Personal Statement for Harvard

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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arkansawyer
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Personal Statement for Harvard

Postby arkansawyer » Mon Nov 15, 2010 9:08 pm

edited
Last edited by arkansawyer on Mon Jan 31, 2011 2:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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glitter178
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Re: Personal Statement for Harvard

Postby glitter178 » Mon Nov 15, 2010 9:13 pm

Forgive me if standards have changed, but one thing I noticed right off the bat was your use of many contractions. I think contractions should be avoided except in informal conversation.

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arkansawyer
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Re: Personal Statement for Harvard

Postby arkansawyer » Mon Nov 15, 2010 9:14 pm

I had wondered about that. Using them feels informal, but not using them feels stiff....I'll take them out to be on the safe side. thanks for the comment

sarahh
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Re: Personal Statement for Harvard

Postby sarahh » Mon Nov 15, 2010 10:25 pm

I would focus a little more on your background (by your background I mean what you have done - I don't think there is a need to provide more info on your parents) and less on beliefs. Elaborate more on how you supported your family. Where you involved with any organizations that help rural communities?

What type of law do you actually want to practice? It is a little unclear - do you want to be a politician or lobbyist? Normally, I think saying you want to change policy is futile because you probably won't, but for Harvard, they might like that. But you don't want to come across as naive or simplistic, which is why I think it might be a good idea to cut paragraph 4. If you are going to leave it, I would be more specific. What do you mean by effective policies?

Also, what do you mean by your experience navigating federal aid? Do you mean for college? If so, cut that. It does not make you unique - many college students have dealt with that.

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arkansawyer
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Re: Personal Statement for Harvard

Postby arkansawyer » Mon Nov 15, 2010 10:32 pm

I wasn't sure if I should go into detail about exactly what type of law I want to practice, as I assume that will probably change and harvard knows that. I do appreciate your comment about specificity, I need to work on that.

Think mentioning marijuana by name is a little much? I think it might be a bit dramatic...

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The Gentleman
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Re: Personal Statement for Harvard

Postby The Gentleman » Mon Nov 15, 2010 10:38 pm

This is a pretty good essay.

In paragraph 4, change "into the MAN I am today" to "into the PERSON I am today".

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birdlaw117
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Re: Personal Statement for Harvard

Postby birdlaw117 » Mon Nov 15, 2010 10:43 pm

In paragraph 5 change "Worst still" to "Worse still"

CanadianWolf
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Re: Personal Statement for Harvard

Postby CanadianWolf » Mon Nov 15, 2010 10:46 pm

This is a very effective & convincing essay with a lot of minor errors. The final paragraph is the weakest.
Delete the word "unique" before perspective. The first semi-colon is incorrect. "Navigating federal financial aid" is quite common.
DELETE: "viscereal".
COMBINE: The last two sentences which are redundant. "This knowledge, coupled with Harvard Law's generous committment to public service, will offer me the greatest chance to return to Arkansas and make a difference in the lives of those who suffer from poverty and violence."

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rowingmyboat
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Re: Personal Statement for Harvard

Postby rowingmyboat » Mon Nov 15, 2010 10:56 pm

This might just be me, but I felt it used "poverty and violence" enough times that I noticed. Just maybe change the wording so it's a little less repetitive and stiff. Good job. Nice read.

SortOfObsessed
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Re: Personal Statement for Harvard

Postby SortOfObsessed » Mon Nov 15, 2010 11:00 pm

You have a great story and use vibrant language to describe life in the Ozarks. However, your essay comes across as too much of a sob story and you come across as rather preachy and unlikable. With a story like yours, you should really be crafting a PS that engenders empathy. My suggestion is that you make your PS more concise and also more about you. It is essentially the useless bits in there that make me question your maturity, though lucky for you, those are also the parts that it is the easiest to edit out.

Here is one example of a revision I would make so it sounds like less of a pity party.

"She had to work long hours and could not afford a babysitter; so much of the responsibility of taking care of my siblings fell to me. I learned to compartmentalize my emotions so that one part of me could be the responsible big brother that I had to be, while the other part could be a grieving little boy.Those days were tough, but I learned invaluable lessons that made me into the man I am today. I learned responsibility, pragmatism, and how to endure hardship without complaint. It was not a fun experience, but those traits continue to serve me well."

And then, the rest of the first paragraph could be edited as follows:

While agriculture is common in the Ozarks, my father took a slightly different approach: he grew marijuana. Although I can’t be sure why my father chose to rely on drugs,I have come to believe it was because -drugs- offered an irresistible combination of money and emotional escape. I don’t know how addicted my father was to the drugs, but I do know that he couldn’t stop.I supposeit was inevitable that he would be drawn to methamphetamine, the drug that is now synonymous with rural degradation. My father wasn’t a bad man, but meth made him violent and neglectful. I regret thatmany of my memories of my father are not happy ones, and I regret even more that he never had a chance to change that. He was murdered in 1996 when he was 26 years old, leaving my mother, me, and my younger brother and sister to survive on our own.
My father’s murder forced us to move so that my mother could find work.


"Though I myself am proof that our society rewards hard work and determination, far too many people are unaware of the opportunities our society offers. " This sounds patronizing. This entire paragraph doesn't really contribute any insight.

I think you should re-work the essay and give more concrete examples of how your perspective is unique. Also, have you thought about submitting this as a diversity statement and writing another personal statement that's more law related?

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2807
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Re: Personal Statement for Harvard

Postby 2807 » Mon Nov 15, 2010 11:01 pm

"He was murdered in 1996 when he was 26 years old, leaving my mother, me, and my younger brother and sister to survive on our own."

Should be: ... my mother, younger brother and sister, and me to survive....

WayBryson
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Re: Personal Statement for Harvard

Postby WayBryson » Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:21 am

This is nice. As others have noted, there are still grammatical issues that you need to correct. But this is ace as far as working drafts go. I like the themes running through it. Your early background doesn't come across as whiny or forced; it also blends well into the second half of the essay. Regarding contractions, I used them in mine. The "rule" against contractions in formal writing—much like the rule against beginning sentences with conjunctions—is largely propagated by those who have trouble writing well. Having said that, I would pull a few of them out to give your essay a more-considered, slower tone. Personally, I liked "visceral," but it does stand out in the essay. However given what comes before it, I suspect you know this and did it intentionally. Good luck with you applications.

sarahh
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Re: Personal Statement for Harvard

Postby sarahh » Tue Nov 16, 2010 1:38 am

arkansawyer wrote:I wasn't sure if I should go into detail about exactly what type of law I want to practice, as I assume that will probably change and harvard knows that. I do appreciate your comment about specificity, I need to work on that.

Think mentioning marijuana by name is a little much? I think it might be a bit dramatic...


In general, you don't need to address it, but when you say

I believe that a legal education from Harvard will offer me the greatest chance to return to Arkansas and make a real difference in the lives of those who suffer from poverty and violence.

I wonder how exactly you will do this. Do you have realistic expectations?

I think mentioning marijuana by name is okay.

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arkansawyer
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Re: Personal Statement for Harvard

Postby arkansawyer » Tue Nov 16, 2010 3:38 pm

Thanks for all the input!! I'll revise and repost later, any other comments are welcome!

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dbrddr
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Re: Personal Statement for Harvard

Postby dbrddr » Wed Nov 17, 2010 7:04 pm

arkansawyer wrote:However, several obstacles exist in our society that prevents


If the obstacles are doing the preventing, then the verb's antecedent is plural, and "prevent" shouldn't end in "s".

Good luck!

nStiver
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Re: Personal Statement for Harvard

Postby nStiver » Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:13 pm

Don't listen to the guy who told you not to mention marijuana by name. That is the most distinctive and striking part of your statement. I didn't feel engaged at all until you wrote that your father chose a different path; he grew marijuana. That instantly pulled me in.

I would talk more about your parents and your life, less about beliefs and general desire to change policy. I think you need some of this, but try to make your desires more clear and focused. Pair it down.

Aside from this, all I would change is maybe removing a few unnecessary words. Some sentences come off as a bit wordy. You want clear, crisp language. This is Harvard you are applying to, and they expect the best.

Over all, good job. I think you have as good a shot as anyone with this if you clean it up a bit.




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