Please tell me whether this is in any form a workable PS.

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

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Please tell me whether this is in any form a workable PS.

Postby SortOfObsessed » Tue Aug 31, 2010 3:49 pm

I've been struggling with writing a personal statement for the last two months. I've researched (read over 100+ statements, and went through about 7 books on the topic) and painstakingly typed out two different drafts (one is about an internship I had, this one is more biographical) and I'm completely and utterly stuck.

I would appreciate any feedback, though please be considerate, I know how some of you tend to get your kicks by tearing others apart. A polite, constructive, comment would be much appreciated. :)

Last edited by SortOfObsessed on Wed Oct 13, 2010 4:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Please tell me whether this is in any form a workable PS.

Postby Tanicius » Tue Aug 31, 2010 4:26 pm

SortOfObsessed wrote:I grew up amidst disorder.
My first memory as a child was being held in my grandfather’s arms, his voice crooning reassurances as my mother, a brilliant young engineer, boarded a plane on her way to pursue further education in the United States. I was two, and would remain in rural China with my grandparents for the next four years.
At age six I arrived in Michigan in a blustery winter. It was the first time I experienced snow, my mother’s embrace, and the brittle sounds ofspoken English.The haphazard drifting of snowflakes would become the model for the decade to come.

As I moved nine times in the next ten years, coast to coast with several stops in between[.]adapting to new environments became a forte. I formed friendships easily, even as the stitches that secured my newfound nuclear family began to fray at the seams. My mother, reaching the pinnacle of success upon receiving her PhD, succumbed to the grips of schizophrenia and depression. My father became abusive and withdrawn. What happened specifically? If you're comfortable explaining, do so.

In the turmoil of my uncertain childhood, I found solace in literature, art, and learning. Several problems with this sentence. It's cliche, for one. We've all heard of people who turned themselves into academics to escape family problems. Hundreds of PS's will make this claim at every school you apply to. But more importantly, this is bland and shows us nothing about you -- we have to simply take your word for it, and a reader at a law school is not going to. Delete the sentence and replace it with fleshed out details that offer proof for the claim. The claim itself will be conveyed through those details.

As an only child, taking care of my mother during her illness gave me perspective into the precarious balance between academic success and mental health. This is shaky. You don't want to look like you're saying scholars are crazy. Also dislike claims like "X gave me perspective." If that's true, explain the experiences that offered such a perspective instead of wasting time making any empty claim.

I was an inquisitive student by day and a relentless logician by night. I spent[c]ountless evenings in the corner of my mother’s dark bedroom disputing the alarming claims of “voices”. I was convinced that the right technique of persuasion would jolt her into reality. However,I was too desperate to realize the futility of the endeavor; the arguments she presented were not rational, did not follow from sound premises and could not be disprove[d] to herwithout angering her to the verge of physical violence. Eventually, serious medical treatment would accomplish what my reasoning and logic could not.

Yet in the aftermath of XXX School's suicides last semester, it was this experience that enabled me to persuade my roommate to get properly diagnosed and treated for bipolar disorder and depression. Convey through an actual recount of the experience or cut it. When complete, consider if this wouldn't be better placed in the paragraph below. It seems kind of abrupt.

My mother has taught me my most valuable educational lesson: in the pursuit of learning, one must always keep things in perspective. While I spend most evenings in the fluorescent lighting of XXX library, Tuesday evenings are spent in XXX Church, where I organize a group of student volunteers for XXXXX, a local soup kitchen. I settle myself behind a rolling cart heaped with store-donated cookies, cakes, and tiny paper cups filled with peanut butter and jelly. As the locals linger indecisively over my dessert cart, commenting on the extravagance of the vegan meal option and marveling at the baked goods, their appreciation is evident. How? What did they actually do to express this? This would be so much more powerful if you simply told us about a specific memory.

Volunteering provides a healthy reality check, a reminder not to get swept away by the rigors of XXXXX’s Replace with "a." Either the adcomm will view your school as competitive or they won't. Attempting to passively aggressively talk about it won't work.

...competitive academic environment when the real world presents many more challenges. In the company of the local XXXX I am reminded of how far I have come and what I have yet to accomplish.

At XXXX, my academic path has been as direct as my life history haphazard; I am graduating in 3 ½ years with a major in economics and a minor in law. I chose to major in economics at XXXX because I wanted to learn more about the workings of our complex market structure, which encompasses every aspect of daily life. In the last three years I have discovered that there is an optimal positive quantity(*) of air pollution, the intergenerational poverty trap(*) of the inner city Detroit is not dissimilar(*) to that of rural India and that human behaviors like procrastination can be explained using models of intertemporal discounting (*). Economics provides a solid foundation for how the mechanisms of the world operate. I believe that law will enable me to engage in its operation.

* ... These words are way too thick, especially when you pile them on in phrases multiple times in a single sentence. It's just a mouthfull of terminology the reader won't want to sit and think about.

More importantly, that last paragraph has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of your personal statement. It's resume reciting, it's boring, and it's just plain out of place. Delete it. Re-write and re-write the ending until it rings true for you and give it back to the PS shredders on TLS. :D


Posts: 87
Joined: Thu Jul 01, 2010 4:53 pm

Re: Please tell me whether this is in any form a workable PS.

Postby SortOfObsessed » Tue Aug 31, 2010 6:34 pm

Thank you for your input! I will definitely rework it according to your advice. I've been needing a prod in the right direction.

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