Go sappy or not?

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
caminante
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Go sappy or not?

Postby caminante » Mon Jul 11, 2011 6:42 pm

One of the most obvious options for me to write about in my personal statement is how I have overcome a somewhat major obstacle in my life. However, this obstacle happened a really long time ago and makes me a bit uncomfortable to write about. Most of my closest friends do not even know about my history. At the same time, this part of my life certainly shaped who I have become and why I want to become a lawyer.

So I guess my question is: risk coming off as sappy/cliche and feeling very vulnerable to write about my "obstacle" or just write a PS about something else that might ultimately not be as compelling?

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almightypush
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Re: Go sappy or not?

Postby almightypush » Mon Jul 11, 2011 6:49 pm

Could you write about the more compelling incident in a non-sappy way?

caminante
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Re: Go sappy or not?

Postby caminante » Mon Jul 11, 2011 6:59 pm

almightypush wrote:Could you write about the more compelling incident in a non-sappy way?


Well, that would be the goal. Even so, just writing about it is uncomfortable for me so I worry it will make others uncomfortable to read... I think that writing about overcoming an obstacle is always a really tricky PS topic. I've read some really great ones on this forum, while others clearly miss the mark.

So- do adcomms look favorably upon the old "overcoming and obstacle" theme in order to make it worth the risk?

blsingindisguise
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Re: Go sappy or not?

Postby blsingindisguise » Mon Jul 11, 2011 7:08 pm

1) Such things are ok as opportunities to show your character and strength -- if it's a story that's really about overcoming something and becoming a more developed person as a result, great. If it's just "bad stuff happened to me" I don't think that's as good.

2) The more compelling the incident is, the more mere description will do the work for you -- i.e. if the story is already heart-wrenching, minimize the sappy language/embellishment and let the story do the work.

3) If the story isn't compelling enough to do most of the work, don't use it

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curiouscat
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Re: Go sappy or not?

Postby curiouscat » Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:40 pm

It also depends on why it's making you uncomfortable to write about it and whether you think you could work through that. If you're feeling very vulnerable about writing it and you're not used to talking about it even to your friends, that feeling of discomfort might sabotage even the most compelling of stories. You might need to think carefully before picking it as a topic for an essay, especially such a crucial one that you're sending over for the appraisal of committees of total strangers.

I'm writing an overcoming obstacles piece (about a sexual assault experience), and, especially at the start, it was a pretty hellish process. Compelling as the story might have been, I was very uncomfortable and anxious about writing about it, and that came through in my really crappy (not to mention slow and painful) work. At times I seriously considered dropping it and writing about something I'm more comfortable with. I ended up pushing myself to work through that discomfort and decided to stick with it, and I'm glad I did, but that's not the case for everyone. That's a decision that you have to make, first and foremost, on a personal level - is your comfort level with your topic high enough that it would be worth the stress of writing about it (in an already stressful essay)? Once you've done that you can start thinking about whether it would be worth it as a boost for your admission chances.

And, for pity's sake, don't make it sappy.

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NZA
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Re: Go sappy or not?

Postby NZA » Mon Jul 11, 2011 8:44 pm

A compelling story does not necessarily make a good personal statement.

Will the story illuminate the reasons you want to attend LS? If yes, then I think you have good reason to go for it. If not, if it's merely a dramatic story that you hope will set you apart from other applicants solely because it is so dramatic, I would say do not write about it.

A compelling anecdote should serve to highlight a certain quality about yourself that you develop later in the PS; in other words, your PS should not simply be a story for the sake of a good story. It should be a story that makes the reader interested in reading more about you.

caminante
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Re: Go sappy or not?

Postby caminante » Tue Jul 12, 2011 3:06 pm

Thanks for the tips and replies, everyone. The topic definitely highlights why I want to be a lawyer, but I'm not entirely sure that it shows why I'd make a great lawyer. Basically, I was at the center of a trial when I was a child and throughout my life it has caused me to reflect on good and bad parts of the legal system.

Curiouscat- thanks for the thoughtful response. Being comfortable with the topic is definitely the hardest part. The thought of giving the essay to someone to edit/revise makes me physically ill, so I'm not so sure I will go through with it! Also, I was worried that the subject itself was too sappy, I would never intentionally make it sappy. I definitely would try to be as straight-forward and mature in my writing as possible.

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curiouscat
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Re: Go sappy or not?

Postby curiouscat » Wed Jul 13, 2011 12:08 am

caminante wrote:The topic definitely highlights why I want to be a lawyer, but I'm not entirely sure that it shows why I'd make a great lawyer. Basically, I was at the center of a trial when I was a child and throughout my life it has caused me to reflect on good and bad parts of the legal system.

Sounds like that has some potential for the "great lawyer" case. It shows that you have a sophisticated, realistic and mature understanding of the legal system; you're not going into this with a naive perception of what being a lawyer is going to involve or some blind adoration of the legal system. That in itself might not prove that you'd make a great lawyer, but it goes a long way to help, IMO.

It sounds like it could make for a strong topic, but, yeah, above all it comes down to a personal call on your comfort level. You might find that as you keep writing, you'll get more comfortable with the idea of letting others read it (a pretty inescapable part of the admissions process :)), but, of course, you're the best judge of that.

kublaikahn
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Re: Go sappy or not?

Postby kublaikahn » Wed Jul 13, 2011 1:32 am

What else could you write about? The most dangerous thing in the world is a great idea, when it is the only one you have. Find another topic(s) and then ask, of these two/three, which should I use?




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