Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
tschulze
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Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby tschulze » Tue Feb 14, 2012 4:32 pm

This is the statement I have sent in to seven schools; are there any changes you would suggest making before I send them to my target schools?

My life trajectory has been changed over the past five years. When I began college, I wanted to work overseas and help fix the problems of other peoples. I know now that there is so much broken in our own country. My experience with capital punishment and my time working as a correctional officer have convinced me that our criminal justice system has focused far too long on the wrong objective. I want to help change that.

The death penalty is what first exposed me to the criminal justice system. In college, I was an active member of the Ohio State Amnesty International chapter. Though I joined the group to work on international human rights violations, I was attracted to the issue of the death penalty because of the apparent practical problems of executions. The complications of innocence, racial disparities, and cost were what first motivated me in my activism. However, when I met the relatives of those on death row and murder victims’ families who found it in their hearts to forgive, my views on the issue were changed. When the humanity of those impacted most by the death penalty was laid before me, it was impossible not to feel for all parties involved.

How could our longing for punishment outweigh our concern for the victims and for those who committed these awful crimes? Slowly I realized that our seemingly instinctive desire for justice was the underlying problem. I had grown up believing that American-style retributive justice was a virtue. I had been wrong. I could see that it was a vice that had blinded us to the love we should have towards our neighbor. Knowing that capital punishment threatened not only those on death row, but the righteousness of all Americans, I graduated from Ohio State and left for South Dakota.

Though I had come to South Dakota to work an AmeriCorps job on the reservation, it was impossible for me not to feel the pull of the death penalty, which was on the state books and had been used as recently as 2007. With this in mind, I founded South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (SDADP), and over the past two years have worked as the primary driving force as we built a board of directors, grew our membership base, created a relationship with the media, and raised the $23,500 that has funded the organization’s activities.

While $6,000 of the money raised has been used to support me while I worked actively on the issue, I have had to pick up several jobs over the past two years. The position that most impacted me was a six-month stint as a correctional officer at the South Dakota Women’s Prison. There I was exposed to the flaws of our sentencing policies and our correctional system. For years I had opposed the yearning for retributive justice for moral reasons, but my time at the prison showed me this was more than a moral issue; it was a problem of practicality.

The prison and most its employees were so focused on ensuring that incarceration was sufficient punishment that they impeded, and even reversed, the “correction” of the ladies. The women were told when and where to eat, sleep, exercise, and socialize. They were treated like children, and like children they became dependent. The prison depended on deterrence to keep them from returning to prison, but without the tools, skills, and help necessary to lead a productive and successful life, many women came back repeatedly. I found that when we are so dedicated on ensuring everyone “gets what they deserve” it is difficult, if not impossible, to put proper emphasis on making our world a better and safer place.

Many within the United States need to realize this same principle. The only way most will see the problems with our sentencing and correction policies is through contrast. The public needs to witness how a correction facility that focuses on helping prisoners lead a successful life, rather than on punishment, can reduce crime and recidivism and even save money in the long run. I imagine that such an institution will involve training, mentoring, community involvement, and post-release support, but I will be the first to admit I don’t know the exact formula. I need to know our criminal justice system and our laws better before I can have a real impact. To be truly involved and successful in sentencing reform work, either full-time or on the side while I make a living as a defense attorney, I will need a law degree.

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ix88
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Re: Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby ix88 » Wed Feb 15, 2012 2:00 am

After reading this PS (esp. its conclusion), what screeches in my mind is : you don't need a law degree to bring about the changes you seek. You can reform society through public policy with ie: an MA in Public Policy, working with non-profits or lobbying groups etc.

Your PS describes at length your dissatisfaction with the death penalty and the penal system as a whole. You express your desire to bring about reform.

How specifically would a law degree do this for you? (as opposed to say an MA in Public Policy) Your PS does not explain or show this, which is indicative that you have not thought meaningfully about whether or not law school is the best venue to achieve your aspirations for reform.

You mentioned being a defense attorney in your conclusion. But how does that bear any relevance to institutional reform?

Also, while not "wrong" - but something to keep in mind - your PS is HIGHLY political. What happens if one of the readers on the admissions committee is vehemently supportive of the death penalty and subscribes to a theory of deterrence? We could hope and pray that the reader won't bias his reading of your PS, but if there is a sliver of chance, why chance it?

I'm not by any means a PS expert, just my thoughts.

tschulze
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Re: Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby tschulze » Wed Feb 15, 2012 2:24 am

Thanks for your points.

I think that only by understanding sentencing law and the theories behind it would I be able to help create (and eventually enact) a successful system that decreases recidivism and helps improve individuals. I would assume that most scholarship and research on sentencing laws and models would come from law schools rather than public policy programs. I believe that a Master's in public policy would not allow me to focus as much on sentencing law and sentencing models as I would want to. Of course, I could be completely wrong on this.

Concerning the political nature of it, I understand the risks, but this is what I have been doing the three years since I've been out of college, and I feel like not describing what I was doing during that period would hurt me more.

Curious1
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Re: Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby Curious1 » Wed Feb 15, 2012 2:25 am

Many adcomms are for the death penalty. You should NEVER write about anything that can be perceived as even remotely controversial.

tschulze
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Re: Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby tschulze » Wed Feb 15, 2012 3:17 am

Well, shoot. I guess I will have to cross my fingers concerning the ones I already sent in.

nsbane
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Re: Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby nsbane » Wed Feb 15, 2012 4:53 am

The prison and most its employees were so focused on ensuring that incarceration was sufficient punishment that they impeded, and even reversed, the “correction” of the ladies. The women were told when and where to eat, sleep, exercise, and socialize. They were treated like children, and like children they became dependent. The prison depended on deterrence to keep them from returning to prison, but without the tools, skills, and help necessary to lead a productive and successful life, many women came back repeatedly. I found that when we are so dedicated on ensuring everyone “gets what they deserve” it is difficult, if not impossible, to put proper emphasis on making our world a better and safer place.


dude. you are straying from personal statement to op/ed. bad idea. i think its ok to write about your death penalty work. but stick to accomplishments, instead of trying to push your point of view.

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bjsesq
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Re: Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby bjsesq » Wed Feb 15, 2012 4:57 am

Your first damn sentence is in passive voice. I stopped reading there.

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ix88
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Re: Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby ix88 » Wed Feb 15, 2012 6:00 pm

It's nothing a few revisions can't fix. good luck.

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luuma
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Re: Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby luuma » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:26 pm

What does this mean? Can you elaborate on how he/she could have written it to be less in the passive voice?

bjsesq wrote:Your first damn sentence is in passive voice. I stopped reading there.

nsbane
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Re: Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby nsbane » Wed Feb 15, 2012 8:04 pm

luuma wrote:What does this mean? Can you elaborate on how he/she could have written it to be less in the passive voice?

bjsesq wrote:Your first damn sentence is in passive voice. I stopped reading there.


Passive means the subject in the sentence is not doing the action, but is being acted upon.

The man bought a bottle of milk = man is subject and is active.
The bottle of milk was bought by the man = milk is subject, is passive and being acted upon.

Passive voice is annoying and seems to especially be prevalent in legal writing. look at the first sentence in his essay:
My life trajectory has been changed over the past five years. His life trajectory is the subject and is passive in this sentence.

On the other hand, I think that first sentence is crap to begin with. Just describe how your life trajectory has changed by showing us what paths you have taken. You don't need to say "oh and by the way, in case you didn't understand, my life trajectory has changed a lot."

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ix88
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Re: Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby ix88 » Wed Feb 15, 2012 8:09 pm

luuma wrote:What does this mean? Can you elaborate on how he/she could have written it to be less in the passive voice?

bjsesq wrote:Your first damn sentence is in passive voice. I stopped reading there.



"My life trajectory has been changed over the past five years."

Changed by whom?

B/c we can ask that question, the sentence is passive.

Written in the active voice, (while still maintaining some semblance of what OP wrote) a sentence might sound as follows: My experiences over the past five years have changed my life trajectory.

kublaikahn
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Re: Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby kublaikahn » Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:04 pm

start over.

tschulze
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Re: Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby tschulze » Wed Feb 15, 2012 10:45 pm

Thanks to all for the suggestions. I'll work on a new draft and clean it up as much as I can. I will probably have the same topic though.

I don't know if I can de-politicize it. My position as director of an anti-dp group is on my resume, and I am not sure if I can ignore what have been my formative experiences.

Thanks again.

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DocHawkeye
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Re: Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby DocHawkeye » Wed Feb 15, 2012 11:18 pm

Your first sentence has nothing to do with your second. Your second has nothing to do with your third. I stopped reading at the end of the first line.

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Jsa725
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Re: Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby Jsa725 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 1:19 am

.
Last edited by Jsa725 on Thu Mar 28, 2013 2:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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bjsesq
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Re: Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby bjsesq » Thu Feb 16, 2012 3:34 am

luuma wrote:What does this mean? Can you elaborate on how he/she could have written it to be less in the passive voice?

bjsesq wrote:Your first damn sentence is in passive voice. I stopped reading there.


You really don't know what passive voice is?

nsbane
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Re: Anyone have time to critique a personal statement?

Postby nsbane » Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:09 am

tschulze wrote:Thanks to all for the suggestions. I'll work on a new draft and clean it up as much as I can. I will probably have the same topic though.

I don't know if I can de-politicize it. My position as director of an anti-dp group is on my resume, and I am not sure if I can ignore what have been my formative experiences.

Thanks again.


I think you should write an essay where you push your viewpoint of anti-death penalty and pro-prison reform. Then write a second essay about your experiences and accomplishments working in that field. Keep these two separate - don't tell us about your experiences in the first essay, don't try to push your agenda in the second.

Submit the first essay to your local paper. Submit the second to law school.




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