Personal statement - length

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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boalthopeful
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Personal statement - length

Postby boalthopeful » Wed Jun 08, 2011 2:40 pm

I can't cut mine down to 2 pages....it's at 12 point font and 1'' margins. When it's a 2 page limit, is decreasing the font size or margins ok? Or is 2.5 pages allowable? What should the word count be?

Thanks! :)

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memphisbelle
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Re: Personal statement - length

Postby memphisbelle » Wed Jun 08, 2011 2:52 pm

I think the general consensus is not to exceed page limits for any reason. You want to keep the font big enough to read easily and keep the margins professional looking, obviously. Check the school's requirements to see if they have any font/size instructions.

Cailg
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Re: Personal statement - length

Postby Cailg » Wed Jun 08, 2011 4:54 pm

I had a similar dilemma last fall. I read the alarmist accounts on this site of how we must avoid exceeding length limits at all costs. More than one person even suggested that admissions officers automatically rejected individuals who "did not know how to follow instructions". I strongly considered that for so many people to make such bold pronouncements, they must know what they are talking about. Ultimately, though, I relied on my own common sense. Do you really think an admissions officer is going to look at a 2.5 page personal statement and exclude its writer because he/she exceeded the length limit by half a page? This isn't elementary school, so they will not think you "cannot follow directions". They will think you chose not to because you felt you had a good reason for doing so. Although I experienced similar results with other schools, I will offer the example of Penn. Penn employs one of the more strict length requirements. For the personal statement, their ap says something to the effect of "please do not exceed two pages double spaced". For their optional statements, they ask that we "please do not exceed one page double spaced". My personal statement was 4 pages, my diversity statement was 2 pages, and my "why Penn" was 2 pages. My numbers are right around Penn's medians and I applied in January. I was accepted. I was held and then waitlisted at Columbia despite exceeding their 2-page length limit and having numbers at or slightly below their medians. I was accepted at NYU with the same lengthy essays, but they don't have a length limit. In no instance did exceeding length limits hurt me. You would be well advised to view them as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules.

Cailg
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Re: Personal statement - length

Postby Cailg » Wed Jun 08, 2011 5:31 pm

After looking over it again, I see that I actually cut my personal statement down to a little over 3 pages. Same idea applies though.

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boalthopeful
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Re: Personal statement - length

Postby boalthopeful » Wed Jun 08, 2011 5:35 pm

very helpful. since i'm taking the lsat in october and applying this year, i'm trying to perfect my PS now so your advice is greatly appreciated!

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JordynAsh
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Re: Personal statement - length

Postby JordynAsh » Wed Jun 08, 2011 5:46 pm

Cailg wrote:I had a similar dilemma last fall. I read the alarmist accounts on this site of how we must avoid exceeding length limits at all costs. More than one person even suggested that admissions officers automatically rejected individuals who "did not know how to follow instructions". I strongly considered that for so many people to make such bold pronouncements, they must know what they are talking about. Ultimately, though, I relied on my own common sense. Do you really think an admissions officer is going to look at a 2.5 page personal statement and exclude its writer because he/she exceeded the length limit by half a page? This isn't elementary school, so they will not think you "cannot follow directions". They will think you chose not to because you felt you had a good reason for doing so. Although I experienced similar results with other schools, I will offer the example of Penn. Penn employs one of the more strict length requirements. For the personal statement, their ap says something to the effect of "please do not exceed two pages double spaced". For their optional statements, they ask that we "please do not exceed one page double spaced". My personal statement was 4 pages, my diversity statement was 2 pages, and my "why Penn" was 2 pages. My numbers are right around Penn's medians and I applied in January. I was accepted. I was held and then waitlisted at Columbia despite exceeding their 2-page length limit and having numbers at or slightly below their medians. I was accepted at NYU with the same lengthy essays, but they don't have a length limit. In no instance did exceeding length limits hurt me. You would be well advised to view them as guidelines rather than hard and fast rules.


tl;dr. Not shocked you had trouble cutting your PS to the required length.

OP, regardless of whether exceeding the page limit hurts you, the bigger point is that you CAN cut it to two pages, and your PS will be all the better for it. If you'd like suggestions on what/how to cut, post it or PM me.

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boalthopeful
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Re: Personal statement - length

Postby boalthopeful » Wed Jun 08, 2011 6:31 pm

thanks, if you're willing, i'll pm it to you. much appreciated!!!

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memphisbelle
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Re: Personal statement - length

Postby memphisbelle » Wed Jun 08, 2011 7:06 pm

I'd be willing to look as well if you want to PM me. I'd be careful taking advice to exceed the page limits. The reason is that if your PS is succinct and well written, you should be able to demonstrate your point within the allotted page limit. While artistic ability and creative license are important, you are writing this for the school and the adcomms, not just yourself. It seems only right to adhere to their guidelines. Also, you don't know what others' numbers were. Perhaps they were over both 75ths and were pretty much auto admits anyway. Granted, I don't know if that is the case for the other poster or not. Since I am a lowly 0L myself, I can't claim expert knowledge on this. It's just my two cents. :)

TF31
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Re: Personal statement - length

Postby TF31 » Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:02 pm

Trying to cut down to 2 pages... I'm at 2.5 w/ 10pt font... would greatly appreciate any/all advice. Thanks so much...

Blood Orange
A sudden jolt was promptly followed by an alarm that blasted throughout the compound. This eerily all too familiar sound that I had rapidly grown accustomed to hearing could mean a multitude of things. One thing I knew that it meant, however, was that my workout over. As I quickly maneuvered around the tightly organized bench press platforms towards the door, I caught a glimpse of Harry. Instead of words, he and I hastily exchanged our usual makeshift sign language. Harry, a nickname that his extensive beard had earned him, was an Afghan national who worked on my forward operating base. I was a United States soldier, serving my second month in Southern Afghanistan with the 3rd Special Forces Group. As I scurried through the gym doors making my way back to my bunk, the word of an attempted mortar attack spread amongst the troops. As I suited up, I couldn’t help but briefly question the current predicament that I found myself in. These thoughts promptly vanished from my mind as I strapped on my Kevlar-plated vest. I knew why I was here, and it wasn’t a very elaborate concept. I have always had a strong desire to serve society in only the most impactful means. This desire was now my reality, and it was throughout this deployment that my aspiration to help others lent me true insight into the importance of law, and how daunting a society can be without it.
The following morning at breakfast, my men and I discussed the previous day’s impromptu operation. As the Detachment Commander, it was my responsibility to lead the discussion on the positives and negatives of each mission. I always preferred to do so in the chow hall, as it seemed less formal and typically led to more open, candid evaluation. After breakfast, I decided to reengage the workout that I was so abruptly interrupted from the day prior. As I made my way through the gym doors I placed an orange soda in the old, rusty refrigerator that sat cattycorner to the speaker system. During my third set of pull-ups, I heard the unmistakable echo of the metal lip piercing the soda can’s lid. Harry had found his soda. While he wasn’t overly demanding, he certainly did prefer orange flavored soda. As my workout concluded, Harry and I shared our usual subtleties. I would show him an exercise or two, he would do a horrific imitation, and we would both laugh. Laughter was our common language, and through it we were able to cultivate a unique relationship that only two people from opposite ends of the world could.
As the summer months passed, the searing heat made way for an unanticipated chill throughout the dry, mountainous terrain. Oddly enough, the changing of the weather seemed to be the fiercest abnormality that I was facing. I had grown accustomed to the unexpected firefights, vehicle-born improvised explosive devices, and of course, sporadic mortar attacks. Along with the changing of seasons, came modifications throughout our base. One of the major adjustments would be a complete overhaul of the Afghan nationals who worked in our facilities. Although every worker assigned to our base had cleared a rather extensive vetting process, switching them out every six months was protocol. The enforcement of this policy would inevitably mean the end of the genuine friendship that Harry and I had built. Two days prior to his permanent departure, I decided to give Harry a going away gift. Although a six-pack of orange sodas would have surely granted instant gratification, I opted for a more enduring donation. I chose to give Harry an old pair of my Nike running sneakers. Fashion certainly wasn’t his forte, but the understated orange trim on these sneakers were all too fitting. Harry was overwhelmingly appreciative of his American running sneakers. We posed for a quick photo, and expressed our goodbyes. As we parted ways, I can recall a keen sense of self-worth. I had positively impacted Harry’s life, and this feeling of fulfillment meant more than all the firefights combined.
Commonly referred to as the “Spring Offense,” the month of April brings much more than rain showers and blooming flowers in Southeastern Afghanistan. Each spring, the Taliban launch their annual combat surge versus the infidels of the west. On this particularly mild April evening, there was an uncomfortably quiet chill in the air. Like the calm before the storm, my detachment and I could sense an eventful morning on the horizon. Just as the sun began to wedge itself between the bases of the outlying mountain range, a distinct chopping noise littered the air. “Contact, two o’clock, five hundred meters,” shouted my Bravo team leader. Over the next forty-five minutes, my detachment exchanged numerous blows with our opposing force. As the high powered F16 scorched over our heads, almost appearing from thin air, it dropped a single strike of ordnance that swiftly silenced our enemy. As the dust settled, my men and I vigilantly made our way toward our motionless foe. Sorting through the rubble, something alarming caught my eye. Upon closer inspection, I confirmed that one of our fallen adversaries, still halfway clutching his AK-47, was wearing a pair of American running sneakers. They were Nike running sneakers, and they were discreetly trimmed in orange.
Harry was not to fault. Merely a product of his anarchic environment, he lived in a primitive, lawless civilization that was predominantly ruled by fear. I’ll never know why Harry chose to join the Taliban’s ranks, but I will always believe in my heart that given the choice to choose good over evil, he would select the former. Where the real issue resides, however, is that Harry was never given a realistic option in his unlegislated society. Deriving from the unlikely of all sources, this is where my true desire to practice law was born.
After over eight years serving as an officer in the United States Army, opting to transition from my career in the military ranks has been a difficult decision. I confidently do so knowing that practicing law will act as an extension of my current desire to be a leader of public service in a more precise venue. Specifically, through the study of criminal law, I optimistically seek personal growth in a field that calls upon my leadership, resilience, and ingrained desire to serve the public. When I arrive on campus next fall, I will bring a mature and potentially unique perspective to the classroom that can only be gained through personal experience. I will wholly dedicate myself to my legal education, attacking it with the same fervor that has driven my successful military career.

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rinkrat19
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Re: Personal statement - length

Postby rinkrat19 » Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:24 pm

If William Shakespeare and Virginia Woolf had a love child, and that child inherited his parents' writing gifts magnified to a power of eleven, even that child would be well-advised to obey the essay length limits.

Going over the limit tells the adcomms two things:

1. I don't respect your wishes--and by extension, your school--enough to follow your application's very simple instructions.
2. I'm not a good enough writer to edit this essay down to an appropriate length.

(edit: I see you're working on cutting it down. Good for you.)

OP, your language is kind of stilted. If you don't try quite so hard to sound formal/smart/complex, your sentences will naturally shorten up a little.

Original: After breakfast, I decided to reengage the workout that I was so abruptly interrupted from the day prior.
Try: After breakfast, I decided to resume the workout that had been interrupted the day before.

Original: I have always had a strong desire to serve society in only the most impactful means.
Try: I have always wanted to serve society.

Original: Although a six-pack of orange sodas would have surely granted instant gratification, I opted for a more enduring donation.
Try: Although Harry would certainly have enjoyed a six-pack of orange soda, I opted for something that would last.

Notice that all three of mine are shorter than yours.


Also, don't use a title.
Last edited by rinkrat19 on Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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FantasticMrFox
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Re: Personal statement - length

Postby FantasticMrFox » Wed Jun 08, 2011 10:25 pm

Only read it cursorily but cutting it down shouldn't be that hard; make your descriptions shorter, and employ more descriptive words that will reduce your phrases and sometimes strike out a couple of unnecessary descriptions altogether. By cutting down on descriptions, you will have to rearrange some of your sentences and change all the important ones so that there's coherency.

Good luck! If I have time, I'll come back and try to do what I am telling you to do.

TF31
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Re: Personal statement - length

Postby TF31 » Wed Jun 08, 2011 11:00 pm

Thanks for the advice/help... I agree with all and will work to make my sentences more concise.

Cailg
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Re: Personal statement - length

Postby Cailg » Thu Jun 09, 2011 12:48 am

"tl;dr. Not shocked you had trouble cutting your PS to the required length." Wow, aren't you clever. Pat yourself on the back for me. I should correct you though. I didn't "have trouble" cutting my ps down. I eliminated what I felt was unnecessary and kept what I thought made the essay a better piece of writing. And I'm not sure how much of a requirement something can be if you can be admitted while not doing it. I read the same stuff about what exceeding limits tells the admissions officer about you. I guess this is a matter of opinion, but I decided that what it really told them was that you felt your essay was best in its present form. If you think you can cut it down to under the length limit without sacrificing quality, then by all means do so. What I'm really trying to say is that you should not sacrifice quality or eliminate things you feel you ought to mention simply because you are afraid of exceeding the limit. My numbers would suggest I was a close call at Penn (170, 3.75), so I didn't get in despite offending the admissions officers with my ps length. I was also admitted at Michigan despite exceeding the length suggestion for my supplemental essay. The important thing is that the ps does your message and the quality of your writing justice. They can tell if you can write without having to rely on unwarrented assumptions about your inability to be more concise.

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memphisbelle
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Re: Personal statement - length

Postby memphisbelle » Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:49 am

Cool story, bro. :roll:

Personally, it seems a little arrogant to think that what you have to say is so very important that all guidelines and requests should be thrown out the window so that you can get your point across. Do I think it's instant death like some would say? No, as you stated, we are not in kindergarten. Perhaps your PS was as well written and necessary as you say. I am not making judgment on that as I haven't read it. If that is the case, you made the right decision. The problem comes for the other people that are not as strong of a writer (myself potentially included) that think that their PS falls in the same category as yours. 99.9 percent of them do not. For someone like that, it could actually impact their application. The OP does need to cut alot of the extraneous details and clarify the point, so in that case, it would be more advantageous to shoot for the page limit rather than ramble on. In any case, one should always have their application essays proofread and edited. When you look at something for long enough, you lose your objectivity.

Cailg
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Re: Personal statement - length

Postby Cailg » Thu Jun 09, 2011 2:44 pm

I'm only trying to provide a real-world example to counter the urban legend that suggests your chances of being accepted will be severely diminished if you go a little over the length limit. The admissions officers reading your application are generally going to be reasonable people who won't reject you for an extra half page. I don't mean to say you should aim for exceeding the limit. Just write what you want to write and do so in a manner that does justice to the quality of your writing. Obviously you don't want to be rambling on, but there are cases in which a 3 page ps can be very concise. As an admissions officer at a school with a 2-page length limit told me, a 4-page ps that could have been done in 8 pages is good, but a 4-page ps that could have been done in 2 is not.

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Samara
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Re: Personal statement - length

Postby Samara » Fri Jun 17, 2011 4:00 pm

Cailg wrote:"tl;dr. Not shocked you had trouble cutting your PS to the required length." Wow, aren't you clever. Pat yourself on the back for me. I should correct you though. I didn't "have trouble" cutting my ps down. I eliminated what I felt was unnecessary and kept what I thought made the essay a better piece of writing. And I'm not sure how much of a requirement something can be if you can be admitted while not doing it. I read the same stuff about what exceeding limits tells the admissions officer about you. I guess this is a matter of opinion, but I decided that what it really told them was that you felt your essay was best in its present form. If you think you can cut it down to under the length limit without sacrificing quality, then by all means do so. What I'm really trying to say is that you should not sacrifice quality or eliminate things you feel you ought to mention simply because you are afraid of exceeding the limit. My numbers would suggest I was a close call at Penn (170, 3.75), so I didn't get in despite offending the admissions officers with my ps length. I was also admitted at Michigan despite exceeding the length suggestion for my supplemental essay. The important thing is that the ps does your message and the quality of your writing justice. They can tell if you can write without having to rely on unwarrented assumptions about your inability to be more concise.

170/3.75 is not exactly borderline at Penn. Both numbers are right at their median, so you still could have been hurt by length.

Will exceeding the PS page limit kill your application? No, probably not. Is exceeding the PS page limit a good idea when you (really) are borderline? No, definitely not. You can always edit.




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