(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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Postby sjohnson4382 » Wed Nov 02, 2011 5:36 pm

There are some days that are so long and testing the pillow almost seems to call your name, eyelids desire to slam shut, and sometimes if we are very lucky we are catapulted into the mysterious adventures of our dreams. As I drift off, the night sky drapes itself over my little townhouse, my two dogs let out that final sigh as they find the perfect spot, and I embark on the journey we know as sleep. This is where the journey of life begins and ends. Encompassed in this journey are all of the accomplishments, obstacles, and never ending roads that fulfill the voids in what we know as life.
It seems that only a few moments have passed and I begin to hear what sounds like “Hot Legs.” This is strange because that is a song I loved as a small child; I must have been 8 or 9. As I begin to become involved in the moves made famous by Rod Stewart, I notice that soft cotton with the aroma of fabric softener is no longer against my skin. I believe my olive colored sheets have turned into something a bit cooler, in every sense of the word, and a vibrant shade of purple. Wow, it’s my parachute pants and windbreaker from when I was 9. I had to be having a blast because at this time no worries were anywhere around. My life was revolving around little league baseball, golf, Carolina football, and the ultimate driving motivator known as Dad. The dream is just beginning.
I open the door and quickly bolt out of my room and am greeted by a man, wearing a Gamecock t-shirt, smiling at me over French toast. That man is Barry Johnson, my guiding light, my inspiration, and the driving force behind everything I do. Things are absolutely wonderful, and I begin to think that life is not as tough as everyone seems to believe. All of a sudden my life changes drastically and the speed with which my world stops sends a jolt through my entire body. That inspiration and guiding light is gone. It has vanished and I am all alone. Wait a minute, get it together; I cannot be lost in this cloud of dust and rubble because there is a mother and baby brother someone must care for. As the sweat encompasses my body, the worries become ever so apparent. There is no way a thirteen year old boy can lead a family. The dream is beginning to spiral, and that adventure they call life is about to begin. Thirteen years old and my guiding light is missing, never to return. The blueprint of my life that landed in my lap with a terrifying thud had no instructions about helping my mother or raising your brother at age thirteen. Just as the plan is altered, so are the dreams that previously existed.
The days of high school sports and relaxation are replaced with playing chauffeur to a younger brother; add in making sure my mother had everything around the house in order, and that leaves little time for relaxation or dreaming. The afternoons of hanging out with friends were transformed into evenings of helping that younger brother prepare for the next day of school and the days ahead in what had become our lives.
As the years went on, I realized I might just be getting the hang of this fatherless life. Not so fast. The plan is altered again, and my hopes and dreams once again fall by the wayside. Those accomplishments that were so close now appear as if they have been swept away by hurricane force winds. That brother that I thought, from my limited experience, I had done a decent job on has taken a troublesome detour. How on earth could that have happened? The light ignites and it is evident that my “plan” is no longer the “plan” that must be followed. It is time to revamp. The nights of helping guide my brother on the right track, have now turned into long, tiresome sessions. It is not easy for a high school teenager who is trying to figure himself out, to guide someone only three years his younger. The nights when sleep finally comes turn into a waiting game of what police department may call, or even worse what hospital might call. I have discovered that only huge, out of reach efforts on my part could lead him down the right path. Is there any way hours can be added to the day? Is this dream over yet?
The next chapter in my life begins to surface in my imagination and for the first time in quite a while, a glimpse of a smile can be seen coming from my face. It seems as if my brother may be on the right track and that my mother may no longer feel like she has failed as the head of household. Each week brings different thoughts and many prayers, as to what I may do with my own life. As father time continues to tick incessantly, I realize my life has quickly passed me by and that I am in dire need to make a decision on what my future holds. High School graduation comes and it is time to decide on college. As the thoughts of a college life slip into my imagination, reality hits and I realize that the man I called Dad has been gone for years, and is still just that, gone; that mother and brother who have needed me these past few years will still need me. As I enter the local college in town, I realize that work seems to be coming before my education. I attempt to focus more strictly on my education, but with very little extra financial support I realize that work is a necessity. I attempt to work less hours, but soon realize that I cannot help support myself with fewer hours. School falls by the wayside and my grades suffer severely. On top of that I attempt to go to school with a broken writing hand. Two semesters later and I am up against a grade point average that would make any grown man cry.
Then it hits me and I decide that my education is paramount to a successful future and let the minor setback I have endured provide me with additional motivation. As I enter that second year of classes I see that it can be done. The hours turn into days and the days all run together, but I think I might be getting the hang of it. Three years later my semesters have consisted of hard earned A’s and an occasional B. My work now seems to be flowing smoother and it almost seems there are more hours in the day. My brother seems to have more days in which he “gets it,” and a tiny glimpse of relief can be seen on my mother’s face. Then another one of those pesky roadblocks arises. School has had to come to a halt, and the income I obtain must be increased. Help is needed at home, and my brother is back on the wrong track. I know this is not happening again, it can’t be. As I sit at home one night trying my best not to cry, I realize that life is not easy. The days as a child where I had thoughts of a smooth ride throughout life are long gone, and I realize that things may not ever get better. That is when I make the best decision of my life. I decide I am not going to give up and will without a doubt, be the best person that I can possibly be. I will attempt to fulfill all those dreams that just yesterday seemed impossible. It seems that a few weeks after that night, one of those opportunities appeared.
It is March 11, 2005 and I am beginning to fulfill one of those childhood dreams. I am becoming a police officer and will get to give back to the community that has given so much to me. As I prepare to attend the rigorous training academy that police officers endure, the Sheriff offers me a challenge. That challenge is to be the top graduate of my academy class. I hesitantly accept the challenge and move on more nervous than ever. The nights are long and the days even longer, however time is flying by. As the final days come to a close, I realize that challenge is within arm’s length. Never from day one did I think I would lose that challenge. The years that had passed taught me to fight tooth and nail until the end. As I walk across that stage to receive that award, I realize that I have done it. I feel as if I have made not only everyone around me, but most of all, myself proud. After walking off that stage I have time to reflect and realize that this accomplishment is small and that I must set my next goal even higher. The next goal is to become an investigator within three years of entering the law enforcement world. Two years pass and it seems that I am knocking on that third year without being anywhere close to obtaining that goal. My mind begins to wander and I look at how much I have done these past few years as a community servant. Giving back to the community by protecting the people within, day in and day out regardless of what it may cost you is quite an accomplishment. I would wake up everyday, put on that uniform, and tell myself that I will make a difference today. Lives have been saved and threatening dangers have been displaced. However, as the days go by, that thought of reaching the lofty goals that have been set are still persistent in my mind. Then something clicks and I make that decision. As the dispatcher sends me to that so called routine well being check, I begin to wonder if there may be something different this time. Pulling into the driveway, there is the feeling that this one will not be routine. Exiting the vehicle, the smell of smoke fills the air and I realize that this call is far from routine. I am approached by a white male in his mid forties, screaming and crying. After a minute or so, the realization sets in. His father is trapped inside and the home is on fire. As another emergency service worker arrives, I attempt to find an easy way inside. The only way in is through the locked front door and that becomes my entry point. Upon making entry, smoke billows from within the home and I drop to my knees. A small bit of flames are seen in the kitchen and I head that way. Upon making my way to the kitchen I see the father that his son was worried about. Appearing to be unconscious, I grab him by his arms and swiftly pull him outside the smoking home. He is rushed to the hospital and later I am told that he survived and will make a full recovery. It is another small accomplishment to add to my growing list. The small accomplishments have not always come easy throughout the years. As the months pass by the goals that I had set seem more attainable, and then the day comes. Another goal has been achieved just as I envisioned in the beginning. The step is reached and the most is made of that chance given to me. I set out to learn a new role as an investigator and remove myself from the reactive work of a uniformed deputy. I begin to realize that each step taken presents all new challenges. Becoming a member of a local task force sponsored by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives brings about those challenges; and with determination, I pick the challenges off one by one. The amount of time spent in criminal investigations has prepared me for the countless hours that will be spent perusing documents and cases during law school. The number of hours spent testifying in the State and Federal court systems will bring a since of practical experience that many other candidates do not possess. Then the inevitable occurs and I begin to look back and realize that one of my most attainable and most desired goals has yet to be accomplished. To further my experience I decide to continue in pursuit of my law enforcement career with a different agency. This time firefighting is added on top of the strenuous job of a police officer with myself being now known as a Public Safety Officer. Once again I am able to show that I have the academic ability to succeed in any field. I place at the top of my class in the South Carolina Fire Academy and receive the prestigious Chief Robert Frick Award. This is just one more rung added to my ever hopeful ladder of success. The more the thoughts cross my mind, the less I feel that the goal is within my grasp; however I tell myself just what I have from the first day I set the goal. “You will give every inch of yourself to attain the mountainous goals you have set out, and when times are tough the last thing on your mind will be giving up.” As I am startled and suddenly awoken by that ever persistent and annoying alarm clock, I realize that it is time to move forward and obtain that goal and dream that has been with me since I was a small child.
This brings me to today and I realize that there is one goal that has stayed stored away in the back of my mind throughout all the tough years. That goal is to obtain the degree of Juris Doctor. Throughout the years this goal has been stuffed deep into the pockets that contain the many facets of my life. The thing that has not been done however is letting that dream be pulled out of that small hole in the bottom of that deep pocket. Some goals and dreams are achieved with ease, while others may feel as if they are unreachable. The dreams that at times seem unattainable bring the most sense of accomplishment. As my life has taken an ever unexpected winding road, I have learned and developed a sense of resiliency. Throughout my life experiences I have learned to deal with adversity in almost every way. I have shown through my endeavors that I am willing to go the extra step to be successful in being a great law student. I have been through that rejection of being waitlisted and ultimately not receiving an offer to attend this law school. I have been through the heartbreaking saga of a wife battling fertility problems, and fought through the years of pain to finally have a child. I have obviously given my all to protect the citizens of the community in which I reside. Those learning experiences have provided me with the solid base that is paramount of a successful law student. There will be more adversity as I advance in life, however the experiences of my past will greatly assist me in tackling the obstacles that are destined to stand in life’s way. So many more goals can be obtained once I make my journey through the rigors of law school. Those additional challenges will build to my past experiences and help continue to establish the groundwork needed to be the best law student, attorney, and public servant possible. Realizing that one hundred percent effort must be given at everything I do will carry over to my studies of law. Through my past experiences I have shown that I have tackled and destroyed every challenge and obstacle placed in my way. These struggles have prepared me for what will be the best learning experience of my life. Now I am prepared for the new challenges that await me as a student at the University of South Carolina School of Law. As I continue on in life, I will continue to set the example for others to follow, and will continue to accept and tackle the challenges that are destined to arise.

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Re: critique

Postby Strange » Wed Nov 02, 2011 5:50 pm

You got major trimming to do before anyone critiques it. This is 7 pages long when double spaced and with 11 pt. Should be 2 pages

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Re: critique

Postby caminante » Wed Nov 02, 2011 5:51 pm

You have an incredible history. Just going to put that out there first. I didn't intend to read this huge block of text, but I read most of it because you've had some amazing experiences.

This essay is 7 pages double spaced. I checked. Even if the school you're applying to doesn't have limit, this is way too long.

You have so many rich, interesting, and demonstrative experiences to draw from for your personal statement, but you need to just pick one of them. This piece is attempting to tell most of your life story- you can't do that justice in an admission's essay.

Edit it down to 4 pages max and come back!

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Re: critique

Postby avemundi » Wed Nov 02, 2011 6:00 pm

I agree with the others. Cut, cut cut. Right now it's far too long and far too confusing. I'd especially cut paragraphs such as the first one - way too abstract and pointless. I'd also tone down the language where it gets too lofty and dramatic.

I think you have some really compelling, interesting stories to tell, but adcoms probably won't be able to really tell with this essay.

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Re: critique

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Nov 02, 2011 7:16 pm

Hopefully, writing this essay has been a cathartic experience for you because it is a terrible law school personal statement. Unfortunately, this personal statement may raise serious issues about your readiness for law school. The two primary concerns focus on maturity issues & your inability to get to the point. Readers may be left with the impression that your maturation process was stunted after the death of your father. Additionally, your need to express every thought that comes into your mind suggests that law school is likely to overwhelm you. My primary impression is that this essay is a cry for help. You need & seek out approval. Maybe this is due to the fact that you lost your father at a sensitive age. In order to be a good father & a healthy adult, you need to like yourself.

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Re: critique

Postby icecold3000 » Wed Nov 02, 2011 7:44 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Hopefully, writing this essay has been a cathartic experience for you because it is a terrible law school personal statement.


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Re: critique

Postby rinkrat19 » Wed Nov 02, 2011 7:52 pm

I don't think the topic is as bad as CanadianWolf thinks ('losing father/maturing early to help mom raise brother/academic turnaround' could make a decent essay) but holy christ is this a massive stream-of-consciousness mess. The "dreaming" structure is forced and there is just way the hell too much detail.

I could go through and cut out 5 out of every 6 sentences for you, but I think you'd be better served by re-writing it yourself, stating facts and describing emotions in succinct, efficient language. Where you try to flesh out a moment with five details, use one. This is a Personal Statement, not a creative writing exercise.

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Re: critique

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Nov 02, 2011 7:59 pm

It is not really "maturing early" so much as OP experienced "interrupted development". OP was denied the opportunity to progress through a typical maturation process by the premature passing of his father. Loss of parental approval, especially for a 13 year old boy losing his father, may produce the need to seek that approval elsewhere.

If one's driving needs are the constant approval of others & perfectionism, then a crash is almost certain to occur. It's much healthier to learn to like yourself so that the only approval needed is self approval-- within societal constraints, of course.

P.S. I agree with the comment above that the topic is fine, but the delivery is not. OP's words reveal more than intended.

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