First Draft - Looking for Critique

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
79radiohead
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First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby 79radiohead » Mon Jul 02, 2012 12:10 am

I would like constructive criticism please - :wink:

"I couldn't have asked for a worse child." This statement is my mother's response to almost any event that is upsetting or out of the norm. She said it when I foolishly stayed in an emotionally abusive relationship at 19 years of age. She said it when I got pregnant out of wedlock by said abuser. She said it when my father had a near fatal hemorrhagic stroke and I was afraid of going into the ICU room to see him in a coma. She currently says it on a weekly basis whenever she is upset about the path her life is on.

A few weeks ago I was sitting in the living room with my mother after having witnessed the one millionth ridiculous argument between my parents. I believe this one was about who used the last roll of toilet paper (believe it or not this is a recurring theme in my parents' home). Now when I say argument, I do not mean the cute little tiffs that old married couples experience - I am talking more along the lines of Tyson versus Holyfield circa the 1997 ear-biting incident. My usual course of action would be to gather my nine-year old daughter and hightail it out of there, but for some reason, this time, I just sat on the sofa and stared at my mother in confusion. Then I made the egregious error of saying, "Mom what is the big deal? It's just toilet paper."

You would think I would have learned after thirty-three years of drama that I should have just left it alone, however I have an extremely analytical mind that always needs to figure out the problem. Naturally, my transgression was met with a vividly colorful diatribe that started with the fact that I should mind my own business, and in the span of ten minutes, ended with a laundry list of every questionable decision I had made in my life and how each one was a personal assault against my mother (one of these horrific crimes was indeed using an inappropriate amount of the toilet tissue in question). As I bit my tongue to avoid making the argument last any longer, I got up to check on my daughter who was watching television in the bedroom. Of course, on my way out, my mother did close with her favorite aforementioned statement. When I sat down with my child, I told her that no matter what she did or what decisions she makes, I will always love her. I didn't really expect a response because she was embroiled with her Disney Channel sitcom, but my innocent little 9 year old turned to me and said, "I couldn't have asked for a better mom."

In all fairness, my parents say the right things with regard to my intellect and my ability to succeed in life. They just don't sprinkle in enough good with the bad. For many years before my daughter was born, I let my home life somewhat taint my views on a future and some aspects of my life have suffered. Since I have had my own child, my outlook has completely changed and I see things in a strangely different way. Parenthood forces you to mature and it also forces you to be introspective in ways you never thought possible. What kind of legacy do I want to leave for my daughter? I want her to believe that though mistakes may be made, all is never lost. I want her to be tenacious and have the courage to pursue whatever life has in store for her. I do not want her to be held back by the what-ifs and could-have-beens. I want her to make mistakes, learn from them and make whatever adjustments necessary to proceed on her destined course. I want her to make sacrifices if (and only if) they are the right ones. I want her to believe in her strengths and realize her weaknesses, but above all I never want her to give up. I need to show her that if people doubt you, you do not have to accept it. I need to show her that your mistakes and missteps in life can actually wind up being the best things that ever happened to you. I need to illustrate that when you dream, you should dream big and always persevere towards accomplishing the goals you have set for yourself. The only way for me to teach my daughter these concepts is to lead by example - and that will be my greatest accomplishment.

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kwais
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby kwais » Mon Jul 02, 2012 12:20 am

"never start an essay with a quote" said the internet stranger offering you advice.
scrap the questions you pose to yourself and then answer.
Scrap the first three paragraphs. We get to know a little about you in the final paragraph. You clearly have a different story to tell than most applicants and that's a good thing, but the first three paragraphs do nothing for you.

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Richie Tenenbaum
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby Richie Tenenbaum » Mon Jul 02, 2012 12:21 am

You spend the vast majority of this PS talking about how awful your mother is and then spend the very last part talking about something positive. That's a huge imbalance. Spend at most one paragraph on the former and devote the majority of your personal statement to how much you've loved being a mother and how much it's made you grow as a person (and, though, you had to learn this lesson the hard way, how important it is to provide a nurturing and supportive environment for your kid).

There's a good amount of clunky sentences that need to be tightened up too, but I would focus on getting your big picture focus correct before worrying about making it flow smoother. (And the big picture focus needs significant work.)

79radiohead
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby 79radiohead » Mon Jul 02, 2012 12:25 am

kwais wrote:"never start an essay with a quote" said the internet stranger offering you advice.
scrap the questions you pose to yourself and then answer.
Scrap the first three paragraphs. We get to know a little about you in the final paragraph. You clearly have a different story to tell than most applicants and that's a good thing, but the first three paragraphs do nothing for you.


Yea I was worried about the quote. I threw this together somewhat quickly, but I can't seem to nail down the correct way to make it all flow. I was so stunned that my daughter responded to me in that way that I wanted to use it, but I guess it does nothing for me. The horrible homelife is a big thing for me, but I should leave it out you think?

FreeLPeltier
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby FreeLPeltier » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:04 am

I am not an expert, but I concur with the poster who said scrap the first three paragraphs. The object of the PS is to illuminate who you are and what your motivation is and to demonstrate that you can write. The third paragraph starts to let us see the “you” that you want to present. My $.02 is that you would be better off expanding on the third paragraph and cutting the first three down to one or maybe two lines.

I think the intent of those first three paragraphs was to give the reader some context into the circumstances that make the last paragraph meaningful. The problem is (at least for me) that it makes you look less mature and overly focused on the details, which lessens the effect of the final paragraph where you show maturity and insight. A line or two that says you had a less than supportive background be enough of a foundation to build on.

In the PS you have precious little space to tell (adcoms) who you are. Do you really want to waste any of it describing the drama? It makes it seem like you are focusing on the drama instead of moving on in a positive direction.

If my critique seems negative, it wasn’t meant to be. I liked the idea but the execution didn’t work for me.

79radiohead
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby 79radiohead » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:09 am

FreeLPeltier wrote:I am not an expert, but I concur with the poster who said scrap the first three paragraphs. The object of the PS is to illuminate who you are and what your motivation is and to demonstrate that you can write. The third paragraph starts to let us see the “you” that you want to present. My $.02 is that you would be better off expanding on the third paragraph and cutting the first three down to one or maybe two lines.

I think the intent of those first three paragraphs was to give the reader some context into the circumstances that make the last paragraph meaningful. The problem is (at least for me) that it makes you look less mature and overly focused on the details, which lessens the effect of the final paragraph where you show maturity and insight. A line or two that says you had a less than supportive background be enough of a foundation to build on.

In the PS you have precious little space to tell (adcoms) who you are. Do you really want to waste any of it describing the drama? It makes it seem like you are focusing on the drama instead of moving on in a positive direction.

If my critique seems negative, it wasn’t meant to be. I liked the idea but the execution didn’t work for me.


You are exactly right anout what I was trying to do, but I guess it does sound a bit whiny. I am going to give it another whirl here and post again shortly. Thanks for your pointers.

79radiohead
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby 79radiohead » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:14 am

I guess I am having trouble with an opening that grabs the attention of the reader. That's why I used the quote. I think I may have been trying to cram too much into that first paragraph. My gpa greatly suffered when my dad had that stroke, so should maybe I should leave bringing that up for an addendum?

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kwais
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby kwais » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:17 am

just wanted to add that the quote from your daughter juxtaposed with that of your mom is a good device. You just need a way to present all that in a concise and less cliche manner. But I don't think you have to start over or anything

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kwais
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby kwais » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:21 am

79radiohead wrote:I guess I am having trouble with an opening that grabs the attention of the reader. That's why I used the quote. I think I may have been trying to cram too much into that first paragraph. My gpa greatly suffered when my dad had that stroke, so should maybe I should leave bringing that up for an addendum?


I think maybe the emphasis on a punchy opening is misguided. This is not a newspaper article or novel. This is a law school essay and it will be read. Therefore it is more important to leave them with a good impression than to "hook" them. Some may disagree. Again, you have a real story to tell, so tell it. Think more about clarity and purpose than style

79radiohead
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby 79radiohead » Mon Jul 02, 2012 2:30 am

Ok, here is take 2. Let me have it.

I grew up in a very conservative, Christian household that surely did not make allowances for some of the errors in judgment that I made in my younger years. In all fairness, my parents said the right things when I was growing up, especially with regard to my intellect and my ability to succeed in life. However, the negative actions that took place in my childhood home spoke much louder than these positive words. My childhood memories consist of incessant arguing and yelling, but I still had a support system. That is until I entered into an emotionally abusive relationship at the age of 19 and had a child "out of wedlock" when I was 24. Suffice it to say, my extremely religious mother was not happy when I chose to stay in my unhealthy relationship and she took it rather personally. Our relationship has been tumultuous at best since then.

For many years before my daughter was born, I let my home life somewhat taint my views on a future and some aspects of my life have suffered. Being the single mother of a nine year old is not exactly where I envisioned myself at the age of thirty-three. I am a single mother in the truest sense, as my daughter's father has not seen her since she was three months old. It is the saddest thing in the world when your child asks you why she doesn't have a dad. It is also very difficult to not be bitter or even angry at myself for putting her in that position. However, parenthood forces you to mature and it also forces you to be introspective in ways you never thought possible. In the years since my daughter was born, my once bleak outlook has changed significantly and I see things in a strangely different way. When I was young, I saw adulthood as an infinite concept. I took for granted some precious years that I could have used to pursue my ultimate goals. Now that I have some life experience as well as child that I need to nurture and provide for, everything is different. I am the only support system my daughter has and I have given much thought to what kind of legacy I want to leave for her. I want her to believe that though mistakes may be made, all is never lost. I want her to be tenacious and have the courage to pursue whatever life has in store for her. I do not want her to be held back by the what-ifs and could-have-beens. I want her to make mistakes, learn from them and make whatever adjustments necessary to proceed on her destined course. I want her to make sacrifices if (and only if) they are the right ones. I want her to believe in her strengths and realize her weaknesses, but above all I never want her to give up. I need to show her that if people doubt you, you do not have to accept it. I need to show her that your mistakes and missteps in life can actually wind up being the best things that ever happened to you. I need to illustrate that when you dream, you should dream big and always persevere towards accomplishing the goals you have set for yourself. The only way for me to teach my daughter these concepts is to lead by example. I want my daughter to see that while I may have learned some lessons the hard way and I may have gotten off track, that no obstacle is insurmountable.

Being a mother has given me a clarity that I was severely lacking. I have long had an aspiration to be a lawyer, so I am going to do everything in my power to make it happen. I will do my best not to let fear or doubt get in the way of what I believe to be the right path for me. It will not be effortless and it will definitely be hard work, but anything worth having usually is. At the end of the day, I want to show my daughter that she doesn't need to have her father in her life to feel safe and secure. I want her to know that I will always support her in whatever she chooses to do and that true perseverance will get her wherever she wants to go in life. The choices I make now can help to show her that my past does not have to dictate my future, nor hers. If I can prove that both my daughter and myself- then I will consider that my greatest accomplishment.

shock259
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby shock259 » Mon Jul 02, 2012 2:49 am

Getting better. A couple of things I'd say:

1) There's still some really clunky sentences. Keep editing and rewriting. Cut out big words and compound/complicated sentences.
2) It's a bit cliche at times. You can get over this by adding more depth to some of your statements in the second paragraph.
3) Some sentences are probably too informal for this type of writing.
4) Is there a way you can work the parenting bit into law and/or attributes that will help you succeed in law school? IMO, this would be great if you were applying to teach a parenting school or something like that, but I didn't see the connection to law. You say you have wanted to be a lawyer for a long time, but never say why.
5) The emotionally abusive stuff doesn't seem to really fit with the parenting thing (IMO). I would either flesh it out and have a reason for putting it in there or just take it out.

Just my thoughts. Feel free to use or disregard them. They are definitely not Bible.

79radiohead
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby 79radiohead » Mon Jul 02, 2012 3:00 am

shock259 wrote:Getting better. A couple of things I'd say:

1) There's still some really clunky sentences. Keep editing and rewriting. Cut out big words and compound/complicated sentences.
2) It's a bit cliche at times. You can get over this by adding more depth to some of your statements in the second paragraph.
3) Some sentences are probably too informal for this type of writing.
4) Is there a way you can work the parenting bit into law and/or attributes that will help you succeed in law school? IMO, this would be great if you were applying to teach a parenting school or something like that, but I didn't see the connection to law. You say you have wanted to be a lawyer for a long time, but never say why.
5) The emotionally abusive stuff doesn't seem to really fit with the parenting thing (IMO). I would either flesh it out and have a reason for putting it in there or just take it out.

Just my thoughts. Feel free to use or disregard them. They are definitely not Bible.


Thanks for your thoughts, but could you maybe give me examples of the clunky sentences and the ones you feel are too informal? Thanks
Last edited by 79radiohead on Mon Jul 02, 2012 3:15 am, edited 1 time in total.

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kwais
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby kwais » Mon Jul 02, 2012 3:11 am

I generally agree with Shock's critiques. One place I differ though is the necessity of making the direct connection to law. While important to talk about what you'd like to do, I often cringe when someone tells a real, emotional story and cheapens it by pretending that it all happened for the purpose of ending up in law school. "I have patience from parenting which is a great skill for law school" sounds less honest to me than what you have now which is basically "I want this and I'm going to work hard for it." You make it clear what attributes you have and those that you want your daughter to see in you. They know what it takes to succeed in law school. You don't have to hold their hand to make them add 1 and 1. I think this is your chance to talk about who you are and I think your second draft is a strong step in the right direction.

79radiohead
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby 79radiohead » Mon Jul 02, 2012 3:23 am

kwais wrote:I generally agree with Shock's critiques. One place I differ though is the necessity of making the direct connection to law. While important to talk about what you'd like to do, I often cringe when someone tells a real, emotional story and cheapens it by pretending that it all happened for the purpose of ending up in law school. "I have patience from parenting which is a great skill for law school" sounds less honest to me than what you have now which is basically "I want this and I'm going to work hard for it." You make it clear what attributes you have and those that you want your daughter to see in you. They know what it takes to succeed in law school. You don't have to hold their hand to make them add 1 and 1. I think this is your chance to talk about who you are and I think your second draft is a strong step in the right direction.


I have read quite a few tips saying to stay away from the direct connection to law because it sounds contrived at times (like you said). I really wanted to incorporate my daughter into the PS, but can't quite figure it out. I have a specific story I was thinking about, but it has to do with my daughter's horseback riding and she fell of the horse (freaked the crap outta me). But I was afraid that would come off as some cliche reference to "getting back on the horse". Ugh.

I have also been in real estate for the past 8 years so I was considering writing something about that, but I don't know if I plan on going into real estate law, so not sure how to make that aspect work. I got that Ivey Guide and was trying to use some of her pointers but the ones she says are good have almost nothing to do with law.

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kwais
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby kwais » Mon Jul 02, 2012 3:29 am

79radiohead wrote:
kwais wrote:I generally agree with Shock's critiques. One place I differ though is the necessity of making the direct connection to law. While important to talk about what you'd like to do, I often cringe when someone tells a real, emotional story and cheapens it by pretending that it all happened for the purpose of ending up in law school. "I have patience from parenting which is a great skill for law school" sounds less honest to me than what you have now which is basically "I want this and I'm going to work hard for it." You make it clear what attributes you have and those that you want your daughter to see in you. They know what it takes to succeed in law school. You don't have to hold their hand to make them add 1 and 1. I think this is your chance to talk about who you are and I think your second draft is a strong step in the right direction.


I have read quite a few tips saying to stay away from the direct connection to law because it sounds contrived at times (like you said). I really wanted to incorporate my daughter into the PS, but can't quite figure it out. I have a specific story I was thinking about, but it has to do with my daughter's horseback riding and she fell of the horse (freaked the crap outta me). But I was afraid that would come off as some cliche reference to "getting back on the horse". Ugh.

I have also been in real estate for the past 8 years so I was considering writing something about that, but I don't know if I plan on going into real estate law, so not sure how to make that aspect work. I got that Ivey Guide and was trying to use some of her pointers but the ones she says are good have almost nothing to do with law.


I think your current draft incorporates your daughter quite well, because the focus is still on you and her effect on you. As far as the real estate thing, this is probably a good way to pull in a more professional tone. But you don't have to say "therefore I want to be a real estate lawyer." You can use it as an example of sticking with things. Most applicants have not done anything for 8 years. Or you could pull transferable skills like analysis, organization, client service, etc. in a concise way in your final paragraph.

CanadianWolf
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby CanadianWolf » Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:22 am

Hopefully, writing your first two drafts was a cathartic experience because you need to start over. The second draft of your essay presents you as a 33 year old single mother with a guilt complex suffering from a lot of emotional scars. Law school is not therapy. Kwais' comment seeking an explanation for your claimed long-term desire to become a lawyer may be a better starting point.

P.S. As written, your second draft is likely to garner sympathy as well as to raise concerns about your readiness/emotional stability for law school & the practice of law. While it is clear that you seek sympathy from others, your age & experience suggest you should be able to offer much more.

P.P.S. Just read your first draft. Your first draft is much better than your second draft because it offers observations & insights supported by examples (with a touch of humor that shows maturity). After I read only the second draft, I thought you were in desparate need of therapy; after I read the first draft, I liked & understood you. Especially strong is the opening line quote--keep it, as it is very effective.

79radiohead
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby 79radiohead » Mon Jul 02, 2012 12:51 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Hopefully, writing your first two drafts was a cathartic experience because you need to start over. The second draft of your essay presents you as a 33 year old single mother with a guilt complex suffering from a lot of emotional scars. Law school is not therapy. Kwais' comment seeking an explanation for your claimed long-term desire to become a lawyer may be a better starting point.

P.S. As written, your second draft is likely to garner sympathy as well as to raise concerns about your readiness/emotional stability for law school & the practice of law. While it is clear that you seek sympathy from others, your age & experience suggest you should be able to offer much more.

P.P.S. Just read your first draft. Your first draft is much better than your second draft because it offers observations & insights supported by examples (with a touch of humor that shows maturity). After I read only the second draft, I thought you were in desparate need of therapy; after I read the first draft, I liked & understood you. Especially strong is the opening line quote--keep it, as it is very effective.


I am a litte confused by what you are saying. As others have pointed out, my first draft spends alot of time complaining about my mom which I would think would make me look a bit more "emotionally unstable." However, you did at least glean from that draft what I was trying to correlate. I am not sure where I implied that law school would be therapy for me. Of course I have some emotional scars and I did have some guilt, but I thought I put more emphasis on the fact that those scars were in the past and are not going to derail my efforts. A bit harsh about my need for therapy (much less desperate need), but at least you liked me after the first draft. It's interesting how different people interpret these statements, because I think everyone else found me more unlikeable in the first statement. Thanks for your insights nonetheless.

CanadianWolf
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby CanadianWolf » Mon Jul 02, 2012 12:54 pm

I'm just offering my perspective in an attempt to help. I did not, & do not, mean to offend you. Please accept my apology if I was too harsh. Good luck !

79radiohead
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby 79radiohead » Mon Jul 02, 2012 1:16 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:I'm just offering my perspective in an attempt to help. I did not, & do not, mean to offend you. Please accept my apology if I was too harsh. Good luck !


Hey no worries. I wasn't offended per se, just a little surprised. It is extremely helpful to see how different people feel I come off just by seeing my writing. I appreciate your views and thanks for taking the time to give them.

FreeLPeltier
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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby FreeLPeltier » Mon Jul 02, 2012 3:49 pm

2nd draft
I didn’t want to get too specific in my first response because I am always afraid I will come off as thinking I know everything.

[Disclaimer follows] I do not know everything, nor do I think I know everything. What follows is just an opinion.

It looks like you are trying too hard to adapt your story to some sort of preconceived idea of what the structure of a PS is supposed to look like.

I think you would be better served by focusing more on telling who you are and less on putting that information into any preconceived format.

What I saw:
1) My life had problems
2) Problems affected my self esteem
3) I don’t want my daughter to have the same problems
4) My daughter changed my life
5) The end
What I would like to see:
1) My life had problems
2) I made choices that changed my life (not that circumstances or your daughter FORCED you to change)
3) It is important to me that my daughter feel supported and grow up to be self-confident. The best way for me to positively influence my daughter was to empower myself and pursue a life path that is authentically me. (live the example I want her to see)
4) I changed my life, and I believe my daughter’s life will benefit

I don’t want to be a jerk here but (just my opinion) the adcoms don’t care about your daughter. Your daughter is not applying to their institution this cycle. They care about what you did/do.

I believe the set up you are using is a good vehicle to tell a story but I get the sense that you haven’t clarified in your own mind what exactly you are trying to say or how you want to say it.

You have a choice here with the delivery.

Do you want to tell a story that stands on its own and presents a vignette from your life?
-OR-
Do you want to use your life and this story to develop a literary vehicle used to demonstrate your fitness for law school. It doesnt seem like this piece lends itself to combining approaches.

Either approach will work but the former would have to be a killer piece of writing. The latter seems less risky.

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Re: First Draft - Looking for Critique

Postby dazzleberry » Mon Jul 02, 2012 4:13 pm

Second draft is much better than the first but still lacking.

The writing wholly lacks any indicia that you might make a good student. At best I see that you really "want" to pursue your dream of being a lawyer, but how does that equate to a sign that you should be in law school? Do you have any prior experiences that have informed your decision?

It's nice that you want to show your daughter what it means to succeed in a difficult endeavor, but I doubt it's sufficient to impress the school you're sending this to (unless Rutgers - see their recent downturn). I would find something else in your past that better ties into your desire to attend law school, and make the intent to teach your daughter about life incidental.

Here's what I take away from a quick read - and it's very likely your writing won't get much more than a quick read from the school you send this to.
- religious household
- dark and unhappy childhood
- abusive relationship
- daughter out of wedlock/ unaccepting household
- deep attachment to daughter
- some kind of abstract desire to attend law school.

The above is saddening, but not a telling example of how you'll make an ideal candidate.




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