students live in an American subculture within a foreign country, I chose a much different route and organized my own study abroad program at the Pontificia Universitá di San Tomaso d’Aquino, one of Rome’s preeminent philosophical institutions. Although obtaining a visa and finding an apartment provided its fair share of headaches, given the Italians’ unique enthusiasm for everything except what you need, organizing my own program gave me both increased responsibility and complete freedom in one of the world’s most thriving and historic cities.

Here my fervor for philosophical inquiry and aptitude for absorbing foreign languages fiercely culminated in graduate level course work conducted in Italian. The youngest in my classes by at least five years, I engaged in a highly competitive intellectual environment where I was expected to produce exceptional work in a foreign language. Although daunting, learning philosophy in another language forced me to scrupulously understand an argument, giving me the ability to break issues down to their logical parts and analyze their relationship. Furthermore, by working in a foreign language in an unfamiliar environment, I became acquainted with performing well in uncomfortable situations. Because a lawyer is constantly faced with the pressure to perform under demanding conditions, I believe that these skills will be indispensable in my legal studies.

My diverse background in philosophy and foreign cultures provides me a solid motive to confront the challenges of law school. After experiencing the need for conflict resolution in the bastion of conflict and studying under the auspices of philosophical greats in Rome, I have decided that law is the best application of my talents and experience. The need for rationality is not isolated to an overcrowded van in eastern Syria, and with a background in philosophy, a legal education and a significant exposure to foreign cultures in hand, I hope to eventually enter into conflicts like the one that I experienced and be able to reach a reasonable resolution through rational debate.
Last edited by monkeyhead817 on Thu May 27, 2010 12:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

d34d9823
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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby d34d9823 » Mon May 24, 2010 5:31 pm

Phew I thought for a second you were that psycho from this weekend back for a second round.

monkeyhead817
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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby monkeyhead817 » Mon May 24, 2010 5:40 pm

Ha, no. I swear I'm perfectly sane.

d34d9823
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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby d34d9823 » Mon May 24, 2010 7:52 pm

Well, since you humored me, I'll take a crack at it. If you want to check out the crazy guy: http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=118149
http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=118146

Hope my critique helps, sorry if it comes off harsh. I did think it was good overall. You have a good story going, I could definitely follow your 2 points. I think you do need to organize a bit better. Your story did seem to get lost or falter in places. You could also stand to break some of these sentences up. I get really impatient with a writer anytime I have to hold 4 or 5 facts in my head while I'm resolving a sentence. Just split these long sentences up and delete the fat as necessary.
monkeyhead817 wrote:I posted this on here a ways back, but had to delay apps for the year. So I'm looking for some fresh criticism, so I can get my apps out the first day possible. Any criticism is welcome!


The stench was bad, but my worry that the van would fall apart distracted me. The first sentence feels off. I get what you're trying to do with the immersive intro, but I feel more disoriented than anything. Nestled snugly between a distinguished Syrian gentleman and a mysterious wanderer we had just picked up from the desert, I sat eagerly as our overcrowded van cruised along the fabled Euphrates in eastern Syria. The driver held a begrudging respect for me – a respect I had earned after learning the hard way that a bus fare is rarely fixed and never fair. The men in the front spoke exuberantly to me with frantic gestures amidst broken English, while the women sat silently in back.I had grown to love my good-humored conversations with these welcoming, yet complete strangers, [strike]and[/strike]this is an "and" splice strangely enough, it is these conversations that drove me to study the law.This paragraph is a good intro. The one thing I noticed is your sentences are really packed with clauses. The sentence highlighted above is a good example. It's all good info, but three clauses between the men and the women loses the contrast/train of thought for me. I would go more for one really descriptive or poignant clause.

As I developed my usual rapport with the other passengers, the tone of the conversation abruptly changed. The newly emboldened strangerwho is this guy? one of the guys from para 1? the elderly guy? pointed at me and exclaimed about the “Qur’an”, “America” and “Allah.” As the elderly gentleman to my left leaned over my lap and shouted furiously at the man, I realized that I was caught in the midst of a cultural warwar seems out of place here. I combedcombed seems forced their words for any indication of what was happening, but before I could discern the intentions of the frantic strangeris this the elderly guy? i'm totally lost as to who is who, he signaled to the driver that the desolate and unending scenery to our right was his destination. Once he disembarked, the man sitting in the front immediately turned to me, almost embarrassedly, and exclaimed in a heavy Syrian accent, “He’s crazy.” To my surprise, the van was on my side. I later realized that this dispute was a microcosm of my experience in the Middle East – an overwhelming majority of [strike]unquestionably[/strike]you don't need two obviously synonyms here hospitable people whose global image was spoiled by the outspoken invectivesyour analogy would be stronger if you could tie the bus scenario more directly to the global situation. "outspoken invectives" applies more just to the bus. That is, terrorism is a bit more and a bit different than "invectives" of the few.

As I sat tornthis torn should contrast two specific hostilities i.e. explicitly frame hospitality vs. anger between the cultural hostilities in the battered van in eastern Syria, I realizedyou hadn't realized this before? surely it was just emphasized. Also, your wording is so strong it's a bit of a straw man. No one would disagree with this the way you have it phrased, yet you're framing it as an insight into conflict the fundamental need for conflict resolution through rational discussion rather than aimless shouting. However, I also realizedthis realization is more believable that without legal mediation to facilitate disputes, arguments like these are more likely to end in mindless bickering than a sensible resolution. During my undergraduate studies in philosophy, I developed a commitment to judicious discussion, and through my very real experience of a conflict that occurred over my very lap, I decided to study the law.This sentence needs a rewrite. Your point is good, but it comes off trite. Read it out loud and you'll see what I mean

Howeverhowever is not good here, as your point is not in opposition to the previous, my experiences during my travels encompass only a portion of my desireyou should discuss process of coming to conclusion here instead of saying desire. Your experiences were no doubt formative, but they are not actually a part of your desire. Alternatively, leave the desire and replace "encompass" with something like contibuted to study the law. My [strike]previous[/strike]passion for philosophy and foreign languages first promptedsay something like stirred or piqued here so that you can describe a continuum of increasing interest my aspirations, [strike]long before[/strike]cliche my two-month journey across the Middle East. I majored in philosophy at Xavier University, which led [strike]me[/strike] to an unconventionalthis sounds like you're patting yourself on the back, show by description, not by characterization study abroad program in Rome. Rather than follow the blueprint of typical overseas study, where students live in an American subculture within a foreign country, I chose a much differentsame as above, I think one mention of uniqueness would be ok if it was subtle and summarizing route and organizedthere's gotta be a better way to say this - clunky my own study abroad program at the Pontificia Universitá di San Tomaso d’Aquino, one of Rome’s preeminentboth Rome and preeminent seem off, Rome bc how many universities are there in Rome? I have no clue, neither will the adcoms. Preeminent seems pretentious. Say instead "well respected in Europe" or whatever would apply philosophical institutions. Although obtaining a visa and finding an apartment provided its fair share of headaches, given the Italians’ unique enthusiasm for everything except what you need, organizing my own program gave me both increased responsibility and complete freedom in one of the world’s most thriving and historic cities. This sentence is a mess. The first two clauses should be their own sentence, and are a wasted opportunity to add color of experience. The last clause is just a restatement of your intro - you need to say why and how this added to you as a person. An anecdote would be great in this paragraph

Here my fervor for philosophical inquiry and aptitude for absorbing foreign languages fiercely culminatedfiercely is lost here - how do you fiercely culminate something? sounds like a sex act. Also, you sound pretentious again. Find ways to show your writing ability that don't involve lauding yourself. Talk about the depth of your interest rather than the strength of your ability in graduate level course work conducted in Italian. The youngest in my classes by at least five years, I engaged in a highly competitive intellectual environment where I was expected to produce exceptional work in a foreign language.Same as before. If this is true, you can say it without sounding like you're showing off Although daunting, learning philosophy in another language forced me to your sentence needs something like "develop the ability to" here[strike]scrupulously[/strike]this would fit with analyze but feels off with understand understand an argument, giving me the ability to break issues down to their logical parts and analyze their relationship. Furthermore, by working in a foreign language in an unfamiliar environment, I became acquaintedhere I would try to talk about how it became a part of you. Acquainted just says "oh, I did that once" with performing well in uncomfortable situations. Because a lawyer is constantly faced with the pressure to perform under demanding conditionsdon't talk this specifically about law when you're not a lawyer yet. Say something more general like "law is a profession in which performing under pressure is value. Maybe rework to emphasize your skills rather than the profession?, [strike]I believe[/strike]I believe shows weakness. Just say it, they know whose opinion it is. That said, you can't have an absolute without an "I believe", so ditch the indispensable for valuable or something similarthat these skills will be indispensable in my legal studies.

My [strike]diverse[/strike]once again, don't say, show background in philosophy and foreign cultures provides me a solid motive to confront the challenges of law school. After experiencing the need for conflict resolution in the bastion of conflictthis is vague and weird. just say where you were. also sounds trite. you "experienced the need"? and studying under the auspices of philosophical greatsdid you? you should have mentioned these people. this goes back to "show, don't say" in Rome, I have decidedweak, say am convinced, etc. that law is the bestyou sure? say compelling etc. applicationapplication is not a good word here, say best use, reference making a difference in a non-cliche way of my talents and experience. The need for rationality is not isolated to an overcrowded van in eastern Syria, and with a background in philosophy, a legal education and a significant exposure to foreign cultures in hand, I hope to eventually enter into conflicts like the one that I experienced and be able to reach a reasonable resolution through rational debate.This sentence is another clause fest. the beginning is promising, but the end sort of trails off

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DavidYurman85
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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby DavidYurman85 » Mon May 24, 2010 9:12 pm

the story gets lost in a lot of the flowery language.

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philosoraptor
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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby philosoraptor » Mon May 24, 2010 10:12 pm

I'll toss in my $0.02 and disagree with d34dluk3 on some things, even though I agree with much of his criticism. (Sorry if I repeat you, dude.) I'm breaking it up by sentence to make it easier to read (hint, hint).

monkeyhead817 wrote:The stench was bad, but my worry that the van would fall apart distracted me. Experiment with the lede a little more. Write lots of them and find one that you like.

Nestled snugly between a distinguished Syrian gentleman and a mysterious wanderer we had just picked up from the desert, I sat eagerly This word makes little sense in the context of a desert bus ride. Did you mean "anxiously" or "tensely"? as our overcrowded van cruised along the fabled Euphrates in eastern Syria.

The driver held a begrudging respect for me – a respect I had earned after learning the hard way that a bus fare is rarely fixed and never fair. Sorry, I don't buy that you earned respect by learning to pay the bus fare. Do you mean you haggled, and that's why they respect you?

The men in the front spoke exuberantly to me with frantic gestures [strike]amidst[/strike] and broken English, while the women sat silently in back.

I had grown to love my good-humored conversations with these welcoming, yet complete strangers You're trying to force an adjective and a noun into a parallel construction. Surely you mean "strange but welcoming people" (though I'm sure you can spice that up., and There's no such thing as an "and" splice, but d34 is right that your sentences fall on the bulky side. Switch it up. strangely enough, it is these conversations that drove me to study the law. Speculation here, but if I'm an adcomm, my eyes glaze over when I read this. Finish your story, then connect it to the law.

***

As I developed my usual rapport I know sort of what you mean, but "develop a rapport" implies an extended period of time, not a daily routine. Be more specific. with the other passengers, the tone of the conversation abruptly changed.

The newly emboldened stranger Yeah, it's unclear who this is. pointed at me and exclaimed about the “Qur’an”, “America” and “Allah.”

As the elder gentleman to my left leaned over my lap and shouted furiously at the man, I realized that I was caught in the midst of a cultural war. Sounds like you're talking about the conversation, not the larger context, so "war" sounds weird. It's also a metaphor so cliche that it's lost all force and barely counts as a metaphor. Use more colorful language and phrase it creatively!

I combed their words for any indication of what was happening, At this point I find myself wondering how long you were in the country, both before the incident and overall. but before I could discern the intentions of the frantic stranger, he signaled to the driver that the desolate and unending scenery Surely it was more specific than that. "Scenery" isn't a destination, even for a crazy person. No cop-out descriptions. to our right was his destination.

Once he disembarked, the man sitting in the front immediately turned to me, almost embarrassed[strike]ly[/strike] "embarrassed" is better, and exclaimed You've got "exclaimed" earlier in a heavy Syrian accent, “He’s crazy.I usually disapprove of exclamation points, but feel free to use one if he actually shouted this.

To my surprise, the van was on my side. [strike]I later realized that[/strike] this dispute was a microcosm of my experience in the Middle East – an overwhelming majority of unquestionably hospitable people whose global image was spoiled by the outspoken invectives of the few. Trite.

***

As I sat torn between the cultural hostilities in the battered van in [strike]eastern[/strike] Syria, I realized the fundamental need for conflict resolution through rational discussion rather than aimless shouting. Sarcastic adcomm sez: "Golly, guess you should be a lawyer and run to the rescue of these law-deprived people! Who knew that aimless shouting won't resolve conflict?" Gentle TLS editor sez: I'd rethink the need for this entire graf. I don't doubt that this incident did pique your interest in dispute resolution, but the way it's written, it's hurting more than helping. Could you find a way to tie it into your specific interests in mediation while losing the melodramatic time elements and avoiding condescension?

However, I also realized that without legal mediation to facilitate disputes, arguments like these are more likely to end in mindless bickering than a sensible resolution. See above.

During my undergraduate studies in philosophy, I developed a commitment to judicious discussion, and through my very real experience of a conflict that occurred over my very lap, I decided to study the law. Again, you feel a need to squish two concepts together (bus incident and law interest), but I don't think it's necessary. You don't need an epiphany to justify wanting to study law. Might be stronger if the conflict merely enhances or filters your interest rather than causes it.

***

However, my experiences during my travels encompass I'd guess you mean "account for," but see above. only a portion of my desire to study the law.

My previous passion Is your passion gone? :( You can have more than one, you know. for philosophy and foreign languages It's slightly troubling that you say you have a passion for foreign languages but know only enough Arabic to pick out words that any American could recognize. But only slightly. first prompted my aspirations, long before my two-month Move this up; as I said, I'm curious about it earlier. journey across the Middle East.

I majored in philosophy at Xavier University, which led me to an unconventional Sorry, d34, I'd say leave this in. Makes me wonder what it is. study-abroad Hyphenate compound adjectives. program in Rome.

Rather than follow the blueprint of typical overseas study, where students live in an American subculture within a foreign country I doubt they'll be impressed by your ability to generalize. Strike everything before "(I) organized." , I chose a much different route and organized my own study abroad program at the Pontificia Universitá [strike]di[/strike] San Tomaso d’Aquino Pontificia Università San Tommaso d'Aquino. Better get the name of your school right!, one of Rome’s preeminent philosophical institutions. Vague, useless.

Although obtaining a visa and finding an apartment provided its fair share of headaches, given the Italians’ unique enthusiasm for everything except what you need, organizing my own program gave me both increased responsibility and complete freedom in one of the world’s most thriving and historic cities. Sarcastic adcomm sez: "Gosh, you had to get your very own visa? And get on craigslist to find your very own apartment? What a go-getter!" Gentle TLS editor sez: I know how hard it is to do basic things like this in a foreign country, especially when your language skills are still a little shaky. But without an anecdote or something, this sounds pretty worthless. And "world's most thriving and historic cities"? Pretty sure everyone knows this about Rome.

***

Here my fervor for philosophical inquiry and aptitude for absorbing foreign languages fiercely culminated in graduate level Hyphenate compound adjectives. course work One word. conducted in Italian.

The youngest in my classes by at least five years, I engaged How about "immersed myself"? "I engaged in an environment" doesn't sound idiomatic. in a highly competitive intellectual environment where I was expected to produce exceptional work in a foreign language. How long had you been studying Italian? If it's for two years, I'm impressed; if it's since middle school, I'm not.

[strike]Although daunting, l[/strike]Learning philosophy in another language forced me to scrupulously understand an argument, giving me the ability to break issues down to their logical parts and analyze their relationship. I have trouble believing you couldn't do this before. Do you mean that it forced you to spend more time/effort breaking down arguments?

Furthermore, by working in a foreign language in an unfamiliar environment, I became acquainted with performing well in uncomfortable situations. I don't doubt this for a second, but again, it's hardly a unique experience. Doesn't anything about this study-abroad adventure make you stand out a little more?

Because a lawyer is constantly faced with the pressure to perform under demanding conditions, I believe that these skills will be indispensable in my legal studies.What d34 said (mostly). Just say you're more prepared to face any pressure-packed situations that might be foolish enough to cross your path. Or something. But don't generalize and pretend to know what lawyers are constantly faced with. Unless you do. In which case say how you know.

***

My diverse background in philosophy and foreign cultures provides me a solid motive to confront the challenges of law school. What? Even if you meant "motivation," I don't see how your background makes you any more motivated to confront challenges.

After experiencing the need for conflict resolution You know how I feel about this kind of thing. Also kind of a post hoc ergo propter hoc. in the bastion of conflict and studying under the auspices of pretentious philosophical greats in Rome This sounds like you're talking about Cicero or Marcus Aurelius or Lucretius. , I have decided that law is the best application of my talents and experience.

The need for rationality is not isolated to an overcrowded van in eastern Syria I should hope not. , and with a background in philosophy, a legal education and a significant exposure to foreign cultures in hand, I hope to eventually enter Yes, I know that splitting an infinitive is not inherently an error, but it's often awkward and undesirable. "Hope eventually to enter" has a nicer cadence -- on the off-chance you let this sentence stand. into conflicts like the one that I experienced and be able to reach a reasonable resolution through rational debate. d34 is right: This sentence is a beast.
Overall, I need more of what makes you a special person. Aside from the story about the bus, which makes a good hook, it's kind of meh. Lots of kids go abroad, and I'm sure it'll make them all more responsible and qualified to study law if they took it seriously (as you apparently did). You should be proud of what you've experienced, but understand that your readers are going to be seeing zillions of pieces with similar tales and themes.

Tighten up your writing (a lot), and focus on making yourself stand out. Good luck.

blsingindisguise
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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby blsingindisguise » Mon May 24, 2010 11:24 pm

As Dr. Johnson said, "Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out." Or, in William Strunk's more succinct phrasing, "Omit needless words."

Or, in my own words, your writing is getting in the way of your story. I'm already grimmacing a little at the first sentence. And what stench are you talking about? The Syrian armpit in which you are "nestled"? (an awful word choice here, by the way, that makes it sound like the three of you are cuddling). Then you pretty much lost me at "fabled Euphrates" -- is this a resort brochure? Omit needless MODIFIERS is probably even more apropos. "Distinguished syrian gentleman" "mysterious wanderer" "begrudging respect" "newly emboldened stranger." Not to mention that it's not clear until the fourth paragraph what you're even doing in Syria.

Ok, but beyond that something about your story rings a little false too - did you really decide to study law in a stinking Syrian van? Do you expect adcoms to believe that you had this revelation about conflict at this moment? And isn't the connection a little tenuous - mideastern conflict resolution sounds more like something for a foreign policy-based degree than a law degree.

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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby d34d9823 » Mon May 24, 2010 11:51 pm

philosoraptor wrote:I'll toss in my $0.02 and disagree with d34dluk3 on some things, even though I agree with much of his criticism. (Sorry if I repeat you, dude.) I'm breaking it up by sentence to make it easier to read (hint, hint).

I actually like your analysis better than mine. It must be that Princeton education at work.

We both have the same main points though:
- lose the self-descriptions
- narrative needs to be connected in a knowledge chain
- avoid implying that your insights are somehow groundbreaking
- demonstrate achievement by recounting actions, not by saying how awesome you are
- more anecdotes
- there are some word choices that don't fit quite right

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philosoraptor
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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby philosoraptor » Tue May 25, 2010 12:32 am

d34dluk3 wrote:
philosoraptor wrote:I'll toss in my $0.02 and disagree with d34dluk3 on some things, even though I agree with much of his criticism. (Sorry if I repeat you, dude.) I'm breaking it up by sentence to make it easier to read (hint, hint).

I actually like your analysis better than mine. It must be that Princeton education at work.

We both have the same main points though:
- lose the self-descriptions
- narrative needs to be connected in a knowledge chain
- avoid implying that your insights are somehow groundbreaking
- demonstrate achievement by recounting actions, not by saying how awesome you are
- more anecdotes
- there are some word choices that don't fit quite right
Good summary. Self-descriptions aren't necessarily bad, but they do need to have a point and should be kept small and powerful.

Thanks, blsingindisguise, for pointing out the other obvious question in the Syria story: why was OP there?

One other little thing, OP: make sure you're consistent in putting commas and periods inside quotation marks (second graf).

(FTR, Princeton is TTT.)

monkeyhead817
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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby monkeyhead817 » Tue May 25, 2010 10:53 am

Whoo. That's some serious criticism. I'm glad though. When I posted this on here 6 months ago, everyone said it was great haha. I prefer criticism to backpatting. I'll revise it and then post it back on here if you guys are willing to look at it again.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue May 25, 2010 11:08 am

This personal statement is unlikely to help your chances of law school admission in my opinion. It is not well written although it is obvious that you put a lot of effort into this essay. The statement is not fluid & contains awkward use of adjectives. My overall impression is that you tried too hard to impress without revealing much about yourself.

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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby d34d9823 » Tue May 25, 2010 11:12 am

CanadianWolf wrote:This personal statement is unlikely to help your chances of law school admission in my opinion. It is not well written although it is obvious that you put a lot of effort into this essay. The statement is not fluid & contains awkward use of adjectives. My overall impression is that you tried too hard to impress without revealing much about yourself.

I think that's unnecessarily harsh. It's obviously a draft, that's why he's asking for comments.

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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue May 25, 2010 11:18 am

I did not intend my critique to be unneccessarily harsh. The essay just doesn't accomplish its objective in my opinion. The writing is somewhat forced & contrived and is not constucted in a crisp, clear and concise manner. The personal statement fails to reveal anything significant about the writer or his motivation for wanting to attend law school beyond superficialities. This is only my opinion, but it is an honest & experienced opinion.
The most memorable part of the essay was the writer's misuse of the word "fiercely" in the first sentence of the next to last paragraph.
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Tue May 25, 2010 11:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby PigNipple » Tue May 25, 2010 11:23 am

CanadianWolf wrote:I did not intend my critique to be unneccessarily harsh. The essay just doesn't accomplish its objective in my opinion. The writing is somewhat forced & contrived and is not constucted in a crisp, clear and concise manner. The personal statement fails to reveal anything significant about the writer or his motivation for wanting to attend law school beyond superficialities. This is only my opinion, but it is an honest & experienced opinion.

+1

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Janus
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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby Janus » Tue May 25, 2010 11:46 am

I agree with the revisions that d34 and raptor made so I don't think it's necessary to go through and revise again, because you are probably already doing your next revision. I strongly agree with the comments about modifiers. I got confused/lost a few times.

I did have one issue that wasn't already mentioned. In para 3, you say this: During my undergraduate studies in philosophy, I developed a commitment to judicious discussion, and through my very real experience of a conflict that occurred over my very lap, I decided to study the law.

Then, in para 4, you say this: My previous passion for philosophy and foreign languages first prompted my aspirations [I read: for law], long before my two-month journey across the Middle East.

I thought in para 3 you were saying you had this epiphany (doubtful like raptor said). Then, in paragraph 4 you say you've had these aspirations long before your Middle East travels. Basically, I thought this information came off contradictory and could be cleaned up a bit.

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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby d34d9823 » Tue May 25, 2010 11:52 am

Janus wrote:I agree with the revisions that d34 and raptor made so I don't think it's necessary to go through and revise again, because you are probably already doing your next revision. I strongly agree with the comments about modifiers. I got confused/lost a few times.

I did have one issue that wasn't already mentioned. In para 3, you say this: During my undergraduate studies in philosophy, I developed a commitment to judicious discussion, and through my very real experience of a conflict that occurred over my very lap, I decided to study the law.

Then, in para 4, you say this: My previous passion for philosophy and foreign languages first prompted my aspirations [I read: for law], long before my two-month journey across the Middle East.

I thought in para 3 you were saying you had this epiphany (doubtful like raptor said). Then, in paragraph 4 you say you've had these aspirations long before your Middle East travels. Basically, I thought this information came off contradictory and could be cleaned up a bit.

Sort of along with this, you don't want your story to be cliche (raptor hit on this some). A story of how your interest in law was piqued by several specific experiences is believable. A story with Jesus in the clouds style epiphanies, not so much.

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HazelEyes
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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby HazelEyes » Tue May 25, 2010 12:02 pm

I don't think you should start off with the sentence "The stench was bad." It has an oddly negative ring to it and kind of put me off reading the rest of it. No one really wants to know more about bad smelling things, and I’m sure there’s a better way to introduce your story. IMO.

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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby philosoraptor » Tue May 25, 2010 12:32 pm

monkeyhead817 wrote:Whoo. That's some serious criticism. I'm glad though. When I posted this on here 6 months ago, everyone said it was great haha. I prefer criticism to backpatting. I'll revise it and then post it back on here if you guys are willing to look at it again.
Props for having the courage to get feedback on such an early draft -- I'm sure it'll get much better as a result. In any case, happy to keep reading revisions. (Remember, the only good writing is rewriting.)

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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby monkeyhead817 » Wed May 26, 2010 9:10 pm

Ok, so here's my first revision. It's still a little rough so the more advice the better. I also scrapped the ending because it was too trite. I don't have anything there now, so if you have any ideas let me know. Thanks for all the advice so far.


Twelve months ago, I sat wedged between a Syrian gentleman to my left and a mysterious wanderer we had just picked up from the desert to my right. Our overcrowded van barreled at inadvisable speeds along the Euphrates in eastern Syria. The stench was bad, but my worry that the van would fall apart distracted me. The driver held a begrudging respect for me – a respect that I had earned after fifteen minutes of debate over what he would charge me to ride in his luxurious transportation. The men in the front spoke to me with frantic gestures and broken English, while the women sat silently in back. Over the previous two months of traveling through the Middle East, I had grown to love my good-humored conversations with these welcoming people, even if hands were a far better form of communication than words.

As I developed my usual rapport with the other passengers, the tone of the conversation abruptly changed. The suddenly outspoken man to my right pointed at me and exclaimed about the “Qur’an,” “America” and “Allah.” As the elderly gentleman to my left leaned over my lap and shouted furiously at the man, I realized that I was caught in the midst of a cultural feud. I combed their words for any indication of what was happening, but before I could discern the intentions of the frantic man, he signaled to the driver that the parched and unending desert to our right was his destination. Once he left, the man sitting in the front immediately turned to me, almost embarrassed, and said in a heavy Syrian accent, “He’s crazy.” To my surprise, the van was on my side.

As I sat torn between the cultural hostilities in that battered van, I realized that the current political and social climate in eastern Syria demonstrates the need for legal mediation to facilitate disputes. Disputes like the one in the van are perpetuated by a lack of legal consistency between authorities and the people, and power too often presides over reason. People often fear the police not for their execution of the law, but for their ability to distort it without repercussion. This danger is extremely real, as I saw the Syrian military police threaten a man for asking them to pay for entrance into an archaeological site. They got in for free. Spending time in a society where a fair application of the law is not assumed piqued my interest in its importance.

My experiences during my travels, however, contribute only a portion of my desire to study the law. I majored in philosophy at Xavier University, which led me to an unconventional study abroad program in Rome. Rather than follow the blueprint of typical overseas study, where students live in an American subculture within a foreign country, I directly transferred to the Pontificia Universitá San Tomaso d’Aquino, one of Europe’s most respected institutions. The increased responsibility required to study independently in a foreign country is unique. Dealing with becoming a temporary citizen, finding an apartment, obtaining a visa and countless other notarized documents, I quickly realized the convenience of overseas study through an established program. Though my most important realization was that “No, I can’t do anything for you” almost always means “Yes, I can, but you’ll have to ask me eight times first.” Although endless streams of red tape convoluted seemingly simple tasks, the academic rewards for studying abroad independently were enormous.

Here my passion for philosophy and foreign languages culminated in graduate-level coursework conducted in Italian. The youngest in my classes by at least five years and the only English speaker, I immersed myself in a highly competitive intellectual environment where I was expected to produce exceptional work in a foreign language. Although taking oral exams on the philosophy of Aquinas with only two years of experience in Italian was daunting, it forced me to scrupulously understand an argument and its parts. Furthermore, by working in a foreign language in an unfamiliar environment, I grew accustomed to performing well in uncomfortable situations. Because law is a profession that values performing well under demanding conditions, these skills will be indispensable in my legal studies.

My background in philosophy and foreign cultures provides me a solid foundation to confront the challenges of law school. After experiencing the need for arbiters of the law in the Middle East and studying with great philosophical minds in Rome, I am convinced that law is the best use of my talents and experience. The need for rationality is not isolated to an overcrowded van in eastern Syria. With a background in philosophy, a legal education and a significant exposure to foreign cultures in hand, I hope to be able to

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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby monkeyhead817 » Thu May 27, 2010 12:54 pm

bump

weejonbu
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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby weejonbu » Thu May 27, 2010 1:22 pm

I think you have a good story to work with here, but the way you are utilizing it seems a little pretentious. An argument that you didn't understand between two Arab men made you decide to enter legal litigation?

Also, it's still a little too "flowery" as others have said. It seems like you swallowed a thesaurus whole and vomitted it on the page. Less is more.

You have a good story to work with, hang in there man.

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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby philosoraptor » Thu May 27, 2010 1:56 pm

I'll have more time later, but a couple quick things: This is a step in the right direction. You've added some worthwhile details and tightened up the writing a bit. I still think, however, that you're trying to draw too direct a connection between the van ride and your awareness of the value of mediation.

As I sat torn between the cultural hostilities in that battered van, I realized that the current political and social climate in eastern Syria demonstrates the need for legal mediation to facilitate resolving disputes.
I'm a big fan of specifics, but this is a good place to be more general. Even striking the bolded would improve the message. Right now it's structured like so: witness hostilities --> need for mediation. Can you split it up such that: witness hostilities --> political climate --> importance of mediation (if that makes sense)?

The increased responsibility required to study independently in a foreign country is unique.
Not unique. Strike this sentence.

Also, didn't I already fix the name of your Italian university?? Anything that takes me two seconds to Google will also take an adcomm two seconds to Google.

d34d9823
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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby d34d9823 » Thu May 27, 2010 2:21 pm

I also will try to take a look at this when I have more time (I'm at work right now), but I just wanted to say, this one is far better.

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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby monkeyhead817 » Thu May 27, 2010 7:21 pm

Thanks for all the help so far guys. Can you all give me some specific examples of things? Like here:

weejonbu wrote:I think you have a good story to work with here, but the way you are utilizing it seems a little pretentious. An argument that you didn't understand between two Arab men made you decide to enter legal litigation?

Also, it's still a little too "flowery" as others have said. It seems like you swallowed a thesaurus whole and vomitted it on the page. Less is more.

You have a good story to work with, hang in there man.


Is the connection between the argument in the van and my desire to study law the only example of where it sounds pretentious? I also tried to strike a lot of the flowery language. What else should I strike?

philosoraptor wrote:I'm a big fan of specifics, but this is a good place to be more general. Even striking the bolded would improve the message. Right now it's structured like so: witness hostilities --> need for mediation. Can you split it up such that: witness hostilities --> political climate --> importance of mediation (if that makes sense)?


You don't think that if I generalize more, the connection between the story and how it makes me a worthwhile candidate for law school becomes tenuous? If not, I can definitely switch that up.

Also, my fault about the name thing. It would look pretty awful to get that wrong.

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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby blsingindisguise » Fri May 28, 2010 1:05 am

Writing is tighter now, but still too stilted. You sometimes seem to inexplicably write in the voice of a turn-of-the-century British adventurer/diplomat. "mysterious wanderer" "barreled at inadvisable speeds" "luxurious transportation" (the last being a kind of mark-missing attempt at ironical humor, I guess). I know I'm being a little harsh here - sorry. I'm drunk and pissed about the Suns game.

I think the second half reads pretty well and sounds more honest. The first half still feels forced and it isn't quite clear how it's supposed to hook into the second half, especially since the first half is about traveling in Syria while the second half is about studying in Italy. I'm just not buying that a quick argument in a van led you to any larger realizations about, well, anything. I also don't quite get what the argument is supposed to tell us about the political climate in Syria, let alone what it tells us about your desire to study law.

monkeyhead817 wrote:Ok, so here's my first revision. It's still a little rough so the more advice the better. I also scrapped the ending because it was too trite. I don't have anything there now, so if you have any ideas let me know. Thanks for all the advice so far.


Twelve months ago, I sat wedged between a Syrian gentleman to my left and a mysterious wanderer we had just picked up from the desert to my right. Our overcrowded van barreled at inadvisable speeds along the Euphrates in eastern Syria. The stench was bad, but my worry that the van would fall apart distracted me. The driver held a begrudging respect for me – a respect that I had earned after fifteen minutes of debate over what he would charge me to ride in his luxurious transportation. The men in the front spoke to me with frantic gestures and broken English, while the women sat silently in back. Over the previous two months of traveling through the Middle East, I had grown to love my good-humored conversations with these welcoming people, even if hands were a far better form of communication than words.

As I developed my usual rapport with the other passengers, the tone of the conversation abruptly changed. The suddenly outspoken man to my right pointed at me and exclaimed about the “Qur’an,” “America” and “Allah.” As the elderly gentleman to my left leaned over my lap and shouted furiously at the man, I realized that I was caught in the midst of a cultural feud. I combed their words for any indication of what was happening, but before I could discern the intentions of the frantic man, he signaled to the driver that the parched and unending desert to our right was his destination. Once he left, the man sitting in the front immediately turned to me, almost embarrassed, and said in a heavy Syrian accent, “He’s crazy.” To my surprise, the van was on my side.

As I sat torn between the cultural hostilities in that battered van, I realized that the current political and social climate in eastern Syria demonstrates the need for legal mediation to facilitate disputes. Disputes like the one in the van are perpetuated by a lack of legal consistency between authorities and the people, and power too often presides over reason. People often fear the police not for their execution of the law, but for their ability to distort it without repercussion. This danger is extremely real, as I saw the Syrian military police threaten a man for asking them to pay for entrance into an archaeological site. They got in for free. Spending time in a society where a fair application of the law is not assumed piqued my interest in its importance.

My experiences during my travels, however, contribute only a portion of my desire to study the law. I majored in philosophy at Xavier University, which led me to an unconventional study abroad program in Rome. Rather than follow the blueprint of typical overseas study, where students live in an American subculture within a foreign country, I directly transferred to the Pontificia Universitá San Tomaso d’Aquino, one of Europe’s most respected institutions. The increased responsibility required to study independently in a foreign country is unique. Dealing with becoming a temporary citizen, finding an apartment, obtaining a visa and countless other notarized documents, I quickly realized the convenience of overseas study through an established program. Though my most important realization was that “No, I can’t do anything for you” almost always means “Yes, I can, but you’ll have to ask me eight times first.” Although endless streams of red tape convoluted seemingly simple tasks, the academic rewards for studying abroad independently were enormous.

Here my passion for philosophy and foreign languages culminated in graduate-level coursework conducted in Italian. The youngest in my classes by at least five years and the only English speaker, I immersed myself in a highly competitive intellectual environment where I was expected to produce exceptional work in a foreign language. Although taking oral exams on the philosophy of Aquinas with only two years of experience in Italian was daunting, it forced me to scrupulously understand an argument and its parts. Furthermore, by working in a foreign language in an unfamiliar environment, I grew accustomed to performing well in uncomfortable situations. Because law is a profession that values performing well under demanding conditions, these skills will be indispensable in my legal studies.

My background in philosophy and foreign cultures provides me a solid foundation to confront the challenges of law school. After experiencing the need for arbiters of the law in the Middle East and studying with great philosophical minds in Rome, I am convinced that law is the best use of my talents and experience. The need for rationality is not isolated to an overcrowded van in eastern Syria. With a background in philosophy, a legal education and a significant exposure to foreign cultures in hand, I hope to be able to




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