Please Critique My Statement

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
dannyde7
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Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:27 pm

Please Critique My Statement

Postby dannyde7 » Mon Aug 30, 2010 9:55 pm

I've changed the names and titles of books because it deals with people who are somewhat known. I would love any/all feedback about how I can make this better. So far I've been getting criticism that this isn't enough about me. Does anyone know how I can fix that?

---------------------

It was probably because his cheeks were red and because his beard looked like shaved coconut that he chose to moonlight as Santa Claus at the Ridgmar Mall near Fort Worth. James Rietling had done well for himself as a conspiracy theorist, but he hadn’t had a hit since his book on the Kennedy assassination was used to form the plot of XXX Famous Movie from 80s. Nine months ago, my boss officially made me James’s editor with an email that contained Jim’s new manuscript and a one-word challenge: “Yours.”

At the time, my imagination was still wild with romantic stories of editors and great writers: Max Perkins sipping brandy as he packaged Hemingway’s typescript sentences into syntactic hammer blows; Gordon Lish inventing “minimalism” somewhere in the silent spaces between the axed paragraphs of Raymond Carver’s short stories; Robert Gottlieb waxing ironical with Joseph Heller over Catch-22.

I was partially inspired by my education. As an English and philosophy major at the University of XXX, I was deeply moved by how literature and writing could transcend the “dream” – as Joseph Conrad put it – of human experience to expose universal truths about being a person in the world. Writing had been my central passion and I still subscribed to the after-class revelations of my mentor and thesis adviser, who believed that great writing stirs somewhere in the mixing bowls of imagination, good humor, and most importantly, honesty, which meant writing in ways that avoided false emotions, clichés, and cheap literary tricks. Together, these three traits formed a powerful philosophy for writing stylistic prose that I wanted to convey to my authors.

I believed that I had the chance with James Rietling. Not only was his manuscript filled with stylistic snafus and vague, deceptive sentences, but it was 30,000 words over contract and often went wildly off-topic. James’s sentences swirled like leaves around a central concept and then dispersed, only to end on an unsubstantiated or ill-defined conclusion. In a quick glance, my boss declared the book unpublishable, which meant that, because James had turned the manuscript in late, I had only two months to completely overhaul the project.

Though I already had experience with projects like this – my first editing job was on a book about clam poaching that was the editorial equivalent of the Deepwater Horizon cleanup – James’s problems weren’t simply editorial. James didn’t trust editors, and he certainly didn’t trust a liberal New Yorker as young as me. But we were working against an incredibly tight deadline and the threat of cancellation from my boss, who took issue with some of James’s claims about Barack Obama.

Night after night, James would call me unexpectedly in an exasperated tirade brought on by a misunderstanding of one of my edits. For hours we brainstormed and worked to draft more lucid sentences and more convincing conspiratorial deductions— connective tissue that I believed made the book’s arguments more logically consistent and more ethically tenable. The more we built our rapport, the more we came to understand one another. He began to see how my edits impacted consistency, coherence, and style, and I learned how to mollify his rants by teasing him about his Santa Claus costumes. We finished a week before the book was due to the copyeditor. After a lengthy legal review and a whiplash production process, The Great Kool-Aid Fix [not real title] hit bookshelves at the end of June and debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Though I was able to fulfill the visceral fantasy of editing a long book with a known author (while drinking coffee, not brandy), the significance of the experience became apparent only after I evaluated how my former professor’s theories of writing applied to my work. Through the exercise of imagination, good humor, and especially honesty, I learned why James was a conspiracy theorist and I figured out a quality of my idols that I didn’t recognize before. Though James never said it, he knew that he could have been wrong. But what was important to Jim, as well as to Hemingway, Heller, and Carver was how the earnestness in practicing writing was essential to creating honest writing that aimed at the truth— whether it should be the emotional essence of a short story or the factual nexus of a convincing conspiracy theory.

Though an author’s prose may be vivid, imaginative, and wry, it can only reflect the integrity of a work or an author. Prose alone can’t make a work honest. This is what the great editors and writers of the past understood when they painstakingly revised each word of a manuscript – not for an “honest” style, but rather for a truly honest product that reflected an honest creator – and this what I now understand and carry with me through my personal and professional life.

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Marionberry
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby Marionberry » Mon Aug 30, 2010 10:28 pm

I like it. I think it says a good deal about you, just not in an overt way. It presents you as open minded, thoughtful, and good at dealing with potentially difficult/combative people. It also speaks to your professional abilities, which is good. Quotes were used sparingly and effectively. I don't know why you're choosing to go to law school when it sounds like you could have been a good editor. Do you address that question anywhere else in your app?

dannyde7
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby dannyde7 » Mon Aug 30, 2010 10:40 pm

I plan to in a "why x school" additional statement. Seems appropriate, right? I want to go to law school and leave being an editor because editors make no money (great personal statement topic, huh?)

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Marionberry
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby Marionberry » Mon Aug 30, 2010 10:47 pm

I think individual Why X statments would be a good place to address that. I don't think it needs to be a huge explanation, just a mention of what you hope to do as a lawyer. "Stackin paper" is probably not the answer you want to give, even if it is the real one. :)

firemed
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby firemed » Mon Aug 30, 2010 11:04 pm

So...

That was very good. Hit send IMO. Definitely need the "why X," but putting it in here would kill the awesome flow.


Thats all I got.

PS. So, if you would be willing to read my PS and comment I would be honored. You can write... and obviously you can edit too. If you can't, thats fine, but a chance to have it read by someone like you would be great. PM me if interested.

drpepper
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby drpepper » Mon Aug 30, 2010 11:18 pm

Marionberry wrote:I think individual Why X statments would be a good place to address that. I don't think it needs to be a huge explanation, just a mention of what you hope to do as a lawyer. "Stackin paper" is probably not the answer you want to give, even if it is the real one. :)


lulz irony reeks from every orifice of this statement. It would be a poignant reminder of the do-anything-nature of today's graduate school application process if he were to be as disingenuous as I think you're asking him to be. You just read an essay about honesty - the philosophy behind his writing - and you're telling him to be dishonest?

dannyde7
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby dannyde7 » Tue Aug 31, 2010 12:21 am

lulz irony reeks from every orifice of this statement. It would be a poignant reminder of the do-anything-nature of today's graduate school application process if he were to be as disingenuous as I think you're asking him to be. You just read an essay about honesty - the philosophy behind his writing - and you're telling him to be dishonest?


It would be dishonest for me to write something other than a desire to make money if making money were my only desire or reason to go to law school, but it's not. If I only wanted to make money, I would have gone into banking. I have many other reasons aside from the one that I gave to Marionberry (which was given with a wink, or so I thought).

drpepper
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby drpepper » Tue Aug 31, 2010 12:36 am

that's completely a fair assessment, I retract my previous statement. I clearly misread some irony.

on another note, i enjoyed the personal statement. it was well written and allowed the reader to get an introspective look into your life without being cluttered by excessive, shameless self promotion. it definitely provided both a cogent reason warranting your pursuit of law, tying in relevant anecdotes where necessary, and it also provided the reader a glimpse at characteristics you value - which I think the adcom will also find important.

GL, I hope the cycle goes well for you.

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2807
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby 2807 » Tue Aug 31, 2010 1:06 am

You have more than half a page to cut out if you plan on staying on two pages. You also need to consider a header on each page with name, LSAC #, and email. (Not sure on exacts, and I am trying to get an answer on that!)

Just keep in mind, you are a bit long for the traditional 2 page, double spaced.

I found that trimming was hard! You may want to give it a trim and see how it reads after. It can end up like the peeling an onion....

dannyde7
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby dannyde7 » Tue Aug 31, 2010 1:18 am

You have more than half a page to cut out if you plan on staying on two pages. You also need to consider a header on each page with name, LSAC, and email. (Not sure on exacts, and I am trying to get an answer on that!)

Just keep in mind, you are a bit long for the traditional 2 page, double spaced.


Thanks man. This is actually 2 pages double spaced at 11-point font and 1-inch margins all around. My college adviser is telling me that I still need to work myself in more to the second half of the statement and to get rid of some of the plot. Does anyone else see that? Any suggestions on how I could do that artfully?

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ArchRoark
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby ArchRoark » Tue Aug 31, 2010 1:35 am

One of the best I have read. A great example of an essay that doesn't touch on the Why Law? question but still speaks volumes to how the author will be successful in law school.

DreamShake
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby DreamShake » Tue Aug 31, 2010 1:41 am

Unless your adviser is/was a T14 adcomm, I suggest you dismiss his advice. The essay speaks more to your professional qualities than your personal qualities, whereas most PS's have the reverse focus. Demonstrating excellent writing ability, proven interpersonal skills, and a record of success is powerful; there's nothing wrong with focusing on that in the PS. You can insert the more personal "you" (i.e., the part of you that answers, "Why law school?") into your "Why X?" statements.

If you're really set on trying to insert more of yourself into the essay, you might want to browse over this article by YLS' Dean of Admissions: http://blogs.law.yale.edu/blogs/admissi ... trick.aspx (NB: Also read her responses to the comments at the bottom.)

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2807
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby 2807 » Tue Aug 31, 2010 1:47 am

Ok, sorry to go against the flow... But here is an opinion that I hope helps with what you asked for.

Yes. Your advisor is right. It is a great read, but there are two sentences that tease as if they are about to break this open and convey the powerful enlightenment, but neither one delivers. I think its weakness is in the impact and value that you took from the experience. At the very end you talk of learning the value of the honest product, run with that. Maybe bring that up to the top and let the rest support it and your transformation from not knowing that--to now knowing that.... and how and a honest product and creation of that product are the ethical, valid, and foundational skills that will serve you well in your legal career. (as opposed to illegal career?? sorry) Not sure if all of these HAVE to have a "why law" point, so you may be safe as is.... That risk/reward is up to you.

Or: In one sentence lay it out, and then use your process and supporting references as the foundational support. In one sentence can you say: Editing this book with this author showed me_________ and I am better for it because ___________ ? That's basically what is going on here, right? Is that message in there as clear as you want it to be?

That one sentence test (or two, whatever) may give you the clarity and roadmap that will help to tie YOU into all of the fantastic supporting material...like you are asking for help with. Once you define it, you (especially you and your writing ability) will be able to refer to it as you move along, and keep a theme going.

Hope that helps. Your writing skill is awesome. That skill alone is almost a fantastic PS, as in "look what I am capable of." I am certain you have worked hard to earn that ability. Good job.
Last edited by 2807 on Tue Aug 31, 2010 1:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Ford Prefect
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby Ford Prefect » Tue Aug 31, 2010 1:53 am

One thing I noticed after a quick read was a switch from James throughout the narrative to Jim in the penultimate paragraph. Avoid making a change like that, especially so late in the statement.

drpepper
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby drpepper » Tue Aug 31, 2010 2:34 am

mdallavis wrote:One thing I noticed after a quick read was a switch from James throughout the narrative to Jim in the penultimate paragraph. Avoid making a change like that, especially so late in the statement.


jim and james are not the same person. the names are also not the real names.

soundnfury
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby soundnfury » Tue Aug 31, 2010 6:20 am

I think this is good…perhaps you might cut "unexpectedly" at the top of paragraph 6. If he called you night after night, you might start to expect it.

dannyde7 wrote:I've changed the names and titles of books because it deals with people who are somewhat known. I would love any/all feedback about how I can make this better. So far I've been getting criticism that this isn't enough about me. Does anyone know how I can fix that?

---------------------

It was probably because his cheeks were red and because his beard looked like shaved coconut that he chose to moonlight as Santa Claus at the Ridgmar Mall near Fort Worth. James Rietling had done well for himself as a conspiracy theorist, but he hadn’t had a hit since his book on the Kennedy assassination was used to form the plot of XXX Famous Movie from 80s. Nine months ago, my boss officially made me James’s editor with an email that contained Jim’s new manuscript and a one-word challenge: “Yours.”

At the time, my imagination was still wild with romantic stories of editors and great writers: Max Perkins sipping brandy as he packaged Hemingway’s typescript sentences into syntactic hammer blows; Gordon Lish inventing “minimalism” somewhere in the silent spaces between the axed paragraphs of Raymond Carver’s short stories; Robert Gottlieb waxing ironical with Joseph Heller over Catch-22.

I was partially inspired by my education. As an English and philosophy major at the University of XXX, I was deeply moved by how literature and writing could transcend the “dream” – as Joseph Conrad put it – of human experience to expose universal truths about being a person in the world. Writing had been my central passion and I still subscribed to the after-class revelations of my mentor and thesis adviser, who believed that great writing stirs somewhere in the mixing bowls of imagination, good humor, and most importantly, honesty, which meant writing in ways that avoided false emotions, clichés, and cheap literary tricks. Together, these three traits formed a powerful philosophy for writing stylistic prose that I wanted to convey to my authors.

I believed that I had the chance with James Rietling. Not only was his manuscript filled with stylistic snafus and vague, deceptive sentences, but it was 30,000 words over contract and often went wildly off-topic. James’s sentences swirled like leaves around a central concept and then dispersed, only to end on an unsubstantiated or ill-defined conclusion. In a quick glance, my boss declared the book unpublishable, which meant that, because James had turned the manuscript in late, I had only two months to completely overhaul the project.

Though I already had experience with projects like this – my first editing job was on a book about clam poaching that was the editorial equivalent of the Deepwater Horizon cleanup – James’s problems weren’t simply editorial. James didn’t trust editors, and he certainly didn’t trust a liberal New Yorker as young as me. But we were working against an incredibly tight deadline and the threat of cancellation from my boss, who took issue with some of James’s claims about Barack Obama.

Night after night, James would call me unexpectedly in an exasperated tirade brought on by a misunderstanding of one of my edits. For hours we brainstormed and worked to draft more lucid sentences and more convincing conspiratorial deductions— connective tissue that I believed made the book’s arguments more logically consistent and more ethically tenable. The more we built our rapport, the more we came to understand one another. He began to see how my edits impacted consistency, coherence, and style, and I learned how to mollify his rants by teasing him about his Santa Claus costumes. We finished a week before the book was due to the copyeditor. After a lengthy legal review and a whiplash production process, The Great Kool-Aid Fix [not real title] hit bookshelves at the end of June and debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Though I was able to fulfill the visceral fantasy of editing a long book with a known author (while drinking coffee, not brandy), the significance of the experience became apparent only after I evaluated how my former professor’s theories of writing applied to my work. Through the exercise of imagination, good humor, and especially honesty, I learned why James was a conspiracy theorist and I figured out a quality of my idols that I didn’t recognize before. Though James never said it, he knew that he could have been wrong. But what was important to Jim, as well as to Hemingway, Heller, and Carver was how the earnestness in practicing writing was essential to creating honest writing that aimed at the truth— whether it should be the emotional essence of a short story or the factual nexus of a convincing conspiracy theory.

Though an author’s prose may be vivid, imaginative, and wry, it can only reflect the integrity of a work or an author. Prose alone can’t make a work honest. This is what the great editors and writers of the past understood when they painstakingly revised each word of a manuscript – not for an “honest” style, but rather for a truly honest product that reflected an honest creator – and this what I now understand and carry with me through my personal and professional life.

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re-applicant
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby re-applicant » Tue Aug 31, 2010 6:39 am

This sounds like a great topic an amazing experience.

I do think it suffers from the flaw that my PS did last year: the revelation/transformation/inflection point/whatever you want to call it doesn't seem very palpable. Introspection is relegated to the second-to-last paragraph, with the final paragraph reserved for generality. I'm not really sure how you got to the point where you realized that James really cared about honesty in writing. I feel like you know it in your head, but it doesn't come across, at least to me.

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Tanicius
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby Tanicius » Tue Aug 31, 2010 2:11 pm

re-applicant wrote:This sounds like a great topic an amazing experience.

I do think it suffers from the flaw that my PS did last year: the revelation/transformation/inflection point/whatever you want to call it doesn't seem very palpable. Introspection is relegated to the second-to-last paragraph, with the final paragraph reserved for generality. I'm not really sure how you got to the point where you realized that James really cared about honesty in writing. I feel like you know it in your head, but it doesn't come across, at least to me.


Agreed. Revelations, IMO, come off as terribly insincere, cliche, or both in personal statements. They're very hard to write.

dannyde7
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Re: Please Critique My Statement

Postby dannyde7 » Tue Aug 31, 2010 2:25 pm

These are great critiques. Thank you all. Indeed, I found it incredibly difficult to be revelatory without sounding revelatory and insincere, and I may have missed the mark in some places. I do think this needs a bit of massaging to get it to where I want it to be. If anyone else has any criticism, I'd love to hear it.




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