Personal Statement Help

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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gendefect
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Personal Statement Help

Postby gendefect » Wed Aug 04, 2010 5:11 pm

...
Last edited by gendefect on Mon Dec 06, 2010 12:35 pm, edited 10 times in total.

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Hannibal
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby Hannibal » Wed Aug 04, 2010 11:59 pm

I don't like it. The language is really weak, dry, boring. BPM sounds like a fantastic topic for a PS, but it needs to be far more personalized through your writing. For example, your first sentence is really generalized, telly/passive, and doesn't say anything of import.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Aug 05, 2010 12:05 am

Deleting the first & last paragraphs would be a good start toward streamlining your essay & making it read more smoothly. You do not need either of these paragraphs, especially your first paragraph which is very weak. Just spell out the full name the first time that you use "BPM".
Also delete the word "proverbial" & consider deleting the names of your co-workers.

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gendefect
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby gendefect » Thu Aug 05, 2010 7:33 am

Hannibal wrote:I don't like it. The language is really weak, dry, boring. BPM sounds like a fantastic topic for a PS, but it needs to be far more personalized through your writing. For example, your first sentence is really generalized, telly/passive, and doesn't say anything of import.


Thanks for taking the time to read it and comment. I was afraid it might be too dry, but it's hard to tell these things when you've been working on and staring at the document for weeks (at least it is for me).

Maybe it's a stupid question, but do you have any suggestions or strategies for how I might personalize the statement and/or make it more interesting? Any examples of adjustments you'd make to parts of my writing?

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gendefect
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby gendefect » Thu Aug 05, 2010 7:35 am

CanadianWolf wrote:Deleting the first & last paragraphs would be a good start toward streamlining your essay & making it read more smoothly. You do not need either of these paragraphs, especially your first paragraph which is very weak. Just spell out the full name the first time that you use "BPM".
Also delete the word "proverbial" & consider deleting the names of your co-workers.


Thanks, ya, it's funny. When I was posting the statement I read it again, and for the first time thought, "Maybe I could drop that first paragraph" (it's strange what you see in things once you start looking at them through someone else's eyes). So I definitely see what you're saying. I guess the only reason I was leaving it in there was to try to frame the rest of the statement as having something to do with law. Do you think that would come across without that first paragraph, or if not, if that matters?

CanadianWolf
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Aug 05, 2010 8:45 am

Delete the first & last paragraphs. The first paragraph is totally unnecessary & harms your essay. After deleting the first paragraph, don't add or substitute anything other than spelling out "BPM" the first time that it is used.

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gendefect
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby gendefect » Thu Aug 05, 2010 8:58 am

CanadianWolf wrote:Delete the first & last paragraphs. The first paragraph is totally unnecessary & harms your essay. After deleting the first paragraph, don't add or substitute anything other than spelling out "BPM" the first time that it is used.


Done. Better?

CanadianWolf
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Aug 05, 2010 9:11 am

Much better, but the "new" final paragraph needs to be revised & should include a concluding sentence relating your BPM experience to law school. This final thought could become a brief final paragraph.

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Calla Lily
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby Calla Lily » Thu Aug 05, 2010 9:19 am

I think it is a good statement. There were two things that stuck out in my mind: the unnecessary third paragraph/sentence and the lack of a real ending. I think you should take out the third paragraph/sentence. While I see that you are trying to show how you were a leader, it really just seems like you are telling us about how you were inspiring. I think the other parts of the statement show that, so you don't need that sentence explicitly stating it, especially because it is much more effective to show it rather than state it. Also, the last paragraph is great, showing how you expanded to the school curriculum, but then it just ends. I think you need some way to close it. Otherwise, I enjoyed reading it!

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gendefect
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby gendefect » Thu Aug 05, 2010 10:25 am

Calla Lily wrote:I think it is a good statement. There were two things that stuck out in my mind: the unnecessary third paragraph/sentence and the lack of a real ending. I think you should take out the third paragraph/sentence. While I see that you are trying to show how you were a leader, it really just seems like you are telling us about how you were inspiring. I think the other parts of the statement show that, so you don't need that sentence explicitly stating it, especially because it is much more effective to show it rather than state it. Also, the last paragraph is great, showing how you expanded to the school curriculum, but then it just ends. I think you need some way to close it. Otherwise, I enjoyed reading it!


Ok, great. Thanks for your thoughts. If what the third paragraph discusses comes across elsewhere, I'll happily drop it and be glad it's so apparent. If I drop that paragraph, then I should have room to write up a nice concluding paragraph trying to tie it to law, as CanadianWolf suggested above.

I'll try to give all that a shot tonight and repost once it's done. Thanks everyone!

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gendefect
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby gendefect » Thu Aug 05, 2010 9:07 pm

Ok, I made some adjustments and edited my original post. If anyone has a second to check it out, that would be great.

I think the suggestions so far have really improved the piece. It's still a few lines too long, so I'm still looking for material to cut out. As always, any criticism, harsh or otherwise, is certainly appreciated.

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gendefect
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby gendefect » Sun Aug 08, 2010 3:48 pm

Does anyone have time to read through V2 and see if it fixed some of the problems with V1 and if it's more generally working now?

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Hannibal
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby Hannibal » Sun Aug 08, 2010 4:41 pm

I think it still has the problem of lack of personality. It might be because it's overly telly, or just not compact enough.

Take the first sentence.

"As a small business owner for a number of years, the idea of creating something from nothing was a familiar one, and one I felt capable of handling."

"Was a familiar one, and one I felt capable of handling" is the kind of language that saps personality out. Take out words like "felt," and make the language stronger.

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ShuckingNotJiving
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby ShuckingNotJiving » Sun Aug 08, 2010 5:52 pm

I'm a firm believer in opening essays / stories/what-have-yous with an image. Something sensory to set the scene. I'm assuming you've watched your BPM students perform -- why not open up the essay with a description of one such performance? Then delve into the more bland history of the program, if you must. I agree with whoever maintained this essay lack personality, which is strange considering the organization you've started is so charming.... I sense that you have a quite magnetic personality, but am frustrated by the fact that it's not coming through. Fix this.

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Hannibal
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby Hannibal » Sun Aug 08, 2010 6:02 pm

I agree with shucking. I'm not trying to be a dick, I think the accomplishment is far better than anything I've done and you sound like you have a fantastic PS in you. But to write a good PS you have to unlearn a lot of habits you probably picked up in UG.

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gendefect
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby gendefect » Sun Aug 08, 2010 8:16 pm

Hannibal wrote:I agree with shucking. I'm not trying to be a dick, I think the accomplishment is far better than anything I've done and you sound like you have a fantastic PS in you. But to write a good PS you have to unlearn a lot of habits you probably picked up in UG.


Thanks for the comments, Hannibal and Shucking. And Hannibal, I know you're not trying to be dick, I appreciate you taking the time to read through and let me know what you think and your comments are definitely helpful.

But obviously, I'm really struggling with bringing out the personality that you both want to see. Of course, I'm limited to 2 pages, and I feel like if I don't explain what the program is and what effect it had, then the fact that you guys thought it's a worthwhile accomplishment will get lost, because it won't be clear that it is.

So, I guess, are there areas that either of you (or anyone else) can suggest that could be removed without taking away from a sense of the accomplishment? I can talk a little more personally about some of the struggles of getting the program up and running, and more about the interaction between the students and me, but there just hasn't been space to do so up until now.

What habits typically need to be unlearned from UG (note that I graduated UG 7 years ago...)?

Thanks again for the help and, as always, I'm interested to hear if anyone else has anything to add.

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Hannibal
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby Hannibal » Sun Aug 08, 2010 9:40 pm

Possibly frame it around a specific artist that had an effect on you, and describe your emotional reactions to it?

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gendefect
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby gendefect » Sun Aug 08, 2010 11:14 pm

Hannibal wrote:Possibly frame it around a specific artist that had an effect on you, and describe your emotional reactions to it?


Hmm, okay, that's an interesting idea. I'll spend some time with it and see if I can make something like that work. Thanks for the suggestion.

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ShuckingNotJiving
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby ShuckingNotJiving » Mon Aug 09, 2010 12:06 am

gendefect wrote:
Thanks for the comments, Hannibal and Shucking. And Hannibal, I know you're not trying to be dick, I appreciate you taking the time to read through and let me know what you think and your comments are definitely helpful.

But obviously, I'm really struggling with bringing out the personality that you both want to see. Of course, I'm limited to 2 pages, and I feel like if I don't explain what the program is and what effect it had, then the fact that you guys thought it's a worthwhile accomplishment will get lost, because it won't be clear that it is.

So, I guess, are there areas that either of you (or anyone else) can suggest that could be removed without taking away from a sense of the accomplishment? I can talk a little more personally about some of the struggles of getting the program up and running, and more about the interaction between the students and me, but there just hasn't been space to do so up until now.

What habits typically need to be unlearned from UG (note that I graduated UG 7 years ago...)?

Thanks again for the help and, as always, I'm interested to hear if anyone else has anything to add.


I don't see any evidence of bad habits, grammatically, although I didn't really read it all that closely.

I would take out the parts about Nate and Lauren. Although you may feel indebted to them, they do not belong in your PS. Like I said in my earlier post, I'd really like to see you open up this piece with a description of a student performance, and your "emotional reactions to it" as Hannibal mentioned.

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Hannibal
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby Hannibal » Mon Aug 09, 2010 12:21 am

By bad habits I may have been projecting. In UG when trying to lengthen my paper I'd insert a lot of unnecessary language that weakened it. Also, avoiding taking too strong of a position by using passive voice. I noticed a little bit of both of those. So it's not really grammar but style habits I was talking about.

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ShuckingNotJiving
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby ShuckingNotJiving » Mon Aug 09, 2010 12:37 am

Hannibal wrote:By bad habits I may have been projecting. In UG when trying to lengthen my paper I'd insert a lot of unnecessary language that weakened it. Also, avoiding taking too strong of a position by using passive voice. I noticed a little bit of both of those. So it's not really grammar but style habits I was talking about.


Ah, Ok. Yeah, I definitely see the emboldened part. The use of the passive voice also creates a distance between you and your product -- the product being both the organization you started, and this essay.

The reader might be led to wonder if you're truly passionate about BPM, specifically when you mention in the beginning that you were never really into Hip Hop (no dash necessary unless used as an adjective), and in the end when you say "I gave BPM everything that I had." It's your creation, your baby! Your reflections on it should be likened to something that's a part of you, not a stalled car you're trying to push down a street. However, that's just my opinion on how I might reflect upon it. We don't want anyone to have to lecture us on the perils of over-editing...

Also, be mindful of your use of "they" and "their" when referring to the students who participated.

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Calla Lily
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby Calla Lily » Mon Aug 09, 2010 4:10 pm

I think the revisions were an improvement, except for the ending, which seemed forced. I think you could free up more space for an anecdote, as others recommended, by removing information about the other people who were involved in BPM with you. Specifically, the descriptions in the second paragraph could be removed, and the other information in that paragraph could be incorporated into other paragraphs. I think using an example or anecdote might also give you material to create a more natural ending.

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gendefect
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby gendefect » Sun Aug 22, 2010 11:02 am

Thanks everyone for all your truly helpful advice.

While I appreciated where you all were coming from and thought your critiques to be valid, I honestly didn't think I was going to be able to adjust my PS in the ways it seemed like most of you wanted. I made several attempts and nothing seemed to work, so I had pretty much resigned myself to just leaving it as it was. Schools only care about LSAT and GPA anyway, right?

But last night I couldn't sleep, and I started thinking about my PS again. I got up and started writing and I was finally able to put something together that I think addresses many people's concerns, and most importantly, I think these edits are a big improvement.

So thanks to everyone who pushed me to make it better, I certainly wouldn't have done it without your prodding.

That said, it's still a little long, and there are likely still problems with it, so if anyone would be willing to take another look at this newly-improved version and let me know what they think, I would very much appreciate it. As always, please be as harsh as you feel is necessary.

I posted it in the OP above. It's 'V3'.

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Hannibal
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby Hannibal » Sun Aug 22, 2010 5:06 pm

I definitely liked V3 better, but it's not perfect.

For one, Glen is relegated to the first and last paragraphs, making him more of an example than a theme. I think you could incorporate the character of Glen as one to call upon throughout the statement.

You're still using your passive voice where it's not necessary. For example, the words "strongly believed" and "seemed." There's nobody to argue against you, so there's no point in leaving leeway.

Your paragraph in which you see the improvement is overly telly IMO. It could be condensed or used to make really strong examples.

Don't get discouraged. I've been there, wondering if I should just go for a PS that wouldn't hurt me rather than try for one that would actually help me. I didn't get what I was supposed to do until about revision nine. Not that you'll have to do that many since BPM is clearly extremely good material to work with.

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gendefect
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Re: Personal Statement Help

Postby gendefect » Sun Aug 22, 2010 8:42 pm

Thanks Hannibal. It has been quite the process, and it's not over yet, of course, but I feel like I'm making progress, so that helps keep me motivated enough to keep working at it.

Maybe I'll try to bring Glen back in during the paragraph about improvements that you say is too telly and use him as a way of showing the effectiveness of the program. What is more egregious in that paragraph, the stuff about the students maturing, etc, or the stuff about their grades and test scores improving? I feel like I need to quantify it a little bit, otherwise the effectiveness could get too abstract or not clear enough.

And I'll work on the passive voice. I always feel like I'm seeming too full of myself if I just make claims outright without any specific evidence to back them up, but I guess I'll try to get over that.

Thanks again for the help.




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