Here's my PS - Any criticism welcome!

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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Paraflam
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Here's my PS - Any criticism welcome!

Postby Paraflam » Tue Jun 28, 2011 4:30 pm

First of all, I really have to give a lot of credit to everyone on TLS who has helped me overhaul this time after time (Magnolia, curiouscat, CGI, et al - thank you!!), it's been totally transformed into something I'm proud of and that I think more closely reflects what I want to get across to adcomms.

That said, I have a couple questions for whoever would be willing to read this over:
1. Does any of the phrasing come off as cliché/idealistic?
2. Is the proportion of how much I talk about Meg vs. myself too skewed? I tried to include only the info about her that's essential to make the story make sense, while at the same time keeping most of the focus on me.
3. What's your initial impression of me/my PS after reading it? Does it make you feel like I'd be a person you'd want to admit in your class (if you were an adcomm), somebody you'd want to stay away from, who could/couldn't succeed in law school? You can be brutally honest :)

Thanks in advance!



Spanning three stairs per stride as I crossed the threshold of the 50th floor, I could no longer get enough oxygen to keep up the pace. Wiping the stinging sweat from my eyes, I glanced up to see my team waiting for me on the 51st landing—we had agreed to stick together for the entire climb. Fatigue was setting in heavily, but I knew what was waiting at the top: a person who does not have the luxury of being able climb to the top floor of a skyscraper (or her own house, for that matter). As my lungs fought for oxygen, I was reminded of Meg’s daily struggle for air.

Diagnosed with bronchiectasis 25 years ago in her early 20s, my best friend’s mother, Meg, was given twelve months to live after her body began rejecting her donated lungs nine months ago. On bad days, despite being short of breath, feeling light-headed, and coughing up mucus, she did not let her ailments get in the way of her positive outlook on life, empowering herself by setting goals to work toward. Her next goal was to live to witness the birth of her first grandchild, my friend’s daughter. However, Meg’s doctors told her that without another transplant, she may not have that opportunity. Because the disease caused her to grow tired from even the lightest physical activity, I made myself available as much as possible to assist her with everyday tasks. Each day brought new challenges for Meg, and her inner strength quickly became apparent to me during my time spent helping her overcome them.

Inspired by Meg’s determination, I set forth a series of goals of my own. The first was to raise money for research on Meg’s disease. After helping to start a fundraiser in her name, I worked to promote awareness of the importance of organ donation across my college campus and helped raise over $8,000 from 130 donors. The money was donated in Meg’s honor to the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago (RHAMC), whose mission is to promote healthy lungs and fight lung disease through research and advocacy.

My next goal was to participate in Hustle up the Hancock, an annual event organized by RHAMC in which individuals and teams register to race to the top of the 1,127-foot John Hancock Center in support of lung disease research. I organized a team of 14 people in support of Meg’s fight, and for the next three months we trained for the most physically grueling challenge I have ever undertaken. Reaching the 94th floor and seeing the look on Meg’s face as we crossed the finish line imparted a great sense of accomplishment to me and my team. By knowing she was not alone in her fight against her disease, she told me, she became even more driven to not give up on her goals. When Meg successfully recovered from a second lung transplant in time to see the birth of her granddaughter in May, I knew that helping people through their struggles is something I want to continue doing.

My time spent caring for Meg broadened my perspective about what it means to appreciate the abilities you have been blessed with. This experience catalyzed my passion for fighting for people faced with hardship, and I feel that a career in the legal field would capitalize on my strengths and allow me to use those strengths to benefit others. Although I have always been interested in the legal profession, my relationship with Meg nurtured a desire to pursue a career in health care law. I hope to fight for people whose health care benefits were wrongly denied because of their medical conditions. My experience with fighting for Meg when she was in need of support has become my inspiration to work toward this objective, and my motivation throughout my practice as an attorney will be to help my clients work toward whatever “recovery” or “justice” means for them. Through the legal profession, I hope to fight for people who are unable to fight for themselves, and help them achieve goals of their own.

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McFly
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Re: Here's my PS - Any criticism welcome!

Postby McFly » Wed Jun 29, 2011 5:19 pm

i liked it. i'm guessing you're looking for some constructive criticism, but i don't really have any. i think it was well written, and your story and emphasis on Meg wasn't over the top. allowing you to still keep the focus on yourself, and concludes nicely tying in why you want to be a lawyer.

sorry i couldn't be of more help, but i think this is a solid PS. i'm guessing some more skilled writers/english majors could critique it some more to make it perfect, unfortunately those are not my strengths.

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Paraflam
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Re: Here's my PS - Any criticism welcome!

Postby Paraflam » Fri Jul 01, 2011 4:12 pm

Thanks McFly, appreciate you taking the time to read it. I think I'm finally getting close to a final draft :)

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ShuckingNotJiving
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Re: Here's my PS - Any criticism welcome!

Postby ShuckingNotJiving » Sun Jul 03, 2011 6:41 pm

1. Does any of the phrasing come off as cliché/idealistic?


Some. There's one about "helping people with their struggles" and "never giving up" but it's not nearly as bad as it could've been. Writing about climbing always seems to bring about the worst in people's abilities to use cliche.

2. Is the proportion of how much I talk about Meg vs. myself too skewed? I tried to include only the info about her that's essential to make the story make sense, while at the same time keeping most of the focus on me.


Unclear as to what you mean by "skewed. If you mean, do you think you're writing too much about Meg and not enough about yourself, then yes, a bit. Part of that is because writing about a best friend's mother doesn't carry as much "punch: as about writing about your own. This isn't to say you should re-create the statement and lie, but there is this underlying feeling that you are forcing a connection, and this becomes more apparent because you spend so much time on Meg.

3. What's your initial impression of me/my PS after reading it? Does it make you feel like I'd be a person you'd want to admit in your class (if you were an adcomm), somebody you'd want to stay away from, who could/couldn't succeed in law school? You can be brutally honest.


To be brutally honest, this PS is extremely average. Which means I don't think it elicits feelings either way.

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Paraflam
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Re: Here's my PS - Any criticism welcome!

Postby Paraflam » Sun Jul 03, 2011 8:02 pm

Thanks, Shucking. Do you have any suggestions on how I can improve the weak aspects of it to make it more compelling and better than "extremely average"?

lcw
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Re: Here's my PS - Any criticism welcome!

Postby lcw » Tue Jul 05, 2011 4:52 pm

Paraflam,

I think you are off to a decent start with your personal statement. I will make some (hopefully brief) substantive and stylistic comments. Feel free to adopt or disregard:

Substantive comments:

- I would encourage you to compress your first four paragraphs and expand your last paragraph. As a reader, I want to know more about you and less about Meg. You can still talk about her story, just make sure to narrate the events with you as the protagonist and her as an ancillary character.

- Para 4: "I knew that helping people through their struggles is something I want to continue doing." Why do you want to help people out with the law as opposed to another career path (Medicine?)? Law would be "a" way for you to help, but why do you want it to be "the" way for you to help?

- Para 5: Re: "the abilities you have been blessed with" and "capitalize on my strengths and allow me to use those strengths to benefit others." I'm not really clear on what you're strengths and abilities are aside from compassion, fund-raising for non-profits, and climbing stairs. It feels like you jump from your story to a conclusion referencing your strengths without really unpacking what those strengths and abilities for the reader.

Stylistic Comments:

I have edited your first paragraph to show how your writing may be tightened up. I have included the paragraph below my comments.

- You seem to be in love with the comma and inverting your sentence structure. Try rewriting your paper in a way that uses a direct syntax and as few commas as possible.

- Re-read your statement sentence by sentence and ask yourself if there's a way to convey your sentiments in fewer words. For instance "I glanced up to see" can be shortened to "I saw" without losing any significant meaning. Likewise, "who does not have the luxury" becomes "without the luxury".

- Also make sure to proofread your statement. I have found several typos that you should correct prior to submitting a copy to any law school. Try printing out the statement and reading it on hard copy. For some reason, the change in medium can help spot mistakes that otherwise go unnoticed.

Original paragraph 1:
"Spanning three stairs per stride as I crossed the threshold of the 50th floor, I could no longer get enough oxygen to keep up the pace. Wiping the stinging sweat from my eyes, I glanced up to see my team waiting for me on the 51st landing—we had agreed to stick together for the entire climb. Fatigue was setting in heavily, but I knew what was waiting at the top: a person who does not have the luxury of being able climb to the top floor of a skyscraper (or her own house, for that matter). As my lungs fought for oxygen, I was reminded of Meg’s daily struggle for air."

Edited paragraph 1:
"I could no longer get enough oxygen to span three stairs per stride as I crossed the threshold of the 50th floor. I saw my team waiting for me on the 51st landing while I wiped the stinging sweat from my eyes; we had agreed to stick together for the entire climb. Although I was heavily fatigued, I knew that a person without the luxury of even climbing to the top of her own house, let alone the top floor of a skyscraper, was waiting at the top."

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kwais
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Re: Here's my PS - Any criticism welcome!

Postby kwais » Tue Jul 05, 2011 5:09 pm

People have been offering some good substantive advice so I'm going to take a stab at a more over-arching critique.

sometimes when I read great personal statements, I feel that a real person comes to life through the story. Real people have good qualities, qualities to overcome and everything in between. I think your statement is so clearly targeted at eliciting "wow, what a self-less and kind young person" that I was left with a 2D impression of you. Another way to put it was that it was a little transparent. Try using the relationship with Meg more as a device and less as a centerpiece. As you yourself noticed, there should be more about you and less about Meg.

Hope that helps, good luck.

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Verity
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Re: Here's my PS - Any criticism welcome!

Postby Verity » Tue Jul 05, 2011 5:10 pm

You should do this in a PM to preserve anonymity.

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Paraflam
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Re: Here's my PS - Any criticism welcome!

Postby Paraflam » Tue Jul 05, 2011 7:34 pm

Man, just when I think I finally have a solid almost-final draft of this, it sounds like I'm looking at a damn near rewrite. That's not to say I don't agree with or appreciate everyone's comments, I just feel like I'm getting nowhere with this. I sort of feel like just scrapping it altogether.

Kwais, do you have any more ideas on how I might be able to make it less transparent and more "real" sounding? I'm trying to figure out how to say less about Meg, since I've tried to include only enough info about her to make the story make sense.

Icw, what typos did you find? I tried printing it out and editing it that way, but I think I've just read it too many times to notice anything :?

Thank you again for your input everyone, I really appreciate it.

lcw
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Re: Here's my PS - Any criticism welcome!

Postby lcw » Wed Jul 06, 2011 2:13 pm

Paraflam,

The things I noticed were pretty minor and probably more stylistic than anything, like saying "in her early 20s" instead of "in her early twenties" or including a hyphen in "1,127-foot " when I don't think there needs to be one.

I wouldn't get too down on your statement. You have a nice start and good material to draw upon. Besides, if you get good grades and crush the LSAT, your personal statement will be little more than a passing thought for admissions departments. More than anything, I would use this as an opportunity to practice good writing since that is an incredibly valuable skill in the law. If you have time and access to a library, try checking out a couple texts on writing and grammar and brush up on those pesky rules about split infinitives, nominalizations, and not ending sentences with a preposition. They'll serve you well in the long run.

Good luck.

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curiouscat
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Re: Here's my PS - Any criticism welcome!

Postby curiouscat » Wed Jul 06, 2011 6:50 pm

lcw wrote:Paraflam,

If you have time and access to a library, try checking out a couple texts on writing and grammar and brush up on those pesky rules about split infinitives, nominalizations, and not ending sentences with a preposition. They'll serve you well in the long run.

Good luck.


haha... lcw, I <3 grammar as much as the next nerd girl but I am sure OP will be fine without that extra study session on nominalizations.

Anyways, Paraflam, FWIW I think it's a great PS - passionate, clear, persuasive. I agree there's room to tighten the writing at some points, but I think you're looking at some localized editing rather than a major overhaul of your entire essay.

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ShuckingNotJiving
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Re: Here's my PS - Any criticism welcome!

Postby ShuckingNotJiving » Wed Jul 06, 2011 7:56 pm

Paraflam wrote:Thanks, Shucking. Do you have any suggestions on how I can improve the weak aspects of it to make it more compelling and better than "extremely average"?



It might help to know why you care, exactly, about any of this. Why is this important to you-- other than the influence of Meg. As I said, if Meg was your mother it'd be a bit more clear, but your best friend's mom requires some type of further explanation as to why it all means so much to you.

ETA: ok, i did a cursory reread and see you did that. but i don't know it's still just not clicking. the reader doesn't get a good sense of who you are. it's detached.

lcw
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Re: Here's my PS - Any criticism welcome!

Postby lcw » Thu Jul 07, 2011 11:52 am

curiouscat wrote:haha... lcw, I <3 grammar as much as the next nerd girl but I am sure OP will be fine without that extra study session on nominalizations.


I'm sure OP will be fine as well. Just thought I'd throw those resources out there since my legal writing profs. during my 1L year really tried to drive home the importance of clear and direct writing. They pointed out my apparent love for nominalizations and passive voice more than once, so I thought I'd help OP avoid those pitfalls.




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