PS Drafts (Too many ideas, nothing is sticking, need help)

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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thelong
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PS Drafts (Too many ideas, nothing is sticking, need help)

Postby thelong » Thu Aug 25, 2011 12:40 pm

So, I've drafted about five different personal statements. Most center around my three years working and living in Alaska. I'm having a really hard time picking a direction to go in and just cannot seem to make the right connection between a good story and persuasive essay. I don't want to put down a laundry list of "why you should accept me," but I don't want to totally miss the mark either.

So, what I am going to put below is my current top pick of my PS stable, followed an alternative direction. I hope the cheese is not too rich.

I should say that, "These are both terrible, start over," is totally valid criticism.

Thanks

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I was born in Muskegon, Michigan to a frightened teenage girl, the youngest of ten siblings from a lower class family. Muskegon suffers from some of the highest unemployment in the country and I grew up in a shared household with my mother and my aunt and I wore hand-me-down clothes and often watched the adults go hungry so the kids could eat. So, when I say that the prospect of financial security is alluring, I hope you’ll understand that I do say so not strictly from a sense of greed.

Security is, also, not my only motivation. A career in law is one that I believe will help to define me and I think it is one to which I am well suited, and I believe this has been shown in my work, in the lessons I have learned and the perspective I have found since undergrad.

I wouldn’t have gained this perspective had I not spent the last three years working as the only reporter at a small newspaper in Wrangell, Alaska, a remote fishing town in the Tongass National Forest that’s accessible only by two Alaska Airlines flights a day, a handful of ferry ships a week and various charter services.

Aside from the learning to write strong articles every week, I learned that sometimes no matter how well you check your facts that you’re going to be told you’re wrong at least once a week. And, no matter how delicate you try to be, someone is going to tell you you’ve been sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. You’ll be told while walking to work, in the grocery store or at the school basketball game. When everyone knows who you are and where you work you’re held accountable for the things you do and the things you say.

There’s a flipside, too. If you’re humble and correct your errors then you learn. If you listen then people will respect you, even if they don’t agree with you and, in many cases, even if they dislike you. If you show that you work hard not just for your paycheck but because your name, and the community on the whole will be affected by what you do or fail to do, then you might start to make a difference.

When you leave you know that these simple lessons are not invalidated by the size of the next city.

When I left Wrangell Rick ******, a marine surveyor, wrote, “In reading the Sentinel the last few months, I have been very impressed with the contributions of **** Long. **** writes most of the articles and takes many of the photos that appear in the paper. He would have to attend endless meetings and events to bring all this information to us. So, thanks ****.”

Rick doesn’t make his living from eloquence, but when he expresses thanks for a job well done the words stick, and I kept that letter to the editor when I moved away to remind me of the things I learned and the person I’ve become and how the skills I’ve developed will aid me now and in the future.
-------


When I applied to graduate school in late 2006-2007 Professor Diane ******* told me that she didn’t think that I had had a very good education. Since she was supposed to be writing one of my letters of recommendation I took what she said to heart.

She was right and it took a move across the continent and starting my life over again and one particular incident for me to see what she meant and change it.

She said that she thought I was particularly bright, serious and would succeed in academia. She simply meant that I did not know what it was to work. One of my strongest traits is my ability to pick up concepts and their applications almost intuitively. This helped me to keep pace with other students despite moving ten times before high school and attending seven different schools. It did not, however, help me learn how to buckle down and push through real challenges as I knew that I would, at the very least make a passing grade on whatever I picked up in class and through homework.

This slowly changed during my time in Alaska, but there was one incident that stands out as the clear breaking point.

I rested against a tree and eased my pack down. I had maybe 500 feet to go until I reached the summit of the highest peak on Wrangell Island, Alaska. The snow broke beneath my snowshoes like freeze-dried ice cream. The summit attempt began before the sunrise that morning, and it had been some time since the sun had set. I massaged my calves and honestly considered giving up.

To stop in Alaska, in the winter in sub-zero temperatures before reaching camp is a gamble with your life. I knew it. If I set up camp where I was I would never get a fire started, and I would run a significant risk from the avalanche prone slope. I rested for a few more minutes and tried to pick out a few constellations in the sky.

I decided that I did not want to die that night so I tightened my snowshoes, shouldered my pack and continued my march. I broke the summit after a long traverse along a sheer face following a two-foot wide track. Behind a small dip at the summit, I dug out frozen blocks of snow that I set up on the north side of my snow cave as a makeshift wind sheer and I settled into my sleeping bag and shivered away and slept badly until just before sunrise.

I set up a mat to keep my tripod from sinking straight down through the snow and spent the next half an hour shooting some of the best photos I’ve ever made before my fingers grew too cold to work and my batteries had died due to the cold.

I came back to summit camp, made some tea and hot oatmeal, tried to massage life back into my icy feet and work my boots until they both were warm enough to flex. I packed my gear and broke camp.

When I made it back home late that night I took a hot bath to warm my body. The heater hummed and steam rose from my soaked clothes where they hung. I thought about what had happened as the photos loaded on my laptop in the living room and new how lucky I was to be home with all my digits.

I had an intuitive understanding of the value of tenacity, but it took facing the prospect of death to really understand that often a contest will come down not to just who has the most advantages, but to the one that admits what they want and can keep giving their all the longest.

The Alaska Press Club awarded me with first place in the Best Scenic Photo category for one of the photos I took just before sunrise.

tennisking88
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Re: PS Drafts (Too many ideas, nothing is sticking, need help)

Postby tennisking88 » Thu Aug 25, 2011 12:46 pm

I like the first essay. Very unique background. Expand on your hardships. I'm not big on mentioning "financial security" or explaining why you want to go to law school/will be a good lawyer.

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Jack Smirks
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Re: PS Drafts (Too many ideas, nothing is sticking, need help)

Postby Jack Smirks » Thu Aug 25, 2011 1:11 pm

I think you should pursue your first idea but you need a clearer theme than what you've presented so far. Get rid of the bit about financial security and expand more on your upbringing. I didn't like the way you mentioned it so briefly and then left it so abruptly, as a reader I was really interested in how you went from such a difficult childhood to end up as a writer in Alaska. The transition was too rigid and overall it seemed like you jumped around quite a bit throughout the essay.

Try to think of one theme that you can weave throughout your childhood, the job in Alaska and your decision to apply to law school. You mention these lessons that you learned but I feel like you really didn't connect them in any meaningful way. Maybe just pick one lesson and expand on it throughout the essay or try to do a better job of explaining how these small lessons you're learning relate to a bigger overall lesson.

I hope what I said makes sense. Try writing a first draft and then come back for more suggestions.
Last edited by Jack Smirks on Thu Aug 25, 2011 6:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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thelong
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Re: PS Drafts (Too many ideas, nothing is sticking, need help)

Postby thelong » Thu Aug 25, 2011 1:39 pm

Thanks for the input. What you said does make sense. The focus does need to be a little tighter and I think a lot of the jerky transitioning comes from trying to tie too much into so small an area. Any suggestions?

Talk about childhood then how that made me want to go to AK? How I sort of fell into the job in AK?

Maybe get rid of the lessons? Or, if that's a more advantageous piece to keep in get rid of something else? I can definitely see how it would be easier to connect one specific lesson rather than trying to link several lessons, particularly given space constraints.

No one said it was going to be easy, haha.

But hopefully I'm not barking up the wrong tree entirely.

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Moomoo2u
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Re: PS Drafts (Too many ideas, nothing is sticking, need help)

Postby Moomoo2u » Thu Aug 25, 2011 2:20 pm

Like a previous poster said the $ motivation should not be mentioned. Also keep in mind that you DONT have to say why you want to go to law school. Talk about how growing up was hard for you and the challenges faced/lessons learned by growing up in that kind of situation. That would make a very powerful PS.

The reporter one is good too, but think of the angle you want to work. Growth? From, when I started I knew nothing but after interviewing people and etc I became a decent reporter? Make sure that there's a unifying point to it all.

But your ideas are really unique and interesting and if you get a draft up I'd be happy to help you out with it.

CanadianWolf
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Re: PS Drafts (Too many ideas, nothing is sticking, need help)

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Aug 25, 2011 3:17 pm

Bluntly put, your writing skills need improvement. The first essay contains a sentence fragment: " You'll be told while walking to work, in the grocery store or at the school basketball game."

The first paragraph of the first essay is the most interesting; otherwise, neither essay captured my interest.

P.S. Try to avoid overuse of the pronoun "I".

P.P.S. Consider writing about an inner fear that motivates you to succeed.

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thelong
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Re: PS Drafts (Too many ideas, nothing is sticking, need help)

Postby thelong » Thu Aug 25, 2011 3:37 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Bluntly put, your writing skills need improvement. The first essay contains a sentence fragment: " You'll be told while walking to work, in the grocery store or at the school basketball game."

The first paragraph of the first essay is the most interesting; otherwise, neither essay captured my interest.

P.S. Try to avoid overuse of the pronoun "I".

P.P.S. Consider writing about an inner fear that motivates you to succeed.


That's interesting. I think that's kind of what I was going for with the first paragraph, but maybe pointing out that financial security is a motivator was plainly the wrong way to do it and maybe that same idea could be better turned around into a central theme as you've alluded.

Can you expand on what you found interesting about that paragraph?

I really appreciate the input, it's clearly helping me to focus this statement. Good catch on the sentence fragment and the overuse of "I," though I think that points to lazy grammar more than poor overall writing skills.

CanadianWolf
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Re: PS Drafts (Too many ideas, nothing is sticking, need help)

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Aug 25, 2011 3:47 pm

The first paragraph suggested a theme of an inner fear that motivates you.

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Jack Smirks
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Re: PS Drafts (Too many ideas, nothing is sticking, need help)

Postby Jack Smirks » Thu Aug 25, 2011 6:18 pm

thelong wrote:Talk about childhood then how that made me want to go to AK? How I sort of fell into the job in AK?

Maybe get rid of the lessons? Or, if that's a more advantageous piece to keep in get rid of something else? I can definitely see how it would be easier to connect one specific lesson rather than trying to link several lessons, particularly given space constraints.

Yeah if you can come up with one lesson to expand on throughout the essay I think it would be a good focus point. Maybe if you expand on growing up as the youngest in a low income family of ten and how your interaction with your family (mutual respect/reliance) helped you to understand how to interact with the community as a whole in Alaska. Then you can conclude with how you plan to use that lesson in the practice of law within the community or something. Or if you wanted to use "growth" as the focus point you could talk about how you grew up as the youngest in the family and how you continued to grow as a young adult in Alaska. Then you could tie that in with how law school is the continuation of this "growth".

I don't know your life so I'm just throwing examples out there that you may be able to apply. I think you get the basic idea of what I'm talking about.

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thelong
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Re: PS Drafts (Too many ideas, nothing is sticking, need help)

Postby thelong » Thu Aug 25, 2011 6:31 pm

Jack Smirks wrote:
thelong wrote:Talk about childhood then how that made me want to go to AK? How I sort of fell into the job in AK?

Maybe get rid of the lessons? Or, if that's a more advantageous piece to keep in get rid of something else? I can definitely see how it would be easier to connect one specific lesson rather than trying to link several lessons, particularly given space constraints.

Yeah if you can come up with one lesson to expand on throughout the essay I think it would be a good focus point. Maybe if you expand on growing up as the youngest in a low income family of ten and how your interaction with your family (mutual respect/reliance) helped you to understand how to interact with the community as a whole in Alaska. Then you can conclude with how you plan to use that lesson in the practice of law within the community or something. Or if you wanted to use "growth" as the focus point you could talk about how you grew up as the youngest in the family and how you continued to grow as a young adult in Alaska. Then you could tie that in with how law school is the continuation of this "growth".

I don't know your life so I'm just throwing examples out there that you may be able to apply. I think you get the basic idea of what I'm talking about.


I definitely appreciate ideas about how to tie things together. Thanks!




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