App. essay, help appreciated (it's only 500 words)

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cmraider
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App. essay, help appreciated (it's only 500 words)

Postby cmraider » Fri Feb 11, 2011 4:18 pm

One of my applications asks for a personal statement, as well as an additional essay on your most profound learning experience, academic or not, of the past 10 years. I'm sitting around 580 words right now, it's supposed to be "app. 500." Any suggestions are appreciated.


The hallway is quiet: two small children are playing with Legos and miniature cars—their chatter and toys provide the only breaks in silence. The soft clacking of plastic blocks and the gentle whir of rubber wheels suddenly ceases as the door across the room swings open wildly. A woman and teenage girl emerge. The girl, who is holding her arm over her mouth as if anticipating a sneeze, marches into one of the many rooms that line the foyer before diving onto her bed. Her screams are muffled by her strategically placed wrist. The children sitting on the floor resume playing as if they had mistakenly heard someone call out their names. I look over at the woman, who is standing a few feet outside the room containing the girl’s restrained overtures. She says, “If she bites her finger, you’re okay. If she bites her hand—watch out.”
This kind of advice is invaluable in a residential treatment center for minors with autism and behavior problems. Many employees are injured on the job from dealing with violent students, and workman’s compensation claims are commonplace. Just like a poker player looks for his opposition’s tells, knowing the quirks, triggers and patterns of the children can be the difference between leaving work in an ambulance or in your own vehicle. Those signs often manifest themselves in subtle ways, such as spitting, pacing or, in this case, biting. What I learned during my brief tenure is in many ways clichéd and sentimental, but I now enjoy a new perspective.
First, children are precious and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Don’t be mistaken, many of the children living in that facility would not endear themselves to the adjective “precious.” Indeed, words such as “despicable” or “malicious” are more apt descriptors. However, one look into their histories reveals that most are products of their environment, or more specifically their parents. Approximately half of the students not diagnosed with autism are adopted, and nearly all of them arrive at that position due to the incorrigible acts of their biological parents. Whether the abuse is sexual, physical, psychological or neglectful, ninety percent of those living in the small child wing have a history of deplorable deeds committed by family members.
The second lesson is closely related to the first: there are truly disgusting, horrible people in this world. I have always known this, but looking it in the face every day opened my eyes to the depths to which people can sink. Reading about some of the loathsome abuses betrayed upon those kids even caused me to doubt humanity’s capacity for good. One can easily become depressed witnessing each discharged student replaced by one who is equally damaged.
After working there, I’ve come to realize that there are truly wicked people who will go so far as to perpetrate unfathomable cruelty on their children. I haven’t lost all faith in people, which is more than I can say of some of my former colleagues, but the travesties I have read, heard and seen has educated me on the extents to which evil can reach. I now know that good parenting isn’t necessarily about attending every piano recital or little league game, but just having a positive presence in a child’s life. And I know that because someone didn’t have that presence, there is a girl out there whose hands will constantly be watched not because of her soft skin or painted nails, but for how closely they are to her mouth.

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esq
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Re: App. essay, help appreciated (it's only 500 words)

Postby esq » Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:40 pm

OK, I understand where you are trying to go with this. You are trying to be deep. I get it. It needs to be rewritten.

The thing is that this statement doesn't say enough about you. It says a lot about children and abuse, but not much about what direction you would like to go because of these experiences (child advocacy would be right up your alley, and there are plenty of schools with good clinics), and who you are. And it also doesn't say enough about you and your ability to successfully complete a legal education. You need to outline why you stand out from the others. What does your experience motivate you to do to address the issues that you've talked about? What kind of skills do you bring to the table because of your experiences? Do you have what it takes to succeed in law school, and will this specific experience drive you? How? As is, this PS just points out that you might be a compassionate child advocate, though you don't even specify this. You need to answer more questions about you.

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cmraider
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Re: App. essay, help appreciated (it's only 500 words)

Postby cmraider » Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:47 pm

esq wrote:OK, I understand where you are trying to go with this. You are trying to be deep. I get it. It needs to be rewritten.

The thing is that this statement doesn't say enough about you. It says a lot about children and abuse, but not much about what direction you would like to go because of these experiences (child advocacy would be right up your alley, and there are plenty of schools with good clinics), and who you are. And it also doesn't say enough about you and your ability to successfully complete a legal education. You need to outline why you stand out from the others. What does your experience motivate you to do to address the issues that you've talked about? What kind of skills do you bring to the table because of your experiences? Do you have what it takes to succeed in law school, and will this specific experience drive you? How? As is, this PS just points out that you might be a compassionate child advocate, though you don't even specify this. You need to answer more questions about you.


This is separate from the PS, but should I treat it like a second PS? This particular application requires a PS plus an additional essay. The prompt on the application says to describe the most profound learning experience you've had over the past 10 years. Would you suggest I rewrite it as an additional PS with a learning theme?

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esq
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Re: App. essay, help appreciated (it's only 500 words)

Postby esq » Fri Feb 11, 2011 6:56 pm

I would still suggest devoting at least a paragraphs worth towards what you think is needed to correct the problem that you encountered. Maybe why it is so important that these children have advocates who are willing to help them turn their lives in a more positive direction. I think - it was unstated in your piece, but assumable - that you might have learned the importance of this while working with these troubled youth. It would go a long way towards showing the adcomm that you learned something from your experience. As of now, you are simply relaying an experience. But no, I would say that you don't need to get into particulars like how it motivates you to be a lawyer or things that are better addressed on your PS.

kublaikahn
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Re: App. essay, help appreciated (it's only 500 words)

Postby kublaikahn » Sat Feb 12, 2011 12:38 am

One of my applications asks for a personal statement, as well as an additional essay on your most profound learning experience, academic or not, of the past 10 years.


You don't explicitly answer the question. If this is your most profound learning experience, what is the profound lesson? Children are precious and some adults are mean? That is not profound, that is obvious and ordinary. You name this as your lesson learned, but I don't think that is what you mean. A deeper lesson is implied, I just cant identify what it is.

Make the lesson, what you know now but did not know then, something really profound: Helping others helps us. Love and respect can cure human evil. Making the difference in the life of one child makes a difference in the world. Etc.

make it personal. focus on one child and how your interaction changed that child and how that child changed you.

sparty99
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Re: App. essay, help appreciated (it's only 500 words)

Postby sparty99 » Sun Feb 13, 2011 10:33 pm

This essay is weak. What lesson did you learn? Also, the first paragraph is way too descriptive and reads like a fictional essay.

The fact that you realize humans are evil sounds immature. Duh. Also, why would you waste time talking about a trivial aspect like that. You sound like you have trust issues or something.

You also make kids with autism sound horrible or a burden. Leave in an ambulance or your own car?! It's NOT that dangerous. I know teachers who teach autistic kids and they have been physically bruised, scratched, etc, but taking it to the level of ambulance sounds absurd.

You need to come correct. Working with autistic children is difficult. However, you focus way too much on their DIFFICULTIES and not your own. Show the reader why you were attracted to autistic kids versus "non-autistic" children, or how you learned patience or realized the struggles of others and this had led you to public law. This experience can put you over the top, but the current essay will not get you there.

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aguaman13
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Re: App. essay, help appreciated (it's only 500 words)

Postby aguaman13 » Mon Feb 14, 2011 3:46 am

You also make kids with autism sound horrible or a burden. Leave in an ambulance or your own car?! It's NOT that dangerous. I know teachers who teach autistic kids and they have been physically bruised, scratched, etc, but taking it to the level of ambulance sounds absurd.


Agreed. I would also leave out the poker metaphor. You are talking about autistic children, not a game.

I also agree that this topic has a ton of potential. However, you shouldn't be writing about it just for that reason. It doesn't sound as if you were profoundly moved or enlightened by your experience there. To be blunt, you sound kind of cold. If this isn't your thing choose something else that truly moves you. If it is your thing, and your greatest learning experience, then open up and explain that.

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cmraider
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Re: App. essay, help appreciated (it's only 500 words)

Postby cmraider » Mon Feb 14, 2011 4:18 am

I've been listening to everyone's comments and taking the suggestions seriously as I edit my paper. However, I really take umbrage with this:

sparty99 wrote:
You also make kids with autism sound horrible or a burden. Leave in an ambulance or your own car?! It's NOT that dangerous. I know teachers who teach autistic kids and they have been physically bruised, scratched, etc, but taking it to the level of ambulance sounds absurd.


I know that since you know someone who teaches autistic kids, and you are way more qualified to speak on the subject than someone who actually worked with them five or six days a week, but you are wrong. While I was never seriously injured, many people I know were. This was not a school for autistic children, this was a long-term residential treatment center (typical stay: 3-6 months). Most of the autistic students were teenagers, and one male student there is 6-4, 225 lbs. When he got upset (usually because he was hungry), he did send people to the hospital with such minor injuries as broken bones, concussions and internal bleeding. Also not all of the kids were autistic, but had histories of violence: animal torture, fighting, kidnapping, attempted murder, murder (one student had murder 1 charges). I'm sure the prison-style shank we found in one kid's room wouldn't cause a wound a band-aid couldn't take care of.

So yeah, you're right, I was exaggerating and no one ever suffered worse than a scratch.

While I appreciate the advice on the style, grammar, content, flow, etc., I don't appreciate you trivializing my experience.

sparty99
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Re: App. essay, help appreciated (it's only 500 words)

Postby sparty99 » Mon Feb 14, 2011 3:10 pm

Okay. Fine.

I read your essay for a second time. You do a poor job explaining the context. You go from small children playing with Legos, then you talk about workers comp and ambulances. Can you imagine two small children sending a grown adult to the hospital?! I can't. Unless it was the Bride of Chucky.

After reading your comments and then reading the essay a second time, I thought, this sound like an "insane asylum." Is that what you're going for? I doubt it.

I would almost say you need to start from square one. The tone, the message, etc., does not put you in a good light.

kublaikahn
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Re: App. essay, help appreciated (it's only 500 words)

Postby kublaikahn » Mon Feb 14, 2011 5:20 pm

sparty99 wrote:Okay. Fine.

I read your essay for a second time. You do a poor job explaining the context. You go from small children playing with Legos, then you talk about workers comp and ambulances. Can you imagine two small children sending a grown adult to the hospital?! I can't. Unless it was the Bride of Chucky.

After reading your comments and then reading the essay a second time, I thought, this sound like an "insane asylum." Is that what you're going for? I doubt it.

I would almost say you need to start from square one. The tone, the message, etc., does not put you in a good light.


+1

This advice is helpful, as was Sparti's first comment.

Here's some more useful advice. You try to tie the essay together with the girl biting her own hand, but I just cant follow you. Are you suggesting if she had been treated better, she would be at a piano recital instead of the center? I thought she was autistic?

The truth of it is, this essay is peppered with grammatical errors, misplaced modifiers, and misused or weak words. If something is "truly" disgusting does that mean it is more disgusting than normally disgusting things. Try harder to express yourself more concisely. The writing says, "I am sloppy and even when I have a good point I have trouble expressing it on paper."




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