Final draft Personal Statement

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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Scotusnerd
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Final draft Personal Statement

Postby Scotusnerd » Tue Nov 15, 2011 11:25 am

Hello, I've edited this thing down a lot. This is my current final draft, and I wanted to stick it up on this forum for critques before I submit it. Any help is welcome and appreciated!

As a freshman in college, few things are more unnerving than meeting a teacher with a fierce reputation. I remember walking into Melba Halamicek’s classroom with a feeling of trepidation. Pianos were neatly lined up in rows across the room, all facing a tall, austere woman whose stern expression intimidated many students. Despite her harsh countenance and severely-cut auburn hair, her eyes were kind and playful. Her demeanor was simple and elegant, lacking the rancor you might expect from a professor whose renown preceded her.

On one October day, Mrs. Halamicek mentioned the opportunity for extra credit. Feeling nervous about my performance, I approached her after class. What she said shocked me. “You are doing well, actually. How would you like to be transferred into the Piano II course?” I nodded, still too surprised to think. She gave me the paperwork and sent me out the door.
I practiced hard to catch up with my new class. I felt driven to prove that I belonged in an upper-level course. Despite rigorous practice, I heard Mrs. Halamicek’s familiar phrase every day: “practice it and play for me again tomorrow.” By November, I caught up with the other students. By December, I surpassed my classmates. Mrs. Halamicek did not change, however. She critiqued every piece, and this in turn drove me to excel.

Although Mrs. Halamicek hounded me mercilessly, I discovered in January that she had been discussing my progress with the organ professor. She mentioned I was breezing through piano and needed something more difficult to challenge me. The pipe organ professor agreed to show me the organ, but only if I could play certain études she chose. I worked even harder on these musical exercises, sometimes practicing more on piano than I did on my own percussion practice.

I wasn’t sure I would be able to actually pursue pipe organ and become skilled enough to get a degree in 4 years, but I wanted to try. Organists typically play piano for 10 years prior to studying organ, but I had worked very hard in the past 3 months and had come a long way. The piece I was working on, Bach’s Minuet in D minor, was finally starting to feel good underneath my hands. I played the piece for her on Friday. She seemed pleased, but told me to return on Monday to play it again for her. It still didn’t sound quite right. I practiced hard all weekend, and walked to the classroom on the second floor on January 23rd 2006. To my surprise, the door was locked, and no one was in there. A note was taped to the door stating that class was cancelled until further notice. I would later discover that Mrs. Halamicek had died that weekend while rock climbing.

I was now at a crossroads. I could continue being a percussionist and play organ in my spare time, or despite my lack of experience, I could continue to work hard on piano and hope to become a pipe organist. Both choices were equally viable. I took two months to decide, but in the end, I finally chose to pursue the pipe organ. My organ teacher might have taught me, but Mrs. Halamicek inspired me. She showed me how to work hard and to not settle for ‘good enough’.
After I graduated in 2010, I took a job teaching music in an elementary school of 1,000 children in El Paso, Texas. Working on the border was a unique challenge. I learned during this time that students were in need of more help than music could provide. I saw children who came from less than desirable home lives, and I saw children who had been abused. I felt powerless, and I was sick far too often, even more so than most first-year teachers. Due to budget cuts, it was looking like my current job would not exist the next school year.

My interest in law started with a single book I checked out from the library on a whim. It provided something interesting to learn about and it was a relief from the stress of teaching. I soon became hooked on reading law-related texts, and I began to purchase books from the bookstore. Eventually, I decided to purchase an LSAT study guide. A familiar pattern was emerging, and at the end of the year, I was at a crossroads once more.

With its high requirements, affordable price and proximity to the Supreme Court, the U.S.C. School of Law is a natural choice. I chose this law school before I moved from New Mexico as the best and only law school I wish to attend. I am eager to begin the journey to become a lawyer. I know the path will be difficult, but Mrs. Halamicek has shown me the value of hard work and dedication to your craft.
Last edited by Scotusnerd on Tue Nov 15, 2011 3:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

theaether
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Re: Final draft Personal Statement

Postby theaether » Tue Nov 15, 2011 2:09 pm

whoa lots of abrupt transitions/lack of transitions in here: a) after the teacher's death and b) when you try to change topic to LSAT/law school choice

imo the first 3 paragraphs need to be shortened. they are all basically saying the same thing "i practiced, and reached the next level. repeat"

you give no closure to the music teaching job other than you were powerless and your job would probably be gone. what is the reason to include this substory?

what book are you talking about? this paragraph now sounds like it could be the start of an entirely different essay

"high requirements" makes USC a natural choice?

i'm just not getting the thesis of your essay, which is going all over the place and yet also nowhere

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Scotusnerd
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Re: Final draft Personal Statement

Postby Scotusnerd » Tue Nov 15, 2011 3:10 pm

Edited for spacing. I'll see if I can't address your concerns:

The purpose of my essay is to show that I am a hard worker who overcomes obstacles. Smarts are nice and useful, but at the end of the day, you don't get anywhere without devoting time to it. The first 3 paragraphs are a story demonstrating that I, in fact, do work hard to achieve my goals. The conclusion also states this. Do you think I should put something in the opening paragraph?

The substory is included to show that I have done something since my undergraduate degree. I have lived some life since I finished college, and that I worked hard at that job as well, but was not suited for it.

U.S.C. has the highest requirements in the area I am looking to work, which is South Carolina. I think that I am justified in pointing this out as a reason to want to go there.

RamblinBoyofPleasure
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Re: Final draft Personal Statement

Postby RamblinBoyofPleasure » Tue Nov 15, 2011 4:59 pm

The paragraph about a crossroads is completely unnecessary. What matters is that you worked hard and excelled, not what instrument you ended up preferring.

Also, you need to meditate more on your mentor's death. She's the thread that ties the essay together, so you might want to talk a bit about how it affected you.

And I agree that the "practice, rinse, repeat" length is unnecessary. It's good to include specifics, if they are essential. Once the specifics become repetitive, you should generalize.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Final draft Personal Statement

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Nov 15, 2011 5:14 pm

"...and I was sick far too often, even more so than most first-year teachers."
"...a teacher with a fierce reputation."
"...percussion practice."
"...I could continue being a percussionist..."
"unique"

The above need clarification.

Overall, this is not an effective law school personal statement because it portrays you as sickly & as seeking refuge in the study of law as a way to escape some of life's harsh realities.

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FryBreadPower
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Re: Final draft Personal Statement

Postby FryBreadPower » Tue Nov 15, 2011 5:29 pm

Don't mention a school name unless you are willing to devote the space necessary to comment on aspects of the school that couldn't be attributed to any other law school in the country.

Also, (I mean this in the nicest way possible) this seems all over the place to me. There are pianos and rockclimbing and death and little kids and law school and on and on. What is the focus? Why do you want to study law? What makes you capable of succeeding in law school?

Overall, it needs to be more focused and cleaned up.

theaether
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Re: Final draft Personal Statement

Postby theaether » Tue Nov 15, 2011 5:46 pm

Scotusnerd wrote:
The purpose of my essay is to show that I am a hard worker who overcomes obstacles. Smarts are nice and useful, but at the end of the day, you don't get anywhere without devoting time to it.


so then, how does talking about the job in which you felt "powerless" and "sick far too often" further your essay's purpose?

Scotusnerd wrote:U.S.C. has the highest requirements in the area I am looking to work, which is South Carolina. I think that I am justified in pointing this out as a reason to want to go there.


again, i think you might be confusing crediting "highest requirements" as a legitimate reason to go to a certain law school versus crediting the usual corollaries of a school with high requirements, such as top professors, diverse and strong study body, a wealth of clinics, etc etc. i'm just wondering how the requirements per se are attractive. if a school placed more % of graduates into law careers than USC but had looser requirements, would that be a worse or better choice?

thederangedwang
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Re: Final draft Personal Statement

Postby thederangedwang » Tue Nov 15, 2011 11:27 pm

this is a very disjointed ps.

the front part of ur ps is very good, but then u suddenly shift to teaching kids and dropping music (so much for that passion).....get what i mean?

u spend like 5 paragraphs building up ur love for music through this amazing professor, then u just suddently say

She showed me how to work hard and to not settle for ‘good enough’.
After I graduated in 2010, I took a job teaching music in an elementary school of 1,000 children in El Paso, Texas. Working on the border was a unique challenge. I learned during this time that students were in need of more help than music could provide


u just ruined ur entire ps by that sudden switch..

u need to determine the direction of ur ps...is it music or law? i get wat ur trying to do, ur trying to connect the passion u got from music and transfer it to teaching and now law...but quite frankly.....u did a bad job of that because u spend so much time developing the musical aspect of ur life....

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Scotusnerd
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Re: Final draft Personal Statement

Postby Scotusnerd » Wed Nov 16, 2011 12:08 am

Thanks for the responses, I appreciate them. I know for sure that I'm eliminating the sickly part, as well as the crossroads paragraph. I will be changing the reasons for going to U of SC as well. Thank you for clarifying that, Theaether. I am also going to add a paragraph about her death and my reaction to it, Ramblin.

Mr. CrazyWang, I'm not entirely sure how to reconcile the sudden switch. I think I need to figure out a way of transitioning into the law section. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Frybread, it is all over the place. That has been my life. I admit that it is nontraditional, but there you go. I went from percussion to pipe organ and elementary music education, to deciding I wanted to be a lawyer and reading a bunch on it, in the space of five years. It's who I am and what I have done. I made the best decisions I could in the circumstances, and I'm going to law school because I feel it better represents who I am than a career as a music teacher. Do you have a suggestion for what I should focus on?

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FryBreadPower
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Re: Final draft Personal Statement

Postby FryBreadPower » Wed Nov 16, 2011 2:29 am

Scotusnerd wrote:Thanks for the responses, I appreciate them. I know for sure that I'm eliminating the sickly part, as well as the crossroads paragraph. I will be changing the reasons for going to U of SC as well. Thank you for clarifying that, Theaether. I am also going to add a paragraph about her death and my reaction to it, Ramblin.

Mr. CrazyWang, I'm not entirely sure how to reconcile the sudden switch. I think I need to figure out a way of transitioning into the law section. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Frybread, it is all over the place. That has been my life. I admit that it is nontraditional, but there you go. I went from percussion to pipe organ and elementary music education, to deciding I wanted to be a lawyer and reading a bunch on it, in the space of five years. It's who I am and what I have done. I made the best decisions I could in the circumstances, and I'm going to law school because I feel it better represents who I am than a career as a music teacher. Do you have a suggestion for what I should focus on?


Yes; elaborate on the bolded point and incorporate that answer into your PS.

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Scotusnerd
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Re: Final draft Personal Statement

Postby Scotusnerd » Wed Nov 16, 2011 10:45 am

Thank you very much for your help. I'll probably be back later with another version.

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Scotusnerd
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Re: Final draft Personal Statement

Postby Scotusnerd » Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:19 pm

Hey folks, I thought I'd reuse this topic rather than clutter up the forums with a new one. I've modified my personal statement and took some of the advice in this thread. I think the transitions are better. Check it out!


_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

As a freshman in college, few things are more unnerving than meeting a teacher with a fierce reputation. I remember walking into Melba Halamicek’s classroom with a feeling of trepidation. Pianos were neatly lined up in rows across the room, all facing a tall, austere woman whose stern expression intimidated many students. Despite her harsh countenance and severely-cut auburn hair, her eyes were kind and playful. Her demeanor was simple and elegant, lacking the rancor you might expect from a professor whose renown preceded her.

On one October day, Mrs. Halamicek mentioned the opportunity for extra credit. Feeling nervous about my performance, I approached her after class. What she said surprised me. “You are doing well, actually. How would you like to be transferred into the Piano II course?” I nodded, still off-balance. She gave me the paperwork and sent me out the door.

I practiced hard to catch up with my new class. I felt driven to prove that I belonged in an upper-level course. Despite rigorous practice, I heard Mrs. Halamicek’s familiar phrase every day: “practice it and play for me again tomorrow.” By November, I caught up with the other students. By December, I surpassed my classmates. However Mrs. Halamicek did not change. She critiqued every piece, and this in turn drove me to excel.

Although Mrs. Halamicek hounded me mercilessly, I discovered in January that she had been discussing my progress with the organ professor. She mentioned I was breezing through piano and needed something more difficult to challenge me. The pipe organ professor agreed to show me the organ, but only if I could play certain études she chose. I worked even harder on these musical exercises, sometimes practicing more on piano than I did on my own percussion practice.

I wasn’t sure I would be able to actually pursue pipe organ and become skilled enough to get a degree in 4 years, but I wanted to try. Organists typically play piano for 10 years prior to studying organ, but I had worked very hard in the past 3 months and had come a long way. The piece I was working on, Bach’s Minuet in D minor, was finally starting to feel good underneath my hands. I played the piece for her on Friday. She seemed pleased, but told me to return on Monday to play it again for her. It still didn’t sound quite right. I practiced hard all weekend, and walked to the classroom on the second floor on January 23rd 2006. To my surprise, the door was locked, and no one was in there. A note was taped to the door stating that class was cancelled until further notice. I would later discover that Mrs. Halamicek had died that weekend while rock climbing.

Her death left me with many questions and mixed emotions. I was deeply saddened by her loss, and I made sure that I was one of the musicians at her memorial service. It also led me to examine her methods more closely, and I explicated some characteristics of her and her teaching style. The biggest characteristic was that talent was not enough. Simply being naturally inclined towards something will not replace hard work. It was not just my talent that allowed me to progress on the piano, it was her desire to see me succeed and the hard work she drove me to do. The second characteristic, which I learned from her death, was that life is finite, and what we do is less important than how we do it. Her actions were driven by care for others. Where some students only saw a taskmaster, I discovered a woman who wanted her students to be successful, not simply as musicians, but as people. In short, I had the privilege to know and be taught by a master teacher who loved her craft. The third point was this: the concepts I had discovered transcended music in their application, and applied to any discipline. I could pursue any career with the insights she had given me.

While I enjoyed some aspects of teaching music, ultimately the career did not fit me. I looked through several alternatives, and decided that pursuing a career as a lawyer was the most attractive option. The intellectual rigor is interesting, as was interpreting and understanding complex statutes. The research aspect is familiar to me from comparing older musical scores, and public speaking can be equated to a musical performance. The skills I learned as a music major transfer well to law, and the lessons I learned under Mrs. Halamicek will allow me pursue it and excel.

I had researched the University of South Carolina School of Law, but visiting it gave me an experience that no book could replicate. I sat in on two classes, contracts and torts. I enjoyed both the classes and the interactions between the professors and the students. What struck me the most was how polite and helpful everyone at the school was. Everyone from the tour guides to the professors to the admissions department were helpful, knowledgeable and friendly. I would have chosen this law school for its proximity to the state government and its reputation anyway, but after having visited, I believe I would be doing myself a disservice by going to any other school.

kublaikahn
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Re: Final draft Personal Statement

Postby kublaikahn » Thu Dec 29, 2011 12:55 am

Scotusnerd wrote:As a freshman in college, few things are more unnerving than meeting a teacher with a fierce reputation. I remember walking into Melba Halamicek’s classroom with a feeling of trepidation. Pianos were neatly lined up in rows across the room, all facing a tall, austere woman whose stern expression intimidated many students. Despite her harsh countenance and severely-cut auburn hair, her eyes were kind and playful. Her demeanor was simple and elegant, lacking the rancor you might expect from a professor whose renown [wrong word, you don't expect renowned teachers to be rancorous] preceded her.

On one October day, Mrs. Halamicek mentioned the opportunity for extra credit. Feeling nervous [unsure/anxious/insecure] about my performance, I approached her after class. What she said surprised me. “You are doing well, actually. How would you like to be transferred into the Piano II course?” I nodded, still off-balance. She gave me the paperwork and sent me out the door.

I practiced hard to catch up with my new class. I felt driven to prove that I belonged in an upper-level course. Despite rigorous practice, I heard Mrs. Halamicek’s familiar phrase every day: “practice it and play for me again tomorrow.” By November, I caught up with the other students. By December, I surpassed my classmates. [tone this down] However [comma] Mrs. Halamicek did not change ease up. She critiqued every piece, and this in turn drove me to excel.

Although Mrs. Halamicek hounded me mercilessly [wrong word], I discovered in January that she had been discussing my progress with the organ professor. She mentioned I was breezing through piano and needed something more difficult to challenge me. The pipe organ professor agreed to show me the organ [can you rephrase this so the reader does not get the mental impression of the professor showing you his organ?], but only if I could play certain études she chose. I worked even harder on these musical exercises, sometimes practicing more on piano than I did on my own percussion practice.

I wasn’t sure I would be able to actually pursue pipe organ and become skilled enough to get a degree in 4 years, but I wanted to try. Organists typically play piano for 10 years prior to studying organ, but I had worked very hard in the past 3 months and had come a long way. The piece I was working on, Bach’s Minuet in D minor, was finally starting to feel good underneath my hands. I played the piece for her [who? the pipe organ professor or Melba? this is confusing] on Friday. She seemed pleased, but told me to return on Monday to play it again for her. It still didn’t sound quite right. I practiced hard all weekend, and walked to the classroom on the second floor on January 23rd 2006. To my surprise, the door was locked, and no one was in there. A note was taped to the door stating that class was cancelled until further notice. I would later discover that Mrs. Halamicek had died that weekend while rock climbing.

[The wheels come off for you in this paragraph. The piece is good up until here.] Her death left me with many questions and mixed emotions [really? like you were both happy and sad?]. I was deeply saddened by her loss, and I made sure that I was one of the musicians at her memorial service. It also led me to examine her methods more closely, and I explicated [use a smaller more effective word here] some characteristics of her and her teaching style. The biggest [biggest? do you mean most important?] characteristic was that talent was not enough [is this a characteristic or a lesson/idea? Your writing goes down hill in this paragraph, you need to express your ideas more eruditely]. Simply being naturally inclined towards something will not replace hard work. It [don't start sentences with it] was not just my talent that allowed me to progress on the piano, it was her desire to see me succeed and the hard work she drove me to do. The second characteristic [lesson?], which I learned from her death, was that life is finite, and what we do is less important than how we do it. [this sentence contains two cliche ideas for the price of one] Her actions were driven by care for others. [How do you know? Is this her PS or yours?] Where some students only saw a taskmaster, I discovered a woman who wanted her students to be successful, not simply as musicians, but as people. In short, [in short, don't say "in short"] I had the privilege to know and be taught by a master teacher who loved her craft. The third point was this: [bullet points are not allowed in a PS, never say "this:" and follow it with what "this" is. That is no different than this, "3. "] the concepts I had discovered transcended music in their application, and applied to any discipline. [skills that can applied to other disciplines do not "transcend" the original discipline. They are just transferable.]. I could pursue any career with the insights she had given me. [you mean the skills and insights she taught you will help you in any endeavor. Not that she gave you all the tools you need for every profession.]

While I enjoyed some aspects of teaching music, ultimately the career did not fit me. [So what? This has nothing to do with your PS] I looked through several alternatives, and decided that pursuing a career as a lawyer was the most attractive option. [what does this mean? The most attractive option? This tells the reader nothing.] The intellectual rigor is interesting, as was interpreting and understanding complex statutes. The research aspect is familiar to me from comparing older musical scores, and public speaking can be equated to a musical performance. The skills I learned as a music major transfer well to law, and the lessons I learned under Mrs. Halamicek will allow me pursue it and excel. [how so?]

I had researched the University of South Carolina School of Law, but visiting it gave me an experience that no book could replicate. I sat in on two classes, contracts and torts. I enjoyed both the classes and the interactions between the professors and the students. [so what?] What struck me the most was how polite and helpful everyone at the school was. Everyone from the tour guides [are you sure they call them tour guides?] to the professors to the admissions department were helpful, knowledgeable and friendly. I would have chosen this law school for its proximity to the state government and its reputation anyway, but after having visited, I believe I would be doing myself a disservice by going to any other school. [it could be me, but this seems disingenuous]
You have a great start but the last three paragraphs are wanting. I don't understand why you introduce the organ professor at all. The tie in to law is contrived and the way you discuss the site visit is shallow and makes one doubt your judgment. I mean, its great that you liked the feel and atmosphere of the law school, but you need a more substantive reason for wanting to attend if you actually want to sound mature and thoughtful.




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