Critique my PS! Pretty please???

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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rso11
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Critique my PS! Pretty please???

Postby rso11 » Tue Nov 02, 2010 1:28 pm

Hey all! I'd really appreciate any feedback about my PS. I've done a couple drafts already am a little worried I now sound like a bleeding-heart idealist, which is something I wanted to avoid. What do you think of my second-to-last paragraph/volunteering example? Please comment! Thanks!!

I am obsessed with questions of power. Who wields it? Who doesn’t? How is it constructed? What mechanisms or institutions perpetuate its uneven distribution? For much of my undergraduate career I approached these questions theoretically, by analyzing and interpreting literature; my intellectual passion was also an exercise in understanding ethical problems. However, I eventually realized that, with no tangible praxis for my theoretical conclusions, I was effectively ignoring the very question I wanted to answer most: how and when can one intervene?

Context matters. In the field of literature, the gap between theory and praxis is a luxury, for through it one can create what does not exist in the world outside the text. For my specialty in postcolonial literature and theory, this luxury was necessary to scholarly intervention. Demanding both creativity and disciplined logic, crafting meaningful interpretations was one way of disrupting situations of violence, alienation, trauma, and disempowerment in the books I read. It was often possible to be hopeful about these fictional worlds, to find redeeming moments or subtle alternative readings where characters were agents in the lives they had been given, despite the constraints of historical experience. And yet, to answer a textual problem, all I could offer was more text. Any hope I wrote was bound by the rules of context, inapplicable beyond the represented world.

I come to the study of law still fascinated by power, but having rejected the luxury of an unbridgeable gap between understanding and action. Instead, I seek tangible modes of intervention. For while the law too is a text, laden with ambiguities and multiple possibilities, it is enacted for specific purposes and with tangible consequences—to resolve disputes, clarify responsibilities and limitations, or provide regulation. Its practice demands precision, insight, and the careful consideration of evidence; its conclusions must be drawn objectively, while attentive to both the specificity of circumstance and against a larger pattern of meaning. Attorneys, then, are mediators—not between text and text—but between text and the effects of text on reality. And regardless of how I practice, whether as an immigration lawyer, criminal litigator, or even a judge, law will have more to do with actual hope—alternative endings instead of alternative readings—than any interpretation I could ever write.

I have been fortunate enough to witness one such alternative ending at the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney where I currently volunteer. A domestic protective order, for example, is much more than a document. It declares a safe space where a victim can be no longer victimized, orders a perpetrator not to approach someone who fears them. One plaintiff I accompanied in court was nervous about her ex-husband, even in a room policed by bailiffs and filled with other people. I walked her to her car after the proceeding because she was terrified she might be attacked in the parking lot. I hope she will surmount this fear, that her abuse will become memory rather than the experiential mindset of her present. That protective order gives her a chance to do so. It is a text that is part of her life.

As an attorney, I look forward to participating in the rigorous work of interpreting and applying texts, to helping social entities, whether individuals, companies, or governments, function better and resolve real problems. ___University, with its collaborative environment, rich theoretical offerings, and extensive clinical training, is the perfect place to start.

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shanshan333
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Re: Critique my PS! Pretty please???

Postby shanshan333 » Tue Nov 02, 2010 7:36 pm

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Last edited by shanshan333 on Mon Nov 15, 2010 11:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

WayBryson
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Re: Critique my PS! Pretty please???

Postby WayBryson » Tue Nov 02, 2010 11:34 pm

I like this, a lot. I don't think it comes across as idealistic in the slightest. The quality of the writing and the material you convey clearly demonstrate that you have intellectual talents, and the entire essay is relating how your theoretical interests led you to a career that applies them to society. I also like the way you use the word power in the first sentence as a means to draw people in, and to me I can't see how anyone other than the most unsympathetic reader could possibly see this as a crass "I want to be all powerful uber-attorney" essay.

I do have a few criticisms. I don't like your usage of praxis. One of the strengths of this essay is that it moves elegantly from you to theory and back again. I think this largely stems from the tone and the strength of writing. The two places where you use praxis come in the midst of some of the more reflective parts and it breaks up the flow to me. In both cases "practice" or "action" seem like they would flow smoother.

As the previous commenter pointed out, you are walking a pretty tight rope here regarding some of your assertions regarding the law as a text and even the very conception of power. For example, if we were to accept Foucault's view of power then all of these assertions are false. That said, I don't have a problem with what you have written. I get the sense that you are intelligent, confident, aware of nuance, and have a very good idea for why you want to go to law school. I can't imagine this essay doing anything other than benefiting your application.

I really enjoyed this. Good luck!

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rso11
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Re: Critique my PS! Pretty please???

Postby rso11 » Tue Nov 02, 2010 11:53 pm

shanshan333 wrote:Not sure why you haven't gotten any comments yet. Anyhow, I will tell you that I am very partial to this topic as literary theory was my favorite class and we did do A LOT of post-colonial theory. I'm going just give you some general pieces of advice and then if you need more help/clarification obviously just let me know. First, remember that this is a personal statement or personal narrative. I think this is a great topic but show admissions councils how relevant it is and, most importantly, how you as an individual approach this topic/ what application it has to your personal life. Really do some soul searching. You are not the first person to touch on this topic, it seems like a topic not many are familiar with but there are bound to have been a few personal statements that touched on it. Show them how your approach to this topic is unique and individual. It's great that you say that the law is like a text, but you're not the first person to make that argument. Try and highlight/ bring forth the personal. Also, I would be very weary and conscious about frequently saying that you are entranced/ deeply interested by power. Wording is crucial. It's good to say that you are interested in how power is constructed ,where it is derived from, how it is exerted, how it orders society, etc. Don't just say that you are captivated by it, this makes you sound like a money hungry aspiring lawyer and these my friend are a dime a dozen. Approach power from a literary theory perspective like you do in other points of your essay and be careful with your diction and syntax. As someone that is interested in theory, a lot of theories say that power is a construction maybe you want to go on this and, again, don't forget to personalize it and makes your perspective not just a unique one, but a strong and memorable one. Lastly, the comment you make about the law being a text is one that is disputed. In the philosophy of law there is an argument as to whether the law can be interpreted by supreme court justices and whether the constitution should be interpreted according to today's standards or according to the conception of law that was help when the constitution was being made. Personally, I would acknowledge that you are aware of both sides of the argument but are partial to a particular side. Don't come across in your PS as if you know everything. You are going to law school to learn about the different perspectives on this issue and you want to appear OPEN and aware of the ongoing debate. GL!


I'm aware that the transition from lit to law and the idea that law is a text aren't unique - but they're extremely important to me so all I can do is try to do a good job of it. I don't actually think it's a problem to let adcomms know how I think about law coming in--we all have some idea, after all. One thing you said troubles me - I don't at all mean to say I'm obsessed with power itself. I'm obsessed with PROBLEMS of power, when it's unequal, and how to fix that. I am NOT a money hungry lawyer, though I'm not also going to say money is of no consequence. That's bull coming from anybody. Does my statement make me sound power hungry? I REALLY didn't think I implied that anywhere...how did you come up with this conclusion while reading? B/c whatever led to it, I need to fix that part!

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rso11
Posts: 126
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Re: Critique my PS! Pretty please???

Postby rso11 » Wed Nov 03, 2010 12:00 am

WayBryson wrote:I like this, a lot. I don't think it comes across as idealistic in the slightest. The quality of the writing and the material you convey clearly demonstrate that you have intellectual talents, and the entire essay is relating how your theoretical interests led you to a career that applies them to society. I also like the way you use the word power in the first sentence as a means to draw people in, and to me I can't see how anyone other than the most unsympathetic reader could possibly see this as a crass "I want to be all powerful uber-attorney" essay.

I do have a few criticisms. I don't like your usage of praxis. One of the strengths of this essay is that it moves elegantly from you to theory and back again. I think this largely stems from the tone and the strength of writing. The two places where you use praxis come in the midst of some of the more reflective parts and it breaks up the flow to me. In both cases "practice" or "action" seem like they would flow smoother.

As the previous commenter pointed out, you are walking a pretty tight rope here regarding some of your assertions regarding the law as a text and even the very conception of power. For example, if we were to accept Foucault's view of power then all of these assertions are false. That said, I don't have a problem with what you have written. I get the sense that you are intelligent, confident, aware of nuance, and have a very good idea for why you want to go to law school. I can't imagine this essay doing anything other than benefiting your application.

I really enjoyed this. Good luck!


haha Well, contested as that idea of law may be, it's what I think right now and I think I'm okay to let the adcomm know where I am coming in. But Foucault is awesome! Sartre too. :)

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shanshan333
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Re: Critique my PS! Pretty please???

Postby shanshan333 » Wed Nov 03, 2010 12:19 am

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