Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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philosoraptor
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Re: Help me take a break from LSAT and critique my PS

Postby philosoraptor » Fri May 28, 2010 2:29 am

monkeyhead817 wrote: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?


I think one of the things others mean when they say "pretentious" is that you have a lot of unnecessary descriptions. By "unnecessary" they (I) don't mean that they contribute nothing to the piece, just that they would contribute more by not being there. Go through each sentence, removing adjectives, adverbs and descriptive phrases wherever possible (e.g., "barreled at inadvisable speeds" -> "barreled"). If you think the sentence works without it, take it out. When you get to the end of a paragraph, you'll be surprised at how much tighter it is.

Another worthwhile exercise is to go through, word by word, and, where possible, replace Latin-based words with their Anglo-Saxon counterparts. It often sounds better and reads easier; if so, keep it.

monkeyhead817 wrote:
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.
Sorry I have to be so vague about this -- I know how I would write it, but it's your experience and only you know what you really mean. What I and others are trying to say is that it's simply unbelievable that an experience like this would trigger something so major as the desire for a career in law. It would read much better if you imply that you already had an interest in law, but that this merely helped focus it. Be specific in your anecdotes, but trust me/us that you don't want to be too specific in trying to connect your interest in law to two people shouting on a bus. It just doesn't work -- but it's certainly possible to frame it more advantageously.

Back tomorrow when I'm bored at work and not ridiculously tired...

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

Postby monkeyhead817 » Fri May 28, 2010 11:58 am

I see what you're all saying about the weak and unlikely connection between my initial story and my desire to study law. And it is true that I didn't have an epiphany on a bus, although my interest certainly was piqued. I'll try to frame it in a way that says that it contributed to my desire but didn't initiate it.

My worry when I wrote my statement was that the story was good, but not relevant enough to why I want to study law. Do you all think that I just need to frame it better, or is it too irrelevant?

Thanks again for all the help guys. This is extremely helpful.

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

Postby philosoraptor » Fri May 28, 2010 2:35 pm

monkeyhead817 wrote:I see what you're all saying about the weak and unlikely connection between my initial story and my desire to study law. And it is true that I didn't have an epiphany on a bus, although my interest certainly was piqued. I'll try to frame it in a way that says that it contributed to my desire but didn't initiate it.

My worry when I wrote my statement was that the story was good, but not relevant enough to why I want to study law. Do you all think that I just need to frame it better, or is it too irrelevant?

Thanks again for all the help guys. This is extremely helpful.
Sounds like you're starting to see the light. In a general PS, it's not a requirement that you justify your decision to study law. It's great if the story is directly relevant, but you can take care of that in how you frame it. Think of it as a supporting illustration, not a thesis, and don't force it.

Oh, and before I forget, one of the problems I initially fixed caused another tiny one. At first you had:
...the man sitting in the front immediately turned to me, almost embarrassedly...
which I changed to "embarrassed." Now there's an ambiguity: Is it modifying "me" or "the man"? To fix, try something like this: Once he left, the man in the front, almost embarrassed, turned to me and said in a heavy Syrian accent, “He’s crazy.”

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

Postby DavidYurman85 » Tue Jun 01, 2010 5:02 pm

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 (this seemed a bit confusing...is this a daily route or normal van ride?)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


Overall, echoing everyone else, I think there is a good story here. I highlighted phrases that sound pretentious - especially when describing your academic endeavor in Italy - and a few examples where adj. aren't necessary. Also, you used "the van" a few times too many. Some of the descriptions of the ME sound cliche (ie: "outspoken man", "women sitting quietly in the back", "frantic man", etc...). It's as if I expected you to say those things.




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