Personal Statement - Please critique.

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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Personal Statement - Please critique.

Postby MrHaephestus » Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:23 pm

Please critique folks, but here are some comments I've got from the get go . . .

1) Yes there are contractions in my statement. Yes I know contractions are forbidden in formal writing, but since it's a personal statement, I am more concerned with personality. If it leaves ya'll frothing at the mouth, I'll remove them.
2) I am not into sob stories, and thus I am not too keen on my statement. Ad Comms are gonna get alot of these things, and I am seriously considering scrapping the whole thing, and focusing solely on the CASA/GAL aspect including tidbits about hearings, attorneys I've with which I've dealt, praise from judges, disdain from overworked CPS caseworkers, the kiddos etc. In other words, taking out the stuff about my past entirely, and expand the CASA stuff.
3) The statement is short on description, and I've opted for simple writing. I see no need to use a "50 cent word" where a "10 cent" word will do and performs just as well. I also don't think anyone will care too much about what the Travis Co. Courthouse looks like, or lengthy descriptions, so I've out left such elaboration.
4) Finally, I am keeping any statement I submit to two pages maximum and at 12 pont font. I would prefer to submit something short, yet effective.

Have at it . . .

When your mother, among other things: sells her body for money; joins a criminal ring; defrauds several banks; encourages your half-brother to beat you; and, ultimately absconds with you on a pointless year-long journey of homelessness, your perspective shifts from that of a 5-year-old child to a victim. Shame, anger, and fear become your constant companions. You avert your eyes when you’re addressed. You second-guess every decision you make. You throw temper tantrums at school because you can't read like the other kids and get placed in the “special class.”

You ask yourself questions like, “would falling asleep in the bathtub and drowning really be all that bad? Should I stab my half-brother tonight (I can't stand another bruised rib, or bloodied face)? Is life really worth living, and if so, why is all this happening to me?” I don’t think a 5-year-old kid should really be confronted with an existential crisis, but there I was anyway. If not for my father who finally rescued me, I'd have taken that bathtub nap, or grown up to be a violent criminal, but I didn't - my father saw to that.

I could have let my past keep me down and mold me into a dark and brooding individual, but instead I chose to pick myself up and move forward. Despite my early experiences, I refuse to accept defeat, or submit to hatred. If I’ve learned anything from my childhood it’s this: your past does not define you, your choices do. I’ve therefore opted to make as many positive choices as possible while relying on my past to help those who struggle.

As a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate and Guardian ad Litem (CASA/GAL), I effectively advocate for kids who suffer abuse and neglect. I lend a willing ear, and try to alleviate the kids’ pain. One kid just wanted to skate. He had been in rehab for quite some time, and the sporadic visits from his mother revealed only her continued methamphetamine and cocaine use. In the end, she chose her drug dealer over her son and vanished. The boy became dejected, desultory, and angry. So I took him out for movies, video games, and meals. We spent hours just hanging out so he could reconnect with the world. His outlook improved, and his attitude changed. He became a superstar at his treatment facility. He still hadn’t been able to skate though; his old board was in pieces. So, just before he graduated rehab, I took him to the skate shop, bought him a custom board, and took him to the skate park. When he thanked me at the end of the day, I knew he really meant it. I made it a point to be at his graduation, and I allowed myself a smile as he embarked on a new life with his loving father. I wanted to linger after the ceremony, but couldn’t. My next case was already underway.

This time it’s twins. At 16 years old, the boys have a history of violence, academic underperformance, and a long list of behavioral disorders. Their mother, overwhelmed and with limited means, called Child Protective Services in a last ditch effort obtain proper treatment for her boys. I’ve met the kids and their mother, and I am convinced that the court reports and CPS file don't tell the whole story. After reviewing numerous prior psychological evaluations and treatment strategies, I suspect the boys might have a mild developmental delay, and I'm advocating that they be tested. The juvenile courts and the special education system have just about given up on these kids. I won’t. I can’t. The boys need proper treatment, and if they don’t get it, I fear they’ll become yet another statistic in the criminal justice system.

With my CASA / GAL work in mind, I’ve decided to apply to law school with the intention of committing myself to public service. My dream job, should I be fortunate enough to get it, is to become a deputy district attorney. I’ve got friends who work in Big Law handling major transactional cases, and they make the high dollar salaries that come with that kind of work. Truthfully though, Big Law doesn’t interest me. I’d rather advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. I know the hours will be long, the pay will be low, and there will be heart-wrenching situations, but I can take it. I need to do this for that scared, little kid I used to be, and for that scared, little kid that's out there tonight waiting for my help.

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Re: Personal Statement - Please critique.

Postby thederangedwang » Tue Sep 13, 2011 12:01 am

your approach is interesting...risky...but it could potentially work very well

what i mean by interesting/risky is that the statement is very forceful, direct, concrete...and in some ways.....cold and devoid of emotions...Now i know wat u r is this ps deviod of emotions when all i talk about are misery and my love for helping other abused kids?

Ur ps does have a lot of emotion,,,,but to me those emotions seem very mechanical, robotic, and an reflexive response instead of a genuine warm feeling....meaning......after i read this i get the sense that u r a very no-nonsense type of person, strict, but also lacking in flexibility.

Some other thoughts...ur decision to use the "You" tense to address when You';ve been abused..when Youve been somewhat dangerous since it assumes that the ad comm will react in the same way as you did.....this is a dangerous several of the examples you gave, i would have done something different that what YOU forcefully stated i would do...i would advise u to change the tensing.

Overall though, the writing is concise, clear, and articulate...i can tell you are a strong writer which is important. However, my main concern is still about the overall topic and tone....i think it is "risky" that it can be hit or miss....

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Re: Personal Statement - Please critique.

Postby MrHaephestus » Tue Sep 13, 2011 12:42 am

@deragandwang . . .

Thanks! You bring up some interesting points, and ones that never occurred to me.

You're right, I am pretty no-nonsense. I am in court - ALOT, and after dealing with harried CPS workers, overworked DAs, overburdened attorneys ad litem, and the occasional furious judge (one judge I thought was gonna come off the bench and smack a sheriff's deputy when a juvenile was brought to court in chains and shackles), I've learned to get down to it. When I get up in court to speak at hearings, I've got about 2-3 minutes to get several months worth of work across to everybody on the case. Concrete and factual tends to work well in that situation, but you're right, my PS does have that hard nosed aspect to it.

As for the "you" aspect, I am undecided on changing that. To be truthful, I may remove all the stuff about my childhood, and switch to a a realistic story of what it really means to be a CASA - the long nights fueled up on coffee and nicotine; the midday phone calls from hysterical mothers; the disdainful emails from CPS caseworkers who feel you're more of a nuisance than a help; etc. I like risk though. I have a high tolerance for it - you should see my investment portfolio sometime - nothing but risk.

Thanks for the input.

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