PS 1st draft

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
sarahlawg
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PS 1st draft

Postby sarahlawg » Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:06 pm

Hi all... I have found writing the PS very difficult so far, as many do. I finished a draft and would love some feedback. Specifically, is the topic appropriate? Does the writing flow well? Does the essay show characteristics that adcomms are looking for? What did it make you think of me as a person? Are you bored to death? Anything else is welcome, of course!


There was a distinct smell of disinfectant as I walked into the classroom I would come to call mine. I paused to take in the scene: empty chairs, pristine and well-organized toys, my thoughtful and intentional lesson plan hanging on the wall. I smiled briefly, poised and ready for what the first day of school would bring. Little did I know, in a matter of hours, those chairs would be filled and peed on, the toys would be in every corner of the room, and my lesson plan would be obsolete in the wide-eyed, dimple-cheeked face of seventeen preschoolers. I went home and cried that afternoon, wondering what exactly I had gotten myself into.
The next day, that same disinfectant smell made my stomach churn. Would I forgot the words to The Itsy Bitsy Spider again today? Would I be hit, sworn at, and have my commands completely ignored for the second day in a row? I took several deep breaths and unlocked the door to welcome parents. My most difficult child of the previous day waltzed in, looking smug and ready. Every day became a question of how he would torture me. For the first couple of months, I left with bruises, bloody noses, and a sick sense of defeat.
Meanwhile, I was battling intense personal tragedy. Years of substance and alcohol abuse had finally caught up with my father, leaving him in the hospital waiting for a viable liver transplant. His liver was at 9% functioning, and his condition was getting progressively worse. I had to leave work for a week in October to help him through a surgery to remove five tumors from his liver. Unfortunately, he never recovered from this surgery; instead, his conditioned worsened every day thereafter. By late November, it had become a now-or-never situation. He called me one Friday morning while I was in class, and left me the most hopeful message I have ever heard. “Sarah, they found me a liver,” he had said in almost a whisper. His faint utterance made me weep in joy. I followed up with my grandmother that night, whose voice was almost as weak, and definitely just as tired as my father's. “He was too weak,” she started, “they could not give him the transplant.” My heart sank. This was his last chance. The next morning, I flew 2500 miles home to be with my dad. Two days later, he passed away with my hand trembling on his heart. I spent the next couple of days planning for his funeral and writing his obituary. Although the youngest child, I had always had the deepest connection with our father. There were many aspects of his life I could not condone, but we had similar interests like fishing in the creek and playing basketball at dusk. I will always remember watching Law and Order marathons, while doing books of crosswords.
It was only a few days until I was back in Phoenix. That Monday I had to be back in class, ready to face whatever my friends in room 3W-AM had in store for me. I did not have much time to grieve; I had to be able to pay my rent. I thought that going back to work so soon, and with such a high needs classroom, would prove too difficult. Instead, I went back with a renewed energy and a vigor I had not had previously. I started sticking to Orlando, my aforementioned difficult child, like glue. The boy needed attention, love, guidance, and, above all else, limits. I was the only person in his life who expected him to respect those limits, but I was determined to help him understand why they were so important, as well as help him mother see how valuable they were.
Day after day I held him to higher and higher expectations until one day in March he started to listen. I looked around and noticed he was not hitting the other students nor myself, anymore. I eavesdropped on him using one of several scripts I had supplied him with: “Can I play with you?” Shocked, tears welled up in my eyes; I had succeeded. He was not perfect, no. He was still having trouble sitting for circle, and the end of the day was always hard for him (in anticipation of going home). His mother was smiling these days, though, as she commented on him writing his name, and pointed to children she saw as his friends. At the beginning of the year, she felt he was a lost cause; now she spoke about kindergarten and reading and all things hopeful for the future. It was a great feeling, knowing, despite wanting to give up in the face of adversity, I had persevered and come out with such a positive result. The rest of my class was shinning too. Several left my class reading short words, counting and recognizing numbers well past 20, and speaking English clearly and confidently. As four and five year olds go, they were beautiful, burgeoning learners, well-equipped with basic skills and strategies for future success.
For me, that first day of school still stands out. I had felt every emotion that day. Trying to get through it, while simultaneously dealing with my father's weakening condition, was challenging and some days I felt hopeless and desperate. My incredible resilience, which I have maintained my entire life, mixed with determination and strong will, carried me through to the end of the year with awesome outcomes.
As I started this year, with a new batch of tiny, inspiring children, hat tinge of disinfectant made me smile, even laugh a little, as I knew it would not last.

biladtreasure2
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby biladtreasure2 » Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:28 pm

I think much of what you said was moving; but, forgive me for saying so, you misspelled "that" in the last sentence.

But on to more important matters: There is a compelling story here. The problem is that, as written, it isn't a story. There are lots of details, but no real structure, no statement, not much purpose and not much you. And by you, I'm not talking about your recorded emotions, or reactions to sad events. I mean your thoughts, what you want, amplified. I don't mean to be so critical, but if I'm going to be at all helpful I should remind you that an admissions committee has to see something unique about you, and not just a short glimpse into the past of Candidate #02938402920384023. I actually do hope that this helps. Good luck.

sarahlawg
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby sarahlawg » Thu Oct 14, 2010 10:01 pm

biladtreasure2 wrote:I think much of what you said was moving; but, forgive me for saying so, you misspelled "that" in the last sentence.

But on to more important matters: There is a compelling story here. The problem is that, as written, it isn't a story. There are lots of details, but no real structure, no statement, not much purpose and not much you. And by you, I'm not talking about your recorded emotions, or reactions to sad events. I mean your thoughts, what you want, amplified. I don't mean to be so critical, but if I'm going to be at all helpful I should remind you that an admissions committee has to see something unique about you, and not just a short glimpse into the past of Candidate #02938402920384023. I actually do hope that this helps. Good luck.


lol Sorry about the missing t.
I really appreciate the feedback! I have found this process quite difficult.
Do you think I should stick to just one of these topics - school or my dad's death - rather than both? I'm worried about length, and am having trouble figuring out how to highlight myself through each story. I've written one on both topics, but got lost in both topics. I feel like I could go on forever.

Any ideas on where I could insert myself?

biladtreasure2
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby biladtreasure2 » Thu Oct 14, 2010 11:40 pm

The funny thing is that there are inherent lessons to be learned from what you've written, but you'll probably have to spell them out for an adcomm. Remember, they not only want to know about your ambitions and your unique experiences (and how you will contribute to their law school), but they are also looking at your writing ability. Clarity. That is crucially important to their assessment. Lawyers are supposed to make strong, compelling, and lucid presentations of complex arguments. Clarity is probably the most important element in a personal statement.

The second most important element is probably momentum. Make every anecdote lead toward a point, or a compelling thought. A writer of fiction may, as a literary device, purposely write with a style of prose akin to dense fog, if it serves a particular purpose. Let me just say that, categorically, such a style is of no good purpose when writing a personal statement.

As to the topic and substance, well, these events in your life are obviously very meaningful; and they are actually worthy of use, in this instance. But spell out exactly how these events have had an effect on your character. On your goals. On the way you see things. That's what they want to hear, anyway.


Tip: Write an outline. Think of the whole story abstractly first, and then go back and plant little suggestions throughout the framework that will lead to an eventual resolution. Think of a symphony, for example, where little themes are alluded to throughout the beginning and keep building, grander and grander, until its full potential is realized in a wondrous climax. Try it out, and see how it goes.

sarahlawg
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby sarahlawg » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:29 am

thanks! you've been a lot of help. a lot of people suggest the stream of consciousness approach, which is what I did here. Clearly, it shows. I think you're right though, an outline would be good for me. I have a lot of things I could/want to talk about, so setting them up first would help keep them organized. My most pressing problem right now though is trying to figure out what I want to show about myself. I'm going to go pick up a book on PSs and read a bunch of samples before I start writing again (only read the several that are on this site). Thanks again!

CanadianWolf
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby CanadianWolf » Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:12 am

Your essay is likely to convince any reader that you will become a great pre-school teacher. But what does this have to do with law school & your view of the world ?

MichaelB123
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby MichaelB123 » Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:06 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Your essay is likely to convince any reader that you will become a great pre-school teacher. But what does this have to do with law school & your view of the world ?


Unhelpful and rude.

OP, your PS is great.

CanadianWolf
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby CanadianWolf » Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:08 pm

I see that you met my stalker. He was also accused by another long term poster of following her as well.

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DukeCornell
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby DukeCornell » Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:12 pm

I have the first two Paragraphs of my PS (D1) for anyone willing to provide me with harsh feedback.

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mr_toad
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby mr_toad » Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:12 pm

I think one of the biggest difficulties for many is in deciding whether the PS should explicitly try to show what Canadian Wolf suggested, or whether Adcomms will simply be satisfied with insight into you as a person. It's a decision I'm struggling with myself as I have four different PSs that are all somewhere on the continuum mentioned above. They aren't mutually exclusive, but sometimes the most important thing about us as a person, or an event that most accurately characterizes or captures us, may not be something that can be connected explicitly to law or law school. The question is then one of expectations. Some have mentioned that Adcomms aren't always interested in seeing this connection made. I would be interested in knowing more about this, myself. But ultimately, what floats one boat may capsize ten others, so do you go for the common denominator or the one thatyou actually believe in? (again, not necessarily mutually exclusive, but it might be for some). My tangential two cents. Sorry for the lack of focus ;)

Edited.

CanadianWolf
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby CanadianWolf » Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:17 pm

I agree with your observations, Mr._Toad.

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mr_toad
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby mr_toad » Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:23 pm

Point taken. Question for C-Wolf and others (not meant to be aggressive): is your last statement based on a fact, a feeling, or collective/general TLS wisdom? It's important to me, too, as my previous experiences (ten year career that I fell into and stayed in due to success and situation) could have a similar impact. That said, they don't form the basis of my current PT iteration. But the notion of avoiding the label of degree collector is, I think, one I agree with even while believing (perhaps because I want to) that there's always room for career changers; the devil is in the details (and presentation).

Edit due to Canadian Wolf's edit :oops:

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DukeCornell
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby DukeCornell » Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:46 pm

I think the first two paragraphs of your PS are great! They were very engaging. I wanted to keep reading if for no other reason than to see where you were going. In the back of my mind I was sure that you were taking me down the road of "overcoming real obstacles in order to achieve certain goals." Sort of like how in law school you might be faced with certain unnamed obstacles and expected to meet certain goals. With that being said, I was totally confused and derailed when you went into the rant about your father. I don’t think that it particularly highlights anything about your abilities, or who you are as a person…?

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moggendaz
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby moggendaz » Fri Oct 15, 2010 3:54 pm

Very intriguing! Just remember to make sure you relate everything back to why you want to go law school and why you will succeed in law school and as a lawyer.

sarahlawg
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby sarahlawg » Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:50 pm

Thanks everyone for more feedback!

DukeCornell wrote:With that being said, I was totally confused and derailed when you went into the rant about your father. I don’t think that it particularly highlights anything about your abilities, or who you are as a person…?


I think the part about my dad is something that compounded my experience. While I was dealing with an especially high-needs classroom, my father was dying. I thought about quitting teaching and moving back home several times, but decided to stick with it (I had a commitment to Teach for America, afterall). I suppose it just shows more of what you were talking about with overcoming obstacles. I have written one that is entirely my experience in the classroom, so maybe I will look at that again.

CanadianWolf wrote:Your essay is likely to convince any reader that you will become a great pre-school teacher. But what does this have to do with law school & your view of the world ?

moggendaz wrote:Very intriguing! Just remember to make sure you relate everything back to why you want to go law school and why you will succeed in law school and as a lawyer.


As mr_toad has said, I have struggled between people saying I have to do this and saying I don't have to at all. I think if I make my characteristics clearer, perhaps you wouldn't even bring this up, you would understand why I would be good in law school/as a lawyer. This is what I'll be primarily working on! Thanks for reading!

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kwais
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby kwais » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:15 pm

Hey I think you have great material to work with. I worry, however, that the teacher and family tragedy subject matters demand that your statement is all the more unique in style and voice. The adcomms are not going to have a shortage of either topic to read. The connection between the two (topics) in your PS feels a tiny bit forced. I hesitate to say that because I feel that it was a very genuine PS. I only mean that (as someone noted earlier) it needs more critical reflection on your part, such as thoughts, ambitions, theoretical connections to tie them together.
Good Luck

Sandro
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby Sandro » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:28 pm

it seems to me that half of tls says dont say why you want to go to LS etc, and half say your PS should say why you do. I'm trying to write my PS now and keep getting stuck between telling a story and telling a story aimed at the eventual goal of law school.

CanadianWolf
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby CanadianWolf » Fri Oct 15, 2010 6:31 pm

Or you can show qualities that make you a good candidate for law school & the practice of law. There is a middle ground.
The most important aspect of one's personal statement, however, is how you communicate your story.

sarahlawg
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Re: PS 1st draft

Postby sarahlawg » Fri Oct 15, 2010 9:14 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Or you can show qualities that make you a good candidate for law school & the practice of law. There is a middle ground.
The most important aspect of one's personal statement, however, is how you communicate your story.


This is what I'll be focusing on and hopefully achieving in the next couple weeks...




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