Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
leggy1T1
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Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby leggy1T1 » Mon Aug 16, 2010 9:16 am

I would really appreciate feedback on this. My father (a bio prof) says it is too personal for most admissions committees (which he assumes are all conservative old men), but I quite like it.

Background: 3.9 GPA, 165 LSAT but retaking in Oct (should hit mid-170s), History specialist & American studies minor who did Pre-Med for 2 years. Diagnosed with anorexia in my 2nd year while I was trying to figure out majors and hating living in res. Long-distance runner, concert-level pianist, lot of mentoring experience. Have fully recovered.
---------------------------------


I am always hungry. Sometimes physically, most often intellectually, hunger organizes my world. It is both my greatest strength and my most perilous weakness. It makes me impatient to learn new languages, to understand the world, to explore places I have never been. It makes me hungry to help others, to protect the environment, to evoke the most beautiful melodies. But it is also an importune human necessity, a bodily desire that I enjoyed conquering. The same hunger that feeds my ambition gnaws at my empty stomach, daring me to eat when eating seems like an impossible chore.

Feeding your hunger makes perfect sense. In an ideal world we would all be guaranteed the means to feed our bodies and our minds. But the world is not ideal, and neither am I. Explaining an eating disorder (even when it is in the past) is no easy task, for the most common reaction is that you are narcissistic, sadistic, or simply crazy, for who would ever choose to withhold the food of life? Yet I feel compelled to explain my personal demon, as it is intrinsically related to who I am today and why I want to study law.

I am biologically susceptible to anorexia nervosa. There is no way around the sad fact that starvation has been my friend when anxious or unconfident. In my second year of college I became a walking a walking paradox: while I could feed my hunger to learn, I could not feed my hunger to live. I explored terrible places of mental anguish and starvation, where denying myself sustenance was a way to test my fortitude. I found my way back from anorexia by exploring the joy of teaching children, reading long-forgotten newspapers, and uncovering the past. Although overcoming my mental illness was an undeniably painful process, hunger taught me what truly matters in life. My anorexic journey of self-discovery revealed me to myself: a highly organized, hardworking, compassionate, and intelligent woman.

My hunger to study law was born from the realization that I want to be active in the historical narrative I have studied as an undergraduate. My twin interests in history and biology ironically convinced me that academia was not the route I wanted to take. To my mind it is self-rewarding but ultimately not self-fulfilling. I watch my father (a biologist) struggle to bring his research into the realm of conservation policy, while my mentors (historians) painstakingly construct elements of the past only to retreat from the present. it is a tragedy that these highly intelligent individuals should effect so little change in the world.

My hunger for history has led me to forgotten fashion journals from the French Revolution, material culture in 1920s England, and current research on U.S. environmental policy. But lately I have become hungry for more: instead of merely studying history, I want to engage with the past for the benefit of the future. This is why I volunteer at The Arboretum, a conservation area adjacent to the University of Guelph, and why I use my musical knowledge to teach piano. Nothing satisfies my hunger for life as much as witnessing the revelation on a student’s face when he or she finally learns a new technical skill.

I look upon my eating disorder as an unfortunate-yet-fortunate detour on my journey to knowledge and self-awareness. I am not ashamed to admit that the adversity I created within myself is the most serious battle I have yet faced. I think the barriers we build are often more potent than those imposed upon us, for what do we rebel against but our very souls? And who is there to guide us along the way but the only person we resent? My hunger for life propels me forward, and the temptation to ignore that hunger is a disease that I have learned to conquer. I am hungry to learn, hungry to effect change, hungry to succeed—above all, I am determined to nourish my hunger for life, and law.

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ShuckingNotJiving
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby ShuckingNotJiving » Mon Aug 16, 2010 9:40 am

I'm reading this, and it seems excellently written.

Quickly though: you repeat "a walking" in the third paragraph. "I became a walking a walking paradox."

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ShuckingNotJiving
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby ShuckingNotJiving » Mon Aug 16, 2010 9:49 am

Awesome. I really, really liked this essay in it's entirety. I don't think I've ever said that on this board.

One suggestion, take out this sentence:

leggy1T1 wrote:it is a tragedy that these highly intelligent individuals should effect so little change in the world.


This rubbed me the wrong way for two reasons:
-the misuse of "effect." It should be "affect"
-you're creating a hierarchy of what "affects change" that could be off-putting to some (me being one of them).

leggy1T1 wrote:I think the barriers we build are often more potent than those imposed upon us, for what do we rebel against but our very souls? And who is there to guide us along the way but the only person we resent?


Brilliant insight.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby CanadianWolf » Mon Aug 16, 2010 9:50 am

Your essay will certainly raise red flags in the minds of many readers. "...starvation has been my friend when anxious or unconfident" suggests that anorexia nervosa is likely to return during your first year of law school.
Why do you use parentheses instead of commas ?
The hungry theme is too obvious & too simplistic for someone of your intelligence especially when used in an essay in which you presume to be able to judge & dismiss as insignificant the work of experienced biologists & historians.
On my first quick read I felt uncomfortable reading your personal statement & thought that it was a writing by an intelligent person lacking in common sense since it is almost certain to harm your chances for admission to highly selective law schools. I'll reread it now to see if my first impressions remain unchanged, but I doubt that many admissions officers will reread personal statements.
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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jayn3
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby jayn3 » Mon Aug 16, 2010 9:59 am

I am always hungry. Sometimes physically, most often intellectually, hunger organizes my world. It is both my greatest strength and my most perilous weakness. It makes me impatient to learn new languages, to understand the world, to explore places I have never been. It makes me hungry to help others, to protect the environment, to evoke the most beautiful melodies. But it is also an importune human necessity, a bodily desire that I enjoyed conquering. The same hunger that feeds my ambition gnaws at my empty stomach, daring me to eat when eating seems like an impossible chore.


this opening paragraph, and the overall analogy, is rather uncomfortable to me. tying your ED to your desire to learn makes it sound like you can't have one without the other, something an adcomm would likely not see as a positive.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby CanadianWolf » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:07 am

I agree with jayn3's comments.
After rereading your personal statement, I think that it would be more effective as an admission application essay for undergraduate school but is too obvious & simplistic to be helpful for law school admissions. This essay presents you in a somewhat negative light as it shows lack of maturity, lack of respect for other disciplines & a glaring dangerous weakness that is likely to reoccur. Consider writing on a different topic.
On the positive side, you write well.
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

superjohnnnn
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby superjohnnnn » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:09 am

a fine piece in it of itself, and as a narrative personal history of a particular struggle, but as a personal statement for admissions to law school and it's relevance...
not so much, imho.

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JazzOne
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby JazzOne » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:11 am

ShuckingNotJiving wrote:Awesome. I really, really liked this essay in it's entirety. I don't think I've ever said that on this board.

One suggestion, take out this sentence:

leggy1T1 wrote:it is a tragedy that these highly intelligent individuals should effect so little change in the world.


This rubbed me the wrong way for two reasons:
-the misuse of "effect." It should be "affect"
-you're creating a hierarchy of what "affects change" that could be off-putting to some (me being one of them).

leggy1T1 wrote:I think the barriers we build are often more potent than those imposed upon us, for what do we rebel against but our very souls? And who is there to guide us along the way but the only person we resent?


Brilliant insight.

FYI, the word "effect" can be used as a verb meaning, "to bring about," "to cause," or "to achieve." If you really want your mind blown, consider that the word "affect" can also be a noun.
Last edited by JazzOne on Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby CanadianWolf » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:14 am

I agree that"effect" is correct.

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Dany
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby Dany » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:14 am

If the most common reaction to your eating disorder is that you are "narcissistic, sadistic, or simply crazy," then WHY would you want admissions committees judging you on this aspect of your life? That's just asking for trouble. It's clear you're a decent writer, so why risk a negative first impression with your application? Not worth it. Also, as others have mentioned, the 'hungry for knowledge/hungry for food' idea is kind of groan-worthy and simplistic.

I'd pick a new topic.

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merichard87
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby merichard87 » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:20 am

I think this is a great piece of written art however I don't think its appropriate for a law school admissions essay. It leaves you open to too much judgement from adcomms.

I do think the eating disorder topic could be made into a great diversity statement but not in the form of this essay.

midwestls
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby midwestls » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:25 am

It's very well written, but also very high risk. There are probably admissions committees it will turn off, but others will like it. My guess would be it hurts you more than it helps because law schools and law school profs tend to be more conservative about these things.

I don't think it would be an effective diversity statement either. IMO most admissions committees would frown on the idea that this should be considered something that adds diversity to their student body. I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with that, just stating an opinion.
Last edited by midwestls on Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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ShuckingNotJiving
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby ShuckingNotJiving » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:25 am

I am always hungry. Sometimes physically, most often intellectually, hunger organizes my world. It is both my greatest strength and my most perilous weakness. It makes me impatient to learn new languages, to understand the world, to explore places I have never been. It makes me hungry to help others, to protect the environment, to evoke the most beautiful melodies. But it is also an importune human necessity, a bodily desire that I enjoyed conquering. The same hunger that feeds my ambition gnaws at my empty stomach, daring me to eat when eating seems like an impossible chore.


The issue with this paragraph, to me, is that it is too abstract, you don't make it clear enough that the ED is a thing of the past, and your "hunger for knowledge" is where you are now. I can see how that might inadvertently connect your ED to your intellectual curiosity as jayn pointed out. However, overall, I disagree with the other posters. Your disorder has affected you in ways that only you can assess, it has moved you, and that is why you chose the subject to write your PS. Anything else might seem stilted or less personal. There is a distinct wisdom that comes from overcoming any disease, and I think your essay speaks to this. If not a PS, then definitely use this as a DS.

There are issues where you display a rather myopic view of other fields, as I've noted in the post above.

If you're going to use the "hunger" analogy, then you need to make emphasize your positive mental state, and shifted perspective. For that reason, I would also take out the reference to fashion magazines in the bottom half of the essay.

Jazz -- you're absolutely right about "effect," but it's used more commonly as a noun. The noun form of "affect" has no relevance to what the OP is conveying in her essay, but thanks for referencing it....

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jayn3
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby jayn3 » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:27 am

my other suggestion is to flesh out some things you don't spend much time on. for example:

My hunger to study law was born from the realization that I want to be active in the historical narrative I have studied as an undergraduate. My twin interests in history and biology ironically convinced me that academia was not the route I wanted to take. To my mind it is self-rewarding but ultimately not self-fulfilling. I watch my father (a biologist) struggle to bring his research into the realm of conservation policy, while my mentors (historians) painstakingly construct elements of the past only to retreat from the present. it is a tragedy that these highly intelligent individuals should effect so little change in the world.


I think you could very easily do more with this paragraph. Instead of glossing over your time as a premed, explain how that brought you to being interested in environmental law.

My hunger for history has led me to forgotten fashion journals from the French Revolution, material culture in 1920s England, and current research on U.S. environmental policy. But lately I have become hungry for more: instead of merely studying history, I want to engage with the past for the benefit of the future. This is why I volunteer at The Arboretum, a conservation area adjacent to the University of Guelph, and why I use my musical knowledge to teach piano. Nothing satisfies my hunger for life as much as witnessing the revelation on a student’s face when he or she finally learns a new technical skill.


I'm not really sure how the satisfaction of teaching ties into anything you will do with a law degree. I think you could find a way to flesh out your love for history that doesn't imply you might prefer a career outside the law.

As others have said, you write well. I still think the use of "hunger" and its satisfaction is something you need to cut down or cut out -- in the two paragraphs above, you use the word four times, which certainly does not support any claim to having overcome the disorder.

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JazzOne
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby JazzOne » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:29 am

ShuckingNotJiving wrote:
I am always hungry. Sometimes physically, most often intellectually, hunger organizes my world. It is both my greatest strength and my most perilous weakness. It makes me impatient to learn new languages, to understand the world, to explore places I have never been. It makes me hungry to help others, to protect the environment, to evoke the most beautiful melodies. But it is also an importune human necessity, a bodily desire that I enjoyed conquering. The same hunger that feeds my ambition gnaws at my empty stomach, daring me to eat when eating seems like an impossible chore.


The issue with this paragraph, to me, is that it is too abstract, you don't make it clear enough that the ED is a thing of the past, and your "hunger for knowledge" is where you are now. I can see how that might inadvertently connect your ED to your intellectual curiosity as jayn pointed out. However, overall, I disagree with the other posters. Your disorder has affected you in ways that only you can assess, it has moved you, and that is why you chose the subject to write your PS. Anything else might seem stilted or less personal. There is a distinct wisdom that comes from overcoming any disease, and I think your essay speaks to this. If not a PS, then definitely use this as a DS.

There are issues where you display a rather myopic view of other fields, as I've noted in the post above.

If you're going to use the "hunger" analogy, then you need to make emphasize your positive mental state, and shifted perspective. For that reason, I would also take out the reference to fashion magazines in the bottom half of the essay.

Jazz -- you're absolutely right about "effect," but it's used more commonly as a noun. The noun form of "affect" has no relevance to what the OP is conveying in her essay, but thanks for referencing it....

Well, you said in your initial post that he "misused" the word. Using a word differently from the most common usage is not equivalent to "misuse." His use of the word was perfectly correct even if uncommon. That was my point.

He's talking about "causing" change, not merely "influencing" change. "Effect" is the appropriate word.

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ShuckingNotJiving
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby ShuckingNotJiving » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:33 am

midwestls wrote:There are probably admissions committees it will turn off, but others will like it.


I agree with this. It's controversial. But I don't know if that means you need to scrap it entirely. Jayn is providing some really good advice that you can use to keep the topic, but shift the focus.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby CanadianWolf » Mon Aug 16, 2010 10:46 am

I think that you should consider writing on a new topic. As it is, your best hope is that admissions officers read your first line, realize where it's going & move on to the next essay. In my opinion, if your entire essay consisted of only the introductory sentence "I am always hungry." it would be much more effective even though risky.

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ShuckingNotJiving
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby ShuckingNotJiving » Mon Aug 16, 2010 11:01 am

CanadianWolf wrote:I think that you should consider writing on a new topic. As it is, your best hope is that admissions officers read your first line, realize where it's going & move on to the next essay. In my opinion, if your entire essay consisted of only the introductory sentence "I am always hungry." it would be much more effective even though risky.


Better yet, scrap the app package in its entirety, because you had an eating disorder years ago. No one wants to hear about that, ew, and you probably cry for no reason, because you are weak.

Again, I think you've touched upon something profound with your essay. I say keep it. Perhaps to satisfy CW and others, you should consider taking out some of the "hunger" repetition, and adding a bit more about your music. Maybe tying the two ideas together?

leggy1T1
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby leggy1T1 » Mon Aug 16, 2010 5:24 pm

Wow - thanks everyone for all your insight, whether you liked it or not.

@ShuckingNotJiving: lots of helpful comments, I will certainly include your suggestions. Agreed on the hierarchy, I don't mean to sound pretentious or critical of academics, so I will certainly change that part.

@Jayne3: Will include more about the pre-med part, and I am going to try to connect teaching piano with mentoring - law school and after, perhaps in a firm.

I'll take out some of the repetition and add in a definitively more "I have overcome this" element, vs. making it something that would arouse suspicion about my ability to handle law school.

Thanks all!

leggy1T1
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby leggy1T1 » Tue Aug 17, 2010 12:46 pm

So I am in the process of editing this PS. Considering both the positive & negative reviews, I'm going to write another, but I think I will end up using this for some applications.

My gut feeling is that I like it. And if other people don't, that's fine - their law school is not the place I want to be. A selection that works both ways!

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Marionberry
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby Marionberry » Tue Aug 17, 2010 12:58 pm

This is the kind of topic that if done correctly can be very good and moving, and if done poorly can be not just boring but unpleasant to read. This has been said, but I would really consider losing the "hungry for knowledge, hungry for food" analogy." For the purpose of this application, "hungry for food, hungry for justice" might even be better, but i would drop it all together.

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acrossthelake
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby acrossthelake » Tue Aug 17, 2010 1:11 pm

I would scrap mention of your eating disorder entirely. What does it add, exactly? What is it supposed to show that you couldn't demonstrate separately? Your interest/"hunger" for these other things can be discussed without mentioning your eating disorder. If you're trying to say "I overcame something difficult", I just don't think it's worth it. Your writing is good--but this is more material for a personal essay that you would submit to the Arts section of a magazine, not to law school. If you were on the admissions committee, what would you think? "Okay. She overcame an eating disorder. What else?" You might cast doubt in their minds that you can handle law school--plenty of people relapse under extreme stress--especially if it's still a large enough part of your identity that you feel compelled to write about it for your personal statement. Your personal statement is your one shot to show them who you are--and you're defining yourself by a disorder, when there are probably other traits/characteristics that are more positive and compelling that you could dedicate that space to.

ETA: Ugh, typo. You're instead of your.
Last edited by acrossthelake on Tue Aug 17, 2010 1:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Dany
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby Dany » Tue Aug 17, 2010 1:20 pm

acrossthelake wrote:I would scrap mention of your eating disorder entirely. What does it add, exactly? What is it supposed to show that you couldn't demonstrate separately? Your interest/"hunger" for these other things can be discussed without mentioning your eating disorder. If you're trying to say "I overcame something difficult", I just don't think it's worth it. You're writing is good--but this is more material for a personal essay that you would submit to the Arts section of a magazine, not to law school. If you were on the admissions committee, what would you think? "Okay. She overcame an eating disorder. What else?" You might cast doubt in their minds that you can handle law school--plenty of people relapse under extreme stress--especially if it's still a large enough part of your identity that you feel compelled to write about it for your personal statement. Your personal statement is your one shot to show them who you are--and you're defining yourself by a disorder, when there are probably other traits/characteristics that are more positive and compelling that you could dedicate that space to.

I was going to bold the parts of that that were spot on, but that would require bolding the whole paragraph, so I'll just leave it and say:

This.

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Marionberry
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby Marionberry » Tue Aug 17, 2010 1:27 pm

eskimo wrote:
acrossthelake wrote:I would scrap mention of your eating disorder entirely. What does it add, exactly? What is it supposed to show that you couldn't demonstrate separately? Your interest/"hunger" for these other things can be discussed without mentioning your eating disorder. If you're trying to say "I overcame something difficult", I just don't think it's worth it. You're writing is good--but this is more material for a personal essay that you would submit to the Arts section of a magazine, not to law school. If you were on the admissions committee, what would you think? "Okay. She overcame an eating disorder. What else?" You might cast doubt in their minds that you can handle law school--plenty of people relapse under extreme stress--especially if it's still a large enough part of your identity that you feel compelled to write about it for your personal statement. Your personal statement is your one shot to show them who you are--and you're defining yourself by a disorder, when there are probably other traits/characteristics that are more positive and compelling that you could dedicate that space to.

I was going to bold the parts of that that were spot on, but that would require bolding the whole paragraph, so I'll just leave it and say:

This.


Lol, I thought the same thing.

I think acrossthelake's advice is equally relevant for other "disorder" personal statements, it brings up a lot of good points. I still think it's possible to address these topics in a PS, but it's very difficult and you have to make very sure that you don't use the same hackneyed themes and imagery that every other addiction/eating disorder/whatever personal statement has used.

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paratactical
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Re: Personal Statement - overcoming an eating disorder

Postby paratactical » Tue Aug 17, 2010 1:29 pm

.
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