Need your opinions on my personal statement

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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Massimiliano
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Need your opinions on my personal statement

Postby Massimiliano » Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:34 am

While grading essays for my novel workshop class at Chung Dahm Institute in Seoul, South Korea, I came across a composition by one of my favorite students, Lee Han Kyeol:

someone betrayed me, and i felt very angry. First, someone betrayed me at the stair. I am someone go down to the stair but someone go up to the floor, so i go up to the floor, but door was locked! so i just go down alone until I go 1st floor. second, someone and i do funny tings. But someone said to another person that I just did funny thing, and someone said that he didn't funny thing. So, for these reasons, i felt angry when somoene betrayed me.

Reading this essay, I came to three conclusions: 1) something bad happened on the “stair;’ 2) it wasn’t clear who did funny “tings;’ and 3) this composition would probably need a second draft.

Lee stood about 4’7,” weighed approximately 75 pounds, yet somehow had the posture and general demeanor of an 80 year-old South Korean war vet. I think he may have actually had a receding hairline and a hearing aid. In addition to writing bewildering compositions, Lee would often appear at my desk with pendulums of drool hanging from his mouth and would scrawl gigantic universe maps on the board with Iran next to Venus. Lee was not to be underestimated, however. He would often publicly tease and humiliate me in class eliciting uproarious laughter from his classmates.

In novel workshop that term, we were reading Animal Farm. I knew that launching into lectures about Orwell’s brilliant allegory and references to the Russian revolution and Bolshevik takeover had the potential to lead to a revolution of its own in my classroom. If there was one thing I had learned from the past year of teaching, it was that Korean elementary and middle school students, probably like any other nationality, were far more interested in events within their own nation. I would make a lesson about the American Electoral College less about the disproportionate influence of South Dakota over California and more about a rural Korean province over Seoul. A unit on plastic surgery would not be about American celebrities, but about Girls Generation, a 9 member K-Pop girl band all of whom had received plastic surgery. So when we talked about Animal Farm, I would constantly reference recent hostilities between North and South Korea and contrast the miserable conditions within North Korea with South Korea’s economic prosperity. I thought my teaching style was effective until Lee raised his hand. “Teacher, I thought Kim Jong-Il was a human being, not a horse!”

Teaching in Korea has strengthened a skill I developed during my undergraduate years – condensing complex ideas into manageable, understandable pieces, an important skill for lawyers who must take complex legal concepts and convey them in everyday language to a client or jury. My favorite classes were on legal theory: constitutional law, American civil liberties, and due process. These classes inspired me to learn more about practicing law, so I took a mock trial class taught by an attorney. We started off learning basic logical fallacies and after a few weeks, more detailed rules of evidence and procedure. We realized that no case was black and white. The team that would win would be the team that mastered the rules of the game. Once the trial was underway, I couldn’t believe how much I had learned: objecting at the appropriate times, tailoring questions to elicit clear answers from witnesses, and delivering a closing statement that was powerful and succinct, while also exploiting mistakes made by the opposition. Most importantly, I had learned techniques to make the jury empathize with my client. Instead of boring them with technicalities and esoteric rules, I was able to tell them a simple story about an innocent woman who was driving reasonably to work one morning and was now falsely accused of negligence.

Teaching has done just as much, if not more, than mock trial to build upon my public speaking and interpersonal skills. At first, I was discouraged that I could not master teaching merely by being energetic and outgoing. I realized that I had undertaken the most difficult and important responsibility of my life. On a weekly basis, I would serve as a role model for 80 kids and help mold their brains during a vital period of their life. Korean children are notoriously among the unhappiest in the world. Their parents are overworked and unavailable, shipping them off to private English academies as a de facto daycare, and physically or verbally abusing them when they fell short of expectations. Unlike American kids, Koreans don’t join sports teams and theater clubs; their world is school. My role as a teacher was simple: make learning English fun. If these kids viewed their time at Chung Dahm in a positive light, they would be more willing to continue their English studies in the future and open doors for themselves.

I saw Lee in the hall last week and was pleased to see that he is still attending Chung Dahm. As he grows into a teenager, I fear that he will lose his uninhibited creativity and eccentricities, as so many of us do as we reach adulthood. I hope Lee’s new teachers and classmates continue to embrace him for who he is. That said, his grammar is going to need some serious work next term.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Need your opinions on my personal statement

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Sep 21, 2011 11:41 am

Interesting, well written & enjoyable to read. The final paragraph, however, is weak & in need of revision as this essay should be your personal statement, not an evaluation of Lee.

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Massimiliano
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Re: Need your opinions on my personal statement

Postby Massimiliano » Wed Sep 21, 2011 1:38 pm

Good point. Thanks for the suggestion.

dani_burhop
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Re: Need your opinions on my personal statement

Postby dani_burhop » Wed Sep 21, 2011 5:35 pm

Be careful with your visual description of Lee - it is arresting, but also possibly insensitive. Lee is such a big character, he steals the spotlight from you. The use of the quote is novel, but it should probably be shorter. This is a promising draft, though! Memorable, certainly. Just be sure that as you sit down to revise, you've thought for a bit about how you want to come across yourself, character-wise.

Best, Dani

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Massimiliano
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Re: Need your opinions on my personal statement

Postby Massimiliano » Fri Sep 23, 2011 2:25 am

Latest update. Any input would be appreciated.


Lee was my favorite student at Chung Dahm Institute in Seoul, South Korea. He stood about 4’7,” weighed approximately 75 pounds, yet somehow had the posture and general demeanor of an 80 year-old South Korean war vet. I think he may have actually had a receding hairline and a hearing aid. He would often appear at my desk with pendulums of drool hanging from his mouth and would scrawl gigantic universe maps on the board with Iran next to Venus. Lee was not to be underestimated, however. He would often publicly tease and humiliate me in class eliciting uproarious laughter from his class. Lee was eccentric, but uninhibited and brilliant.

While teaching in Korea, I realized that a classroom was no different from a jury. As an undergraduate, I studied criminal due process, civil liberties, and constitutional law. They fascinated me, but I lacked an audience. I found one both as an undergrad in mock trial and as a teacher in South Korea. With both, I had learned to break condense complex ideas into manageable, understandable pieces, an important skill for lawyers who must take complex legal concepts and convey them in everyday language to a client or jury..

Lee and I were reading Animal Farm in novel workshop that term. I knew that launching into lectures about Orwell’s brilliant allegory and references to the Russian revolution and Bolshevik takeover had the potential to lead to a revolution of its own in my classroom. If there was one thing I had learned from the past year of teaching, it was that Korean elementary and middle school students, probably like any other nationality, were far more interested in events within their own nation. I would make a lesson about the American Electoral College less about the disproportionate influence of South Dakota over California and more about a rural Korean province over Seoul. A unit on plastic surgery would not be about American celebrities, but about Girls Generation, a 9 member K-Pop girl band all of whom had received plastic surgery. So when we talked about Animal Farm, I would constantly reference recent hostilities between North and South Korea and contrast the miserable conditions within North Korea with South Korea’s economic prosperity. I thought my teaching style was effective until Lee raised his hand. “Teacher, I thought Kim Jong-Il was a human being, not a horse!”

At first, I was discouraged that I could not master teaching merely by being energetic and outgoing. I realized that I had undertaken the most difficult and important responsibility of my life. On a weekly basis, I would serve as a role model for 80 kids and help mold their brains during a vital period of their life. Korean children are notoriously among the unhappiest in the world. Their parents are overworked and unavailable, shipping them off to private English academies as a de facto daycare, and physically or verbally abusing them when they fell short of expectations. Unlike American kids, Koreans don’t join sports teams and theater clubs; their world is school. My role as a teacher was simple: make learning English fun. If these kids viewed their time at Chung Dahm in a positive light, they would be more willing to continue their English studies in the future and open doors for themselves.

Teaching English in Korea has reinforced my desire to become a lawyer. As an undergraduate, I took a mock trial course in which we started off learning basic logical fallacies and after a few weeks, more detailed rules of evidence and procedure. We realized that no case was black and white. The team that would win would be the team that mastered the rules of the game. Once the trial was underway, I couldn’t believe how much I had learned: objecting at the appropriate times, tailoring questions to elicit clear answers from witnesses, and delivering a closing statement that was powerful and succinct, while also exploiting mistakes made by the opposition. Most importantly, I had learned techniques to make the jury empathize with my client. Instead of boring them with technicalities and esoteric rules, I was able to tell them a simple story about an innocent woman who was driving reasonably to work one morning and was now falsely accused of negligence.

Leaving South Korea in December will be bittersweet. After nearly two years of teaching, I have grown attached to students like Lee and the Korean way of life. At Rutgers Law School, I will continue to build upon my ability to connect with my audience. I will deepen my knowledge of the law and understand that complex ideas must always be broken down with clarity and brevity. I will become a lawyer, but I will never cease being a teacher.

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

Re: Need your opinions on my personal statement

Postby dani_burhop » Fri Sep 23, 2011 12:03 pm

This is a strong essay at this point - I can tell you've been revising. The central message is clear (love of and commitment to teaching and learning); Lee no longer eclipses you in the essay; and, I come away from the essay believing in your thoughtfulness and the seriousness of your candidacy, while still liking you.

The "always be a teacher" ending is one of those things you can only get away with in a personal statement; some people might find it to be a groaner, but for the conventions of the PS, it works: it ties your content together, and it comes across as sincere.

This is the only section where I would argue you slide too far into "generic PS-speak":

I realized that I had undertaken the most difficult and important responsibility of my life. On a weekly basis, I would serve as a role model for 80 kids and help mold their brains during a vital period of their life.


Aphoristic-type abstract statements can weaken writing - the above pull quote is the only example that popped out in your essay for me.

This essay stands up well to other JD essays I've read by those whom have taught abroad. Teaching abroad is a risk and a challenge, so it's a good topic for a law PS. I come away from this believing in your commitment to the kids, as well as your ability to take on difficult assignments and succeed.

Best, Dani

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Odd Future Wolf Gang
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Re: Need your opinions on my personal statement

Postby Odd Future Wolf Gang » Fri Sep 23, 2011 12:24 pm

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Last edited by Odd Future Wolf Gang on Thu Jun 28, 2012 9:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.

thederangedwang
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Joined: Tue Jul 12, 2011 9:44 pm

Re: Need your opinions on my personal statement

Postby thederangedwang » Fri Sep 23, 2011 12:29 pm

IMO this is a very effective essay. The general theme and structure is strong so you should consider only minor stylistic edits at tis pt...content wise it is complete

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Massimiliano
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Re: Need your opinions on my personal statement

Postby Massimiliano » Mon Sep 26, 2011 10:31 am

Thank you everyone for your input. I'm sending this out within the next few days, so any last minute suggestions are welcome.




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