First-time poster looking for feedback on PS

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
kenzembo1
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Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 1:57 pm

First-time poster looking for feedback on PS

Postby kenzembo1 » Wed Mar 30, 2011 2:56 pm

Hi! I'm a long-time lurker, first-time poster looking for feedback on my personal statement (posted below). After a rough first year of school, I graduated with a sub-par GPA (3.10), majoring in Business Administration and minoring in Political Science. I took the February LSAT and did very average, although I'm planning to re-take in June and/or October with the hopes of getting into a good Public Interest law school (CUNY, Northeastern, etc.) next cycle. Since my numbers aren't anything special, I realize the need to have good "softs", my personal statement being one of them. That being said, I appreciate any constructive criticism you're willing to provide. It currently sits at 2 1/2 pages (double-spaced, size 12 font). I tried to be as concise as possible without sacrificing key elements of my narrative, which is one based on adversity. Thanks for reading!

"Rediscovering Optimism"

Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” These inspirational words articulated by Keller helped me reconcile with my misfortunes and ultimately lead me in my path toward law school.

My mother was forty-seven years old when she died on May 15, 2004. She had breast cancer, a disease that had plagued her for what seemed like my entire life. She battled the disease twice before, once when I was six years old and again, when I was eleven. Each time she fought with fierce tenacity and her relentlessness was a source of inspiration for my younger sister and I and all of those around us. My mother was hands down the toughest person I knew and when it was known that the cancer had come back a third time I was scared, but confident. Little did I know, by the time it was discovered, it had already metastasized to her liver and brain, leaving nothing but fear for the inevitable. It was only a matter of time before I lost one of the most important people in my life, and perhaps my greatest hero.

With my mom gone and my parents legally separated, I was now (literally) the man of the house. At seventeen, I found myself thrust into a world full of newfound responsibilities and independence. In a few weeks I would be graduating high school, starting my first semester of college, and yet I was still very much grieving the loss of my mother while struggling to come to terms with the fact that she wouldn’t be there to see me take that next step. Despite grief counseling services and a support group full of my closest friends and family, depression was quick to set in and consume what little optimism I had intact.

My first year of school was marred by disappointment. I seemed content with mediocrity and was still depressed, unmotivated, and cynical towards the future. To escape my dark reality, I took to reading and read for hours a day, often about the distress of others to distract me from my own. I felt defeated, like my mother did during the last few weeks of her life, and sought refuge in literary works and stories of various authors and public figures including: Anne Frank, Lincoln, Voltaire, Shakespeare and many others. That’s when I discovered Keller. It was obvious my depression had temporarily blinded me, shielding me from my own ambitions. I knew I had to make a drastic change if I was going to set a good example for my sister and be the man I had always desired. I stumbled on one of Keller’s earlier essays entitled, “Optimism”, written when she was only twenty-five years old and it completely changed my perspective on life. If Keller could reconcile with her life-altering disabilities and find happiness, surely I could find a way to make peace with the loss of my mother and break my state of depression.

I decided it was time to stop feeling sorry for myself. I knew that if change were to come, I would have to initiate the first move. I started taking a more proactive role at school and enlisted in a multitude of student-led organizations. When confronted with the prospect of leadership, I rose to the occasion and it wasn’t long before I found myself presiding over some of the most prominent groups on campus. My involvement in the community began to grow as well. I collaborated with several progressive non-profit organizations to work on service projects that would help advance public interests and promote revitalization. At that point I knew my confidence had been restored, my optimism rediscovered, and there was no turning back.

There’s no doubt Keller’s words had a profound impact on my life. For me, her essay was much more than purely inspirational and would prove to be a true exercise in self-invention. As I look forward, I envision embracing a career in the field of law fueled by my passion for advocacy and devotion to the interests of the public. If my experience has taught me anything, it’s that the barriers in life are significantly more fragile than they first appear and can be easily brought down with a strong desire to change. There are still many obstacles standing in the way of social justice and human needs, but my faith in myself and others is unwavering. I’ve never been more encouraged, inspired, and optimistic about what lies ahead.

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loblaw
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Re: First-time poster looking for feedback on PS

Postby loblaw » Wed Mar 30, 2011 3:50 pm

I felt defeated, like my mother did during the last few weeks of her life,


DON'T WRITE THAT It makes the reader feel uncomfortable.

My first year of school was marred by disappointment. I seemed content with mediocrity and was still depressed, unmotivated, and cynical towards the future.


Are you simultaneously trying to explain a GPA trend?

It was obvious my depression had temporarily blinded me


Poor choice of metaphor to use after discussing Keller.

I think you have a good theme but needs some work/refocusing. I really need to know a lot more about you.

How were you "the man of the house?" Are you taking care of your sister at this time? There is a link missing.

I would skip the long discussion of depression and reading and spend more time talking about how despite your sadness at your mother's passing, you found that channeling your energy to organizations and community helped you refocus and find a way back to optimism at a pivotal time in your life. If you still want to use the Keller quote, I would work it into that discussion rather than leading the essay with it (starting with quotes is super-trite to adcomms). We need to see a stronger link to transition from your community work to your interest in PI. Can you zero-in on some of your leadership experience? Give us some specifics about one that gives us a good idea of why you are a good leader, why you'd be a good lawyer, and why you want PI.

I like the theme of rising above adversity, but if I were an adcomm, I would want you to tell me more about why you're going to be a good lawyer, and I want to see a stronger link between your interests and PI. Also 4th paragraph can be cut to a few sentences while 5th needs a lot more fleshing out. You've got some nice ideas in here--good luck!

83947368
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Re: First-time poster looking for feedback on PS

Postby 83947368 » Wed Mar 30, 2011 11:23 pm

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Last edited by 83947368 on Wed Jul 25, 2012 4:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

kenzembo1
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Re: First-time poster looking for feedback on PS

Postby kenzembo1 » Thu Mar 31, 2011 12:49 am

DON'T WRITE THAT It makes the reader feel uncomfortable.

Good point. I was trying to keep up with the theme and paint a picture to illustrate how depressed I truly was at the time, but in retrospect I could totally understand how it might make some feel uncomfortable. I'll try to rework the sentence (or omit it completely) using a different angle.

Are you simultaneously trying to explain a GPA trend?

Yes. I did this largely in part because the admissions committee will see a trend of poor performance my first year (going into the second) when viewing my transcripts and will probably wonder what it was that made my last two (and a half) years successful.

Poor choice of metaphor to use after discussing Keller.

To be honest, that was actually why I used the metaphor. It obviously wasn't meant to be taken literally, but I thought it was a clever way to draw more of a parallel between Keller and I. Do you think it's inappropriate or offensive? If so, I'll remove it.

How were you "the man of the house?" Are you taking care of your sister at this time? There is a link missing.

You're absolutely right. I was hoping the language implied that but perhaps I need more clarification.

Can you zero-in on some of your leadership experience? Give us some specifics about one that gives us a good idea of why you are a good leader, why you'd be a good lawyer, and why you want PI.

That's definitely possible and I would be happy to elaborate further. I think I was overly concerned with being as concise as possible and was fearful that doing so would simply be a restatement of the content already included in my resume. Some of the leadership positions I've held at school that helped push me towards a legal education are my position as Parliamentarian of the Student Government Administration (basically the lawyer of SGA lol), and maybe my experience as VP of Model UN (which provided me with some of my first debate experience and yielded some recognition). I also served as President of the College Democrats, where we helped organize various service projects (in collaboration with my College Republican friends) in the off-years when there wasn't an imminent election. I interned with the Ohio Secretary of State as well, but don't know if that's particularly relevant. What are your thoughts on including my political experience (volunteerism with College Dems among other things) on my resume or in my statement...is that an automatic 'no'?

I like the theme of rising above adversity, but if I were an adcomm, I would want you to tell me more about why you're going to be a good lawyer, and I want to see a stronger link between your interests and PI.

There are a lot of other things I could write about, but I feel that nothing has affected me as strongly as my mother's death. I'm really proud of my mother and I want that to shine through in my writing. One of the things I wanted to mention but felt it wasn't in-line with the theme I was going with was the fact that my mom worked as a phlebotomist (a technician trained to draw blood) and that during the holidays (especially on Christmas) we would make and deliver hand-made ornaments to terminally ill patients who couldn't be home for the holiday. We would do this early in the morning, even before we opened our presents as an exercise in patience and to remind us of how lucky we were. I think I've always been a compassionate person and my experiences in college helped cement my ambitions to enter into public service law.

Thanks for your critique, I really appreciate the helpful advice!

kenzembo1
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Re: First-time poster looking for feedback on PS

Postby kenzembo1 » Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:14 am

Adm.Doppleganger wrote:Don't, don't, don't, don't, don't start off with a quote. As the previous poster said it's "trite". I think sitting in a room reading through thousands of PSs and recognizing that a sizable fraction of them start off with a quote along those lines it would be completely sigh-rendering, which qualifies as getting off on the wrong foot.

You ever see the Girl Next Door? Everyone starts their essay/speech with a JFK quote. But it's Helen Keller, I know, I know.

Now the content was nice. I found myself thinking this was a well thought out first few paragraphs. I say first few paragraphs because the pretentious wordage made me give up early. The words "articulated... reconcile... misfortunes... ultimately..." all crammed into one small sentence made me wonder and "plagued... tenacity... relentless..." made me stop. I'm being a little harsh but that's what you need to turn this PS from decent to really good.

Adcomms will probably think as I did, people don't talk like this and wonder what you are trying to prove. Make your "perhaps"'s maybes, get rid of the quote and I think the value of this PS will greatly improve.


Haha I get it, I'll remove the introductory quote. Do you think it's worthy of being included later in my statement? I think the quote is strong, which is why I used it in the introduction. Keller is a strong and very recognizable role model who helped influence me in ways no one else could. One of the things a lot of people probably don't know about Keller is that she was a socialist and a strong advocate for social reform. I'm not a socialist but her reputation for activism, campaigning for leftist causes like women's suffrage and worker's rights might appeal to adcomms at schools with PI concentrations, as they look for students who are motivated to make change. Perhaps I could delve into this in my statement- thoughts?

I respect your criticism but I don't feel the language used was overtly pretentious. I definitely don't want it to come off that way. Maybe I can clean up some of the verbiage to make it sound a little less inflated. I don't have anything to prove beyond the qualities that make me an excellent candidate for a JD with a focus on public interest.

I really appreciate your response and look forward to your reply.

83947368
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Re: First-time poster looking for feedback on PS

Postby 83947368 » Thu Mar 31, 2011 11:58 am

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Last edited by 83947368 on Wed Jul 25, 2012 4:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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loblaw
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Re: First-time poster looking for feedback on PS

Postby loblaw » Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:48 pm

No problem--I used this forum for my own PS and got some really great tips. I am going to go ahead and disagree with some of the comments above though. A lot of essays up here contain terribly inflated language, and I do not think yours is one of them. It reads clean and I think your word choices keep it concise.

I see what you were doing with the "blind" metaphor. I just think the wrong person reading it could find it in poor taste, and offending an adcomm can be the kiss of death.

Very best of luck! Feel free to PM me if you need another cold read closer to when you apply.

bmore
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Re: First-time poster looking for feedback on PS

Postby bmore » Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:58 pm

Overall I really like this. Get rid of the quote. Make some of the long sentences less wordy and keep them to one thought. Not everything in each sentence follows well. For ex. you said you settled for mediocraty, but you were also disappointed. To me you can only be one or the other. Good luck!!

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Tanicius
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Re: First-time poster looking for feedback on PS

Postby Tanicius » Thu Mar 31, 2011 2:20 pm

kenzembo1 wrote:Hi! I'm a long-time lurker, first-time poster looking for feedback on my personal statement (posted below). After a rough first year of school, I graduated with a sub-par GPA (3.10), majoring in Business Administration and minoring in Political Science. I took the February LSAT and did very average, although I'm planning to re-take in June and/or October with the hopes of getting into a good Public Interest law school (CUNY, Northeastern, etc.) next cycle. Since my numbers aren't anything special, I realize the need to have good "softs", my personal statement being one of them. That being said, I appreciate any constructive criticism you're willing to provide. It currently sits at 2 1/2 pages (double-spaced, size 12 font). I tried to be as concise as possible without sacrificing key elements of my narrative, which is one based on adversity. Thanks for reading!


Hi, I'm Tanicius and I'll be reviewing your personal statement today. 8)


"Rediscovering Optimism"

Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” These inspirational words articulated by Keller helped me reconcile with my misfortunes and ultimately lead me in my path toward law school.


I don't really believe you here. What I mean is, I doubt you were having a hard time and then read these words and became inspired to feel better. Additionally, the famous quotes isn't typically a successful way to begin a PS. All this tells the reader is that you didn't know how to start your PS, so you plugged in a quote.

Now, on the other hand, what's good about this quote is that it shows you have a theme in mind. Erase the paragraph, but keep that quote's relevance in the back of your head.


My mother was forty-seven years old when she died on May 15, 2004. She had breast cancer, a disease that had plagued her for what seemed like my entire life. She battled the disease twice before, once when I was six years old and again, when I was eleven. Each time she fought with fierce tenacity and her relentlessness was a source of inspiration for my younger sister and I and all of those around us. My mother was hands down the toughest person I knew and when it was known that the cancer had come back a third time I was scared, but confident. Little did I know, by the time it was discovered, it had already metastasized to her liver and brain, leaving nothing but fear for the inevitable. It was only a matter of time before I lost one of the most important people in my life, and perhaps my greatest hero.


That is in itself a fine beginning to your personal statement.

For this paragraph, I'm going to slice some stuff off that isn't necessary:

With my mom gone and my parents legally separated, I was now (literally) the man of the house. At seventeen, I found myselfthrust into a world full of newfound responsibilities and independence. In a few weeks I would be graduating high school, starting my first semester of college, and yet I was still very much grieving the loss of my mother while struggling to come to terms with the fact that she wouldn’t be there to see me take that next step. Despite grief counseling services and a support group full of my closest friends and family, depression was quick to set in and consume what little optimism I had intact.


What I tried to do was remove anything that puts us at a helicopter's view of your life. We don't want that. We want the camera angle to be your own eyes. This is about to become a big problem for your essay in the next paragraph.

My first year of school was marred by disappointment. I seemed content with mediocrity and was still depressed, unmotivated, and cynical towards the future.


There's nothing here that actually paints a picture of anything. Instead you've given us instructions for making a painting. "Make it depressing. Paint somebody that's unmotivated and cynical." It's not the reader's job to be the painter, though. That's your job. There are lots of ways for someone to act depressed and feel unmotivated and cynical. What did you actually do in your life that demonstrated this stuff? You can tell us that you were unmotivated and cynical without using those words, just like a painter can make a painting of something depressing without leaving sticky notes on each part of the image saying, "This is where the painting is supposed to feel depressing." As readers, we can put two and two together.

To escape my dark reality, I took to reading and read for hours a day, often about the distress of others to distract me from my own.


This is better. It's an actual action that tells us about you.

I felt defeated, like my mother did during the last few weeks of her life, and sought refuge in literary works and stories of various authors and public figures including: Anne Frank, Lincoln, Voltaire, Shakespeare and many others.


This kind of line is very common in a lot of personal statements - the list of recognizable authors I mean. I know I've read more than a handful of essays with a line about "I took to reading. Author X, Author Y, Author Z... they were my refuge." Not helpful.

That’s when I discovered Keller. It was obvious my depression had temporarily blinded me, shielding me from my own ambitions. I knew I had to make a drastic change if I was going to set a good example for my sister and be the man I had always desired. I stumbled on one of Keller’s earlier essays entitled, “Optimism”, written when she was only twenty-five years old and it completely changed my perspective on life. If Keller could reconcile with her life-altering disabilities and find happiness, surely I could find a way to make peace with the loss of my mother and break my state of depression.


It's actually okay if you talk about Helen Keller here without introducing the essay with her. You could even write that quote that especially affected you, as long as it's here and not up above at the beginning.


I decided it was time to stop feeling sorry for myself. I knew that if change were to come, I would have to initiate the first move. I started taking a more proactive role at school and enlisted in a multitude of student-led organizations.


When confronted with the prospect of leadership, I rose to the occasion and it wasn’t long before I found myself presiding over some of the most prominent groups on campus.


This is another painting instruction, not a painting. We want an actual story about your path to success in a specific group, not an unproved statement about involvement.

My involvement in the community began to grow as well. I collaborated with several progressive non-profit organizations to work on service projects that would help advance public interests and promote revitalization.


Describe one of these and what you did. This is absolutely necessary if you want us to buy into the idea that you turned around.

At that point I knew my confidence had been restored, my optimism rediscovered, and there was no turning back.


There’s no doubt Keller’s words had a profound impact on my life. For me, her essay was much more than purely inspirational and would prove to be a true exercise in self-invention. As I look forward, I envision embracing a career in the field of law fueled by my passion for advocacy and devotion to the interests of the public.


The problem is that right now we have no idea what your passion or devotion looks like or what areas you're even specifically interested in. Even if you said what all of those are right here, we would have no reason to believe you because you didn't color anything in during the meat of the essay.

If my experience has taught me anything, it’s that the[B]arriers in life are significantly more fragile than they first appear and can be easily brought down with a strong desire to change. There are still many obstacles standing in the way of social justice and human needs, but my faith in myself and others is unwavering. I’ve never been more encouraged, inspired, and optimistic about what lies ahead.


We don't need a "my experience taught me that ____" line. We can connect the dots when you simply say what it is you've learned without telling us you learned it.

kublaikahn
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Re: First-time poster looking for feedback on PS

Postby kublaikahn » Thu Mar 31, 2011 3:41 pm

kenzembo1 wrote:
"Rediscovering Optimism" [Lose the title]

I read Hellen Keller's words and immediately thought of my mother. Helen Keller once said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Keller's words provided the catalyst to overcome my grief, the impetus to rediscover my dreams and my strength, and the inspiration that would ultimately lead me to law school. These inspirational words articulated by Keller helped me reconcile with my misfortunes and ultimately lead me in my path toward law school.



FTFY. Now you can keep the quote.

kublaikahn
Posts: 647
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Re: First-time poster looking for feedback on PS

Postby kublaikahn » Thu Mar 31, 2011 6:06 pm

My mother was forty-seven years old when she died on May 15, 2004. She had breast cancer returned once more ,a disease that had plagued her for what seemed like my entire life. She battled the disease for most of my life forcing it into remission twice before , once when I was six years old and again, when I was eleven. Each time she inspired me with her fought with fierce tenacity and her relentlessness was a source of inspiration for my younger sister and I and all of those around us. I was convinced my mother was hands down the toughest person I knew and when it was known that the cancer had come back returned a third time I was scared, but confident. Little did I know However, by the time it was discovered, it had already metastasized to her liver and brain, leaving nothing but fear for the inevitable. It was only a matter of time before When she finally succumbed, I lost one of the most important people person in my life, and perhaps my greatest hero.

I held her hand as she spoke to me for the last time. She told me, at seventeen, I had the strength to thrive and to take care of my sister. She did her best to convince me, but I did not really believe her. After she passed, with my parents long since separated, the primary duties fell to me. With my mom gone and my parents legally separated, I was now (literally) the man of the house. At seventeen, I found myself thrust into a world full of newfound responsibilities and independence. In a few weeks I would be graduating high school, starting my first semester of college, and yet I was still very much grieving the loss of my mother while struggling yet to come to terms with the fact that she wouldn’t be there to see me take that next step as she always had been. Despite grief counseling services and a support group full of my closest friends and family, depression eroded was quick to set in and consume what little optimism and confidence I had intact.

kenzembo1
Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Mar 30, 2011 1:57 pm

Re: First-time poster looking for feedback on PS

Postby kenzembo1 » Sat Apr 02, 2011 12:07 am

Thank you all very much! I really appreciate the helpful advice you've given me. I'll hopefully have more time to critique my statement next week and will post an updated version as soon as I do so.

I also plan on sending the bulk of you PM's for additional guidance (unless anyone here has any objections).

Again, thank you!




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