You gotta get worse before you get better. Help!

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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You gotta get worse before you get better. Help!

Postby NorCalBruin » Wed Oct 27, 2010 8:16 am

Here's a new draft. Please critique! Thank you thank you thank you in advance.

“Let’s make it brown! And bubbly!” I said. I was eight and I had just read a book on soap. Suddenly inspired by the wonder of hygiene, I was determined to make some myself. My parents were happy to help, glad that I was interested in anything other than Ninja Turtles. We went to the store, picked out the ingredients, and brought them home to be cooked. But almost as soon as we started, I yawned with boredom, and skipped away towards my toys. “Hey! I thought you wanted to make soap?” my father asked. “Well, yeah.” I replied. He turned and leaned to my level. “Well if you’re going to do something, then do it.” This was the motto that I would hear a thousand times over. For now I just stared back at him, blank. “I mean, if you do something, “ he explained, “then you ‘gotta give it your all ‘till it’s done. You can’t just start something and then quit.” He grabbed my hand and I grabbed his and we sauntered back to the kitchen. Two hours later we had soap. Despite its brown, scab-like appearance, we were proud of the work we had done.

Five years later I was a full-blown teenager. Nascar, monster trucks, and football were the gruff, manly, hair-growing things that I loved. By thirteen I had almost four thousand baseball cards, six football jerseys, and a penchant for everything “meat”. Thus you can imagine my shock on the first day of high school when I looked down at my schedule and saw “Beginning Choir”. “Choir?” I sputtered. “Choir?!” There had to be a mistake. Choir was the most gut-wrenching embarrassment that I could think of. Choir was for sissies and pansies, not Tabasco-chugging behemoths like me. I marched straight to the counselor and demanded to be switched. “I’m sorry Mr. McNeill,” he snarled, “but all other electives are full.” I fumbled for my Nokia and dialed. “Mom.” I said. “They signed me up for choir.” “Can you switch?” she asked. “No.” I replied. “Well, you remember our motto, don’t you?” By now, this was rhetorical. Of course I remembered our motto. “If you’re going to do something,” I recited robotically, “then do it.” Begrudgingly, I lugged myself to the music building.

“Oh Shenandoah” was the first song. “Does anyone want the solo?” my teacher inquired, his face like a sagging Liberace. “I do.” I said, with fictional enthusiasm. After all, I thought, if I was going to do choir, then I was going to do choir. When the right moment came, I lurched forward and full-heartedly garbled, “OHhhh SHHhennanndoohhhh!!!!” The sound fumbled out of me like nails on a chalkboard. It was so terrible that the students around me covered their ears. Resolute, the next day I tried it again. This time I was like a tornado dismantling a kazoo factory. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get the part. I kept at it nevertheless, that week, the next, and beyond. Several years and solos later, I’m still proud that I gave it my best.

In college I became more independent, and each day was a lesson in life: ramen was Cooking 101; vacuuming was extra credit; bills were home-economics. Away from the wisdom and the comfort of home, I learned to be an adult. By the time misfortune struck mid-senior year, I knew I’d have to face it alone. Due to a clerical error, my loans were delayed, and all of my classes were dropped. By the time it was fixed, the old courses were full, and I had to start over late. Rather than dwell on my mid-quarter bad luck, I decided to tackle it head on. I made friends with coffee, forgot how to sleep, and studied until each final was done. I persevered from start to finish and was able to save grades. When the classes were over and the dust had settled I realized my motto was different. It was not longer just advice barked down by my parents, but a motto that I followed on my own.

Now I’m headed to law school, an adventure far more complex than making soap, singing songs, or catching up in class. I don’t know what answers I’ll need there. I don’t even know the questions yet. But I do know that every task I face, I will face with unbridled resolve, and that every challenge I tackle, I will tackle until it’s done. I will remember a saying, taught to me by my parents long ago: “If you’re going to do something, do it.” Now I’m going to law school, and I won’t let my motto down.

Awkward sentences?
Things that worked?
Things that didn't?
Not finished, but if I had to send it out tomorrow, wouldn't be ashamed of myself?

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Re: You gotta get worse before you get better. Help!

Postby nataliejane38 » Wed Oct 27, 2010 10:38 am

I like it, the writing style/tone is different from most of the personal statements on here, but I think it works.

Just a few things:
In the third paragraph, maybe "forced" is a better word to use than "fictional." Also the description of the teachers face is a little much.

I do think it's missing something, maybe a little bit more about the reason you want to attend law school? I am not sure exactly, maybe more of an explanation about how this motto has evolved into the basis of your strong desire to succeed in everything that you do? I don't know, it needs a little bit more work I think.

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Re: You gotta get worse before you get better. Help!

Postby NorCalBruin » Wed Oct 27, 2010 1:31 pm

thanks, anyone else?

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Re: You gotta get worse before you get better. Help!

Postby aesis » Wed Oct 27, 2010 3:18 pm

Too much high school. Because you emphasize that as an example of you demonstrating your motto it seems like you're living in the past. You provide one college example and those are silly things like cooking and bills. Everyone deals with that. Every college student, especially. You should probably emphasize and better illustrate the ordeal of the delayed loans. It just seems like a petty anecdote here because the tone of the entire personal statement is lighthearted and fun (probably because of the high school bit).

It's fun, but it lacks substance. Rework it, I'd say.

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Re: You gotta get worse before you get better. Help!

Postby ApolloniusCanon » Wed Oct 27, 2010 3:55 pm

Personally, I think admissions committees will find your PS to be a pleasant change from the many "my life was hard, but I gonna be a lawyer," "look at all I have accomplished" and "my life exemplifies this really smart guys quote" they will receive. I partially disagree with the prior suggestion: you do not over-emphasize high-school. However, I do agree that you should omit the "ramen 101" and following sentences. Emphasize, perhaps, how you succeeded that semester in spite of forgetting how to sleep and such. Or perhaps just add another college experience which highlights how your lived out your parents' motto. All in all, well done. Reading it was a refreshing laugh from my stresses as I write my own p.s. Sigh...

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