My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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Nancy_Botwin
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My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby Nancy_Botwin » Wed Dec 21, 2011 10:22 pm

Ok, so here's what I think is Draft #4. If anyone has a few minutes to peruse this bad boy, I'll have a BOTTLE of wine on your behalf :wink:


Personal Statement

[Redacted for privacy/piracy reasons ARRRRG, MATEY!]
Last edited by Nancy_Botwin on Thu Dec 29, 2011 2:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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3v3ryth1ng
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby 3v3ryth1ng » Thu Dec 22, 2011 6:37 am

Personal Statement

On a warm spring day in April 2011, my grandmother lost her fight with a terminal illness. Even as an adult, the loss of my grandmother had profound effect on me. [Redacted], known by most as “Granny,” had a tenacious yet loving spirit. She fostered my love of learning and imparted upon me the values and beliefs that have allowed me to become the strong and intelligent woman I am today. My grandmother’s encouragement helped me to become a model student, graduating from college with a dual bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance, as well as a master’s degree in legal administration.

This is good if you can make it more important to your essay. Also, personally I'd watch out for anything remotely cliche (i.e. the euphemism "lost her fight" is overused, IMO). You should comb your essay for stuff like this and replace as many as you can, AFTER being satisfied with the actual ideas you've written.

From a young age, I was blessed with the confidence required to become a compassionate yet fervent leader. This encouragement allowed me to become an outspoken student at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business and the recipient of the Master of Science in Legal Administration Outstanding Student Award in the spring of 2011. Through out college and into my professional career, my leadership skills blossomed. Regardless of the intensity of the challenge, if I truly wanted to achieve what others believed to be an impossible goal, I insisted that I could find a way for my group of classmates or coworkers to succeed. Thriving in the classroom environment and working in a variety of industries proved to be highly advantageous in augmenting my leadership abilities and my desire to become an attorney.


There a couple of tiny edits I'd make here.
"Throughout" is one word, and something like that, though small, is rather egregious.
Also, as much as you can, avoid describing yourself. If you're compassionate and have fervent leadership abilities, "show it," but describing yourself that way will probably elicit a cynical "yeah, right" response from anyone who doesn't know you. In fact, I think the more you can can suggest/show anything, the better.
You started a subordinate clause with a past tense conditional (if), then had your main clause... forget it. Just change "if I truly wanted" to "because I truly wanted," and take out "Regardless if the intensity of the challenge."

As a Consultant Associate with [Redacted], I was given the daunting challenge of creating an in-depth, interactive presentation on the topic of business development strategies for a large California-based construction company. I assembled a team of five individuals, each with a varying degree of knowledge on the topics of business development and construction. Beginning with a timeline and plan for completion, I delegated tasks and ensured each team member met their deadlines. During the grueling three-month process, my team members and I researched the current economic climate surrounding our client’s business, interviewed experts in the construction and consulting industries, examined advancements in the field of business development, and studied past company presentations on similar subjects. Once I had fine-tuned the presentation and 150-page workbook with my supervisor, she and I presented this tremendous group effort to 30 company executives. A resounding success, I was recognized by [Redacted]’s corporate management team for the creation of such an effective teaching tool. This experience with collaborative learning, coupled with numerous academic group projects, allowed me to learn from each person with whom I interacted.

As a rule of thumb, don't drop any names unless they serve some purpose. I dropped some names in mine, but it was to communicate a "human element," which was the theme of my essay. Here, I'm not sure why any adcomm needs to know the name of your boss. Cool story though, and this is a much better way to demonstrate being a "fervent leader" than just proclaiming yourself to be one. The good news is you have some experience to communicate these desirable qualities about yourself, and many people don't.

While concurrently completing my business development presentation, I initiated the company’s Adopt a Family program. With the intention of helping one family enjoy the Christmas holiday, I assembled my coworkers to help a Denver family in need of assistance. Within one week, I had received enough donations to help four additional Denver-area families have Christmas dinner, a tree, and gifts. To date, [Redacted]’s Adopt a Family program has assisted over 35 families during the holiday season.

Good experience. I'm just wondering how this relates to what I read above.

Believing that hard work must extend beyond the office and classroom, volunteer work and leadership roles furthered my desire to become a lawyer devoted to philanthropy, integrity, and human rights. The exceptional altruism I have witnessed and promoted fueled my desire to fight for the less fortunate and to promote civil rights. The University of Denver’s Constitutional Rights and Remedies Program will heighten my understanding of the U.S. Constitution while simultaneously teaching me how to become an attorney advocating for civil rights. I believe that my business background combined with my altruistic spirit will help foster the scholarly and diverse classroom atmosphere the University of Denver promotes.

I actually think it's cool the way you dropped the school's name and the relevant program here. The only problem is I'm still not sure why it's relevant to your life. You did charity + you have leadership experience = you want to be a civil rights attorney? The pieces are there, but they just don't quite fit. Thankfully, again, what you have is workable. Going to this law school must seem like the LOGICAL next step for you after reading the preceding paragraphs.


Following graduation from law school, I intend to work for the Denver District Attorney’s Office. By working for the D.A., I will be able to make a significant impact on the local and global community through criminal prosecution. With the ultimate goal of becoming Denver’s District Attorney, I believe the Constitutional Rights and Remedies Program will allow me to grow on academic, professional, and personal levels. I firmly believe that if given the opportunity to continue my studies at the University of Denver, I will be able to make a life-long commitment to protect the well being of my community, to promote justice, and to enhance the welfare of the general public.


Ok this part threw me for a total loop. You want to be D.A.? How does everything else you described add up to you being a DA? DA's (I may get flamed for this) usually treat civil rights as an obstacle to getting criminals convicted and locked up. Even though that's kind of a cynical opinion on my part, the perception exists that DA-minded folks and civil rights-minded folks are fighting for different teams. In Colorado, maybe civil rights = "don't touch my guns" or "my property, my rules," but the BIG connotation is "minority rights," or "protecting unpopular peoples' right to be an asshole," which DA's are not known for supporting.

Bottom line is the pieces of your life don't add up in this essay. I know it's your 4th draft, but I'd seriously consider revising the whole thing to focus on one aspect of your life. I recommend focusing on your interest in civil rights because you have some charity experience. The leadership at work thing is good, but I'd only include it if it's absolutely necessary to a narrative that begins with your desire to help others and ends with you needing to study constitutional law at some school in Colorado.

That's about it! I meant nothing to be mean or caustic :)
If you want to tear apart my PS, it's up there too!

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icecold3000
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby icecold3000 » Thu Dec 22, 2011 1:27 pm

I agree with the above poster. You ramble on about civil rights and then tack on that you want nothing more than to be a DA. Either explain how this makes sense or drop one of the two. If you don't, most adcomms will probably assume that you do not know what you are talking about.

As for the rest of your PS, it was sporadic and disconnected. You open up writing about your gmaw and then go straight into a recital of your resume from college. From there you go on to describe a seemingly unrelated story about your work and then onwards to a charity story. Then its all about "Civil rights and remedies" and being the district attorney of Denver. You are trying to convey way to much information for a 2 page personal statement.

Also, there were several phrases that made me roll my eyes a little bit. I know you are trying to convey that you are confident, but instead you leave the impression that you might be slightly conceited.

From a young age, I was blessed with the confidence required to become a compassionate yet fervent leader

The exceptional altruism I have witnessed and promoted fueled my desire to fight for the less fortunate and to promote civil rights

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Nancy_Botwin
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby Nancy_Botwin » Thu Dec 22, 2011 4:30 pm

@3v3ryth1ng:
Thank you so much! Connecting the "dots" (or what I've been told law schools want to hear) were things I was struggling with. Plus, I always screw up "throughout" so thanks so much for catching that!

As for name dropping, I would just be naming the employer which is on my resume -- Not the name of my boss. Is that ok? Or should I refer to the company in a more general/anonymous way?

I agree that some of the stuff about my grandma is a little too creative-writingish so I'm going to tone that down and make it sound more professional while keeping the entire essay personal. It is a personal statement after all, lol. From what I've read in the TLS Guide and have heard from my professors, adcomms love leadership, volunteer work, and why you want to study at their school (or what they can't see on your resume alone). I think that's the challenge of writing a PS. It's like trying to put 10lbs of flour into 5 lb bag :| Needless to say, brevity is not my strong suit.

As for the career aspirations, I think I'll keep that in but change the civil rights stuff. In all fairness, I want to help people, but I want to be a kick ass lawyer with the means to pay off my student loans. Even though I studied law in grad school, I admit that I misunderstood the duties of a DA. (Oops! Natural blonde here.)

I'm just spitballing here but I think I'll restructure the PS like this:
- Intro about me and how I got to where I am
- What I believe to be my most valuable trait: Leadership
- Leadership example 1: Presentation
- Leadership example 2: Volunteer program
- How they lead me to want to study ABC law at XYZ University
- What I want to ultimately do after law school

I'm typically a modest person who for the most part received average grades until grad school so I admit that in parts, I'm overcompensating.

Anyhoo, thanks for giving me such awesome advice! I'll try to give your PS a look see later today after I tackle my own beast :) And thanks for giving me a great excuse to have a bottle of wine with dinner ;)
Cheers and Merry Christmas!
Melissa

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Nancy_Botwin
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby Nancy_Botwin » Thu Dec 22, 2011 4:36 pm

@icecold3000

Thanks so much! Like I said above I (embarrassingly :oops: ) misunderstood the duties of a DA. I'm going to do some more research on DU's programs and types of jobs. I know the basics (civil, criminal, etc.) but I don't want to sound like a moron lol

And I don't like those two phrases either. Too flowery and sappy. And you're so right: I'm teetering on the edge of self absorbed. There's a balance that I haven't met. Onto connecting my paragraphs!

Thank you so so much! Thankfully Denver was just hit with a blizzard so I'm forced to stay inside and hammer this PS out!
Cheers and Merry Christmas!
Melissa

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Nancy_Botwin
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby Nancy_Botwin » Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:48 pm

3v3ryth1ng wrote:
"protecting unpopular peoples' right to be an asshole," which DA's are not known for supporting.


omg I just saw this and I love it :lol:

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3v3ryth1ng
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby 3v3ryth1ng » Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:52 pm

Nancy_Botwin wrote:
3v3ryth1ng wrote:
"protecting unpopular peoples' right to be an asshole," which DA's are not known for supporting.


omg I just saw this and I love it :lol:


Oh shoot!
It should have said, "protecting unpopular peoples' right to be assholes!"
Fixed :P

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Nancy_Botwin
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby Nancy_Botwin » Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:56 pm

3v3ryth1ng wrote:
Nancy_Botwin wrote:
3v3ryth1ng wrote:
"protecting unpopular peoples' right to be an asshole," which DA's are not known for supporting.


omg I just saw this and I love it :lol:


Oh shoot!
It should have said, "protecting unpopular peoples' right to be assholes!"
Fixed :P


As long as it's not part of your PS (and Lord I hope it's not), I don't mind the grammatical error ;)

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rinkrat19
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby rinkrat19 » Thu Dec 22, 2011 5:57 pm

I felt like I was reading an essay written from the prompt: "Please elaborate on each item you have listed on your resume."

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Nancy_Botwin
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby Nancy_Botwin » Thu Dec 22, 2011 6:07 pm

rinkrat19 wrote:I felt like I was reading an essay written from the prompt: "Please elaborate on each item you have listed on your resume."


Yes, because I include a section on my resume discussing the loss of my grandmother, detailed explanations of leadership opportunities, and my reasons for wanting to go to XYZ University. What else am I supposed to write about? My desire for judicial reform? How much I like the idea of specialty courts? I've been out of college for some time and this barely touches on what is on my resume.

I would appreciate constructive criticism, so please elaborate.

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rinkrat19
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby rinkrat19 » Thu Dec 22, 2011 6:16 pm

Nancy_Botwin wrote:
rinkrat19 wrote:I felt like I was reading an essay written from the prompt: "Please elaborate on each item you have listed on your resume."


Yes, because I include a section on my resume discussing the loss of my grandmother, detailed explanations of leadership opportunities, and my reasons for wanting to go to XYZ University. What else am I supposed to write about? My desire for judicial reform? How much I like the idea of specialty courts? I've been out of college for some time and this barely touches on what is on my resume.

I would appreciate constructive criticism, so please elaborate.
Let's see, you mention...

what degree you graduated with
what college you were enrolled in
an award you got (with no context or elaboration, just basically a bullet point)
a description of a job you had, listing several projects you worked on
a description of a charity activity

All of those are straight off a resume and give me no insight into you as a person.

The things that are less resume-like, like your grandmother's influence, are only mentioned in passing and never tied into an overarching theme. I don't see your grandmother's inspiration reflected in the following three paragraphs of recitation of academic accomplishments and job duties. You also mention altruism that you've witnessed and the inspiration it has given you, without giving any examples of this altruism. Collecting toys once a year at Christmas for Adopt-A-Family, while admirable, doesn't seem like significant enough an example to inspire a career change, so I would hope there's more.

ETA: Basically, it needs emotion. It doesn't even matter WHAT emotion. Amusement, pity, suspense, hope, shock, awe, SOMETHING.

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Nancy_Botwin
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby Nancy_Botwin » Thu Dec 22, 2011 6:30 pm

rinkrat19 wrote:
Nancy_Botwin wrote:
rinkrat19 wrote:I felt like I was reading an essay written from the prompt: "Please elaborate on each item you have listed on your resume."


Yes, because I include a section on my resume discussing the loss of my grandmother, detailed explanations of leadership opportunities, and my reasons for wanting to go to XYZ University. What else am I supposed to write about? My desire for judicial reform? How much I like the idea of specialty courts? I've been out of college for some time and this barely touches on what is on my resume.

I would appreciate constructive criticism, so please elaborate.
Let's see, you mention...

what degree you graduated with
what college you were enrolled in
an award you got (with no context or elaboration, just basically a bullet point)
a description of a job you had, listing several projects you worked on
a description of a charity activity

All of those are straight off a resume and give me no insight into you as a person.

The things that are less resume-like, like your grandmother's influence, are only mentioned in passing and never tied into an overarching theme. I don't see your grandmother's inspiration reflected in the following three paragraphs of recitation of academic accomplishments and job duties. You also mention altruism that you've witnessed and the inspiration it has given you, without giving any examples of this altruism. Collecting toys once a year at Christmas for Adopt-A-Family, while admirable, doesn't seem like significant enough an example to inspire a career change, so I would hope there's more.


Thank you for elaborating. In my previous thread, I posted a PS that included more about my grandmother but was told it was too much about her and not enough about me. I guess I'm having trouble finding a good balance. I'm not trying to sound combative, but awards, education, and my career are what makes me, well, me. I don't know how I can elaborate when I'm so limited (DU=2 pages, CU=1,000 words).

Also, the discussion of my job was to describe one instance of my leadership skills. The Adopt a Fam is there to show my love of volunteer work. My resume lists other philanthropic efforts. I think these two elements show who I am while the last two paragraphs describe who I want to become. I've been working on my PS and have changed quite a bit. I agree with you to an extent, but adcomms don't care that I write a fashion blog or that I love animals. They want to see if I would be a good fit on an academic level. I plan on revising my PS (and other supplementals) for the next few hours. I'll try to add personal elements, but I'm afraid of adding too much "I'm so fabulous" and sickeningly sweet creative writing. Like I said before, writing a PS is like trying to cram 10lbs of flour into a 5lb sack :|

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Nancy_Botwin
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby Nancy_Botwin » Thu Dec 22, 2011 6:42 pm

rinkrat19 wrote:ETA: Basically, it needs emotion. It doesn't even matter WHAT emotion. Amusement, pity, suspense, hope, shock, awe, SOMETHING.


I think we're going to have to agree to disagree. I don't think a PS should be an exercise in creative writing. While I do think my PS needs dimension, I don't think trying to get a rise out of the adcomm is what they're looking for.

But I really do appreciate your criticisms. I've re-tooled this essay so many times I doubt one sentence has remained the same. I think I'm just cranky from staring at MS Word :P

I'm going to re-write some more then re-post! Thanks again!

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rinkrat19
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby rinkrat19 » Thu Dec 22, 2011 6:56 pm

Nancy_Botwin wrote:Thank you for elaborating. In my previous thread, I posted a PS that included more about my grandmother but was told it was too much about her and not enough about me. I guess I'm having trouble finding a good balance. I'm not trying to sound combative, but awards, education, and my career are what makes me, well, me. I don't know how I can elaborate when I'm so limited (DU=2 pages, CU=1,000 words).

Also, the discussion of my job was to describe one instance of my leadership skills. The Adopt a Fam is there to show my love of volunteer work. My resume lists other philanthropic efforts. I think these two elements show who I am while the last two paragraphs describe who I want to become. I've been working on my PS and have changed quite a bit. I agree with you to an extent, but adcomms don't care that I write a fashion blog or that I love animals. They want to see if I would be a good fit on an academic level. I plan on revising my PS (and other supplementals) for the next few hours. I'll try to add personal elements, but I'm afraid of adding too much "I'm so fabulous" and sickeningly sweet creative writing. Like I said before, writing a PS is like trying to cram 10lbs of flour into a 5lb sack :|
They'd probably rather read about your fashion blog, actually. Because they can't get that from your resume. It's a personal statement to introduce yourself to them on a more personal level. Your resume shows them what they need to know about your academic and professional qualifications.

Wanting to emphasise leadership qualities is good, but there are more effective ways to do it in a PS. An anecdote, with interesting human details, of a single successful work project, to show yourself actually leading instead of informing the reader that you led. Or a story about what you actually DID to raise that much money for Adopt-A-Family (and what you learned from it/how it changed you), not just a sentence stating that it happened. You cover too many things in too little depth, making the whole thing read like a bulleted list.

Nancy_Botwin wrote:
rinkrat19 wrote:ETA: Basically, it needs emotion. It doesn't even matter WHAT emotion. Amusement, pity, suspense, hope, shock, awe, SOMETHING.


I think we're going to have to agree to disagree. I don't think a PS should be an exercise in creative writing. While I do think my PS needs dimension, I don't think trying to get a rise out of the adcomm is what they're looking for.
Believe me, I am the LAST person to suggest that a PS should be an exercise in creative writing. But interesting writing with emotion does not neccessarily equal flowery, ornate writing (which is usually a bad choice for a PS, unless the writer is just REALLY, really good). As written, your PS is unlikely to hurt your apps at schools at the level of Denver (it would hurt you at top schools). But it won't help you, either. It is just plain boring.
Last edited by rinkrat19 on Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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rinkrat19
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby rinkrat19 » Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:04 pm

For your consideration:

Josh Rubenstein, Assistant Dean for Admissions at Harvard wrote:Read over your personal statement with a critical eye when you are done and ask yourself if it’s an accurate portrayal of who you are. Does your voice come through? Or is it just a laundry list of your achievements? When we read a personal statement, we are looking for a person, not a set of accomplishments.

Edward Tom, Dean of Admissions at Boalt wrote:The personal statements is the applicant’s opportunity to distinguish himself from hundreds of other applicants who have the same numbers, and the same major, and come from a similar school. The personal statement is an applicant’s opportunity to describe the distance they’ve come in their lives.

Ann Perry, Assistant Dean for Admissions at Chicago wrote:I think they should try to use whichever experience they think gives the committee the best insight into them, and the personal statement should be something new that isn’t already in the application. ... One thing they should really avoid doing is rewriting their resume into prose form, because we do see that an awful lot.

Richard Geiger, Dean of Admissions at Cornell wrote:I always advise students to treat the personal statement as if they were being offered a half-hour interview. You aren’t going to be able to cover everything, so pick something about yourself that you would want the interviewer to remember and that isn’t obvious from some other part of your application.

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Nancy_Botwin
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby Nancy_Botwin » Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:31 pm

rinkrat19 wrote:For your consideration:

Josh Rubenstein, Assistant Dean for Admissions at Harvard wrote:Read over your personal statement with a critical eye when you are done and ask yourself if it’s an accurate portrayal of who you are. Does your voice come through? Or is it just a laundry list of your achievements? When we read a personal statement, we are looking for a person, not a set of accomplishments.

Edward Tom, Dean of Admissions at Boalt wrote:The personal statements is the applicant’s opportunity to distinguish himself from hundreds of other applicants who have the same numbers, and the same major, and come from a similar school. The personal statement is an applicant’s opportunity to describe the distance they’ve come in their lives.

Ann Perry, Assistant Dean for Admissions at Chicago wrote:I think they should try to use whichever experience they think gives the committee the best insight into them, and the personal statement should be something new that isn’t already in the application. ... One thing they should really avoid doing is rewriting their resume into prose form, because we do see that an awful lot.

Richard Geiger, Dean of Admissions at Cornell wrote:I always advise students to treat the personal statement as if they were being offered a half-hour interview. You aren’t going to be able to cover everything, so pick something about yourself that you would want the interviewer to remember and that isn’t obvious from some other part of your application.


Awesome. Brilliant. THANK YOU!
I'm applying to schools lower on the list (55 and below due to my UG GPA and iffy LSAT scores). I'm rewriting most of the PS so I'll post it momentarily. I'm considering 2 options:
-Cutting the Adopt-a-Fam paragraph and expanding on my work project/presentation
-Discussing my passion for changing the judicial selection process -- The only reason I'm hesitating on this is because I don't want schools to think that I'm a know it all. This is why I feel like my life is not interesting AT ALL.

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rinkrat19
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby rinkrat19 » Thu Dec 22, 2011 7:39 pm

Nancy_Botwin wrote:Awesome. Brilliant. THANK YOU!
I'm applying to schools lower on the list (55 and below due to my UG GPA and iffy LSAT scores). I'm rewriting most of the PS so I'll post it momentarily. I'm considering 2 options:
-Cutting the Adopt-a-Fam paragraph and expanding on my work project/presentation
-Discussing my passion for changing the judicial selection process -- The only reason I'm hesitating on this is because I don't want schools to think that I'm a know it all. This is why I feel like my life is not interesting AT ALL.
I would lean away from discussing the judicial selection process (or anything else relating to The Law), because unless you are remarkably well-informed, the adcomms are likely to know more about the subject than you do. There's just so much potential to look like a total newb to a bunch of actual lawyers.

By all means, write about the work project, but make it engaging and interesting. Provide detail about you, your emotions, other people, events, situations, etc. Show (don't tell) how it changed you, what you learned from it, how you were able to influence something/someone, or other effects. Use it to introduce yourself to the adcomms and tell them something about the person you are, not just that you did This List of Tasks on Project Y when you worked at Z Company. Don't just write an essay on "This Is What I Did For My Work Project."

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Nancy_Botwin
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Re: My un-extraordinary life UPDATED!

Postby Nancy_Botwin » Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:20 pm

I can't thank you enough! If you've signed off or have grown tired of my attempts at brilliance, no worries! Here's what I hope is the final draft (though I expect to make some minor tweaks before submitting tonight). I'm not applying to an Ivy (or even a top 50), so please someone out there tell me it's good enough :P :

Here we go again!

Personal Statement

[Redacted for privacy/piracy reasons ARRRRG, MATEY!]




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