My PS - radically revised

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My PS - radically revised

Postby haveaniceday111 » Mon Aug 16, 2010 3:35 am

My last PS got (justifiably) ripped apart, so I rethought my whole approach.
The specific accomplishments of my jobs (Peace Corps, law firms, bookstore) are in my resume, which is why I didn't discuss them in depth here.

Let me know what y'all think. I'd really appreciate it!


The most important lessons I teach my students are the same that my parents, teachers, and mentors have taught me: that learning is a life-long process, to always expand and deepen your understanding of the world, and to contribute. These lessons have driven my previous endeavors, and drive my current desire to attend [law school].

By the time I graduated college I had lived and worked in four continents. But two summer experiences shaped me more than any other. When our study-abroad program in Beijing ended, I stayed because I wanted to improve my language skills and deepen my understanding of my heritage. I was also contacting, out of the blue, Chinese law firms for summer internships. My persistence paid off when [law firm] offered me a position. Working with American, Chinese and European lawyers exposed me to a wide variety of cultures and legal backgrounds. The next summer, volunteering in Uganda put me face-to-face with the realities of HIV/AIDS, water-borne diseases and poverty that until then had been confined to Foreign Affairs articles, documentaries and class discussions. I had volunteered in lesser-developed countries in the past, but not as extensively and as intensely as I had in Uganda.

I was galvanized to pursue these interests further. But which one: international humanitarian work in rural countries, or a legal career in urban offices? I grappled with this issue until I realized that they aren’t mutually exclusive. I decided to do both.
Upon graduating, I widened and refined my interest in law at [law firm]. It was exciting to know that I was a part, however small, of major developments in the news, like the lawsuits between [company A and company B]. I had postponed my Peace Corps assignment, but I followed through with the process because I was passionate about international service and discovering other cultures. My current salary is a tenth of what I was making before, but I’ve enriched my life by enriching others. I had never imagined teaching English in Micronesia, and I am thankful for my opportunity to do so. In retrospect, I’ve realized that offices in downtown Los Angeles and communities on tiny islands have salient similarities. Both involve dealing with various personalities and sub-cultures, both are great learning experiences, and both involve contributing to something bigger than myself. In both environments, I’ve utilized skills that I’ve developed previously, such as teaching, organizing thousands of documents, communicating my thoughts and feelings to complete strangers, and collaborating efforts among diverse individuals and organizations, often in non-English languages. Because of my experiences in Beijing and in Uganda, I adapted well. I expanded on previous experiences, yet stayed eager to learn in the present. In doing so, I am confident and comfortable with pursing future endeavors.

But I am not content with having learned or having contributed to an effort. I can only be content by continually learning and continually contributing. Debate honed my research, communication, and analysis skills, and gave me confidence to voice my opinions. While I’m not longer a debater, I continue to think critically about the world. My favorite memories of working in a bookstore are of customers returning and telling me how much they enjoyed my recommendations, like Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains or Shaun Tan’s Arrival. Although I’m no longer a bookseller, I continue to voraciously read and engage in lengthy discussions on books. I’m conversationally fluent in Chinese, Spanish, and Kosraean (a local Micronesian language, not to be confused with Korean), yet I’m continually improving by practicing with who ever I can, whenever I have the chance. I’ve also begun learning French and Japanese through Rosetta Stone because I love exploring new languages. And since graduating college, I’ve utilized MIT’s Open Course Ware to discover things like game theory and linguistics. These are not isolated events or chapters of my life, but small parts of a big process.

Attending law school is the next stage of my life-long learning journey. Understanding law will empower me to play a larger role in contributing to communities, companies, and countries. Specifically, I plan to help strengthen legal systems in developing countries by advising legislatures, judiciaries, and NGOs, and work with businesses operating in emerging markets. [law school]’s strong comparative law program and rich tradition of international involvement make it my top choice. Living in [this place] will also afford me opportunities with internationally oriented law firms and global institutions where I will synthesize my experiences, skills, and passions in a career in international law. Upon graduation, I will have expanded and deepened my understanding of the world, but my education will be far from over. It’s a basic lesson I’ve learned, and an important lesson I am learning.

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Re: My PS - radically revised

Postby CanadianWolf » Mon Aug 16, 2010 12:42 pm

Too long. Too many detours that take over the trip. Although initially interesting, your personal statement's length & lack of ability to communicate simple thoughts in a more precise fashion result in a mildly tortuous journey.

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Re: My PS - radically revised

Postby bedefan » Mon Aug 16, 2010 5:59 pm

My two cents: this PS needs to be narrowed.

You've done a lot in your life, and that's impressive, but you need to demonstrate that you can exercise prudential judgment by cutting down the sheer number of subjects you mention. This essay needs an organizing principle, a narrative arc or a theme that will help you cut out everything unnecessary. You say you don't want to put specific accomplishments in, as those are on your resume; yet, at the same time, this PS reads like a weak resume in expository form. A big, floppy list with nothing specific enough to grab on to.

It might make more sense to pick one or two specific experiences, or perhaps things you know about, and go into them in greater detail. "Show, don't tell," as fiction writers are always saying. While you probably don't want to "show" constantly, a good essay will usually have a compelling balance of showing and telling. (You can also think of show v. tell as writing a scene v. writing a summary, if that helps.) Showing/writing "in scene" allows you to suggest rather than state--and when you suggest, although you're not saying things as clearly, you're saying much more and communicating it more viscerally. A well written scene goes right to the gut.

You seem to be a good writer, as your prose is pretty smooth, but right now this PS just feels unexceptional. I see your two main ways forward to be either writing "in scene" a little more, as I was saying above, or in strengthening your voice such that it can carry the essay, so that it careens (rather than stumbles) through an impressive list of life accomplishments.

Good luck with your revisions.

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Re: My PS - radically revised

Postby ShuckingNotJiving » Mon Aug 16, 2010 6:16 pm

You alluded to Mountains Beyond Mountains in your PS. FOR SHAME.

I think bedefan is dead on. The problem is, you pile on so many achievements, successes that what you push out is the exact thing you need to convey in an essay like this -- passion.

Pick just a one or two of your accomplishments (hint: learning a language through Rossetta Stone should not be one of them), and expound on it.

Why the desire to say so much? Are you fearful of coming off as unaccomplished or pedestrian? If that's the case, you are thoroughly misguided.

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Re: My PS - radically revised

Postby DavidYurman85 » Mon Aug 16, 2010 7:23 pm

nouns and verbs tell stories. you could cut down a decent chunk of this by taking out some of the adjectives. it seems like you're really excited about this topic, but it's simply too long and it feels like you're focusing on too much. remember that a lot of that information will be on your resume. choose one story and make it compelling

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Re: My PS - radically revised

Postby teaadntoast » Tue Aug 17, 2010 3:56 pm

I'm not exactly sure how you did it, but your statement managed to convince me that you joined the Peace Corps and moved halfway around the world, not to help Micronesians and Ugandans, but for the sake of a line on your resume.

You've crammed about eighteen different things into this essay in an effort, I think, to appear accomplished and worldly. Unfortunately, you come off as insecure and immature. No bueno.

My advice would be to either pick a theme and then relate your various travels and project back to that organizing principle, or choose just one or two instances that really encapsulate your goals and intellectual passions and explore them in depth.

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Re: My PS - radically revised

Postby Eugenie Danglars » Tue Aug 17, 2010 11:23 pm

Second sentence in second paragraph = fragment. I'd be happy to help with some of the other grammar errors if you email it to me.

As far as content, I think other people have captured my sentiments. (I feel your pain though- I haven't posted my PS yet because I'm having the same problem...)

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