2nd Draft

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2nd Draft

Postby memphisbelle » Mon May 09, 2011 3:08 pm

Hi Guys,

Here is the second draft. I included alot of the edits from PK and Kub, so thank you guys for taking the time to do that.

My main concerns at this point are:

1) Does it sound more positive and hopeful/less nut-tastic?
2) Have I waited too long to bring the theme back at the end? I'm going for consistent but not overstated. I'm not sure that I'm there yet.
3) I think it is overall more cohesive, but I do have a tendancy to drift.
4) Does the narrative suffer if I don't add anything about coming back to save my family? Financially, it's just not possible yet. I can't provide my family a place to live or tuition for my sister. I can barely hold down those things for myself. I do appreciate the point though, that it makes the story seem a little disingenuous. Should I elaborate on that or would it bring me down again?

One of the primary rules of safety aboard an aircraft is to secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others. In a disaster situation, you are only as good as the benefit that you can offer the whole. Fail to protect yourself and you are no longer able to contribute to the group. Early in life, my instinct was to look out for others’ welfare to my own detriment. My experience with my troubled family has taught me to "secure my own mask first."

My father tormented my mother, sister, and me. My mother lived in the haze of depression that comes from living with an abusive, controlling, and cheating husband. Even as a young child, as the older sister and the strongest in my family, I took on the role of caretaker and protector. I loved my mother and my baby sister so I ceded my own needs to comfort and take care of them. My father constantly threatened to leave us with nothing. Often, I hoped that he would do it already so that we could move on. To him, money was power and although his physical presence waned over the years, he used money to control us. We didn’t know one day to the next if we would have food on the table. My mother and sister relied on me to be strong in the face of uncertainty and fear. To project this strength, I put aside my own need to be comforted and instead became stoic and numb. When every good thing given could so easily be taken away, what was the point in becoming attached? I lost hope. If I could not help myself, how could I help them?

There is never one cause responsible for an aircraft accident. A series of small errors, which alone would not cause a problem, when combined can lead to catastrophe. In life, as in aviation, small concessions and acceptances accumulate until there is nothing left to cede. When my family needed me, I gave in. I sacrificed my studies and good jobs to be there to pick up the pieces. Bit by bit, I gave everything until I had nothing to give. I had no job, no education, and no options.

I knew I had to distance myself from my family, but I had no idea how to do it. I worked day and night just to gather money to leave, but it ended up spent on a bill here or a dinner there when my father had not sent money to care for my mother and sister. Each time, I thought if I just worked harder or took on one more job, I could make it work. After several years of futile effort, I realized that I was in an endless cycle. The more I gave, the more he took away. I had no control over the situation, and I wouldn’t as long as I remained in it. It was time to go. Just as negative results are created from accumulated negative actions, positive results can be built from small, consistent, and constructive actions. When I finally left, I had nothing save a fourteen year old car, a job offer, and the hope of a better life. For the first time in my life, I decided to put my mask on first.

It was difficult in many ways to distance myself from my family. Initially, I felt that I was abandoning them. I felt guilty. Despite this, I remained positive that once I improved my own situation, I could help them. I took the job offer with an airline and delved into my work. Over the past five years, I’ve advanced quickly within the company. I’ve received several merit raises and promotions. Step by step, I’ve built a home and a family for myself. Once I achieved stability, I returned to college. Over the past three years, I have been able to complete my degree while working full time. I will graduate with honors in the spring. These actions have built a solid base for me continue with my educational goals. Only through education and experience can one become truly able to assist others.

There are many routes available in life and I must admit that I’ve chosen a long one. It’s easy to stray from your course and infinitely harder to find your way back. I wouldn’t trade my experiences because they have made me stronger. Strength is built from knowing weakness and overcoming it. Challenges serve to remind you of your mission and to test your dedication. I have risen to meet my past challenges. I seek to become stronger through continuing my education and meeting the challenges of a legal education.

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Re: 2nd Draft

Postby kublaikahn » Mon May 09, 2011 7:12 pm

Last edited by kublaikahn on Tue May 17, 2011 12:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 2nd Draft

Postby curiouscat » Mon May 09, 2011 8:02 pm

I do think there's more cohesion in this version, and I like the emphasis on hope and possibility you've got there. My two cents for some improvements:

- The writing is generally good but very trite and cliche in some parts. You want to make sure you're describing your situation in a way that is vivid and fresh, but recycled phrases like "we didn't know if we'd have food on the table" or "step by step, I built a new home" are so hackneyed and overused that they make even the most moving experiences seem bland. One way to de-cliche you PS - infuse your description with concrete details and, when you can, some wisely chosen anecdotes. Go through the PS and identify all the platitudes, the vague generalities, the trite phrasing (rule of thumb: Google it, see how many hits the exact phrase gets) - then think about what you're really trying to say, and ground that message in concrete, specific experience. You've got some unique experiences and you need to draw on the uniqueness - cut the cliches and make it real. :)

- Other posters pointed it out with your first draft and I think it's still a valid critique - you haven't persuaded your reader that you would make a good lawyer. You've made a few connections between your experiences and your educational goals/desire to help others, but when I finished read the PS I was still thinking, "Yeah, but why law?" The "legal education" bit at the end seems more like an afterthought than anything else. If you want to argue that your experiences with your family motivated you, one way or another, to study law, you probably have a great case to make, but you need to make that connection a little more clear. Why did you decide to study law? What's the connection between the experiences you talk about and your desire to be a lawyer? How will your experiences shape the kind of lawyer/law student you're going to be? Your reader needs to walk away with at least a general answer to these kinds of questions.

- As for your question re: mentioning coming back to your family, I don't think there's going to be a problem if you leave that out. Your tone at the end is optimistic, yet realistic, so it feels like your leaving things open - I didn't sense any gap or any need for additional explanation on that.

- I like the aviation metaphor (it's kind of quirky), but I'm not 100% if the pieces always fit. E.g. "In life, as in aviation, small concessions and acceptances accumulate until there is nothing left to cede" - you're comparing about two situations that really different (I actually typed at first "two cases that differ in a critical way" - not a good sign :? ), so the analogy seems a little out of place there.

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Re: 2nd Draft

Postby Magnolia » Mon May 09, 2011 8:27 pm

I didn't read your first draft, so my comments are solely in response to this one.

The beginning gives me decent insight into your background and who you are, but the conclusion is extremely disappointing. By the time you got to the paragraph where you mentioned your job, school, etc. I felt like I was reading a narrative version of your resume combined with a GPA addendum. I would be way more interested in hearing how your background has influenced your way of thinking or how you approach things, than what you have accomplished since then. That's not to diminish your accomplishments in any way, but the adcomms will know that you worked, got promotions and went to school. Don't waste the rest of your PS repeating those things. What is your relationship with your family now? How do your caretaker instincts influence other aspects of your life? I have a pretty clear idea of who you were as a child, but all I know about you as an adult are your scholastic achievements.

Also, you reference sacrifices that you made several times in the second paragraph. Not only is it telling instead of showing, but IMO, it feels disingenuous and comes off as you trying to play the victim card, which I doubt is your intention. You don't need to explicitly state (and certainly not repeatedly) that you gave up a lot for your family. That comes through clearly in the rest of the narrative.

Overall, my biggest issue is that you've tried to wrap up a very messy story into a very clean, neat ending, and that makes it feel disjointed and disingenuous. The last paragraph reads like one big cliche. Clearly you've overcome your background to the extent that you can be successful in spite of it, but I don't believe that everything is all dandy now. I think it's good to discuss how the experience has made you stronger and to end on an upbeat note, but don't feel compelled to put a pretty bow on everything when it isn't true. If you're going to discuss what you've learned and the perspective you've gained, it needs to be more incorporated into the story, instead of in one final, forced paragraph. Embrace the ambiguities, the loose ends, and the unfinished nature of the situation. That will help tremendously with believability.

Also, if you're going to connect your story to your desire to be a lawyer, then you need to introduce that idea before the last sentence. As it is now, it sounds like an afterthought. If you can't find a way to weave it into the story, then just don't mention it.

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Re: 2nd Draft

Postby memphisbelle » Mon May 09, 2011 9:55 pm

Arrg! Well, I'm glad I started early. Kub, I actually felt the same way...it feels weaker now. I wasn't sure if it was just me. I suppose that is the purpose of these things, to make you truly reflect on your life.

Rip it apart, guys. I need to know the weaknesses in my writing so that I can correct them. Got so far: Passive voice, stream of conciousness mess, and cliches. :)



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Re: 2nd Draft

Postby TBizi » Tue May 10, 2011 12:31 am

MemphisBelle, feel free to PM me. I put my law school aspirations on hold while writing my personal statement. I created a website that facilitates this feedback process that I found so broken.

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Re: 2nd Draft

Postby vanwinkle » Thu May 12, 2011 4:16 am

TBizi wrote:MemphisBelle, feel free to PM me. I put my law school aspirations on hold while writing my personal statement. I created a website that facilitates this feedback process that I found so broken.


I do not take kindly to spammers.

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Re: 2nd Draft

Postby LSATclincher » Sat Jun 04, 2011 4:38 pm

I didn't read your concerns, but here is my opinion. I thought the mask quote was a bit corny. I thought para 2 was too depressing. Briefly mention the bad times in your life with a few powerful sentences, then move on to leave the rest of the essay for how you bounced back. The story, overall, is too dark. I totally understand your message, and frankly, I think the piece was very mature and adcomms will admire you. But you need to tell a bit more about how you overcame your past with some more up-beat success stories. Briefly discuss the bad past, then tell how you bounced back, then tell how your story will carry you into the future. I think this is a can't fail theme for a law school PS.

Also, in the conclusion para, forget mentioning the law school stuff in the last sentence. It was very random. Conclude on a more general note. For example, "My background has provided me with a moral foundation that will carry me through any obstacles I may encounter in the future...."

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