Honest critique please!

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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crumpetsandtea
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Honest critique please!

Postby crumpetsandtea » Tue Feb 22, 2011 5:40 am

Feel free to be as blunt as possible. I'd rather have my PS torn apart here than send in something bad. Also, if you want to quote please PM me or be willing to delete later (I'm applying next cycle, so I don't want copies of my PS floating around for a year before that). Things in brackets have been edited to preserve some semblance of privacy XP Thank you very much!

Water dribbled down the back of my neck and off the tip of my nose. It was six pm and almost dark already, and the rain only made the sky dim faster. “Hi there!” I called out. “Do you have a moment to help fight global warming?” The stranger glanced up, startled, our eyes met, and he shot me a wary look, as if he and I were engaging in some sort of predatory dance. As he blinked, my smile widened--and he darted to the side, carefully maintaining a distance of five feet between us, before disappearing into the shadows of the next building over. There was no “hello,” no “sorry, not interested,” not even an apologetic smile as he passed by.

Two years earlier, such a snub might have made me self-conscious or irritated, but that night I was surprised to find myself easily dismissing the cold shoulder. A lot had changed since I’d first entered college as a shy and quiet 17-year-old, and perhaps the change that had affected me most was my involvement with an activist and lobbying organization on campus, [ORG NAME]. I’d been involved in the organization for almost three years, but this year was my first as Chapter Chair. More importantly, it was also the fall quarter of the 2008 Presidential Election, and on the ballot was a bill that would [BLURB ABOUT BILL].

That year, I spent my spring break planning and participating in a statewide tour to raise support for the proposition, organizing media events in the 8 cities [ACROSS THE STATE] and speaking at press conferences. I sacrificed weekends to sit outside on picnic tables for hours and call people to get them involved, and stayed in the office until almost midnight on weekdays drawing out massive planning calendars on butcher paper and training interns. On campus, I became a well-known face, spending numerous hours waving strangers down and talking to my peers about the issue. All the while, I watched nervously as the polls remained distressingly low, with no sign of rising. The campaign seemed futile. How could we be doing so much and yet changing so little?

At times, this lack of immediate results is the most challenging part of being an activist. It's hard, in the midst of a campaign, to remember that the signatures you gather and the effort you exert, sometimes weeks or months away from the election, actually have an impact on the final results. At times this leads to despair—how can a group of college students influence state policy? But the backbone of a grassroots organization is its members' ability to persevere despite hardship: the ability to brush off the strangers who walk by you without a word; the ability to defy the seemingly impossible in an attempt to create change.

I can still remember the nervousness that pitted in my stomach on election night as we awaited the results. The polls leading up to the election had consistently shown the proposition failing, and every member of [ORG NAME] was tense with worry. For a while, it seemed as though they'd never get to our proposition. Then the news came: by just 1% of the vote, [BILL NAME] had been passed. There was a moment of silence—perhaps we all had needed a moment to realize that it was real—before the cheers of celebration filled the room. As I sat amongst my peers that night and reveled in our success, I realized that our past diligence rode on the collective understanding that careful planning and a lot of time and hard work could transform a group of students into a formidable organization, capable of influencing state law.

For me, the organization did more than just introduce me to the world of grassroots activism: it helped me discover my career goals. Though the world of activism is filled with bright, hard-working individuals, it also has many flaws: disorganization and high turnover rates run rampant through the system, crippling the effectiveness of the programs. Running for elected office (another field that affects the passage of laws) is similarly crippled, by partisan politics and dirty politicians. In the field of law, I see the potential to continue to work on the issues that I care about through litigation and prosecution, or through work with a non-profit, with fewer of the crippling influences that activism and politics face.

Though our campaign ended that election night in 2008, it was certainly not the end of my involvement in [ORG NAME], and certainly not the end of my interest in environmental and public interest issues. If anything, it was the beginning: a small taste of what hard work and effective planning could do to change the world around me. At [X SCHOOL], I hope to blend my experience in activism with the necessary skills of diligence and perseverance in order to continue my success through law school and beyond.

tdottoker
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2008 9:23 am

Re: Honest critique please!

Postby tdottoker » Tue Feb 22, 2011 6:36 am

Overall its good but a few things. The first paragraph it was raining and it seems like you were trying to get the attention of people. Why would anyone stop in the rain to your question? Also the word of the use "even" makes you seem a little overly sensitive that people are not interested in your cause.

The next few paragraphs go on to explain things you did and how the polls resulted. My question is how do you know you contributed to the results? Wheres the proof that you did anything substantial?

Also might reconsider the use of the word sacrifice. Missing out on spring break is small pickings compared to what kind of sacrifice being a lawyer entails.

I think you need to be more specific about your goals. The more specific the better IMO.

Take all this with a grain of salt. I know nothing about personal statements :)

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crumpetsandtea
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Re: Honest critique please!

Postby crumpetsandtea » Tue Feb 22, 2011 6:51 am

tdottoker wrote:Overall its good but a few things. The first paragraph it was raining and it seems like you were trying to get the attention of people. Why would anyone stop in the rain to your question? Also the word of the use "even" makes you seem a little overly sensitive that people are not interested in your cause.

Hahahahahah very good point, but at the time we had to wave people down despite the rain--we didn't have a choice. Is there a way I can better express this so it sounds less like I'm just randomly waving people down for no reason? Also, duly noted that 'even' sounds a little odd. I'll try and tinker with some new words to make it better.

tdottoker wrote:The next few paragraphs go on to explain things you did and how the polls resulted. My question is how do you know you contributed to the results? Wheres the proof that you did anything substantial?

The paragraph regarding the hours I spent on the campaign was meant to illustrate this--perhaps it's not strong enough? I considered putting an average time to help qualify why it would be considered a sacrifice (average of 16 hours over the weekends, 25-30 during the week on top of being a FT student).

Do you think putting the hours I spent would give a better idea of my involvement in the results? For more clarification, I was on the State Executive Board that planned everything. We were the only group working to pass the bill, so it wasn't like there were a bajillion large organizations who also may have contributed to its success. The reason why it was so poignant for me was because it really felt like a public interest org achieving a big win against more powerful special interests (ie big oil, etc).

tdottoker wrote:I think you need to be more specific about your goals. The more specific the better IMO.

Yes, this I've been struggling with a lot. It's oddly hard to articulate it.

tdottoker wrote:Take all this with a grain of salt. I know nothing about personal statements :)

Your advice was awesome, thanks for commenting (:

tdottoker
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Dec 11, 2008 9:23 am

Re: Honest critique please!

Postby tdottoker » Tue Feb 22, 2011 7:17 am

Its hard to critique without any context or even understand of state laws.

Yes, it seems like you spent quite a few hours and time on this. But how do you know you actually attributed to the results? Quantity =/= quality. Again I do not know how propositions are passed, elected officials or votes? Were you the direct cause of X official voting the way they did or x number of votes in your organization voting the way they did? When raising funds for a charity I can spend the whole day in the mall and get one donation of maybe $20.

IMO condense the things you did and write more about the things you learned. More about what makes you unique and what kind of diversity you bring to the student body.

As for the goals I would quickly figure out what you are doing. You want to go to law school for 3 years, go into huge debt (assuming) and then work in a field that is overworked and underpaid? For me it feels like this is grounds to dismiss you and would rather have you think about if law school is really for you.

kublaikahn
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Re: Honest critique please!

Postby kublaikahn » Wed Feb 23, 2011 3:17 pm

edit: removed per OP request.
Last edited by kublaikahn on Wed Feb 23, 2011 11:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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crumpetsandtea
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Re: Honest critique please!

Postby crumpetsandtea » Wed Feb 23, 2011 10:02 pm

kublaikahn wrote:Humble edits.


Hi! Thanks SO MUCH for editing! I'm just curious to the general thoughts you had on this, since you basically took it and re-worded the entire PS without explaining any of your edits. Was it not detailed enough or did it lack narrative? I'll take a look but some of the edits I likely will not pick up (many add false details such as "the crowd roared its approval" and "I sat back on the hotel sofa and smiled"--there was only a group of about 10 people and I was at home, not in a hotel).

Unfortunately, some of the edits merely change the style of writing from my own to someone else's so, again, I'm wondering what specifically I should change (as I would like to keep the PS in my own writing style, lest the adcomms think I paid someone to write it for me :P)

I'm just looking for some guidance so I can add in what you think could improve my PS while still keeping it in my style of writing. I really, really appreciate the amount of time that it must have taken to edit my PS in that manner, but I think giving specific reasons for why you changed certain words/added words/chose different syntactical structures would help me A LOT more <3

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powerlawyer06
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Re: Honest critique please!

Postby powerlawyer06 » Wed Feb 23, 2011 10:17 pm

Your personal statement was pretty good.

The Good:

You described an awesome work/leadership experience.
You related it back to law and your future goals.
You write very well - You aren't over overly bombastic, but you are descriptive and I hear your voice in this.

The Bad:

I don't think it tells me enough about you. Can you tell this same story but add more details about how you matured and became a better person thoughout the process.

Please don't say you had come along way from being a shy freshman. I know it's true but it is over used. Everyone was a shy freshman.

At the end I am wondering if you really got across all of your strengths and accomplishments. I am not saying to write out your resume but you spent the entire PS on one experience. I suspect there may be more to why you are a qualified candidate.

Those are just my thoughts. Nice PS though. Good luck.

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crumpetsandtea
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Re: Honest critique please!

Postby crumpetsandtea » Wed Feb 23, 2011 10:45 pm

powerlawyer06 wrote:Your personal statement was pretty good.

The Good:

You described an awesome work/leadership experience.
You related it back to law and your future goals.
You write very well - You aren't over overly bombastic, but you are descriptive and I hear your voice in this.

The Bad:

I don't think it tells me enough about you. Can you tell this same story but add more details about how you matured and became a better person throughout the process.

Please don't say you had come along way from being a shy freshman. I know it's true but it is over used. Everyone was a shy freshman.

At the end I am wondering if you really got across all of your strengths and accomplishments. I am not saying to write out your resume but you spent the entire PS on one experience. I suspect there may be more to why you are a qualified candidate.

Those are just my thoughts. Nice PS though. Good luck.


Thanks x 1,000,000 for the review!!

Hahahah I'll change the freshman bit, it is pretty generic. I'm curious as to what you think I could expand on to make this more personal or more comprehensive--I know you know zilch about what I've done, but just regarding what you've read. My original drafts of the PS covered much more of what I did, but people kept telling me I was fitting too much into too little space, and as a result I wasn't doing any of the things I talked about justice.

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powerlawyer06
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Re: Honest critique please!

Postby powerlawyer06 » Thu Feb 24, 2011 12:31 am

crumpetsandtea wrote:
powerlawyer06 wrote:Your personal statement was pretty good.

The Good:

You described an awesome work/leadership experience.
You related it back to law and your future goals.
You write very well - You aren't over overly bombastic, but you are descriptive and I hear your voice in this.

The Bad:

I don't think it tells me enough about you. Can you tell this same story but add more details about how you matured and became a better person throughout the process.

Please don't say you had come along way from being a shy freshman. I know it's true but it is over used. Everyone was a shy freshman.

At the end I am wondering if you really got across all of your strengths and accomplishments. I am not saying to write out your resume but you spent the entire PS on one experience. I suspect there may be more to why you are a qualified candidate.

Those are just my thoughts. Nice PS though. Good luck.


Thanks x 1,000,000 for the review!!

Hahahah I'll change the freshman bit, it is pretty generic. I'm curious as to what you think I could expand on to make this more personal or more comprehensive--I know you know zilch about what I've done, but just regarding what you've read. My original drafts of the PS covered much more of what I did, but people kept telling me I was fitting too much into too little space, and as a result I wasn't doing any of the things I talked about justice.


Well the advice you were getting from people was correct. You don't want to ramble or just list off your experiences. The PS should tell a story but at the end the reader should feel like they know you very well. I will admit it has to be a delicately balanced. You will know when you have it just right. I am just letting you know that when I read this I don't feel like I know that much about you besides you worked on a political campaign. Sometimes you can weave in more of your accomplishments or ideas by intertwining more than one story or theme (I know that sounds risky but I have seen it done masterfully).

Don't add more details about the campaign. If anything there is too much detail about that now. Add more details about who you are as a person, or what your background is, or what your greatest strengths are. You can add those details inside of the story you are already telling. Just remember, the person reading this has no idea who you are. You want them to identify with you by the end of the statement.

I hope any of that helps. Good luck!




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