Help would be appreciated

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
zipped
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2011 1:30 pm

Help would be appreciated

Postby zipped » Sun Sep 18, 2011 6:56 pm

I have been working on this thing for a few hours and it doesn't look any better than when I started. I could use some constructive feedback and some ideas on where to take it from here.


“There is too much turkey in this wrap, I am going to fucking kill myself”, these were the words of 13 year old Omari Marlin. As he sat on the park bench next to me glaring as if daring me to speak otherwise I couldn’t help but sigh. It is impossible to not feel sorry for this child who has been in and out of institutions and hospitals for more than half of his life. The remainder of his life is spent living in a dingy apartment in the Bronx with his mother, whose husband has been in jail since Omari turned two. It would have been easy to write off the child that strangles his counselors and hits his peers but then I would have been like everyone else in his life when it is far more satisfying to be the exception.
Sadly, his story is not uncommon amongst those at Camp Ramapo, a summer camp for children with special needs in the Catskill Mountains. The mission of the camp is a difficult concept for most people to grasp. New counselors believe they are there to turn kids like Omari into stand up citizens. This eventually leads to failure and they are overcome with disappointment and confusion. The mission of the camp is far simpler, to provide these inner city children with an accurate portrayal of something they believe every normal child participates in; summer camp. It is balancing this sense of normality while keeping order that creates this unique setting.
I had traveled to New York looking to prove to myself that I could jump into a new environment and succeed. I left Oregon unsure about my future and about my abilities to distinguish myself from my peers. Never had I been tested in the way I was about to be. In a camp where fist fights are a daily occurrence you need to find a happy medium between stopping problems before they arise and having the ability to cope with them once they do happen. By the end of the summer I was frequently looked to by my coworkers as the go-to guy for advice and someone to take over when things got too difficult. This led to me being the supervisor of my own area in my second summer, where I was in charge of 25 people. I am not quite sure who matured more that summer, me or the campers.
My father has been a public defense attorney since opening his practice in Anchorage 25 years ago. He has never once suggested I follow his footsteps, he has never told stories of glorious courtroom debates nor saving the innocent from prison. Instead I heard stories of the corrupt city officials, of the grueling hours, of having to cancel vacations due to trials. So why does he do it? There has to be something deeper, and as I joined him on his trip to Washington DC for his Supreme Court case; Greene vs. Camreta, I found it. No, not in the grandeur of the Supreme Court, but in the eyes of those he was defending, the family who knew they could not be fighting their case if it were not for their lawyer.
Who knows where the children of Ramapo will be in five years, I just know that on the last day of the summer Omari Marlin had tears in his eyes as he embraced me. We had both grown. We might not have been able to change their environment back home, but we gave the kids something to look forward to; next summer.

kublaikahn
Posts: 647
Joined: Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:47 am

Re: Help would be appreciated

Postby kublaikahn » Mon Sep 19, 2011 1:35 am

Start with the idea that you want to convey some character trait about yourself, some skill or ability that you are proud of or find unique. If you think you can use this story to develop that idea, than go for it. However, what you have done here is simply tell a pitiful story about troubled youth. You flash statements of how others looked up to you, but if anything that makes you seem paternalistic and self-centered.

I would not start with the quote. I would start by introducing Omari as someone who is struggling with frustration and lack of control. Then you can put in the cuss word and explain how his frustration, while manifesting in the sandwich snafu, is really about a deeper inability to take control of his life. From there pivot to something about you. You can choose, but some options might be: how you identify with that, how you have the ability to help people work through the frustration, or how grateful you are that you were instilled with the tools to deal with frustration (maybe talk about tackling tough tasks in school or an event in your life that left you feeling out control). The point is find a theme the paints you in a good light and focus on yourself. Avoid platitudes. Maybe others did turn to you to mediate disputes, but can you support that with details?

At any rate, this piece is about helping others take control, not about leadership, conflict resolution, or your dads job. When you go down those paths, you dilute your theme. On the other hand, you could develop one of those themes instead.

zipped
Posts: 3
Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2011 1:30 pm

Re: Help would be appreciated

Postby zipped » Mon Sep 19, 2011 1:29 pm

Honestly I was trying to go for paternalistic, a majority of these children don't have father figures. Is there a reason that would be a mistake? I was getting the idea I talked too much about the children and not enough about myself, did this appear to be an issue? Thank you for the read and advice.

kublaikahn
Posts: 647
Joined: Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:47 am

Re: Help would be appreciated

Postby kublaikahn » Mon Sep 19, 2011 8:09 pm

True that, that these kids need some mentors and role models in their lives. However, IMHO, lawyers have role-differentiated power over their clients and the concept of paternalism in one on which to tread lightly. Law schools seem sensitive to this. Just alter the way you present this piece so you do not come off like the "wise leader" instructing others on how to live their lives. I am not saying what you did with those kids is in any way incorrect, I just think it is a risk to come across as paternalistic when applying to law schools. Others may disagree.

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writetrack
Posts: 15
Joined: Fri Oct 09, 2009 6:27 pm

Re: Help would be appreciated

Postby writetrack » Tue Sep 20, 2011 9:36 pm

Hi Zipped,

There is a lot of great material in this statement. Here is the issue, you are bringing in too many themes and as a reader, I am having trouble making the links between each experience. AdComm likes to see a story that begins and concludes the statement, without too many deviations. The body of the statement should provide context and really answer the question of why you believe that your skills, interests, and long term career goals align with a future in the legal field.

As a possible solution, I think you can try to provide a comparison between what your father achieves in the courtroom with what you are trying to achieve for the children in the camp. Or alternatively you make this about the children and how this has driven you to be an advocate. Don't forget you also can put some of the experiences here in a Diversity Statement which would serve to compliment your personal statement and add a more comprehensive overview of you as an applicant.

Please let me know if you have any questions about your PS or the application at large.

Hamada
______________________________________________
Hamada | Write Track Admissions Law
hamada@writetrackadmissions.com
http://www.writetrackadmissions.com/programs/law

dani_burhop
Posts: 64
Joined: Wed Sep 21, 2011 5:14 pm

Re: Help would be appreciated

Postby dani_burhop » Thu Sep 22, 2011 1:59 pm

writetrack wrote:Hi Zipped,

There is a lot of great material in this statement. Here is the issue, you are bringing in too many themes and as a reader, I am having trouble making the links between each experience. AdComm likes to see a story that begins and concludes the statement, without too many deviations. The body of the statement should provide context and really answer the question of why you believe that your skills, interests, and long term career goals align with a future in the legal field.

As a possible solution, I think you can try to provide a comparison between what your father achieves in the courtroom with what you are trying to achieve for the children in the camp. Or alternatively you make this about the children and how this has driven you to be an advocate. Don't forget you also can put some of the experiences here in a Diversity Statement which would serve to compliment your personal statement and add a more comprehensive overview of you as an applicant.

Please let me know if you have any questions about your PS or the application at large.



All good advice. I also agree with ditching the quote - it doesn't add value (though it does shock). I would also say, do what you can to move away from spending word count on the mission of the camp to your own growth process - what did you take on? What part of this story shows your ability to take on responsibility, to be trusted? What anecdote will illustrate your commitment? What was the "take away" from the experience?

Try not to end with the crying kid, I'd also recommend. That's one of those cinematic tricks that I find applicants use to their detriment.

Best, Dani

CanadianWolf
Posts: 10439
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:54 pm

Re: Help would be appreciated

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Sep 22, 2011 2:13 pm

This is a very strong & convincing personal statement. Readers will know & like you. In my opinion, your theme is clear & shows maturity, the desire to help others & a willingness to grow.

P.S. Consider keeping the quote as it conveys the reality of the child's situation as well as the type of challenges you faced.

P.P.S. Many law schools value teaching experience, especially with underprivileged kids. This is an outstanding personal statement that should help your law school applications. No need to homongenize this essay.

CanadianWolf
Posts: 10439
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:54 pm

Re: Help would be appreciated

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Sep 22, 2011 2:23 pm

CONSIDER: Revising the two consecutive sentences that begin with "I had traveled to New York..." & "I left Oregon...". The flow of your writing is interrupted at this point. Initially I thought that it called for a new paragraph, but, after rereading this section, I realized that these two sentences are a touch awkward compared to the rest of your essay.




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