A little help here

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A little help here

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 06, 2012 10:53 am

I have about 650 words for my personal statement below, which is a short paragraph shy of two full pages. I would like to keep it within that length. All suggestions are welcome. I think it needs brief conclusion, but I need a break and would prefer to have the TLS go-ahead on the subject I've chosen before proceeding.

Essentially what I'm aiming for is to show a strong level of maturity without saying it explicitly. Since it is a personal statement, I wanted to write about something personal to me. Hopefully, it shows I'm capable of analyzing a situation, seeing more than one side, and being able to change my opinion over something personal after a re-evaluation. I want it to be clear and flow well. I suspect it needs some grammar edits among other structural changes; I typed most of it this morning.

Please let me know what you think:

A few years ago I took a graduate course in Autobiography. On the first day, our professor asked each of us what themes would appear in our own autobiographies. This can be a difficult question to answer spontaneously. Her inquiry forced us to think about how we define ourselves, at least in a general sense. In choosing what you want others to know, you are painting a self-portrait, and as I would learn later in the course, the depiction is not always accurate and suffers from an inherent bias. I would like to share with you something that I think I have learned about myself, something very important to me, which concerns not only how I define myself, but how that definition has changed as I have matured.

I am a bookseller, a perhaps unlikely occupation. I grew up with two families in rural [redacted], my parents having separated about a year after my birth. My mother remarried into a very religious family, and her new husband required me to read chapters from the bible prior to catching the bus to school. My stepfather was illiterate, but he wanted me to be able to read the bible. A King James Version was one of the only books in our home. That was tough reading for a young person, and I spent a lot of time on the shorter chapters in Psalms and Proverbs. I spent more time studying the bible in those quiet morning hours before elementary school than I did doing homework.

I remember having later formed a preference for another book of proverbs –Aesop’s Fables. A collection of these short stories was the first book my paternal grandmother gifted to me. My grandmother Dora was the only person from either side of my family who encouraged me to read something other than the bible. She continued to gift books to me for birthdays and Christmases. I read Louis L’Amour (one of her favorites). I read a biography of Don Drysdale, who pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team. I read Perry Mason and John Steinbeck. Admittedly, all of them held my interest with a firmer grip than scripture could, and I think this would later shape my definition of self. My experiences with books and reading are something through which I interpret my life.

I am a "book person," and have sustained myself in that capacity for the past several years. My autobiography would recount my experiences travelling all over the New England states searching for rare and other interesting books. I would talk about where I found the few books I’ve refused to part with over the past decade. I would introduce some colorful characters I’ve met attending dozens of library book sales in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. I would also try to explain where my passion for books originated. The answer to this question is something that I have had to re-evaluate as I’ve grown older.

In fact, a few years ago, when I first began to critically analyze my own life in the days between our graduate seminars in Autobiography, I would have emphasized my grandmother’s role and outright denied that of my stepfather, who was unable to read. I have long seen my grandmother’s encouragement toward a secular education as the foundation of my love of reading. But this is the way I’ve wanted to see it. I still want to give her all of the credit, but today, I recognize my bias. There is an alternate interpretation, and it may be true that my passion for reading was born in those days before school, when alone in the dimly-lit hours of pre-dawn, I kept my head bent over the large family bible which rested on our coffee table.


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Re: A little help here

Postby powder » Fri Sep 07, 2012 4:19 am

Most of the personal statements on here seem of a piece--the style is roughly the same and there is a sense of struggle: people straining to convey an image which may or may not fit. Reading PS gives the impression that everyone is beset by adversity or living through life-changing experiences every other week. Your PS seems different. It is very restrained and, perhaps consequently, it seems authentic. I particularly enjoyed the last line:

"...it may be true that my passion for reading was born in those days before school, when alone in the dimly-lit hours of pre-dawn, I kept my head bent over the large family bible which rested on our coffee table."

In a sentence, your PS explores two potential sources for your love of reading: your step-father's bible study or your grandmother's gifts. There's a bit about being a book-seller, a bit about books you've read, but everything seems ancillary to the step-father v. grandmother dynamic. I think you should broaden the topic to be more generally about your love of reading--where it emerges from, why it matters to you, what made you become a bookseller. Unless there's some deeper struggle going on, changing your mind over whose influence is more prominent in developing your love of reading is not very compelling.

I do think you have something here you can write about. I just think you're limiting it by focusing on the idea of autobiography and bias.


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Re: A little help here

Postby nickb285 » Mon Sep 10, 2012 3:33 pm

Last edited by nickb285 on Sun Jul 16, 2017 6:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: A little help here

Postby bobbypin » Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:27 pm

I agree with Nick. I'm wondering what information are you trying to convey to the admissions staff?

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