Would greatly appreciate critiques on my Personal Statement

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
keithkeating
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 1:42 pm

Would greatly appreciate critiques on my Personal Statement

Postby keithkeating » Mon Jan 03, 2011 2:30 pm

This is my third draft. Here are a few specific questions I have:
* Keep the quote or lose it or place it elsewhere? (If I lose it, does the theme *voice* still remain apparent?)
* Is it too long? (If so, what would I cut, it all feels relevant to me)
* Is it strong, powerful, emotive? (If not, what suggestions would you have)
* Any additional notes or thoughts?

(A special thanks to any who review it, I greatly appreciate it and would be glad to offer the same service).


Margaret Atwood said, “A voice is a human gift; it should be cherished and used,
to utter fully human speech as possible. Powerlessness and silence go together."

Three years ago I stood on a dirt road in Uganda wearing shorts, a tank top and my orange backpack. Two feet away in front of me stood five armed police soldiers, each in full uniform with polished black boots, berets tilted on their heads and shiny rifles pointed toward my chest. Behind me stood three more soldiers, one with a pistol pointed at me and two with machetes over their shoulders. Five feet away stood my companion, a local volunteer whom I had just met who spoke very little English. Behind him stood a gathering crowd of local shopkeepers and their customers. There was a mixture of English and Ugandan being spoken; between the heat and the noise from the crowd, I was having difficulty discerning between the languages. I did not understanding what was being said and to whom it was directed. My brain registered the following words in no specific order: “spy,” “military” and “kill you”. Apparently I was accused of being an American military spy and thus the threats of death. My head started to spin at the confusion and I hoped that I would either pass out or cry, either fine just as long as I reacted. Instead, my body simply froze. My apparent disregard for their accusations caused them to yell louder and I could feel the barrels of their weapons being pushed against my body. I wanted to open my mouth and speak but, as had been the case for most of my life, I feared that I had no voice.

From the beginning I was powerless; my voice was not heard. Although the memory escapes me, I am certain that when my mother decided to give me up for adoption when I was three months old that I cried in protest. My objections at being shuttled from school to school every year were ignored by my next set of parents as well as any other opposition that I may have had towards life. In true military fashion, my father the Colonel, raised me with the mentality that one does not speak unless they are spoken to. And given the fact that I was not spoken to often, it was a rarity that I could speak. This served me well in school, according to the teachers, because I never interrupted class or talked back. But when I graduated at fifteen as a result of my advanced European education and started college, my lack of social skills as well as my inability to speak was crippling, resulting in my dropping out of school after one semester.

Through the years I searched for my voice. I tried different dialects, speech patterns, even vocal coaching. I copied the vocabulary of strangers and mimicked that of my neighbors. I learned what other people liked and loathed and I clung to it as if they were my own words. My relationships were my voice and in between when there was no one to speak for me, I let alcohol do my talking. And alcohol continued to do my talking until, through the slurs, someone was able to decipher the words “I need help”. For the first time, my voice was heard and there was a cognitive recognition that I was not, in fact, powerless; I did have a voice.

Over the next year I worked zealously on building my voice through sobriety, therapy and spirituality. I no longer feared that I was not heard and learned to harness the power that was within me. I used the challenges that I had been faced with as contributions to my individuality, increasing my strength of character and my willingness to succeed. And through self-introspection, I realized a world existed outside of me, one that was more vast than I had ever anticipated. My intellectual curiosity was stimulated and my interest in education had been piqued. I re-enrolled in college while working full-time in order to obtain my Bachelors of Science in Business Management. During this time I also accepted the realization that I had been self-serving for many years and it was now important for me to give back and act as a positive contributing member to society. I started volunteering with food banks, recovery centers, and homeless shelters. While my work was rewarding, I had a nagging feeling that there was something more I should be doing. Through conversations with people about Africa, a continent to which I have always felt drawn, I learned of the despairing plight of the Batwa tribe. The Batwa (also known as Pygmies) are considered forest people of Central Africa. Since the 1990s the government has forcibly removed the Batwa from the forests and reparations. Instead, they have been classified as “sub-humans” in order to ensure that they receive no rights as human beings. This, in my opinion, was a legal form of genocide and consumed my thoughts. I felt spiritually moved by the situation with the Batwa and it felt only natural that without hesitation I decided to go to Uganda and try to help. Six weeks later I arrived in Uganda and began filing paperwork and starting a petition to regain rights for the Batwa, against the advice of the local people. On my second day I found myself under siege by the array of weaponry.

Although I tried to explain my volunteer status, the police arrested me under the guise that I was a spy. I was denied calls to the Embassy and even a local lawyer. It was at that pivotal moment that I realized what it must feel like to have no rights, which felt seemingly similar to having no voice.

Through careful negotiation, my Ugandan companion was able to secure my release with proper financial compensation. It was later that I learned that my arrest was probably the direct result of my work for the Batwa. The police had been informed of the “mozungu,” a term used to describe a white man, who was helping the Batwa. Although I was advised again to stop my efforts, I was no longer afraid to use my voice and would not be dissuaded.

I spent two months in the Bwindi mountains teaching the Batwa self-sustaining skills to improve their quality of life. I helped them build six chicken coops spread out over six settlements and delivered 30 chickens to each settlement. With my local companion, we taught them how to feed the chickens in order to live off of their eggs. With the money I raised, I purchased materials to build additional huts as well as medication. The achievement that I am most proud of, however, was the monumental task of getting four Batwa children enrolled in a local school for villagers. It was the first time that the Batwa had been allowed to join the same school as the local village children.

Over the next year, I continued my travels around the world in hopes of gaining a better perspective on the way humans are treated. Through my travels, I have witnessed the destitution in the Brazilian Favilas, watched children forced to work the brothels in Thailand, and witnessed the ever-increasing population of the homeless grow in the United States. I have seen the inequality of treatment given to human beings: women treated as cattle, children treated as merchandise, people treated as sub-human. What stands out in my mind most is an interview that occurred with the Batwa. When I asked the oldest member of the tribe what she wanted more than anything, this was her response: “I have the same blood as you. I breathe the same air as you. I want to be treated like you but I have no voice. I want to be heard.” Then she and several tribe members began dancing and singing, as if to make sure that I heard them.

It is with this knowledge and my passion to help people that I am in fervent pursuit to become a legal scholar. I have been blessed to find my voice. It is time that the silence ends for those who do not have a voice. It is with my sincerest hope that I can use this education to help be the voice for those who need to be heard.

LSATclincher
Posts: 476
Joined: Mon Nov 30, 2009 12:09 pm

Re: Would greatly appreciate critiques on my Personal Statement

Postby LSATclincher » Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:48 pm

I'd cut the quote. I love the intro anecdote, but it needs to be shortened drastically. Cut out the booze and sobriety unless you MUST mention it because of a criminal record. I really like the anecdote transitioning into your social issues. But your childhood stuff appeared to serve little purpose. It's almost like you blamed others for your social issues. As I moved down the PS, it seemed like you had two stories going at once (overcoming social issues then giving others a voice overseas). But it seemed a bit long, so I tried to shorten it. I think you can turn your conclusion successfully into a "why law" paragraph. I love your ending quote only if she really said those words. It appeared that you tweaked her words to fit your "voice" theme. But if that quote is true, I think you can stick it in the conclusion and play off that--in terms of why law (sticking w/ your voice theme).

A guy on here had a great military story, but your story is right up there with the most interesting I heard on here. Not to mention, your PS is very clear and direct. I could tell you've worked this many times. And that shows you really care. I'd enjoy sharing stories with you both in and outside of class, and the adcomms certainly would recognize that from this PS. I think my edits make this a bit more clear--eliminating clutter.



Three years ago I stood on a dirt road in Uganda. Two feet away in front of me stood five armed police soldiers with rifles pointed at me. Three more soldiers stood behind me, one with a pistol pointed at me and two with machetes over their shoulders. Five feet away stood my companion, a local volunteer whom I had just met, (and) who spoke very little English. I did not understanding what was being said and to whom it was directed. My brain registered the following words in no specific order: “spy,” “military” and “kill you”. I was accused of being an American military spy. I wanted to defend myself, but like most of my life, I feared that I had no voice.

When I graduated high school at fifteen and started college, my lack of social skills as well as my inability to speak (were) crippling. As a result, I dropped out of college after one semester. Through the years I searched for my voice. I tried different dialects, speech patterns, even vocal coaching. I copied the vocabulary of strangers and mimicked that of my neighbors. I learned what other people liked and loathed and I clung to it as if they were my own words. My relationships were my voice and in between when there was no one to speak for me. (I was determined to overcome this struggle and find a voice.)

(Over the next year I worked zealously on building my voice through self-introspection.) I realized a world existed outside of me. My intellectual curiosity was stimulated and my interest in education was piqued. I re-enrolled in college(,) while working full-time. I volunteered with food banks, recovery centers, and homeless shelters. (This experience sparked an interest to continue my service on an international level.)

I learned of the despairing plight of the Batwa tribe. The Batwa (also known as Pygmies) are considered forest people of Central Africa. Since the 1990s the government has forcibly removed the Batwa from the forests and reparations. Instead, they have been classified as “sub-humans” in order to ensure that they receive no rights as human beings. This, in my opinion, was a legal form of genocide and consumed my thoughts. Six weeks later(,) I arrived in Uganda and began filing paperwork and starting a petition to regain rights for the Batwa against the advice of the local people. On my second day I found myself under siege by the array of weaponry.

Although I tried to explain my volunteer status, the police arrested me under the guise that I was a spy. I was denied calls to the Embassy and even a local lawyer. It was at that pivotal moment that I realized what it must feel like to have no rights, which felt seemingly similar to having no voice. Through careful negotiation, my Ugandan companion was able to secure my release with proper financial compensation. Although I was advised again to stop my efforts, I was no longer afraid to use my voice and would not be dissuaded. (I felt compelled to continue my efforts aiding the Batwa.)

I spent two months in the Bwindi mountains teaching the Batwa self-sustaining skills to improve their quality of life. I helped them build six chicken coops spread out over six settlements and delivered (thirty) chickens to each settlement. With my local companion, we taught them how to feed the chickens in order to live off of their eggs. With the money I raised, I purchased materials to build additional huts as well as medication. The achievement that I am most proud of, however, was the monumental task of getting four Batwa children enrolled in a local school for villagers. It was the first time that the Batwa had been allowed to join the same school as the local village children.

Over the next year, I continued my travels around the world in hopes of gaining a better perspective on the way humans are treated. Through my travels, I have witnessed the destitution in the Brazilian Favilas, watched children forced to work the brothels in Thailand, and witnessed the ever-increasing population of the homeless grow in the United States. I have seen the inequality of treatment given to human beings: women treated as cattle, children treated as merchandise, people treated as sub-human. (My experiences have furthered my passion to continue service throughout my life.)

What stands out in my mind most is an interview that occurred with the Batwa. When I asked the oldest member of the tribe what she wanted more than anything, this was her response: “I have the same blood as you. I breathe the same air as you. I want to be treated like you but I have no voice. I want to be heard.” Then she and several tribe members began dancing and singing, as if to make sure that I heard them. It is with this knowledge and my passion to help people that I am in fervent pursuit to become a legal scholar. I have been blessed to find my voice. It is time that the silence ends for those who do not have a voice. It is with my sincerest hope that I can use this education to help be the voice for those who need to be heard.

LSATclincher
Posts: 476
Joined: Mon Nov 30, 2009 12:09 pm

Re: Would greatly appreciate critiques on my Personal Statement

Postby LSATclincher » Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:54 pm

Reading it once more, really get a stronger conclusion. Use a girl's quote as inspiration to write a touching conclusion for a great story.

mala2
Posts: 225
Joined: Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:39 am

Re: Would greatly appreciate critiques on my Personal Statement

Postby mala2 » Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:26 pm

I think it's really good. I don't like the quote at the beginning, but maybe somewhere else it would be ok.

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ShuckingNotJiving
Posts: 266
Joined: Wed Jun 30, 2010 11:24 am

Re: Would greatly appreciate critiques on my Personal Statement

Postby ShuckingNotJiving » Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:31 pm

in the first paragraph you are overwrought in your explanation of positioning. EG - -"five feet away...behind that...between, etc." it's a barrage of prepositions for no real reason. also, i'm fairly certain there is no such thing as 'Ugandan' language ("a mix of English and Ugandan") but instead tribal and regional dialects. What region were you in? Be specific about what you heard. It hurts your credibility to not be precise there, I think.

I'd cut out the bit about alcohol it takes the essay in too many different directions. Also cut the quote.

I will say, although I've read it before, I do like the theme of losing / gaining one's voice. The interplay of your experience abroad and your adoption is strong.

Pneumatic
Posts: 29
Joined: Mon Dec 27, 2010 3:41 am

Re: Would greatly appreciate critiques on my Personal Statement

Postby Pneumatic » Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:42 pm

mala2 wrote:I think it's really good. I don't like the quote at the beginning, but maybe somewhere else it would be ok.


Overall, this is a great diversity statement that has the potential to impress an admissions officer.

Here are 3 short criticisms:

1. I think you use the word "voice" too much and overplay the "I didn't have or I don't have a voice" theme. Maybe ditch the quote and tighten up the writing.

2. Probably could be a little shorter towards the middle and end.

3. Fix up grammar a little.

Good Work

keithkeating
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Jan 03, 2011 1:42 pm

Re: Would greatly appreciate critiques on my Personal Statement

Postby keithkeating » Tue Jan 04, 2011 12:14 am

Thanks to the 5 above who posted excellent criticism. It was all very constructive and they were all excellent points. Your effort was very much appreciated!




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