Personal Statement First Drafts

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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Personal Statement First Drafts

Postby tipler4213 » Thu Aug 05, 2010 3:50 pm

I wrote two personal statements. The first is for the "why law?," and the second is for "why you will be a good lawyer" type question. Both may need to be shortened a bit, depending on the schools restrictions, and I will add information about the particular schools for them. I have three questions for you all:
Which one is better? (for the schools that would accept either)
Do either just not work and need to be scrapped?
Any parts that need to be completely re-written?

So here goes...Essay 1:
In his celebrated “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr. famously wrote, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Having grown up in Birmingham, the numerous historical landmarks of the Civil Rights Era serve as constant reminders of the sacrifices made by men, women, and children like Mr. King, in the pursuit of justice. However, there is one landmark, whose significance is known only to a few, that led me to pursue a career in the field of law. There is no commemorative plaque or organized tour to memorialize the events that occurred within its walls. In fact, most of those who know of its significance try to avoid mentioning it, but it is home to one of the most important events in the civil rights struggle. Mountain Brook Country Club, within a mile of my childhood residence, is where the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, which left four innocent African-American Sunday school girls dead under a heap of smoldering rubble on September 15, 1963, was planned by local residents.
Mountain Brook Country Club rests in the middle of the rolling hills and towering pines of Birmingham, Alabama’s wealthiest subdivision. The community is known to this day as the “Tiny Kingdom” for its prestigious education system, safe streets, and affluent residents. On the surface, life seems perfect. However, upon closer observation, it is apparent that the injustice written about by Mr. King is still rampant. The Mountain Brook School System boasts countless accolades as one of the top public schools in the nation, although “public” is not truly a fair description. High taxes and the general stigma against “new money” amongst the long-rooted families of Old Mountain Brook have prevented integration and left the community virtually frozen in the 1950s. Both Mountain Brook and Birmingham Country Clubs have been involved in recent legal battles due to their restriction of access to minorities on the basis of being a private organization. My graduating class of 337 students had zero minorities, and most students’ only exposure to diversity is through the bus line that shuttles the neighborhood maids and yardmen to and from their downtown apartments. The injustice seemingly does not exist only because you cannot see it, but a mere ten-minute drive to the crumbling walls of Huffman High or the gang-infested streets of downtown, and you may feel otherwise. Out of sight, out of mind.
Fortunately, my upbringing and childhood experiences have led me to view the situation differently. My father was one of the first attorneys in the city to have an African-American law partner, and although we did have a housekeeper, her son remains one of my closest friends to this day. Yet, my experiences on the soccer field transformed my views on discrimination the most. After playing youth soccer in the Mountain Brook club system, some friends and I left to join the more competitive Vestavia club team. Instead of our previous suburbanite teammates sporting the latest $200 cleats with their overly involved fathers patrolling the sidelines, we now played alongside African-Americans and first-generation Kenyan, Argentinean, and Kosovo-Albanian immigrants with whom I soon developed close friendships.
In my early teens, I was still naïve to the uniqueness of my situation relative to many of my classmates. I would bring my new teammates to all of the local “brookie” hangouts and not even notice some of the backwards glances we would receive. However, that changed when eating lunch in Mountain Brook village with a couple of my new teammates. A group of my classmates began to yell at us from across the street. At first their insults were inaudible, but then one pierced my eardrum like a nail: “n****r-lover.”
Still quite young and immature, I confronted this racial slur and the continued verbal assaults of certain classmates with verbal and physical altercations. However, as I have matured through high school and college, I have grown to seek to combat the injustice of discrimination and subjugation in a more sophisticated manner, the law. This desire to pursue justice increased when I interned with the Honorable Judge Houston L. Brown of the Civil Circuit Court of Alabama, a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, and his countless inspiring stories. When combined with my studies as an International and Global Studies Major and experiences abroad, I have developed a strong desire to pursue legal justice in a globalized context. Just as the 16th Street church bombing pushed Dr. King to aggressively seek to end discrimination in the Civil Rights era in Birmingham, my own experiences with discrimination have led me to desire to continue this admirable struggle at home and abroad.

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Re: Personal Statement First Drafts

Postby tipler4213 » Thu Aug 05, 2010 3:51 pm

Essay 2:

The Arabic language: classified by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US Department of State as one of the five most difficult languages in the world. Its twenty-eight characters, many with no English pronunciation equivalent, are written right-to-left with grammatical rules that make simple processes like counting and forming plurals into intellectual endeavors rivaling nuclear physics. The ranking is warranted. Yet, instead of being deterred by this daunting collection of seemingly incomprehensible scribbles, I am inspired. I am driven to excel by challenges like this one and thrive when confronted with an apparently insurmountable task. This has proven true in high school, college, and my experiences studying French and Arabic abroad. It is for this reason that I will succeed at Northwestern University Law School and in my future career as an attorney.
When I arrived in for my semester abroad in France, I was admittedly in above my head. Due to an inadequate number of semesters of French, I had been forced to gain special approval into the immersion program. The entire first night, I was unable to utter a complete sentence in French, and my host family even turned to English to make sure I understood the rules. Slightly embarrassed but extremely motivated, I sought to remedy the problem as aggressively as possible. I worked diligently in my classes and was near the top of each course despite my linguistic disadvantage. Outside of the classroom, where most of my friends retreated to English language novels and TV shows, I “Francified” all my activities. Every night, I watched the news and soccer in French. In my leisure, I played soccer twice a week with French students at the university and read French novels. I started with short stories and plays, but by the end of the six-month semester I had read over 4,000 pages in French, including the Count of Montecristo by Albert Dumas, and every morning, I read the Figaro newspaper cover to cover. When my parents came to visit near the end of the semester, my host mother confessed to them that when I arrived, I was the worst French speaker of the twenty-five Americans they had hosted, but that I was now the best they had ever had. Due to my diligent strategizing, I responded to the challenge of immersing myself in a culture, in which I could hardly order lunch, to reach my current level of fluency in the French language.
Armed with this confidence, I decided to up the ante and learn what is arguably the world’s hardest language for English speakers, Arabic. I applied for the US State Department’s Critical Languages Scholarship for beginning Arabic. The thirty students chosen to be among the 6% of applicants worthy of the government grant were soon confronted with the most challenging summer of our lives. A week after returning from France, I was once again airborne over the Atlantic. Destination: Tunis, Tunisia. Whatever confidence I had developed while in France vanished about thirty seconds into the first lesson, when my professor informed a handful of other students and I that our notebooks were upside down. How else could we write from right to left?
Over the course of the summer, some of the brightest college and post-graduate students in the country were tested to the edge of their limits. We were there on the government’s dime, and they did not intend to have it wasted. Nine hours at the program’s center was the norm and we had a minimum of five hours of homework to grapple with nightly. On our weekend “breaks,” students were constantly piping the dreaded I-Vocab through their headphones or drilling exercises in Al-Kitaab in preparation for our weekly examination.
Many of my fellow students, exhausted by the daily grind, refused to utter a word of Arabic outside of the walls of our program center, but I approached it differently. My roommate and I sought out every opportunity to speak with Tunisians. We drilled Arabic vocabulary while doing our daily morning workouts. We spent hours at meals with our host family, hoping to absorb whatever vocabulary we could. We spent so many nights completing our homework and conversing with the employees at the local café that we were invited to join their weekend soccer match on the beach. All of this hard work finally paid of at the end of the program when I earned the highest grade of anyone in the program, 99%, on our final examination. In the face of the hardest intellectual challenge of my life, I had once again flourished.
Based on these experiences, I know that I will prove to be a successful law student at Northwestern. I am currently beginning work for Cerner Corporation Medical Software and Technologies in Dubai, where I am also continuing my study of Arabic. This experience as well as those described above have developed my ability to adapt to different situations and challenges. Furthermore, when coupled with my experience in an intellectual environment similar to Northwestern Law School’s, my unique experiences will contribute to an already vibrant classroom environment by presenting a diversity of perspectives on different issues. Law school will certainly be a great challenge to undertake, but I excel when confronted by demanding endeavors and am confident this will prove no different.

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Re: Personal Statement First Drafts

Postby tipler4213 » Thu Aug 05, 2010 5:33 pm

Hello, Hello, Hello, is there anybody (out) there, Just (respond) if you can hear me. Is there anyone home?

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Re: Personal Statement First Drafts

Postby tipler4213 » Thu Aug 05, 2010 6:45 pm

i'll keep bumpin' it 'til i get some feedback...

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Re: Personal Statement First Drafts

Postby gendefect » Thu Aug 05, 2010 9:56 pm

Nice Floyd reference...

Personally, I would say without question, your second essay, dealing with learning languages is stronger. It's not as gripping a subject as your first essay, but I think the issues of race you discuss requires a lot of maturity, sophistication and nuance that in my opinion is very difficult to achieve unless you're very well-versed in the subject. I'm not sure that you pulled that off as well as you might need to to make an essay like that one really work.

Some specific thoughts about your 2nd essay:

First Paragraph
- Your opening is nice and I believe achieves its aims. I would make sure you really believe that learning Arabic rivals nuclear physics in its difficulty before I said so, or make clear that you're exaggerating.
- Personally, I think the statement "It is for this reason that I will succeed at Northwestern University Law School and in my future career as an attorney", is a little strong, but that might just be me.
- I feel like there's a big jump from the 1st to 2nd paragraph. Granted, they're both about languages, but given that you start off talking about learning Arabic, I'm a little surprise that suddenly I'm reading about being in France.

Second Paragraph
- Unless reading the Count of Montechristo in French is a really substantial accomplishment in and of itself (and maybe it is, I just don't know), I would take that bit out. Saying you read 4,000 pages seems like enough to me.
- Again, it might be me, but I think your final sentence, that sort of sums up the paragraph is unnecessary. The goal of the paragraph should be to illustrate what you say in that sentence. If we haven't come away from the paragraph understanding that without having to read it, then the paragraph hasn't been successful.

Third Paragraph
- We already know Arabic is really hard from the first paragraph, I don't think it needs to be reiterated.

Final Paragraph
- Again, that first sentence seems strong.
- I would either work the job you're taking in Dubai into an earlier paragraph, or dump it entirely. It feels out of place in your conclusion.

One other thought. I'm not someone who has travelled much, so I may not have the best perspective on this, but I think the fact that you've studied and lived in at least France, Tunisia, and soon the UAE is pretty impressive. And I guess it will be clear from other parts of your application, but I feel like it might be nice to mention that you made all these trips from Alabama--that you're not some haughty jet-setter or something, but just a guy from Alabama whose substantial capabilities in language has allowed him to study and live around the world.

Good luck!

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Re: Personal Statement First Drafts

Postby ShuckingNotJiving » Fri Aug 06, 2010 1:20 am

Essay #1

Aye. In some of your attempts to sound one-with-the-people you end up...well, not doing that. Like here:

My father was one of the first attorneys in the city to have an African-American law partner, and although we did have a housekeeper, her son remains one of my closest friends to this day.

Really though?

I'm still not entirely sure what you want the reader to gain from reading your essay. This is what I'm getting now: you grew up in a racist town, notorious for a very racist event, and you are marginally less racist than said town and event. The setting is wonderful in that it could provide a rich analysis of the person that has been shaped by such surroundings. However, you forsake that and instead rely on cliche statements a la, "At first their insults were inaudible, but then one pierced my eardrum like a nail: “n****r-lover.” Fix that. Make it more personal.

I like the "heap of smoldering rubble" image you mention in the first paragraph. Why not begin your essay with that image? Could be powerful. The MLK quote belongs in an AP US History essay.

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Re: Personal Statement First Drafts

Postby tipler4213 » Fri Aug 06, 2010 12:44 pm

Sweet. Thanks for the insight guys. If anyone else wants to chime in, feel free.

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