Personal Statement, troubled past

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
bjc314
Posts: 65
Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:20 pm

Personal Statement, troubled past

Postby bjc314 » Mon Oct 25, 2010 7:48 pm

Long story short, I was in a world of trouble as an adolescent. I will have to disclose a handful of misdemeanors, and a felony assault conviction (which resulted from a fight in which the other guy's nose was broken). All occurred when I was 18 or younger. I'm now 25, am graduating summa from a T-12 school, with strong LOR's and a slew of softs. After discussing, my disclosure issues with my pre-law advisor, several attorneys, and others who have been in similar situations, I have decided to address it in my PS.

I plan on making significant stylistic revisions; at times I wax cliche and some sentences run on, I know. I'm really looking for advice, criticism on the overall structure and substance. Thanks.

Posted below.

bjc314
Posts: 65
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Re: Personal Statement, troubled past

Postby bjc314 » Mon Oct 25, 2010 7:49 pm

“You don’t know what it’s like in here, I have to get out!”, he managed to get out between muffled sobs. It was the second day of my internship at the Public Defender’s office and my first time conducting an intake interview in the jail. The tiny room was cold and harsh, constructed entirely of concrete and steel. The odor of commercial cleaner hit you from the moment you walked in and was made overpowering by the air which never circulated. I could feel his fear--not just of the imposing nature of the jail itself, but of the opaqueness of the process he found himself thrust into. I desperately wanted to provide the cowering man in front of me with some meaningful sort of reassurance, yet my job was strictly limited to taking down the pedigree—name, date of birth, priors—of new clients. But more frustrating was that I could not bring myself to tell him that I did know what it’s like in jail, and it was because of this experience that I was now sitting before him.

When I left jail six years earlier, my mother pleaded with me to just find a job that paid a decent wage—construction, plumbing, or some other trade—and to “stay out of trouble, become productive”. Looking back I can understand her pragmatism, but I was too affected by the things I had seen to simply become a passive, content member of society. Chronic drug addicts were shipped off to prison where they could return to using instead of given the treatment they desperately needed; the mentally ill were often denied their medication and chastised by correctional officers and other inmates; young men my age (19) and younger were utterly indifferent to the prospect of spending the rest of their lives in prison. At once, this experience served as an awakening and a catalyst. I witnessed vividly the life that my selfish rebellion could lead to, as well as the immeasurable pain I had already caused my family, especially my two younger sisters who had once looked up to me, who I had let down. I felt not just a desire, but an overwhelming sense of obligation to do something more than merely get by and to help people like those I had seen in jail, yet as a high school dropout now with a criminal record I was unsure of what if anything I could do.

I enrolled in community college, altogether uncertain what to expect. I cringed every time a professor would skim over something we “should have learned in High school”. Haunted by an overwhelming fear of failure, I spent countless hours in the library and my lunch breaks at work reading, re-reading, and reading the material again. By my sophomore year, I was tutoring my fellow students in philosophy and political science courses. I also began to notice that when I spoke up during class discussions (something I was mortified of at first) that other students listened to and respected what I had to say. I became involved in politics, working long hours as an unpaid intern on campaigns and founding a Young Democrats Chapter. I had a new group of friends, successful friends, and had become a different person; indeed, the few people from my new life to whom I revealed my troubled past either waxed incredulous or thought I was kidding. Yet with my accomplishments came a creeping feeling of superficiality. My well intentioned, albeit slightly over-idealistic, vow to go back and save the poor, the drug addicts, and the at-risk youth had been lost to an obsessive pursuit of A’s and networking.

My junior year I received a bizarre collect call from an unidentified number. It was Peter. Peter and I had been best friends growing up, playing basketball after school, pretending to be tough guys, and to our mothers’ annoyance making huge messes in the kitchen; we had both wanted to be chefs and planned to open a restaurant one day. After I began college, we gradually lost touch, moving in different directions, finding that we had less and less in common, and hadn’t spoke in years. Half jokingly, I asked Peter how his restaurant was going and was met with a long pause. When I asked if he was still on the line, he told me that he had been sentenced to twenty years in prison. I didn’t know how to respond and awkwardly resorted to small talk—the weather, baseball, cooking. The painfulness of that conversation became a familiar pang in the following two years: five other people from my past whom I had lost touch with over the years went to prison, three died after drinking and driving, and two died of overdoses. We had all been met with a veritable fork in the road, but had chosen different paths. What had begun as a streak of youthful rebellion evolved into something dangerous and destructive for them, but something ultimately transformative and positive for me, and it was this realization which prompted me to go to work as an intern in the Public Defender’s office.

Throughout my experience at the public defender’s office I met young men and women who found themselves—and all too often unknowingly—at this pivotal juncture in their lives, forced to make a choice between continuing on a destructive path and changing for the better. The most rewarding aspect of my job was working with attorneys to help these clients receive the help they needed, instead of merely being warehoused and all too often leaving jail or prison worse than before. As an attorney, I wish to continue working with people in this situation, not only to protect their rights and ensure they receive the help they need, but also to help them realize what their lives could become should they continue to choose the wrong path.

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nataliejane38
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Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:19 pm

Re: Personal Statement, troubled past

Postby nataliejane38 » Mon Oct 25, 2010 8:31 pm

I think it's really good, except the closing line, it does not seem to end correctly. Or maybe add another closing sentence at the end.

bjc314
Posts: 65
Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:20 pm

Re: Personal Statement, troubled past

Postby bjc314 » Tue Oct 26, 2010 10:50 am

Thanks. I agree the ending needs some work.

bjc314
Posts: 65
Joined: Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:20 pm

Re: Personal Statement, troubled past

Postby bjc314 » Wed Oct 27, 2010 2:35 pm

Shameless bump. Criticism needed, please help! I'll be happy to return the favor.

CanadianWolf
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Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:54 pm

Re: Personal Statement, troubled past

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Oct 27, 2010 2:56 pm

Very well written. Effectively conveys an image of who you were, who you are, what influenced the change & where you are headed.

CONSIDER: changing "countless" to "uncounted" or "numerous" as "countless hours" makes no sense to a careful reader.

Part of this essay is confusing. CONSIDER: "three of whom who died" & "the other two" if you are, in fact, referring to the same five friends who went to prison.

Not certain, but it might be "whom I had let down" & not "who".

CONSIDER: Adding commas "of what, if anything, I could do".

CONSIDER: Is it a "choice between this and that" or "a choice between this or that" ?

The overall impression formed by reading your personal statement is that you are a highly skilled & talented writer.

ApolloniusCanon
Posts: 14
Joined: Sun Sep 12, 2010 9:14 pm

Re: Personal Statement, troubled past

Postby ApolloniusCanon » Wed Oct 27, 2010 4:04 pm

Wow, great essay. I was so emotionally sucked in that I didn't even catch any possible areas of improvement. I guess this is of little help then, but great essay.

hawaii
Posts: 74
Joined: Mon Oct 11, 2010 9:15 pm

Re: Personal Statement, troubled past

Postby hawaii » Wed Oct 27, 2010 5:49 pm

I've only read a few dozen personal statement, but of what I've seen so far, your statement has got to be the best one. It's a compelling story and it draws you in right from the begining. I really liked it :)

mala2
Posts: 225
Joined: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:39 am

Re: Personal Statement, troubled past

Postby mala2 » Wed Oct 27, 2010 6:23 pm

Best one I've seen on here, you show who you are and why you want to be a lawyer. Beyond some minor reworking I think it's very good.

sarahh
Posts: 610
Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2010 2:36 pm

Re: Personal Statement, troubled past

Postby sarahh » Wed Oct 27, 2010 6:43 pm

I agree that it is moving and one of the best personal statements that I have read. In the third paragraph, I think it should be "high school" not "High school". Also, the essay is over three pages double spaced. You will have to cut it down for schools with a two-page limit.

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JenDarby
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Re: Personal Statement, troubled past

Postby JenDarby » Thu Oct 28, 2010 5:33 am

This is an excellent PS. I hope they don't read mine right after yours. It is well written, has a unified theme and does an excellent job showing your point.

At once, this experience served as an (immediate?) awakening and a catalyst.


I witnessed vividly vividly witnessed the life that my selfish rebellion could lead to,

I think vividly is a bit awkward here in general, and another word might flow better.

but an overwhelming sense of obligation to do something more than merely get by and to help people like those I had seen in jail,

as this reads is says "to do something more than to help people like those I had seen in jail," when I think what you mean to say is that IS what you want to do.

I spent countless hours in the library and on my lunch breaks at work reading, re-reading, and reading the material again.

I had to reread this sentence, because you said reading so many times. And after rereading it, I think you should cut one of them or phrase it differently.

I also began to notice that when I spoke up during class discussions, something I was mortified of at first, that other students listened to and respected what I had to say.

I am personally not a fan of parentheticals in essays, but I am not sure what the general consensus on them is.

indeed, the few people from my new life to whom I revealed my troubled past either waxed incredulous or thought I was kidding.


What had begun as a streak of youthful rebellion evolved into something dangerous and destructive for them, but something ultimately transformative and positive for me. It was this realization which prompted me to go to work as an intern in the Public Defender’s office.

I don't think there is anything wrong with the sentence as is, but I think throughout your essay a few more simple sentences would be refreshing. I am very prone to complex sentences, which I am frequently criticized for. This is one easy place to break it up a bit. You might want to go through and simplify some other sentences.




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