Tips for those who are stuck

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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Kess
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Tips for those who are stuck

Postby Kess » Mon Oct 10, 2011 2:57 pm

If you opened this thread with hopes of reading tips, I apologize for the false excitement. I am the one seeking.

So as person with not many incredible softs, I thought I had finally found a topic to write about. Now, I'm trying to write about it and I feel like everything I am putting on to paper conveys very little. Anyone been in this situation? If so, did you end up switching your topic or staying with the original?

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theadvancededit
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Re: Tips for those who are stuck

Postby theadvancededit » Mon Oct 10, 2011 5:29 pm

What works for many of my students is to start an outline. It's hard to make a jump from brainstorming/topic formulation to writing their first draft. In a way, you can think of it as a more organized brainstorming activity where you can collect and gather your thoughts around a central topic and develop your argument structure at the same time. This will help you to get "unstuck" and to solidify your topic.

For more on this, see: http://theadvancededit.com/admissions/s ... our-essay/

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rinkrat19
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Re: Tips for those who are stuck

Postby rinkrat19 » Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:08 pm

Don't worry so much about starting with an intro and writing straight through to a conclusion. Start writing with the interesting bits--something funny or startling or exciting or sad. Think of a specific instance, subject, situation or event that you can speak engagingly about, even if you can't immediately think of how it would relate to law. If your closest friends were asked about you, what would they say first? What makes you even slightly different than the next applicant in the pile? Pound out some paragraphs--don't worry about where it would go in an essay or how they fit together. Just get words on the page. From there, you may be able to take 'this', discard 'that', and add a little bit more about 'the other thing' to develop an overall theme or topic.

As an example, I started with a quote from a hockey coach I had, and wrote about pushing yourself to failure, and how I'd never really pushed myself that hard. I ended up using almost none of that. Then I started writing about sports more generally; why I like hockey and snowboarding. A few sentences of that actually made it into my final. Then I tried to write 'why I want to go to law school,' but it was mostly whining about how I hate my job. Obviously that wouldn't work, so I toned some of it down (from "I hate my job" to "my job is rewarding, but not something I'm passionate about"). I related that to things I actually am passionate about (snowboarding and hockey, from before), and how so few people are lucky enough to have jobs they love as much as their hobbies.

Just to show how several false starts came together in the end.

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Kess
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Re: Tips for those who are stuck

Postby Kess » Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:14 pm

Thanks for the tips. I have a draft going but I feel it doesn't sound nearly as compelling as it should. I'll probably start a thread with it soon.

By the way, I am also a huge hockey fan (or used to be anyway), but never did anything with it besides watch one too many games =)

Seneca
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Re: Tips for those who are stuck

Postby Seneca » Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:18 pm

I had that same issue with writing a PS. I switched topics several times, and ultimately ended up tying one or two of my strongest ones together. I found it helpful to start with a fill-in-the-blank exercise. "I will be a good addition to Law School X because I _______ (achievement, perspective, background, etc) which demonstrates that (I) _________ (significance)." Obviously, your final theme will be more nuanced, but the MadLib-style structure took some of the pressure off, and coming up with even a simple thesis was helpful. After that, jot down a few bullets about how you'll "prove" that. Trying to jot down several statements as quickly as possible helped me cut through some of the over-thinking and frustration.

Also this:
If you could leave a two-minute voicemail message for the dean of admissions explaining - using one or two topics - why you would be an asset to the law school, what would you say?

Sounds kind of silly, but verbalizing that was what really helped me hone in on what is most crucial to my application to develop a strong theme and even format the PS.

And I agree with rinkrat - just sit down and don't be afraid to write without much direction. Save everything. I also had a few scraps from different (and otherwise useless) drafts that ended up in my final. I was fortunate to have a couple good friends also going through the process, and it was helpful to have a sounding board, especially from people who know me and had suggestions regarding what content to develop or add. Go through your resume and write a few paragraphs on whatever strikes you about each entry. Write down everything random and unique about yourself, no matter how insignificant, and see if anything jumps out. Why did you pick your major? Is there any continuous thread through your major, interests, hobbies, or background - even if it seems boring, a consistent trajectory like that is going to set you apart.

It's a tough process - I would have much preferred to spend another several months studying for the LSAT - and no one approach can work for everyone, but I hope this helps. Good luck!

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Kess
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Re: Tips for those who are stuck

Postby Kess » Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:22 pm

Yes, I really do appreciate the lengthy replies. Very much looking forward to hearing everyone's criticism once I post my draft. Thanks!

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YoungProfessional
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Re: Tips for those who are stuck

Postby YoungProfessional » Tue Oct 11, 2011 3:42 pm

Seneca wrote:
Sounds kind of silly, but verbalizing that was what really helped me hone in on what is most crucial to my application to develop a strong theme and even format the PS.


It's a tough process - I would have much preferred to spend another several months studying for the LSAT - and no one approach can work for everyone, but I hope this helps. Good luck!


agreed. Its very tough. I would rather study for the lsat then to write a personal statement. True story

nola051
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Re: Tips for those who are stuck

Postby nola051 » Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:04 pm

Seneca wrote:I had that same issue with writing a PS. I switched topics several times, and ultimately ended up tying one or two of my strongest ones together. I found it helpful to start with a fill-in-the-blank exercise. "I will be a good addition to Law School X because I _______ (achievement, perspective, background, etc) which demonstrates that (I) _________ (significance)." Obviously, your final theme will be more nuanced, but the MadLib-style structure took some of the pressure off, and coming up with even a simple thesis was helpful. After that, jot down a few bullets about how you'll "prove" that. Trying to jot down several statements as quickly as possible helped me cut through some of the over-thinking and frustration.

Also this:
If you could leave a two-minute voicemail message for the dean of admissions explaining - using one or two topics - why you would be an asset to the law school, what would you say?

Sounds kind of silly, but verbalizing that was what really helped me hone in on what is most crucial to my application to develop a strong theme and even format the PS.

And I agree with rinkrat - just sit down and don't be afraid to write without much direction. Save everything. I also had a few scraps from different (and otherwise useless) drafts that ended up in my final. I was fortunate to have a couple good friends also going through the process, and it was helpful to have a sounding board, especially from people who know me and had suggestions regarding what content to develop or add. Go through your resume and write a few paragraphs on whatever strikes you about each entry. Write down everything random and unique about yourself, no matter how insignificant, and see if anything jumps out. Why did you pick your major? Is there any continuous thread through your major, interests, hobbies, or background - even if it seems boring, a consistent trajectory like that is going to set you apart.

It's a tough process - I would have much preferred to spend another several months studying for the LSAT - and no one approach can work for everyone, but I hope this helps. Good luck!


The "what would you tell the dean" piece was actually something that I thought about, as well.

I think my first step was to do some serious reflection on my strengths as an applicant: What could I bring to the table that was unique? What was the overall picture that I wanted to paint with all of my application materials, and what role would the PS play in shaping that?

Once I had settled some of that, I had a much better idea of what I needed to accomplish. Then it was just a matter of transforming it into something that would be interesting and compelling to read, which involved (still involves, I should say) a lot of drafting, starting over, pulling together my favorite pieces from various versions, etc.

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YoungProfessional
Posts: 25
Joined: Mon Sep 12, 2011 11:19 am

Re: Tips for those who are stuck

Postby YoungProfessional » Tue Oct 11, 2011 9:37 pm

rinkrat19 wrote:Don't worry so much about starting with an intro and writing straight through to a conclusion. Start writing with the interesting bits--something funny or startling or exciting or sad. Think of a specific instance, subject, situation or event that you can speak engagingly about, even if you can't immediately think of how it would relate to law. If your closest friends were asked about you, what would they say first? What makes you even slightly different than the next applicant in the pile? Pound out some paragraphs--don't worry about where it would go in an essay or how they fit together. Just get words on the page. From there, you may be able to take 'this', discard 'that', and add a little bit more about 'the other thing' to develop an overall theme or topic.

As an example, I started with a quote from a hockey coach I had, and wrote about pushing yourself to failure, and how I'd never really pushed myself that hard. I ended up using almost none of that. Then I started writing about sports more generally; why I like hockey and snowboarding. A few sentences of that actually made it into my final. Then I tried to write 'why I want to go to law school,' but it was mostly whining about how I hate my job. Obviously that wouldn't work, so I toned some of it down (from "I hate my job" to "my job is rewarding, but not something I'm passionate about"). I related that to things I actually am passionate about (snowboarding and hockey, from before), and how so few people are lucky enough to have jobs they love as much as their hobbies.

Just to show how several false starts came together in the end.


this is actually great advice that I can follow.




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