Personal Statement Critique

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
jimchuck99
Posts: 28
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2010 7:50 am

Personal Statement Critique

Postby jimchuck99 » Tue Dec 28, 2010 4:23 pm

Thanks!

As I stood before the Texas House Committee on Higher Education in February 2005, I felt a lump in my throat, and I could barely speak. I had recently joined the Legislative Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, and I was speaking for the first time on their behalf against HB 479, a bill to grant the Austin Police Department concurrent jurisdiction over the University of Texas at Austin campus. The ACLU feared that this bill could have unintended consequences for the students at the university and their civil rights. It was obvious to the members on the house committee that I was nervous as I spoke. However, I was well prepared, and I was able to answer their questions. HB 479 did eventually pass out of committee, but it never came up for a vote on the House floor. This was a victory.
Over the following four months, I spoke before House and Senate committees on a number of bills, always representing the ACLU of Texas. While I was one of only two students on the ACLU Legislative Committee, which was composed of lawyers and non-profit professionals, they took me seriously and trusted me to work on their behalf. My duties included reading and understanding bills which might be of interest, writing one-page fact sheets about the bills, talking with legislators and their staffers and speaking in front of committees.
We did not always win, but by the end of the legislative term, I found my voice and felt confident standing in front of legislative committees, stating my points, answering questions and countering evidence presented by the other side. I also gained a lot of knowledge about how laws are written and how the legislative system actually works. I was impressed by the openness of the Texas Legislature and the ability of people to have an impact on the laws that govern us. It was a great feeling to personally be able to affect legislation and to feel that I was making a difference. I also learned a lot from the other people working for the ACLU. Their experiences and insights always helped me with the bills I was working on. Their professionalism and commitment greatly inspired me. Every single one of the professionals I worked with could have easily gotten jobs earning far more money, but they were devoted to making Texas a better place.
Although I was tasked with working on bills involving free speech and education policy, I quickly developed an interest in the criminal justice system. This area was the biggest focus of the ACLU Legislative Committee, both because such a large amount of the Texas Legislature's workload involves the criminal code and because the Texas Legislature, like many others, regularly creates new crimes and increases sentences for existing crimes. This has long been a concern of criminal justice reform advocates for several reasons. First, many of these changes are done for mainly political reasons, with little consideration of whether the sentencing is appropriate for the level of the crime. Second, creating and upgrading crimes exacerbates the existing problems in the criminal justice system, such as inequality in sentencing between whites and minorities and lack of available Although Texas has a well-deserved reputation as a “tough on crime” state, the Texas ACLU had developed relatively effective strategies over several legislative sessions.
In July 2006, my life changed. Having completed the coursework for my B.A., I moved to Vienna, Austria with my Viennese girlfriend. I was sorry to leave Texas, but I was excited about the opportunity to live abroad and gain new experiences, and we were only planning to stay in Austria for one year. Almost four and a half years later, however, I am happily married and living in Vienna with my family. I have a great job teaching English to children and plenty of time to spend with my baby daughter. Vienna is a cultured and comfortable city, and I would have no problems staying. I love my life here.
Still, I am ready to do more. Living in Europe, I have gained a deep appreciation for the subtleties and gray areas of the world, and I have learned a lot about myself. I know that even with welfare states to protect people from the ups and downs of the world, life isn't perfect anywhere. I see that problems in the legal system, abuses of power and simple injustice that we read about daily in American newspapers are not just American phenomena. I am proud when I read about American lawyers helping families whose homes were wrongfully foreclosed keep those homes or when American lawyers stand up for the poor in the justice system, often at no material gain to themselves. These things are important to me personally. I want my daughter to grow up in a world that is safer and freer than it is today.
I have grown a lot in the last four years. I know that lawyers have an important role to play in our nation and that they can make a difference in the world. I believe we can make things better. My activism in America has shown me that I can do that. Years of thinking about attending law school have led me to be confident that it is the right choice for me and that I will contribute greatly. I am ready to get to work.

jasonc.
Posts: 119
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2010 1:22 am

Re: Personal Statement Critique

Postby jasonc. » Tue Dec 28, 2010 5:22 pm

pretty good. You can afford to cut some of the description about work at the ACLU Though.

jimchuck99
Posts: 28
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2010 7:50 am

Re: Personal Statement Critique

Postby jimchuck99 » Tue Dec 28, 2010 5:34 pm

Thanks!

sparty99
Posts: 1433
Joined: Sat Dec 11, 2010 8:41 pm

Re: Personal Statement Critique

Postby sparty99 » Wed Dec 29, 2010 3:01 am

The first part is really good. The first part of your essay had me thinking, "this kid is ready for law school and it seems natural that he is applying."

When you do your second draft, focus on being succinct. You seem too wordy. For example,

"I was impressed by the openness of the Texas Legislature and the ability of people to have an impact on the laws that govern us. It was a great feeling to personally be able to affect legislation and to feel that I was making a difference. I also learned a lot from the other people working for the ACLU. Their experiences and insights always helped me with the bills I was working on. Their professionalism and commitment greatly inspired me. Every single one of the professionals I worked with could have easily gotten jobs earning far more money, but they were devoted to making Texas a better place."

- The above description can be taken out

The second part, "In July 2006...." needs to be reworked. I'd probably start from scratch. It's not necessary to talk about having time to spend with your daughter, how your happily married, and how you love living in Vienna. You also talk about American lawyers standing up for injustice. This sounds too naive and that you are trying to be the person that goes to law school to "fight all the injustices in the world," when most law school students don't even go into public law....

You have lived in Vienna for four years. Really think about how your experience in Vienna has changed you or how that experience will effect your law school experience.

Perhaps you can talk about the Vienna legal system? For example, I have lived in Asia, and if I am in a car accident and it wasn't my fault, it is customary for me to pay for damages because I'm a foreigner and they think I can afford it. There is also traffic issues in Asia, so waiting for the cops to arrive would be a waste of time. This is very different from our American legal system.

sandaltan
Posts: 114
Joined: Sun Oct 25, 2009 12:42 am

Re: Personal Statement Critique

Postby sandaltan » Wed Dec 29, 2010 4:57 am

there has been more than one dean who has been outspoken about their dislike for statements that begin with a story.

"as i stood in the waiting room at the hospital..."

"the ball thumped loudly on the wood floor as i stared up at the omnitron..."

"my calloused hands nervously gripped the pullup bar as this test of physical strength somehow conveys academic ability..."

etc.

jasonc.
Posts: 119
Joined: Mon Oct 18, 2010 1:22 am

Re: Personal Statement Critique

Postby jasonc. » Wed Dec 29, 2010 5:16 am

Stories are hit or miss. In this case it works. It doesn't work when people using them in order to be dramatic or when it doesnt tie in with the rest of the ps.

sandaltan
Posts: 114
Joined: Sun Oct 25, 2009 12:42 am

Re: Personal Statement Critique

Postby sandaltan » Wed Dec 29, 2010 5:28 am

jasonc. wrote:Stories are hit or miss. In this case it works. It doesn't work when people using them in order to be dramatic or when it doesnt tie in with the rest of the ps.


stories are fine, but opening with "as i stood before..." - literally - does not, in my very humble opinion.

just get to it.

jimchuck99
Posts: 28
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2010 7:50 am

Re: Personal Statement Critique

Postby jimchuck99 » Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:12 pm

Good advice all around. I was kind of wondering about the opening line, because I also read those deans saying they don't like that type of opening.

I also understand the criticism of the second part sounding a bit cheesy/naive.

jimchuck99
Posts: 28
Joined: Sat Oct 30, 2010 7:50 am

Re: Personal Statement Critique

Postby jimchuck99 » Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:21 pm

Thanks for all of your advice. If you have a moment could y'all take a look at my next draft here: viewtopic.php?f=18&t=142400

Thanks.




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