First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
tycoon2go
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First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby tycoon2go » Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:11 pm

I wrote this all out in word and it was a little over a page single spaced. The requirement for the schools I'm looking at is three pages. Please rip this statement open, I want to hear what you think!

Without further ado:

Curiosity is a powerful catalyst of motivation. Beginning at an early age, this fuel for understanding has driven my personal endeavors and motivated me to learn the mechanisms by which the world operates. My mother often recalls my persistent questioning, famously reciting that much younger me asked, “What if you walked over a sewer grate and you were as flat as a piece of paper?” This method of critical inquiry has evolved throughout my academic career, focusing my interest on international relations, and has culminated in thesis for papers such as “What overhauls at the tactical and strategic level of intelligence analysis would increase valuable output?”

This curiosity also drove my desire for cultural understanding. In high school, I took Spanish and enjoyed the cultural facets the language delved into. I joined Model United Nations, was elected leader of our group, and won Outstanding Resolution at the General Assembly. My interest in politics and international relations was growing and maturing. The next step was college.

I was preparing to take the ACT and assemble transcripts in early 2008 when I was bludgeoned with horrible news; my parents would be getting divorced after over 18 years of marriage. This hit me hard, knowing that my family would be forever torn apart. I had two options at that point: let the negativity get to me and affect my chance of admission or, use it to harden my grit and determination. I chose the latter and ended up with a scholarship for tuition (through an essay contest) and admission to the honors program at The Ohio State University.

College nurtured the perfect environment to let me curiosity and imagination flourish. I chose my major because the class selection let me combine history, politics, economics, and international studies; breaking any barriers other majors afforded. I chose to pursue studies in Russian as well, expanding upon my Spanish. Learning the elegant Cyrillic alphabet and seeing the landscape in textbooks was mesmerizing, but I wanted to experience it firsthand.

A pivotal point in my growth of cultural understanding and objectivity of world politics was my trip across the ocean to Europe and Russia in the summer of 2009. There simply is no substitute for understanding than experiencing a foreign country firsthand. To enhance the experience, my Dad scheduled no tours, no bus passes, and no guides. The only structure we had was reservations at the hotels and the plane tickets. We walked along the winding streets of Paris, ate at local restaurants in London, and watched the World Cup match between the US and Algeria in Brussels (surrounded by a horde of Algerians no less). The shining moment was when our plane touched down in Pulkovo International Airport in St. Petersburg, Russia. My language and cultural skills would be put into a trial by fire and I eagerly awaited the challenge.

Outside the airport I flagged down a taxi and broke out my slightly rusty Russian in order to get us to the hotel. Having no transportation to get to the sites, we decided to brave the subway, which would test even a seasoned American traveler’s mettle. Walking down Moskovsky Prospect and navigating the back alleyways opened my eyes and mind to a world that was on the other side of Earth; a world that I had only seen in occasional pictures in old, dusty textbooks. There is no better way to bathe in culture than to join in the impromptu revelry of a Russian naval academy graduation, with your Dad who can barely pronounce the Russian word for “Hello.”
We returned in one piece (can’t say the same for the bookends my Dad sent from Paris), and with my undergraduate work nearly complete, the future must be attended to. Law school has always been a pinnacle of academic achievement for those willing to work, and I can say with the utmost confidence I am up for the challenge.

CanadianWolf
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:15 pm

Try: "Curiosity is a powerful catalyst." More impact than your current beginning, in my opinion.

Your first paragraph is weak. The entire essay is weak, poorly written & a bit boring. What are you trying to accomplish with this theme ?

CanadianWolf
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:26 pm

To be blunt, this is a more appropriate essay for one seeking admission to prep school or, possibly, college, than for one planning to attend graduate school. The major weakness is that you simply tell of events & accomplishments in your life without offering any meaningful insights into how those events or awards affected you.

P.S. This is so poorly written that I doubt the mandatory scholarship essay--with which I am familiar--had much to do with your merit award to OSU.
Last edited by CanadianWolf on Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

MumofCad
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby MumofCad » Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:28 pm

I would reconsider. Its fine I suppose. Where are you applying exactly?

To me, the story about Russia in particular seems a little forced and immature. If you are applying to a top law school, a story about the daunting Russian metro system will seem a little silly in comparison to many of the stories that will be told. I mean I've been on that public transport system in Moscow and St. Petersburg and I wouldn't think most seasoned travelers would actually have found it a test of their "mettle." Plus, it doesn't really tell me anything about your accomplishments. It doesn't show the introspection or curiosity you first allude to, it is rather just a compilation of things you did on a trip to Europe. Like what is the relevance of eating in local London restaurants? The way it is phrased makes it sounds like this was a daring adventure of some sort? I don't get it. Watching a football match with Algerians in Brussels? Ok, great. Sounds like a good time. What is the relevance to law school or your personal development/growth? Really this whole section is just saying you have been abroad once and had a good time. I would say that any of the experiences you bring up are probably shared by anyone who has traveled abroad. I don't think many law schools will find that, in and of itself, to be impressive or pertinent to your admission.

Same with the rest. Ok, you did stuff in high school (usually not something the adcoms will find impressive by the way, what did you do in college?). There are no lessons learned really.

BeaverHunter
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby BeaverHunter » Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:50 pm

All sizzle, no steak. You took Spanish in high school, majored in basket weaving in college, and took a trip to Europe with your Dad. Where's the beef?

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$1.99
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby $1.99 » Tue Aug 16, 2011 3:51 pm

this was very dull and cliche, as well as poorly written. i didn't care for you one bit nor was i interested in your life.

tennisking88
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby tennisking88 » Tue Aug 16, 2011 4:01 pm

I think your essay is fine. It's nothing mind blowing, but I think this forum wrongly pressures people to try and make their essays as exciting and profound as humanly possible, which sometimes makes things worse. I think your essay is light hearted and positive. Most schools don't really care about personal statements unless you did something wrong, like making grammatical or spelling mistakes. They mostly want to know if you can write. They also want to know if you've had hardships you overcame or certain debilitating circumstances they can't get from your transcript or resume. If not, then it's totally fine writing about what you want. Don't fall for bullshit peer pressure from people who think this is "boring".

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kekepania
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby kekepania » Tue Aug 16, 2011 4:09 pm

There's no need to be rude, just be honest and constructive. I think there's too much going on in your essay. It seems like you are just telling us what happened in your life the past few years, and while interesting, is not really appropriate for a LS personal statement. You mentioned your interest in politics and international relations in the second paragraph. Maybe this could be the focus of your essay and you can work your experiences around this central theme. If you discuss your travels to Europe and Russia, talk about how it was related to your interest in politics, what you learned, what influences it had on you, etc.

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kekepania
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby kekepania » Tue Aug 16, 2011 4:12 pm

tennisking88 wrote:I think your essay is fine. It's nothing mind blowing, but I think this forum wrongly pressures people to try and make their essays as exciting and profound as humanly possible, which sometimes makes things worse. I think your essay is light hearted and positive. Most schools don't really care about personal statements unless you did something wrong, like making grammatical or spelling mistakes. They mostly want to know if you can write. They also want to know if you've had hardships you overcame or certain debilitating circumstances they can't get from your transcript or resume. If not, then it's totally fine writing about what you want. Don't fall for bullshit peer pressure from people who think this is "boring".


How true is this? I've read so many sample essays and people have had such amazing experiences and encounters. I thought my life was fun and interesting, but it's boring compared to people here.

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chem
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby chem » Tue Aug 16, 2011 4:14 pm

kekepania wrote:
tennisking88 wrote:I think your essay is fine. It's nothing mind blowing, but I think this forum wrongly pressures people to try and make their essays as exciting and profound as humanly possible, which sometimes makes things worse. I think your essay is light hearted and positive. Most schools don't really care about personal statements unless you did something wrong, like making grammatical or spelling mistakes. They mostly want to know if you can write. They also want to know if you've had hardships you overcame or certain debilitating circumstances they can't get from your transcript or resume. If not, then it's totally fine writing about what you want. Don't fall for bullshit peer pressure from people who think this is "boring".


How true is this? I've read so many sample essays and people have had such amazing experiences and encounters. I thought my life was fun and interesting, but it's boring compared to people here.


Its true, but the thing about the essay above is that it lacks focus, and focus is a major part of good writing

MumofCad
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby MumofCad » Tue Aug 16, 2011 4:41 pm

kekepania wrote:
tennisking88 wrote:I think your essay is fine. It's nothing mind blowing, but I think this forum wrongly pressures people to try and make their essays as exciting and profound as humanly possible, which sometimes makes things worse. I think your essay is light hearted and positive. Most schools don't really care about personal statements unless you did something wrong, like making grammatical or spelling mistakes. They mostly want to know if you can write. They also want to know if you've had hardships you overcame or certain debilitating circumstances they can't get from your transcript or resume. If not, then it's totally fine writing about what you want. Don't fall for bullshit peer pressure from people who think this is "boring".


How true is this? I've read so many sample essays and people have had such amazing experiences and encounters. I thought my life was fun and interesting, but it's boring compared to people here.


I agree it does not need to be profound or win you a creative writing award. It does however have to convey a central message and show maturity, thoughtfulness, intellect, self-awareness, etc. The problem with the above essay is that it does not show that the author can write, writing being more than just stringing words together into grammatically coherent sentences. Writing is also understanding how to structure an argument, organize thoughts, and show awareness of matters of relevancy. Your topic does reflect on your judgement, just like choosing a recommender that isn't keen on actually recommending you.

If you don't have life-altering revelations to share or earth-shattering narratives, it is fine to focus on an academic passion or pursuit. Just show self-awareness and understanding for context. A perfect example of this can be found on the Yale 250 blog talking about understanding the difference in writing an "Overcoming Obstacles" essay between genuine obstacles (surviving abuse, extreme poverty, racism, etc.) and mere road-bumps (getting a bad grade in a class). Failing to understand how your experiences fit into the larger scheme shows a certain level of immaturity that will turn off most adcomms at the top tier schools. Below that, I think the bar is much lower - just show you can write coherent and grammatical sentences, with some sense of purpose. I think the point in any case is to think clearly about what you bring to the table that is the most compelling reason to admit you to law school - is it values you can convey through a narrative, is it a leadership experience, a commitment to a cause, or just an academic interest in the law. Then write about it.

Which is why my response to the OP is "eh" and the question about where they are applying. If this is going to a school ranked 50th, probably fine. If they are shooting for the T-14 with semi-ok numbers, they are going to need a lot more purpose in their writing. Either way, I would edit out the comments about the trip to Europe. They to me are the most glaring issue with the essay. At least the other stuff has a sense of purpose - trying to show leadership and passion for international issues. Without some reflection on lessons learned though, the trip to Europe is...completely without a point IMO.

freestallion
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby freestallion » Tue Aug 16, 2011 5:29 pm

From your essay, I don't get a good sense of any consistent thread throughout the piece. I mean, what is the point of this essay? It sounds like you just strung together a bunch of information about your life like your parents divorce, college applications, going to Russia etc... but I didn't get any sense of your intellect or accomplishments and also didn't get any understanding of why you're applying to law school.

Choose one anecdote - if you want to write about Russia, make that the focal point but choose an interesting challenge you encountered there or talk about what you learned from your experience..

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fltanglab
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby fltanglab » Tue Aug 16, 2011 5:53 pm

Um...it's not very captivating past hearing about the divorce. I would have thought something was going to change at that point and then I was disappointed with more recitation of your experiences. Try not to write so much about everything you've ever done and focus on one really amazing thing or a few things that tie together to make a miraculous whole. I think it's a little harsh for people to say your essay competition had nothing to do with admission to OSU, but I agree that your writing needs work.

Some of your chosen phrases indicate that you are trying too hard. For example, "college" didn't "nurture" anything. You can't personify college in that way without seeming like you borrowed an old phrase and switched the words around a bit.

Keep trying and editing and everything. Maybe also get someone who can give you detailed feedback a copy of your essay.

tycoon2go
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby tycoon2go » Tue Aug 16, 2011 8:15 pm

Thanks for the criticism. I did not realize my essay was so bad but that's what drafts are for. I think my biggest problem is honestly I am boring and I have not had life altering experiences. I grew up in a wealthy white suburb, went to a good high school, got into college on a good scholarship, and got good grades. I noticed that a couple of comments pointed out that it lacks focus. I decided to pick a "theme" and wrote this rough sketch of a new essay trying to use my work experience. Is it an improvement or is it still horrible? If I am still off track can someone suggest a traditional "theme" or focus that a typical white male from a suburb can somehow contort to seem interesting? :D



In a generation that is often accused of feeling entitled, the strongest virtue is willingness to put in the hard work. My father always pushed me and my brothers to never give up, and that if you put the hard work in, you can be proud of your accomplishments and earn respect. I adopted this creed and applied it to both my work experiences and academics.

My first challenge came towards the end of high school. I was preparing to take the ACT and assemble transcripts for college when I was bludgeoned with horrible news; my parents would be getting divorced after over 18 years of marriage. This hit me hard, knowing that my family would be forever torn apart. I had two options at that point: let the negativity get to me and affect my chance of admission or, use it to harden my grit and determination. I chose the latter and ended up with a scholarship for tuition (through an essay contest) and admission to the honors program at The Ohio State University.

While the scholarship went a long way to help with finances, it was evident additional income would be needed. I applied for various minimum wage jobs, but in a down economy, nobody was calling back. I eventually got a job at Kroger as a bagger and worked there on weekends. While the position doesn’t carry prestige the work ethic from the people around me was infectious. I learned the facets of daily operations and became a dependable employee. When I was offered an internship two years later, Kroger offered me a full-time position to stay.

I attended a job fair on campus during winter quarter 2011 and received various offers. I took a position in Interpreter Services at The Supreme Court of Ohio. My boss gave me work immediately; he wanted a packet outlining telephonic interpretation in the courts for an advisory committee meeting two weeks away. I worked during school after classes digesting the piles of reports from across the US of failed pilot programs and various regulations. All the work gave me a good foundation of how to analyze and synthesize dense information, as well as familiarity with the atmosphere of a law environment. A respected judge from Cuyahoga County congratulated me on my work and asked that I prepare follow up details for the next meeting.

As my undergrad career comes to a close I intend to finish strong and not succumb to the laid back position many seniors adopt. I want to satisfy professors and employers with a reputation for dependability and quality. Most importantly I want to apply my hard work to the rigor of law school. I see a career in law as one that rewards hard work and perseverance, both of which are virtues I have come to embrace.

sparty99
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby sparty99 » Tue Aug 16, 2011 11:51 pm

tycoon2go wrote:Thanks for the criticism. I did not realize my essay was so bad but that's what drafts are for. I think my biggest problem is honestly I am boring and I have not had life altering experiences. I grew up in a wealthy white suburb, went to a good high school, got into college on a good scholarship, and got good grades. I noticed that a couple of comments pointed out that it lacks focus. I decided to pick a "theme" and wrote this rough sketch of a new essay trying to use my work experience. Is it an improvement or is it still horrible? If I am still off track can someone suggest a traditional "theme" or focus that a typical white male from a suburb can somehow contort to seem interesting? :D



In a generation that is often accused of feeling entitled, the strongest virtue is willingness to put in the hard work. My father always pushed me and my brothers to never give up, and that if you put the hard work in, you can be proud of your accomplishments and earn respect. I adopted this creed and applied it to both my work experiences and academics.

My first challenge came towards the end of high school. I was preparing to take the ACT and assemble transcripts for college when I was bludgeoned with horrible news; my parents would be getting divorced after over 18 years of marriage. This hit me hard, knowing that my family would be forever torn apart. I had two options at that point: let the negativity get to me and affect my chance of admission or, use it to harden my grit and determination. I chose the latter and ended up with a scholarship for tuition (through an essay contest) and admission to the honors program at The Ohio State University.

While the scholarship went a long way to help with finances, it was evident additional income would be needed. I applied for various minimum wage jobs, but in a down economy, nobody was calling back. I eventually got a job at Kroger as a bagger and worked there on weekends. While the position doesn’t carry prestige the work ethic from the people around me was infectious. I learned the facets of daily operations and became a dependable employee. When I was offered an internship two years later, Kroger offered me a full-time position to stay.

I attended a job fair on campus during winter quarter 2011 and received various offers. I took a position in Interpreter Services at The Supreme Court of Ohio. My boss gave me work immediately; he wanted a packet outlining telephonic interpretation in the courts for an advisory committee meeting two weeks away. I worked during school after classes digesting the piles of reports from across the US of failed pilot programs and various regulations. All the work gave me a good foundation of how to analyze and synthesize dense information, as well as familiarity with the atmosphere of a law environment. A respected judge from Cuyahoga County congratulated me on my work and asked that I prepare follow up details for the next meeting.

As my undergrad career comes to a close I intend to finish strong and not succumb to the laid back position many seniors adopt. I want to satisfy professors and employers with a reputation for dependability and quality. Most importantly I want to apply my hard work to the rigor of law school. I see a career in law as one that rewards hard work and perseverance, both of which are virtues I have come to embrace.


- The first essay is horrible. The second essay is a decent start. However, it needs to be polished. The first sentence can go. The second paragraph can GO. THe third paragraph MUST STAY. Talk about what you learned at Kroger. The work ethic. Waking up at 5am to bag groceries or get clean shripmp..."My hard work and dedication led to an internship with Kroger." "My experience at Kroger showed me xyz and was pivotal in my job at The supreme court of ohio. At Supreme court, I was _____. I talked with judges, blah, blah. One learning experience was when ________. This experience led me to law school."

Your last paragraph is weak and needs to be deleted.

sparty99
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby sparty99 » Tue Aug 16, 2011 11:59 pm

Rather than just rehash your resume, you might consider reading questions for MBA programs to jump start your brain. For example:

Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. What is your motivation for pursuing a Law degree now and how will "XYZ Law School" help you to achieve your goals?

What is something people will find surprising about you?

What event or life experience has had the greatest influence in shaping your character and why?

What have you learned from a mistake?

What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you?

When you join the HBS Class of 2013, how will you introduce yourself to your new classmates?

Tell us about a time in your professional experience when you were frustrated or disappointed.

What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such?

Describe two recent team projects you worked on, including a discussion of the group dynamics, your particular role in the team, how you contributed to the team and the results of the project. Please include at least one example from professional context.

tycoon2go
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby tycoon2go » Wed Aug 17, 2011 1:29 pm

Thanks for the feedback, I like that list of ideas. I do have a question, how should the intro/conclusion be structured? Should it connect the experience to the why I want to go to law school?

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icecold3000
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby icecold3000 » Wed Aug 17, 2011 1:43 pm

how should the intro/conclusion be structured? Should it connect the experience to the why I want to go to law school?


If it is well written and coherent, yes. If it is tacked on and insincere, no.

BeaverHunter
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Re: First draft of Personal Statement, rip into this thing!

Postby BeaverHunter » Thu Aug 18, 2011 3:34 pm

Your new essay is exactly the same as the old one. The facts are slightly different but the message is the same. You start the essay with some grand statement and then just recite a list of boring "achievements".

The interpreter stuff is good. Maybe write something about a tough or interesting case. Regardless, you need to start from scratch and change your notion about what this type of thing is supposed to be. It probably won't matter that much and if your grades/LSAT are there you will get in somewhere, but this is not good stuff.




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