PS feedback with specific feedback requests

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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epistemizer
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PS feedback with specific feedback requests

Postby epistemizer » Sun Nov 06, 2011 7:49 pm

So, my PS follows and I appreciate any feedback here. This is my second draft, but the first I have shown to anyone else.

Specifically,

1. am I doing a good enough job of "showing rather than telling?" Do I need to explain further, or do I have the mix just right?

2. are the transitions adequate? I want to avoid sounding like I think I'm the Dos Equis guy, and just jumping all over the place, but you know how it goes. Hard to find the right balance....

3. Obviously whatever else someone wants to criticize this over is fine too.

Edit: I changed the opening story in light of a comment received.
-----------------

“Pastor, my husband is abusing me.” It is hard to hear such things about any marriage, but as their pastor I had married this couple personally. To further complicate matters, both the bride’s family and several close friends of the groom were also members of our small church. The situation set off an ugly split within the congregation, as the other leaders in the church did not believe that this young woman had a “right” to a divorce. I strongly disagreed. In the next few months, as I advocated for this woman my ability to communicate and to fight for what I believed to be right was tested more than ever before.

A sense of religious calling is what led me to pursue a career as a minister, but my philosophical nature is what caused me to do it in an unconventional way, by majoring in philosophy and obtaining a graduate degree rather than attending seminary. This philosophical nature is also why I have always had a fascination with the law. For example, I will never forget my seventh grade field trip to an active courtroom. With visions of “Matlock” and “Perry Mason” dancing in my head, I couldn’t wait to see a dramatic showdown—perhaps even a confession! How surprised I was when instead we sat through three hours of jury selection (for a case involving armed robbery at a local gas station). My classmates had much of their enthusiasm for courtrooms dampened on that day. Yet I was actually fascinated by this process. Each of these potential jurors were being asked questions about their beliefs and backgrounds, and whether or not they knew or recognized the defendant. I wondered to myself how anyone could really know whether they were telling the truth. Furthermore, how was it fair to deliberately try to remove from the jury pool those deemed to be either too similar to or too different than the defendant? How had these complicated procedures been invented in the first place?

This inquisitiveness about why we do things the way we do them only grew as I matured through college and into my doctoral studies. My opportunities multiplied to latch onto a question and pursue it all the way to the end, or at least as far as I could take it. I was naturally stretched to new limits as a researcher when writing my dissertation, which added the extra challenge (for a variety of reasons) of a tight deadline. As I set strict and ambitious goals for myself (and my dissertation advisor) to complete the bulk of the writing in a single semester, I proved to myself that I can succeed in any scholastic endeavor, even under great pressure. The results were very satisfying, as my dissertation committee not only enthusiastically approved the document but strongly encouraged me to seek its publication.

Of course, there is a practical side to life which academia often leaves unfulfilled. I have always sought the dual challenge not only to study a subject thoroughly, but also to communicate effectively with others about that subject in a way that provides tangible benefits to our lives. As a teacher at various levels, I have been able to use the things I know to help others achieve their own educational and career goals. Even here, however, I have longed for a way to be more directly involved in the practical day-to-day workings of society, to use my own hands as it were in putting various ideas into practice. I believe that law will allow me to do precisely this, as I would be a direct part of the machinery of justice and dispute resolution that underlies all stable societies.

As I look now to pursue the law, I realize that my time as a teacher, philosopher, and pastor has been time well spent. My skills can no longer be used in a religious community to which I no longer belong, but they have another even more ideal use in law. A career in law will give me the opportunity to continue studying and applying the principles behind a functioning society, and to do so in a way that makes good use of the rhetorical and writing abilities honed by my previous experience. Finally, it will allow me to be directly involved in the practical affairs of the legal process, rather than simply studying it from the safety of books. I made a decision when younger to do what I felt I was “supposed” to do rather than what I wanted to do, and now I find that I am all the better prepared for my ambitions for taking that more circuitous route to achieving them.
Last edited by epistemizer on Tue Nov 08, 2011 1:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

caminante
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Re: PS feedback with specific feedback requests

Postby caminante » Sun Nov 06, 2011 10:45 pm

Your opening example of marital abuse is jarring. Worse, it is not resolved in the body of the essay. You claim that the abuse is "ambiguous" and not "physical," but without more information it comes across as a pastor who is belittling a claim of abuse. It made me dislike you quite a bit. You should choose a different example.

The anecdote about 7th grade seemed out of place. I was really wondering where that came from.

The idea of teacher, philosopher, pastor --> law is not a bad one. I would tell a more concise story that demonstrates this.

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epistemizer
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Re: PS feedback with specific feedback requests

Postby epistemizer » Sun Nov 06, 2011 11:52 pm

caminante wrote:Your opening example of marital abuse is jarring. Worse, it is not resolved in the body of the essay. You claim that the abuse is "ambiguous" and not "physical," but without more information it comes across as a pastor who is belittling a claim of abuse. It made me dislike you quite a bit. You should choose a different example.


Thanks for this, caminante. It's funny the decisions I make when trying to write a narrative. I figured it would seem like I was being emotionally manipulative to put in the details, that I was the one defending the woman's "right" to get a divorce because of her husband's behavior. I wanted to focus in this essay on the idea that it was a difficult interpersonal situation in which I had to show leadership. But instead I come across as morally mushy.

Do you think this story would be usable if I made it more clear what side I was on? (Oh, and as for resolving it, I did that with a final sentence/paragraph, which I somehow didn't copy and paste over to the post. If I get a little more feedback, I'll post the better version later.

Thanks again!

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epistemizer
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Re: PS feedback with specific feedback requests

Postby epistemizer » Tue Nov 08, 2011 1:40 pm

Just giving a bump.

caminante
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Re: PS feedback with specific feedback requests

Postby caminante » Tue Nov 08, 2011 2:38 pm

epistemizer wrote:Do you think this story would be usable if I made it more clear what side I was on? (Oh, and as for resolving it, I did that with a final sentence/paragraph, which I somehow didn't copy and paste over to the post. If I get a little more feedback, I'll post the better version later.


I would personally stay away from this story, even if you make it clear what side you were on. What you are trying to show is that you provided helpful advice to a group of people by consulting religious texts and discussing the situation with the parties involved. It is very clear how this applies to you wanting to be a lawyer.

However, the concept of the story hinges on the fact that it was not a clear-cut case. You had to explain the situation and consult the texts because the solution wasn't readily apparent. By showing that the members of your congregation do not view the question of granting a divorce to a woman who attests she has been abused as a clear-cut matter, you risk casting yourself in a negative light. I believe this is true even if you were on the "right" side.

Then again, this is just my opinion. Perhaps you can find a way to use this example without making it sound controversial. If you frame yourself as trying to simply help the wife in the story, it could possibly work. However, I would hope you could think of another example where you provide this type of counsel on a topic that is not so charged with emotion. Religion is touchy enough as it is!

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epistemizer
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Re: PS feedback with specific feedback requests

Postby epistemizer » Tue Nov 08, 2011 6:26 pm

Then again, this is just my opinion. Perhaps you can find a way to use this example without making it sound controversial. If you frame yourself as trying to simply help the wife in the story, it could possibly work. However, I would hope you could think of another example where you provide this type of counsel on a topic that is not so charged with emotion. Religion is touchy enough as it is!


Again, thanks for the input.

I'm torn because you make good points. My reason for choosing this story is that the stakes were so high (the emotional battle and the church itself essentially dissolved in the wake of these events), but I definitely see your point about the emotional charge actually making it too hard to swallow for some readers. Hmmm...




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