3rd Draft - already butchered NEED HELP please!!!

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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Joined: Sun Jun 27, 2010 4:15 pm

3rd Draft - already butchered NEED HELP please!!!

Postby soesghost » Tue Dec 28, 2010 6:27 pm

Ok so I am really struggling with size here - I have already chopped a lot out and am starting to lose continuity. have to keep it to 3 pages max for Brooklyn and 2 for Fordham (which i dont see how I am going to do) using TNR - at 10 fits 3 pages at 11 3 1/3 - not trying to be verbose but am a very non trad (16 yrs out of college) and so my reasons cant easily fit on so small a page. Any advice will help thank you!

Standing there in the open courtyard, shivering, with the droplets of a misty rain chilling my newly shaven head, my mind reeled. The industrial smell of asphalt mixed with the thick stench of the nearby waste processing plant to form a noxious odor that I can recall to this day. I glanced up and down the lines around me, at the long rows of similarly shorn young men in suits, attempting to stand at attention, and, for the most part, failing miserably. The anxiety in the air was palpable, almost a living thing, amplified by the staccato barking of the drill instructor. Still trying to process this surreal situation I had found myself – no, put myself – in, I wondered once again if I had made the right choice.
It was May 4, 2003, and I was at the FDNY Fire Academy for my first day as a Probationary Firefighter. We were the largest class in FDNY history, 363 strong - the phalanx of a non-stop hiring wave in a desperate attempt by the city to shore up the ranks after 9/11. Beyond the obvious losses, September 11th had a shockwave effect through the department. From those who became sick due to their exposure at Ground Zero, to the crushing mental stress of the survivors, to the veteran firefighters who had just had enough, the department was decimated. Nothing was going to compensate for the loss of literally thousands of years of firefighting experience, and the drill instructors knew it. I felt almost as if I were observing myself in a movie, a distant third-person perspective, when I heard the D.I. shout something that snapped me from my reverie. It was a phrase that would come to define my existence over the next eight years. “There is no failure!” he screamed. “There is no TRY! You will adapt and overcome! ADAPT AND OVERCOME!”
I have long believed that adversity tempers character, the way fire and hammer will forge steel into something stronger than it was. I was 8 when my parents divorced. Their breakup was acrimonious, to say the least. What had once been a pleasant, happy home was transformed into a war zone, with screaming arguments, smashed dinner plates, and holiday decorations torn from the walls. We had absolutely no money, though at the time I didn’t understand that. I just knew that my colorful cereal boxes had changed to dull white, and every flavor was now “No-Frills”. My mother was forced to go back to work to keep the roof over our heads, which left me alone for long stretches with my brother, who did not handle the divorce well and proceeded to physically take out his frustrations on me. Though my life became a about survival, rather than achievement, I was left with a determination that no one would ever intimidate me again, despite their size or station.
Things continued to deteriorate financially for us, and though my mother tried her best, we were forced to sell our house. I was 19 by now, and old enough to make it on my own, so I set off. I landed in a two room slum apartment in Brooklyn, the only tenant in a building beneath the elevated train. Though the rent was barely manageable, I had next to no income and no margin for error. When a utility dispute turned ugly, the landlord was unsympathetic, and I was left with no heat and hot water for two years. I can still recall the night a window shattered on the abandoned third floor, letting in the bitter winter as I huddled around a space heater. I wasn’t homeless – but I was essentially a squatter. Years later, my family asked me why I never asked anyone for help or moved home. I was perplexed by the question – I had created my circumstances by my actions, so I should be the one to get myself out. It never occurred to me that someone else should be responsible for my situation. With apologies to Nietzsche, the face staring back from the abyss was, indeed, my own. It was the darkest time of my life, but I swore if I ever made it out of that place I would never find myself there again.
No night lasts forever, and in time there were rays of light. I had taken a job in the financial industry at the start of the internet boom, and times were good. So good, in fact, that I began to question what I was doing. My job was to move a pile of cash from point A to point B, and scrape off some in between. It was lucrative and fun – yet empty at the same time. While I wasn’t doing anyone any harm, I felt that I wasn’t adding to the greater good. I was a flea on the giant back of the market, neither affecting anything positively or negatively, save my bank account. I tried to find a way to give back, and I spent the next few holidays at soup kitchens, though I wonder if my true desire was charity, or atonement for some guilt I felt at succeeding after struggling for so long. Then came September 11, 2001, and the end of the world as we knew it.
I spent that morning at my office in Midtown, that night at my apartment a few blocks away, and September 12th standing on a smoldering pile of rubble that used to be the World Trade Center. Feeling a need to do something, anything, I snuck through the security cordon and spent the next 24 hours unpacking supplies for the responders, running Gatorade and water out to the firefighters on the pile, and prepping food for the meal tables. It was an experience I am unable to describe accurately, one I will never forget, but changed me forever. I went home that night, and those existential questions that had been soft embers in the back of my mind now stood out in blazing flame. I thought of the people who died that day. I thought of the courage of the first responders. Mostly, though, I thought of my father. He had been a firefighter for 28 years. Endless black and white memories flashed through my mind – images of him cradling a soot-covered, tear-streaked child as he left a burning building. Of him sitting at the end of an extended aerial ladder several stories off the ground, taking a baby from a panicked mother nearly obscured by black smoke. Of him standing in full dress uniform, receiving a medal from the mayor for rescuing people from a collapse. By my age, my father was a hero, in the truest sense of the word, a person who had risked life and limb for complete strangers, and had a positive effect on their lives. What meaning had my life had?
The answer was nothing. In light of all that had happened, and all I experienced, I decided I had to change things. I had taken the FDNY exam a few years earlier, mostly at my father’s behest, with no particular intention to take the job. It is a several-year process to get hired and I hadn’t thought about it since taking the test. When I received the letter offering me the job a few months after September 11th, it was as if I was being given the answer to my crisis – here was my chance to make a difference, and I wasn’t going to let it pass. After almost 8 years on the Fire Department, I have seen and done things I wouldn’t have thought possible before. I have crawled down a burning hallway with fire over my head, fighting the primal urge to flee in the other direction. I have stood without a safety harness atop a stuck elevator in a blind shaft, pulling out a young girl in the throes of an asthma attack. I have lain beneath a tour bus, amid shattered glass and blood, holding the hand of a man in shock from the crushing injury that would claim his legs. I have had a wonderful career, have made a difference, and found the meaningfulness I sought so long ago. And now, once again, it is time to look forward.
The Japanese philosopher Kakuzo Okakaura once said “The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” I would take this a step further in saying that one’s surroundings are a summation of the choices made in life. Though I faced some trying times, I tried to see them as challenges. I sought to take something positive from each pivotal experience, and build my character on the lessons I learned. I feel I have had a positive effect on many people’s lives on a personal level, but now I feel it is time for something more. I have spent nearly a decade in service to the City of New York, and I would like to continue that. I believe law school will give me the necessary skills to have that impact on our city in a truly significant way. I expect to learn from my classmates and my professors, and as an older, non-traditional student I can bring a unique and diverse perspective to the class. It is my desire to affect change from within, on a policy level, to better serve and protect the community that is at the heart of my decision to pursue a career in law.

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

Re: 3rd Draft - already butchered NEED HELP please!!!

Postby sandaltan » Wed Dec 29, 2010 5:00 am

why does every god damn personal statement i read begin with a story!?


adcomms are outspoken about the plethora of statements they receive that begin with a story.

be different.

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

Re: 3rd Draft - already butchered NEED HELP please!!!

Postby sandaltan » Wed Dec 29, 2010 5:08 am

ya know i went back and i read this again, and you are a good writer.

i liked your hammer and forge analogy, but the statement loses its way when you open with your fire academy and sorta work backwards from there. its difficult to write statements like that and not wind up with a large gap.

dont open with a story.

you have a lot to say, but rather than simply telling people about your poor upbringing and your parents' split and your sibling abuse and what not, talk about the lessons of them - thats the key i think, and i think you can do it well too.

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