FINALLY, a near final draft of my PS.

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
ht2988
Posts: 482
Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2010 11:07 pm

FINALLY, a near final draft of my PS.

Postby ht2988 » Sat Nov 27, 2010 12:10 am

I'm looking for comments/advice on flow. Do I effectively transition from one paragraph to the next? If not, where and why? Also, I feel like the last paragraph is a mess. If anyone can help me rearrange some shit, I'd gladly return the favor :wink: As far as length is concerned, I'm almost at 3 full pages and this is within the limit for the schools to which I am applying (Berkeley, UMich, Northwestern, and others). My GPA is a 3.39 and my LSAT is 161, so I know these schools are way out of my reach - but there's gotta be a few admits who fill out the bottom 25%, and I have a lot of work experience and extremely strong letters of recommendation from my college dean, two profs, and an employer. I hope that my PS will help me stand out in way that compensates for my shitty numbers.

I posted a revised version of this below, but I'm keeping this one here for the sake of comparison. Thanks in advance to all you read it!

Winter in West Michigan is terribly cold, especially when your family leaves you behind for a relaxing vacation under the Mayan sun. It is even colder when you have nowhere to sleep but the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, where you must pass a drug test to stay in the dormitory. I saved myself the embarrassment of testing “dirty” and, instead, chose to sleep on the floor. I convinced myself that I’d be too claustrophobic to sleep in a crowded dormitory – as if the alternative of sleeping on the floor in a crowded room of drug-addicted men might be more conducive to an uninterrupted night’s sleep. The other option, sleeping alone outdoors in the dead of winter, was out of the question, for what my exorbitant designer clothes exceeded in cost, they lacked in warmth. I was two months out of my second of three stints in rehab, and had managed to find a trap door at each and every “rock bottom” I hit.

I was admitted to my third and final rehab in June of 2008, at which time I tested positive for HIV and chronic Hepatitis-C. Although HIV is no longer the death sentence it was in the 1980’s, coinfection nearly triples the mortality rate, unless the Hep-C can be quickly eradicated with an aggressive treatment that involves a rigorous six months of chemotherapy with Interferon. My treatment lasted through the first four months that I was back in school. Although the thought of sleeping through those painful four months was tempting, I had learned by extensive trial and error that giving into the temptation of instant gratification was precisely the habit I needed to break. I was also – and in no small part – privileged to be under the medical supervision of my father, whose specialty is Hepatology. As I became accustomed to the side effects of the chemo, I noticed that the fatigue, depression, and body aches seemed to diminish as I spent more and more time outside of the house. I endured the treatment while maintaining sobriety by regularly attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, keeping up with my schoolwork, and completing an internship at the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce.

As an advocacy intern at the Chamber, I was responsible for writing position statements on issues relevant to business and governmental affairs. One such assignment was to draft an opposition statement in response to a proposal by the Michigan Organizing Project (MOP). This proposal was intended to act affirmatively for convicted felons seeking employment with private businesses that received public funds. I thought of the homeless men with whom I shared the floor of the Mission, and of the women and men in rehab alongside whom I fought the real war on drugs. Many of these people were convicted felons, but I knew them first and foremost as people struggling for survival against unbeatable odds. One consequence of this widely misunderstood struggle, and a reflection of its over-regulation by the state, is that addicts are heavily burdened with the most tarnished of legal records. I witnessed firsthand my fellow addicts’ many failed attempts to secure employment, which was a necessary condition for completing rehab. The catch-22 was that for many convicted felons, successful completion of rehab was a necessary condition for transitioning back into mainstream society. My male and financial privilege helped me to barely evade the law, and subsequently get the job, at the expense of many women and poorer, darker men situated beneath me. The MOP proposal I was asked to oppose would have been a step towards the subversion of this self-perpetuating and oppressive hierarchy.

I was torn between honoring a commitment I had made to my manager at the Chamber and a personal commitment to a substantive and radical understanding of social justice. A very useful skill I have developed in recovery is to approach all conflicts with humility and to ask for help when in need. I stepped back and took stock of the situation: I was an unpaid intern, still young in recovery, and trying hard to put my life back together. I asked my professors and mentors for advice, and it became clear to me that I was responsible for completing the assignment, regardless of how deeply antithetical it was to my beliefs and experiences. Not only was this a practice in humility but it was also a practice in creativity and flexibility. If I expected others to accept my experiences as valid, I must at least be willing to acknowledge and accept as valid the experiences of others. This assignment was a pivotal learning opportunity for me to assume another’s viewpoint and thus to better understand my opponents and the ideology informing their policies. Though the structural inequalities underlying this problem persist, I have found pockets of space within society where everyday resistance and agency is possible. To take up my agency and resist accordingly requires humility, creativity, and flexibility.

As a system that reproduces and regulates these subjective experiences, the field of law is a potentially transformative space within which I can apply with humility, creativity, and flexibility my unearned privileges towards the liberation of others. As an upper-class, HIV+, gay, Muslim man in recovery from addiction and anorexia and a survivor of Hepatitis-C, I initially suffered gravely from having such a conflicted identity. My continued growth above and beyond this conflict has enabled me to reconcile this tension. Along the way, I learned to survive by building genuine and mutually productive relationships with others who were similarly socially stigmatized as junkies, bums, and monsters. All are deserving of representation and justice, but the regulation of certain acts and identities has rendered some people increasingly marginalized and thereby voiceless. I understand this voicelessness both practically and theoretically. It is no coincidence that the overwhelming majority of those who successfully recover from addiction have the financial means to afford expensive trips to rehab. Nor was it coincidental that the majority of people at the Mission were brown or black. Nearly every woman I met on the streets was a survivor of repeated and unpunished acts of sexual violence.

My recovery culminated in a humbling waking up process through which I have developed a creative and flexible perspective on problems and solutions especially relevant to the deployment of law in society. Though I left several women and men behind in my recovery, I have not forgotten them. Many of the addicts and people without homes with whom I shared a common struggle for survival are in an ever-pressing need for transformative and compassionate legal representation. I am now in a position to give back to those whom I left behind. An education at the University of Michigan Law School will enhance my unique experiences with the knowledge, resources, and credibility to provide representation accordingly. Although I cannot speak for every addicted HIV+ gay man of color, I am equipped not only to rise beyond the rigorous demands of a U of M education, but also, and more importantly, to understand the traditionally misunderstood, so that they can speak through me in a society where they have otherwise been marginalized, outlawed, and silenced. By building a career directed towards the subversion of structural oppression, I will provide innovative and impeccable legal counsel to those whose marginalization would otherwise be exacerbated by the law. With your consideration, I hope to begin this career with a Wolverine JD.
Last edited by ht2988 on Sun Nov 28, 2010 12:14 am, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
orangebluewhitered
Posts: 43
Joined: Tue May 20, 2008 7:29 pm

Re: FINALLY, a near final draft of my PS.

Postby orangebluewhitered » Sat Nov 27, 2010 4:26 am

I think it's really great- except for the last paragraph. I hate the first sentence, I don't like the word "ever-pressing", I don't like the phrase "enhance my unique experiences", and after "accordingly" you've got two run-on sentences. The writing style of the first 80% of the essay is sharp and muscular, but I think you go off the rails a little bit when you go into the abstract. Maybe take a break for an hour or two then revisit the last paragraph and break up the sentences to match the rest of the essay.

313D313
Posts: 220
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:52 pm

Re: FINALLY, a near final draft of my PS.

Postby 313D313 » Sat Nov 27, 2010 5:42 am

I think you have something good here. However you can get rid of a lot of words and sentences to make it easier to read and smoother. You used humility, creativity, and flexibility too many times. Try to think of other words that still convey what you are trying to say.

User avatar
TommyK
Posts: 1309
Joined: Fri Jun 25, 2010 3:08 pm

Re: FINALLY, a near final draft of my PS.

Postby TommyK » Sat Nov 27, 2010 1:44 pm

wow

User avatar
2807
Posts: 579
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:23 pm

Re: FINALLY, a near final draft of my PS.

Postby 2807 » Sat Nov 27, 2010 2:29 pm

Overall it is solid. However, you certainly use 10 words where 5 will work. Stop that. It does not convey the message you think it does.

A few issues:

1. Using more words does not convey a mastery of the skill, it does the opposite.

2. Would you ever consider reducing your self-deprecating history of failure and addiction? There are many ways to convey: "I made bad decisions, earned poor health because of them, and learned valuable lessons" <--- there, see?.. in one sentence enough is said! IT IS THE LESSON you learned and its value, NOT the biography and testimony. Maybe try a re-write where you edit that out and see if it still conveys your message. Why give potentially harmful information if it is not needed?

3. You use passive voice a lot. Be declarative. No passive.

I think you can lose the entire 2nd para and combine the 3rd and the 4th with less words, more declarative statements, and less scenery.

The last two paragraphs can be one summary.

You are good at writing, but you are not very direct. This is a powerful experience and honorable ambition. Be careful not to dilute it. Think "bumper sticker". Get that powerful message boiled down.

2 pages easily. You can do it. Do not dilute your message with scenery. Stay focused. The Ad-coms will not be impressed with how many words you use and fancy flowing prose. Legal writing is the opposite of that. Find a balance.

In one sentence: Tell me what your message IS. Then, work back from that. Simple, direct, and declarative. Think how you speak when you argue-- you do not argue the way you write. Why? because when you are arguing you go for the kill, you are direct, focused, and efficient.

Write like that. Your PS will thank you.

ht2988
Posts: 482
Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2010 11:07 pm

Re: FINALLY, a near final draft of my PS.

Postby ht2988 » Sat Nov 27, 2010 9:52 pm

Thank you so much - this is really helpful advice!

justhoping
Posts: 147
Joined: Mon Nov 15, 2010 12:38 am

Re: FINALLY, a near final draft of my PS.

Postby justhoping » Sat Nov 27, 2010 10:36 pm

HIV+, gay, Muslim man in recovery from addiction and anorexia and a survivor of Hepatitis-C


:shock: that's a whole lot to handle.
I also agree with previous posters that some of your sentences are too lengthy.
Good luck on your applications :)

ht2988
Posts: 482
Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2010 11:07 pm

Re: FINALLY, a near final draft of my PS.

Postby ht2988 » Sat Nov 27, 2010 11:49 pm

Dear 2807 (and others)... I took into consideration your advice and here's what I've come up with. Thanks especially for motivating me to cut this down, it's finally at 2 pages! I started at 4, then 3, now I'm at 2. Awesome!.

Winter in West Michigan is terribly cold, especially when your family leaves you behind for a hot vacation under the Mayan sun. It is even colder when you have nowhere to sleep but the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, where you must pass a drug test to stay in the dormitory. I saved myself the embarrassment of testing “dirty” and, instead, chose to sleep on the floor. I convinced myself that I’d be too claustrophobic to sleep in a crowded dormitory – as if the alternative of sleeping on the floor in a crowded room of drug-addicted men might be more conducive to an uninterrupted night’s sleep. The other option, sleeping alone outdoors in the dead of winter, was out of the question, for what my exorbitant designer clothes exceeded in cost, they lacked in warmth. I was two months out of my second of three stints in rehab, and had managed to find a trap door at each and every “rock bottom” I hit. Drugs and anorexia initially helped me to escape the lonely reality of being the fifteen-year old gay Muslim son of Pakistani immigrants, but the temporary escape had turned into an even more painful reality.

I was admitted to my third and final rehab in June of 2008, at which time I tested positive for HIV and chronic Hepatitis-C. Although HIV is no longer the death sentence it was in the 1980’s, coinfection nearly triples the mortality rate, unless the Hep-C can be quickly eradicated with an aggressive treatment that involves a rigorous six months of chemotherapy with Interferon. My treatment lasted through the first four months that I was back in school. Although the thought of sleeping through those painful four months was tempting, I had learned by extensive trial and error that escaping reality was never the solution. I was also – and in no small part – privileged to be under the medical supervision of my father, whose specialty is Hepatology. I noticed that the painful side effects of the chemo seemed to diminish as I spent more and more time out of bed. I endured the treatment while maintaining sobriety by regularly attending 12-step meetings and building mutually supportive relationships with other women and men in recovery. My addicted sisters and brothers, alongside whom I fought the real war on drugs, taught me humility and helped me to accept the reality that some conflicts are irreconcilable.

With this profound sense of acceptance, I moved forward and created for myself a newer, healthier, and more flexible way of being an HIV+ gay Muslim man in the U.S. In school, my women’s studies concentration equipped me with a radical feminist lens through which I understand racial and sexual identity formation and privilege. Studying political theory has helped me understand the distribution of power and privilege amongst these identities. Together, these areas have forced me to think critically and creatively about liberatory solutions to the practical problems that ensue. I learned that my male and financial privileges enabled me to barely evade the law when I broke it, to complete three lengthy rehabilitation programs, to pay for expensive medicines to treat my illnesses, and to continue in my higher education, but all this at the expense of many women and poorer, darker men situated beneath me. It was no coincidence that the majority of men I met at the Mission were brown or black. Nor was it coincidental that nearly every woman I met on the streets was a survivor of repeated and unpunished acts of sexual violence.

Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned as part of my elitist education is that because identities and oppressive institutions are socially constructed, there is always the potential for subversion. As an apparatus that regulates these identities and institutions, the field of law can be a transformative space within which I can apply my unearned privileges towards this end. All are deserving of justice and representation, but some are especially in need of transformative and compassionate legal representation. An education at the University of Michigan Law School will enhance my experiences with the knowledge and resources to provide representation accordingly. Although I cannot speak for every addicted HIV+ gay man of color, I am capable not only of rising above the rigorous demands of a U of M education, but also, and more importantly, of understanding the traditionally misunderstood, so that they can speak through me in a society where they have otherwise been silenced. By building a career that reflects the principles my life has come to embody thus far, I will provide innovative and impeccable legal counsel to those whose marginalization would otherwise be exacerbated by the law. With your consideration, I hope to begin this fulfilling career with a Wolverine JD.

User avatar
2807
Posts: 579
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:23 pm

Re: FINALLY, a near final draft of my PS.

Postby 2807 » Sun Nov 28, 2010 12:35 am

Ok, much better.

I really believe your entire PS is the last paragraph. If the first part of your last paragraph was:

"The most important lesson I learned as part of my FORTUNATE, YET elitist position, education, AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH ADDICTION AND THE CHALLENGES OF SOBRIETY is: Because identities and oppressive institutions are socially constructed, there is always the potential for subversion, hierarchy, and manipulation of power. I am lucky to have won the birth lottery and I know it. Others are not so fortunate as me, and frequently pay a higher penalty in society. I have seen the pain of this discrepancy, and I have been lucky to avoid it--even though I earned it. As an apparatus to regulate this...."


Does any of this help? Is this the message? It is what I am getting from it<--And it is good.

You can really extrapolate some power from just this part of your "real experience" and "real shift" in world-view. I would rather see more of this and less of the majority of para 1 and 2.

I like the intro, but then I would get right into the personal and social metamorphosis. I dig the social hierarchy and racial construct/class issues. You are sharp to see it, experience it, and challenge it as a career. Good job. Stay the course. Hold Fast.

More of that.

You may save the HIV and Hep C and gay for a diversity statement? Or, put it all in one sentence and then leave it... move on to the powerful (and relevant) stuff.

So, am I helping?

Honestly, you are good-to-go now, but I am trying to shift it a bit to make it stronger. It is very "top heavy."
I would like to see you get right to the meat of the experience of dealing with real people who need real help. In just a few sentences you can tell us how you got there-- then move on.

My 1st ruff draft was 6 pages and nowhere near done when I learned it had to be 2! Trust me, it takes a lot of editing and focus. Once you are clear and assertive on your actual MAIN POINT/THESIS, it gets easier.

Sorry to give you more to think about.

edit:

Ok, so, after further review: I like the 1st para. The second one is not my favorite. Can you link your first P to the people you met, and then get right to the metamorphosis and realization of what defines your focus now? That would be a good flow.

ht2988
Posts: 482
Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2010 11:07 pm

Re: FINALLY, a near final draft of my PS.

Postby ht2988 » Sun Nov 28, 2010 12:47 am

I have a diversity statement that focuses more on how I used my education to interpret and re-create my life as a gay man of color. And I have an addendum that provides a timeline of all the shit that went down. I was suspended from school for a quarter and took two subsequent quarters on medical leave to finish rehab...

You are rocking my world! Let me know if there's anything I can do to repay the favor!!!

User avatar
2807
Posts: 579
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:23 pm

Re: FINALLY, a near final draft of my PS.

Postby 2807 » Sun Nov 28, 2010 12:59 am

ht2988 wrote:I have a diversity statement that focuses more on how I used my education to interpret and re-create my life as a gay man of color. And I have an addendum that provides a timeline of all the shit that went down. I was suspended from school for a quarter and took two subsequent quarters on medical leave to finish rehab...

You are rocking my world! Let me know if there's anything I can do to repay the favor!!!



Ha, well, I may have over-shot here. I was not going for full world-rocking,
but... maybe a little world-tilt?

Glad to help. Stay focused. You are about to hit the jackpot.

Brace yourself.

ht2988
Posts: 482
Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2010 11:07 pm

Re: FINALLY, a near final draft of my PS.

Postby ht2988 » Sun Nov 28, 2010 1:04 am

So I don't know your background and I'm not sure whether your answer bears any truth, but we're always looking for validation! Is there any chance that my #'s (3.4/161) might be compensated for by "soft factors" like this PS? I also have really great LOR's and work experience.

User avatar
2807
Posts: 579
Joined: Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:23 pm

Re: FINALLY, a near final draft of my PS.

Postby 2807 » Sun Nov 28, 2010 1:19 am

I am not sure. Obviously this PS will be your voice and your interview, so do your best to present the full nuanced package. You have strong numbers. You know the stats, so don't kid yourself...

If you have the $ to apply, and the thick skin to handle the rejections, I would apply everywhere you care to go and pay for. I do not know your full resume, LOR, WE, and stuff so it is hard to say...

I really believe that the schools can take any part of any application and use it to validate any decision.

For better or worse....

But, so what. You know--you have learned about fate already... right?

So, do the right thing, and let the cards fall where they fall.

'Cause brother, they are gonna fall there no matter what.....

Play the ones you're dealt. And play them well.

The rest is all commentary

ht2988
Posts: 482
Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2010 11:07 pm

Re: FINALLY, a near final draft of my PS.

Postby ht2988 » Sun Nov 28, 2010 1:32 am

Just what I needed to hear... Rockin my world :lol:
-Hussain

mgel2181
Posts: 4
Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2009 7:25 pm

Re: FINALLY, a near final draft of my PS.

Postby mgel2181 » Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:04 am

very inspiring...I didn't even think about critiquing anything because I was so involved in the story. Best of luck to you.




Return to “Law School Personal Statements”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.