Help! Critique my PS (and I'll be eternally grateful :)

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
hanman
Posts: 97
Joined: Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:42 pm

Help! Critique my PS (and I'll be eternally grateful :)

Postby hanman » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:40 pm

I have another version of this PS that is more emotional but I was told it might be too dark/focusing on the impact of the pain condition. It also included more on how my thought process changed. I still like it better but this is the version recommended by a lawyer friend of mine. Please critique freely, I think I am too emotionally involved in the topic to be objective and am open to any suggestions/honest feedback!

(Also, this PS is for N. California schools)

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Last edited by hanman on Fri Feb 03, 2012 3:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

CanadianWolf
Posts: 10439
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:54 pm

Re: Help! Critique my PS (and I'll be eternally grateful :)

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Jan 03, 2012 11:38 pm

Not good. Unfortunately, your essay portrays you as being obsessed with yourself. Repetitive & lacking in substance, this personal statement reads as if the writer is on medication. An important goal of a law school personal statement essay is to get readers to like the more exposed you; in this respect, your writing fails since it raises concerns while setting off alarms.

Consider condensing your current version while delivering a message of gaining maturity, humility & empathy through your suffering. You need to frame your essay in a more positive fashion. Try to end on a less introspective, self-obsessed note in favor of recognizing the sufferings of others. In short, don't scare away your readers.

hanman
Posts: 97
Joined: Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:42 pm

Re: Help! Critique my PS (and I'll be eternally grateful :)

Postby hanman » Wed Jan 04, 2012 1:49 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Not good. Unfortunately, your essay portrays you as being obsessed with yourself. Repetitive & lacking in substance, this personal statement reads as if the writer is on medication. An important goal of a law school personal statement essay is to get readers to like the more exposed you; in this respect, your writing fails since it raises concerns while setting off alarms.

Consider condensing your current version while delivering a message of gaining maturity, humility & empathy through your suffering. You need to frame your essay in a more positive fashion. Try to end on a less introspective, self-obsessed note in favor of recognizing the sufferings of others. In short, don't scare away your readers.


ouch - but thanks for the honest feedback... i do realize that it is tending towards being a little negative and whiny but its a difficult topic for me to write about honestly. however, i understand your larger point that i need to be more positive and talk more about how i was knocked off my high horse/gained humility and maturity. my essay was trying to make the point that i was a type A person/competitive and uptight, and as a result of my chronic illness, my attitude/thinking has been tempered to be less douche-y and more humble and open-minded. i will try to condense my essay and emphasize this point more so...i really dont want adcoms to think i'm self-obsessed because i'm really not :)

kublaikahn
Posts: 647
Joined: Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:47 am

Re: Help! Critique my PS (and I'll be eternally grateful :)

Postby kublaikahn » Wed Jan 04, 2012 9:49 pm

You have an interesting topic, but you butcher it. This is like an onion and I don't think you can do justice to each layer. Pick one and focus on it. Overcoming the debilitating illness? Redefining yourself and your goals? Existential pain?

You seem to bounce all over the place. I get how you are trying to show that you went from a position of impervious go-getter to acknowledging your human frailty, but the steps in between about failure and shame and grad school and not finding a job are not building that process in the way you desire. Just rewrite it, but first start with an outline of where you are going and express the pieces of the journey explicitly.

hanman
Posts: 97
Joined: Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:42 pm

Re: Help! Critique my PS (and I'll be eternally grateful :)

Postby hanman » Thu Jan 05, 2012 7:18 pm

kublaikahn wrote:You have an interesting topic, but you butcher it. This is like an onion and I don't think you can do justice to each layer. Pick one and focus on it. Overcoming the debilitating illness? Redefining yourself and your goals? Existential pain?

You seem to bounce all over the place. I get how you are trying to show that you went from a position of impervious go-getter to acknowledging your human frailty, but the steps in between about failure and shame and grad school and not finding a job are not building that process in the way you desire. Just rewrite it, but first start with an outline of where you are going and express the pieces of the journey explicitly.


thanks - i appreciate the constructive critique. i took your suggestion and started with a new page.

i guess i view the outline of my 'journey' as follows: 1) Intense Type A, competitive and achievement-driven 2) diagnosed with a chronic pain syndrome, which i truly thought would just go away if i did what the doctor told and i was really ashamed about it as well 3) rude shock as i didn't get better, negative thoughts, emotional lows 4) i managed to complete grad school and getting better became my new goal, i became more pro-active 5) the process of dealing with a chronic illness has been transformative, made me open-minded and i learned to measure myself not just by what i achieved and was no longer thinking in an either/or 'success or failure' way

is this all still too much for one PS? i want the key message to be how i've changed the way i think and the way i approach obstacles and view success/accomplishment. i dont want it to get lost in extraneous detail though...

kublaikahn
Posts: 647
Joined: Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:47 am

Re: Help! Critique my PS (and I'll be eternally grateful :)

Postby kublaikahn » Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:32 pm

hanman wrote:
kublaikahn wrote:You have an interesting topic, but you butcher it. This is like an onion and I don't think you can do justice to each layer. Pick one and focus on it. Overcoming the debilitating illness? Redefining yourself and your goals? Existential pain?

You seem to bounce all over the place. I get how you are trying to show that you went from a position of impervious go-getter to acknowledging your human frailty, but the steps in between about failure and shame and grad school and not finding a job are not building that process in the way you desire. Just rewrite it, but first start with an outline of where you are going and express the pieces of the journey explicitly.


thanks - i appreciate the constructive critique. i took your suggestion and started with a new page.

i guess i view the outline of my 'journey' as follows: 1) Intense Type A, competitive and achievement-driven 2) diagnosed with a chronic pain syndrome, which i truly thought would just go away if i did what the doctor told and i was really ashamed about it as well 3) rude shock as i didn't get better, negative thoughts, emotional lows 4) i managed to complete grad school and getting better became my new goal, i became more pro-active 5) the process of dealing with a chronic illness has been transformative, made me open-minded and i learned to measure myself not just by what i achieved and was no longer thinking in an either/or 'success or failure' way

is this all still too much for one PS? i want the key message to be how i've changed the way i think and the way i approach obstacles and view success/accomplishment. i dont want it to get lost in extraneous detail though...
This is a lot of ground to cover in two pages. I would try to focus the piece more. Secondly, it is not enough to say I view success differently. Before you start writing you should be able to articulate a clear statement of how your views have changed. For example, I used to measure success by hitting the extraneous milestones, but now I view competition as an internal struggle. Do you see what I mean? Maybe you use some visual imagery, comparing the past as checking boxes to your current vision of opening doors. In your paper, you may not need to articulate that but you do need to paint that picture for the reader.

hanman
Posts: 97
Joined: Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:42 pm

Updated: Help! Critique my PS (and I'll be eternally gratefu

Postby hanman » Sat Jan 07, 2012 8:18 pm

I have worked on this more - trying to edit down the extraneous bits and being more focused on the 'mindset change': how/why/what. I have 3 pages to write this, it is currently about 2.75 pages.

I plan to submit my first app tomorrow so any words of advice would be helpful!

If I were to describe myself in one word, it would be competitive. Competition and ambition was constitutive of my character and I felt happiest and most fulfilled when ‘winning’. As I look back on my life, as far back as my earliest childhood memories, I have always been in relentless pursuit of a competitive edge over others. Over the years, this led to a supreme confidence in myself – a firm belief that if I focused on set goals and simply applied myself, I would be successful.
In the summer of 2009, I developed a chronic pain syndrome. It took several weeks, seven doctors, and innumerable tests before I was given a diagnosis. Armed with a handout explaining my condition and a stack of pills and anesthetics, I was sent on my way with a chronic illness that I would carry with me for the rest of my life. My initial reaction was gratitude – thankful to have found a medical professional who understood my pain to be real, I accepted any treatment options I was given, uncritically. I believed that if I diligently followed the instructions I was given, I would be fine. In a stagnant state, I was in deep denial of my sudden ‘shortcoming’, ashamed of telling my family and friends, and futilely believing that I would be that special one to have a cure.
This notion of my competitive edge began to dissolve as the months passed, despite my confidence in my ability to ‘defeat’ this illness. My pain worsened to the degree that it was often uncontrollable. I was unable to sit for long periods of time, woke up many days feeling like my skin was burning and spent many nights sitting on the cold kitchen floor with a bag of ice, the sole form of relief. I floundered emotionally, feeling increasingly bitter and cheated by my own body and by medicine. Like others with chronic pain, I frequently found myself engaged in negative patterns of thinking, magnifying small problems into disasters, discounting the positive, and locked into self-defeating conversations in my head that simply fed the pain cycle. In those dark months, I felt like my goals, academic and professional, were being pushed aside and the anxiety was overwhelming. The pain threatened to become part of my core identity.
Amidst this chaos, I completed my graduate degree and was suddenly left without a plan of action. Graduate school had served as a welcome distraction, allowing me to focus my energy on my coursework and escape my worsening condition. Now, I spent hours daily researching my condition and cataloguing my symptoms, attended conferences, devoured medical journal articles, connected with other patients, and contacted dozens of health care providers. My new willingness to tackle my pain head-on slowly resulted in progress. I developed a detailed action plan addressing my physical, emotional and psychological well-being. This treatment plan, the result of an intense process of self-examination, led to my condition becoming manageable.
As I emerged from this period of uncertainty, anger and confusion, I realized I had left behind my sense of entitlement. Given this opportunity to begin anew, I wanted to think carefully about what I pursued and what I expected to accomplish. I chose to veer off my long-established ‘life plan’ and decided to be a little less predictable in my life. I read about a counter-extremism think tank in London and spent four months pursuing a position with them. I volunteered with asylum seekers in notorious detention centers near London, helping them find legal assistance and advocating on their behalf with case officers. I learned crucial, humbling lessons about resilience and passion in the face of massive obstacles from the men and women at these detention centers.
Doctors caution that the mechanics of thinking can be distorted by pain. However, as I have moved beyond the crippling anxiety and doubt, chronic pain has been somewhat of a liberating force. Chronic pain, the loss of control over my nervous system, is indeed an enriching loss. Living with chronic pain has taught me humility; it has motivated a right-sized assessment of my own abilities and awareness of my limitations. I react with more maturity and empathy to the challenges faced by others. Shedding my inflated self-valuation has in turn bolstered my self-worth.
I am overcoming my pain frequently now. This success is private; nobody is watching me win here and cheering me on. I have discovered that success is not just achieving and accumulating, it does not come merely from out-competing others; rather, success is that state of performance that fulfils as well as elevates, that imparts happiness and a sense of well-being to oneself and those around them.
Living with chronic pain has transformed the way I approach my life. It has taught me to be more honest with myself about my aspirations and to be more thoughtful and evaluative when faced with an obstacle. I have made space to hold conflicting information, appreciate others’ views and withhold judgment. I no longer have a narrow understanding of success, one where failure was a source of shame. Yet, I have learned that failure does not spell defeat. It simply means that I look for success more diligently and more inventively, in different places and in different forms. Having balanced my competitiveness and ambition with thoughtfulness and flexibility, I have gained the strength and humility to embrace new challenges with an open mind.




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