PS Rough Draft

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
molazapuku
Posts: 102
Joined: Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:11 pm

PS Rough Draft

Postby molazapuku » Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:39 pm

New to posting, but an avid reader. I see others have posted drafts here, and I know there is just an absolute wealth of knowledge here...so I decided to share. Removed a last name and some dates, not exactly hard to figure out with a web search but we'll keep a veneer of anonymity.

I guess I should say I am a non-trad, at 29 with a family...just finishing a business degree from a pretty much-unknown school (I understand the Business Degree isn't highly valued). My GPA will be right at 3.3 when LSAC gets down with it with a 165 LSAT...so the goal here is to make myself "interesting." I worry that its too long, and maybe a bit gimmicky but I am also way too close to it so I would really appreciate some honest (and even brutal) feedback.
**********

On (DATE), Officer David (NAME) was killed instantly when his police cruiser was broadsided during a police pursuit. David served in the Marine Corps since he was 17, leading Marines during Operation Iraqi Freedom. When he left the Corps, he became a security guard for an apartment complex, and then joined the department of corrections as a prison guard while finishing his degree. He reached his goal of joining the St. Louis Metropolitan Police department in January of (YEAR). He was just 27 when his life ended…but his friends and family remember that he was exactly the person he wanted to be, doing exactly what he wanted to do, living the life he wanted to live. We remember him exactly the way he would want to be remembered. David was my little brother.

Everyone experiences a moment that causes them to look in the mirror and wonder about the person looking back. We wonder about the choices we have made, the direction we are going, the life we are living, if we are truly living the life we want to live. Dave was always able to answer those questions “yes”, living the values of service and honor until the moment he passed away. For most of us it is not as easy to answer those questions, and we wonder if we would be remembered the way we want.

Most of us never take the time to define our core values, and so we can never really be comfortable with the person looking back at us in the mirror. Growing up together, and being only twenty-one months apart, Dave and I shared many things including our values. Service and honor were just as important to me. When our father died (my senior year in high school) Dave started down his path by joining the Marines. I had decided I wanted to teach history a way to serve my community, but with my family struggling to squeak by without my father’s income I dropped out of school and went to work. I met and married my wife at 20, and we had our first child. School drifted out of mind, an opportunity missed.

A trainer at an a previous employer once told me that big decisions are easy, we almost always know what the right answer is to the big stuff. It is the little decisions that make or break us. The idea of going back to school was a big decision, and as such it was easy to see the right answer. Sure, my dad had done ok working in the steel mills with nothing more than a GED but he hated every minute of it and the stress of that life had killed him. Besides, those jobs were disappearing in the new economy. I knew I needed to go back and finish what I had started, but the day-to-day decisions were much harder. Working 10 hours, going to class, and coming home to study, with a young wife and child needing their fair share of time…those decisions proved harder to make on daily basis. It took me a couple of tries to get it right.

In between attempts to finish school, I found other ways to live a life aligned with those values. I joined the Marines, but an injury during training ended my military career before it even began (literally). So I went back to work and found ways to live those values in places most wouldn’t look for them. I took a retail job at PetSmart, and found that you could really make someone’s day by just spending time with them and helping them find what they needed. I would often receive thank you letters with pictures of their new furry (or scaly, or feathered) member of their family. I learned that we any time we have an opportunity to touch the life of another, even in a small way, it is an opportunity to show the values we live by.
That is what attracted me to The Salvation Army, the opportunity to continue to work with people and to help solve problems. Here, I got the chance to around a variety of people, from well-to-do donors to the homeless, from those needing on-going assistance to those that just needed a couple bag of groceries to get them to their next paycheck. My days here could go from highly rewarding to absolutely depressing. It is humbling to realize you realize you just can’t fix something, to see the hurt in someone’s eye’s…and it doesn’t seem to matter if that is your child realizing you can’t fix a broken toy or a family who is going to lose their home. That can cause you to shut down, and the burnout rate for social workers is very high for that very reason. What I had picked up, though, was the belief that you had to keep going in and doing what you can do. Giving up is simply not an option. I’d like to think that is the “honor” part of the values I shared with Dave.

I also was given one of the best leadership opportunities I could have asked for while I was here. I was given the opportunity to manage our Holiday Assistance (Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, plus toys for children) for the eastern suburbs of Detroit, MI. Through this role, I was able coordinate the efforts of several agencies to extends assistance to hundreds of needy families. This reinforced my belief that while you can’t fix everything, you can still do a lot of good.

Coming back to St. Louis (it was always home for me), I found that the skills I had learned, even without the degree, were valuable. I moved into a low-level management position with a Fortune 100 company. With the economy struggling, it was easy to build a nest and hunker down with the easy paycheck and I still get to serve the community, helping drive the cost of medication down. With the loss of my brother, and the fact I am about to become the first college graduate my family has ever had, and am facing the mirror. And while I realize I have lived a life in alignment with my values, I also believe I can do more. As I learned, you don’t get to say “that’s enough!” and just stop. You keep going, doing what you can do.

I don’t know what type of law I want to practice. It would have been easy to write about how I want to put bad guys away just like Dave did…you may have even believed it. But I honestly don’t know if my calling will be business, criminal, or family, or something else I haven’t even considered. What I do know is the kind of lawyer I will be, one that lives the values of service and honor I have always applied in my life.

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DavidYurman85
Posts: 242
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Re: PS Rough Draft

Postby DavidYurman85 » Sun Sep 12, 2010 7:50 pm

For starters, your brother sounds like an amazing guy. Seriously! But this statement goes about two paragraphs in too long about your brother and his accomplishments, before we're even introduced to you. It almost begins to read like a eulogy.

There are also too many ideas in here; it goes from "overcoming loss" to an "epiphany moment" to "overcoming hardship" to an autobiography, to a self-help expose all in the span of 3-4 paragraphs. Focusing on one moment or aspect in life and using that to demonstrate who you are would make for a much more compelling statement.

molazapuku
Posts: 102
Joined: Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:11 pm

Re: PS Rough Draft

Postby molazapuku » Sun Sep 12, 2010 8:05 pm

I appreciate the feedback. What I was trying to do was blend overcoming hardship and a series of epiphanies (as you put it, I would say lessons learned)

I started with the idea of "overcoming loss/hardship"...but felt like it was too much of a downer (almost like "love me! love me!"...). I tossed all but that first paragraph and started over because I wanted it to be more about me...not quite far enough.

I dont want to leave that first bit out, because that was a huge trigger for me to go forward with law school applications after I had given up on the idea a long time ago. But...like I said I am too close to it so perhaps my judgment is clouded. My I should just toss it out and leave it as autobiographical?

WayBryson
Posts: 179
Joined: Fri Sep 10, 2010 8:24 pm

Re: PS Rough Draft

Postby WayBryson » Sun Sep 12, 2010 9:05 pm

As a rough draft, I like this. I agree with the previous post, but I suggest flipping the structure. Perhaps start with your reason for wanting to go to law school, and then moving back to your brother and some of the other life events. When you get a second draft, feel free to message it to me, and I will give it a look if you are interested.

molazapuku
Posts: 102
Joined: Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:11 pm

Re: PS Rough Draft

Postby molazapuku » Tue Sep 14, 2010 10:32 am

Thanks to both of you. I will be working on a revision over the next couple of days and I I am thinking I will try to move things around a bit (maybe bring the conlussion up to the top, trying to introduce myself faster) and focus it a bit more. I will post the revision, see what you guys think...and then decide if I should chuck this things and start over.

molazapuku
Posts: 102
Joined: Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:11 pm

Re: PS Rough Draft

Postby molazapuku » Sat Sep 18, 2010 4:25 pm

Ok...rewrite done. I tried to focus it more...make it less like an autobiography and at the same time more about me (that certainly sounds odd, doesn't it?) I am still struggling with elements of it...especially the end...but is this a step in the right direction?
*************************

I stood with my head bowed, leaning against the wall as the warm water streamed over me. I felt the tension gradually release in my muscles, but the lump in my throat remained. It had been that way for a week, but it was worse today. The sound of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” and “Danny Boy” kept running through my mind in a mix of memory and emotion. The echoes of 21 guns cut through me, making it all painfully real. That sound had shattered any hope that none of this had been real, and that at some point things would go back to normal.

We all face moments where we look back on our life and deep into our own soul, wondering if we have lived the life we want to live and if we are on the right path. They are usually small, brief moments of hesitation that are quickly pushed down. Sometimes, though, a major change leads to a deeper look where we question everything. That was what I was experiencing in the shower, the day after we buried my little brother.

I suppose that it is only natural that I couldn’t help but compare my own life to his. We were only a year about in school, shared many of the same interests, moved in the same circle of friends. My brother, Dave, joined the Marines when he was 17, leading a team into combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom. When he got out he set out to become a police officer, accomplishing that goal in January of 2009 when he joined the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. He was killed in the line of duty just a year later, killed instantly when a car slammed into his cruiser while he tried to apprehend a suspect. He had lived His entire life exactly as he wanted to, aligned with his values of service and honor. We all remember him exactly as he wanted to be remembered, and after speaking with the hundreds upon hundreds of people who attended his funeral I was amazed to find that everyone remembered him the same way. As I slumped in the shower, I wondered if I was living life with the same clarity of purpose.

I have struggled to find my place in the world and have had to overcome my share of hardship. I wanted to be a history teacher throughout history, but then my father died our family was crippled financially. I went to work instead of school I met my wife, and we were married with our first child before either of us was old enough to buy a drink. I tried to follow Dave into the Marines, but an injury during training ended my military career before it could really get started. As the Towers fell, I received my last treatment and was released from the Corps. I stood on the sidelines as my brother and friends I had made were deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Gradually I came to realize that taking care of my family was enough for me to be happy. While I still felt the pangs of regret now and again, those small moments of hesitation, I gradually put things back together. I went back to school, this time as an adult learner working full time. I found that I could make any work meaningful, no matter how trivial it might seem. Even working at a retail pet-supply store, I could make someone’s day by helping them solve a problem and or educating them about their newest, fuzziest family member. It is not our role or job that gives our life meaning, it is we who give our jobs meaning. I learned to apply our values of service and honor to anything I chose to do

When I stopped looking to define myself by what I did for a living, things came easier.I went to work for the Salvation Army as a case-manager, serving as an advocate for people in a variety of circumstances. I was able to touch the lives of thousands of people by taking the lead for our Holiday Assistance program (serving the eastern half of the Detroit Metropolitan area). I moved back to St. Louis when my brother left the Marines, and moved into the corporate world as a low-level manager at a Fortune-100 company. Money had started to come, I had a great career path in front of me, my family was together again. It seemed like everything had finally worked out. It wasn’t the path I had expected, but I was a better person for it.

Staring at the water running down the drain, I had begun to question all of this. Was I the person I wanted to be, or had I simply justified where I had ended up? Could I even tell the difference anymore? Answers to these questions do not come quickly or easily, and often do not come at all. I still struggle with them as I write this. But what I realized that day in the shower does still apply, and it is the same lesson I figured out years ago…what it is not what I have done that gives my life meaning, I give meaning to what I do. I decided that day that I would continue to move forward, striving to live just as Dave had, the way I had learned to, by applying my values to anything and everything I do.

It was during this introspective that I decided to apply to law school. I could have easily written a statement about how I wanted to put bad guys away like Dave did, but the reality is that I don’t really know what type of law I would want to practice. That path may lead to criminal law, it may lead to business law, it may lead back to the not-for-profit sector, or in some direction I can’t even contemplate yet. I chose law school because it leads to a place where I can live the values I want to live in a way that I enjoy. I chose law school because while I might not be able to say what type of law I want to practice, I do know what type of lawyer I will be.

molazapuku
Posts: 102
Joined: Sun Sep 12, 2010 6:11 pm

Re: PS Rough Draft

Postby molazapuku » Sun Sep 19, 2010 8:04 pm

Second Draft...feel like this version is coming along much better. Trying to tie things together better, making it a more logical progression.
***************
I stood with my head bowed, leaning against the wall as the warm water streamed over me. The sound of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” and “Danny Boy” kept running through my mind in a mix of memory and emotion. The echoes of 21 guns cut through me, making it all painfully real. We all face moments where we look back on our life and deep into our own soul, wondering if we have lived the life we want to live and if we are on the right path. That was what I was experiencing in the shower, the day after we buried my little brother.

Dave had been killed in the line of duty while protecting his community as a St. Louis Metropolitan Police officer. Before that, he had joined the Marines at the age of 17 and had led his crew into combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The funeral had been a massive public affair, and after speaking with the hundreds upon hundreds of people who attended his funeral I was amazed to find that everyone remembered him the same way...as someone who had lived exactly as he wanted to, aligned with his values of service and honor. As I slumped in the shower, I wondered if I was living life with the same clarity of purpose.

What I saw in myself is that I have struggled to find my place in the world and have had to overcome my share of hardship. But those experiences have shaped me as a person and will make me a better law school student and ultimately a better lawyer.

My father died just before more senior year in high school, and our family was crippled financially. I went to work instead of school, and jut a year later met my wife. We were married with our first child before either of us was old enough to buy a drink. For a long time it felt like I had missed an opportunity, but I learned more about personal responsibility than I ever could have learned in a school. I have had people counting on me for years now, and that is a responsibility I will never take lightly.

Eventually I tried to follow Dave into the Marines, but an injury during training ended my military career before it could really get started. As the Towers fell, I received my last treatment and was released from the Corps. I stood on the sidelines as my brother and friends I had made were deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s very hard to describe what that feels like, caught between worlds like that. But again, I came out better for the experience. I have learned that things don’t always go the way we plan, but that doesn’t mean we get to quit. You dust yourself off and come at it again from a different angle.

I eventually went to school as an adult learner working full time. I learned to manage my time and priorities. I also found that I could make any work meaningful, no matter how trivial it might seem. Even working at a retail pet-supply store, I could make someone’s day by helping them solve a problem and or educating them about their newest, fuzziest family member. It is not our role or job that gives our life meaning, it is we who give our jobs meaning. I learned to apply our values of service and honor to anything I choose to do, whether that be running a cash register or serving a legal client.

Eventually I found my way to The Salvation Army, working as a case-manager. I served as an advocate for people in a variety of circumstances, working with everyone from homeless clients with nothing to wealthy donors looking for a cause to support. I was able to touch the lives of thousands of people by taking the lead for our Holiday Assistance program (serving the eastern half of the Detroit Metropolitan area). I also learned to analyze individual situations and the needs of the community as whole, tailoring our programs to fit those needs. Sometimes that mean a couple of bags of groceries and a sympathetic ear, sometimes it meant developing entirely new program (as I did with a job-club program for clients coming out of rehab). My time hear taught me to work with people across a variety of circumstances, and to be feel empathy for situations I would never have been exposed to otherwise.

I moved back to St. Louis when my brother left the Marines, and moved into the private sector as a manager at a Fortune-100 company, which is my current position. I coordinate call centers across the globe while communicating with all levels of management (from line supervisors to senior leadership). Anticipating issues and coordinating the company’s response challenges my analytical, research, and communication skills. The environment is constantly changing, and I have to be able to mentally turn on a dime and switch from one task to another. This has taught me to remain flexible, and to look deep into the details because even seemingly trivia decisions can have a huge impact.

Staring at the water running down the drain that morning, I ran all of these experiences through my head. I had begun to question everything I had done, everything I wanted to do. Was I the person I wanted to be, or had I simply justified where I had ended up? Could I even tell the difference anymore? Answers to these questions do not come quickly or easily, and often they do not come at all. What I realized that day in the shower was the same lesson I figured out years ago…it it is not what I have done that gives my life meaning, I give meaning to what I do. I decided that day that I would continue to move forward, striving to live just as Dave had, the way I had learned to, by applying my values to anything and everything I do. These are the values I would bring to law school and ultimately to the profession itself.

A decision to change career paths naturally makes people ask “why?” My current career path offers a relative amount of financial security, and an MBA would be much easier than law school. The fact that I like what I do is a very pleasant bonus. Part of me is honestly seeking the challenge law school offers. Being a lawyer offers me the opportunity to apply the gifts I have been given and the lessons I have learned along the path my life has taken while applying the values I have chosen to live by. I could have easily written a statement about how I wanted to go put bad guys away like my brother did, or how I wanted to help the kind of people I worked with at The Salvation Army as a public defender, but the reality is that I don’t know what type of law I want to practice. It may lead down either of these paths, or back to the private sector, or down a path I haven’t even thought of yet. But I do believe that the lessons I have learned and the life I have lived up to now show what kind of lawyer I would be.




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