Be Brutal Take Two

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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NoodleyOne
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Be Brutal Take Two

Postby NoodleyOne » Mon Oct 08, 2012 4:39 pm

I really appreciate all the advice from the first couple of drafts. I did a rewrite and want to know if this direction makes my statement stronger. A few concerns I have before I get going:

I'm worried it's too personal and not academically or law focused. I can't think of a way with the current format to insert it without it seeming forced, so I would love any advice on this. Basically, yeah, be merciless and help me make this as good as I can.

Edit: Noticed some awkward phrasing, especially in the second paragraph. Fixing it later after I look at it with fresher eyes.




I woke up with a groan. I was not built to sleep on a hardwood floor, and my back suffered for it. I was at my friend’s house for the fourth night in a row, and I could tell I was beginning to overstay my welcome. There wasn’t much I could do about it though, since my mother had kicked me out yet again after an argument about loud music or apple juice or some other piece of nonsense. My friends always stepped up to help, but that didn’t change the fact that I was sleeping in an unfamiliar place, on a hardwood floor and away from home.
I had been through a lot as a kid, and for almost all of it I blamed my mother. When I was younger I would go to school hiding bruises from being hit by her on a regular basis. When she couldn’t get away with hitting me anymore because I had grown to be bigger than her, she would kick me out of the house whenever there was a disagreement. I would end up walking down the mountain on a loose gravel road to the nearest country store to call one of my friends to come and pick me up to crash at their place. They hated the drive on the windy roads, but they always came.
I could never understand at the time why she would treat her own son like that. In hindsight, I understand her behavior a bit more. She had lost my brother when I was just a baby to a drunk driver. Shortly after that, my father abandoned the family in the middle of the night and was never seen by any of us ever again. My other brother spent most of his youth in juvenile hall, and when he grew up he spent most of his time in prison. To top it all off, we were on welfare and spent our Saturdays going to the Food Pantry so we would have something to eat for the next week. She had a rough time, and as the youngest and the only child left in the house, she often took it out on me.
It left me very angry. I wanted to go to college, not because I wanted an education, but just because I wanted to get out of that town and away from her. I skated by on my innate ability, which resulted in me getting a decent SAT score and a good GPA, and with that I left my small town for Richmond, Virginia.
When I left, I stopped talking to my family pretty much altogether. I held onto my anger and it began to cloud everything I did. I let my past have control over my present. My first year in college was a wake-up call that I didn’t answer. I did not try, and as a result I did not do well. After the year was over, I wasn’t able to get any funding to continue my education, so I started working minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. That state of affairs lasted five years. One day, I was standing at my job as a cashier at a pizza place, looking around at the people that had been at that job for ten, fifteen years still making less than ten bucks an hour, working long hours just to pay the bills, and their entire livelihood hanging by the whims of a tempermental manager, when it dawned on me. I knew my potential was more than that pizza place. I knew that my future didn’t involve the phrase “Thank you for calling Bottom’s Up”. I knew that I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and start working toward something.
From that day on I worked hard with the goal of getting back into school and getting my education. It wasn’t easy, and I worked two forty hour a week jobs to pay off my previous loans, but I did it. When I got back into school, I tackled it with a tenacity that I never knew I possessed. I juggled school and a full time job, and I often was walking around on two hours of sleep and in a state of near exhaustion. I wasn’t going to let something small like fatigue keep me from reaching the goal I had in mind, though. I had always had the natural ability in academics, but now I had the drive to go along with that ability, and as a result I excelled.
My transformation was not just limited to scholastics. I called my mother. We had been in sporadic contact over the years, but it was always tense and normally ended in shouting. This time it was different. I talked to her about the past. She didn’t want to admit any of the things that happened back then, and she still doesn’t, but it doesn’t matter anymore. I forgive her and I’ve put the anger from my past behind me. I don’t let it control me like I did for so many years. Instead it fuels me. It’s a constant reminder of a life I don’t want for myself or my future children. My attitude toward life and the challenges I faced getting to where I am today have made me strong. I know that there is no barrier life can place in front of me that I am incapable of overcoming. My past is not one I would wish on anyone else, but it is one that today, happy with where I am and where I am headed, I’m glad I had, because those obstacles made me the man I am today.

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tekumamba
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Re: Be Brutal Take Two

Postby tekumamba » Mon Oct 08, 2012 7:07 pm

yo man im no expert and i haven't even started my ps yet, but that was a very raw and real essay. i thought it was really good. i dont know if the essay really has to be academically focused, but i do know that it's called a personal statement for a reason. well done

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CardozoLaw09
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Re: Be Brutal Take Two

Postby CardozoLaw09 » Mon Oct 08, 2012 7:12 pm

He's got the personal aspect down that's for sure. But I still have no idea why you want to go to law school other than the fact that you think you're capable of a lot more than "being a cashier at a pizza place." I feel like you have an EXCELLENT topic for your personal statement, but you can definitely refine it a bit more to incorporate your desire to attend law school to pursue a law degree. Good luck bro

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NoodleyOne
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Re: Be Brutal Take Two

Postby NoodleyOne » Mon Oct 08, 2012 7:17 pm

CardozoLaw09 wrote:He's got the personal aspect down that's for sure. But I still have no idea why you want to go to law school other than the fact that you think you're capable of a lot more than "being a cashier at a pizza place." I feel like you have an EXCELLENT topic for your personal statement, but you can definitely refine it a bit more to incorporate your desire to attend law school to pursue a law degree. Good luck bro


Yeah, that's the thing... I'm really trying to fit that in.

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BerkeleyBear
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Re: Be Brutal Take Two

Postby BerkeleyBear » Mon Oct 08, 2012 7:59 pm

No offense, this could be way better. Try to not focus on the negatives, it's coming off as a sob story throughout the whole thing. Again, no offense, I'm sure you had a tough childhood and your past defines you, yet, this is not the place to write about that stuff. There might be some room in there for these stories, but, as the other poster said, I have no clue why you want law. Also, it's human nature for us to exaggerate, imagine all the crazy nonsense that people write in their essays. You don't want the person reading your essay you wonder if this is all/ somewhat based on lies. I'm sure everything you said is true, but no one can verify things that you wrote and this is where most kids invent crazy stories that generally don't play out well for them.

I think you know this already since you stated yourself, it's too personal and isn't law focused at all. I think it's pretty well written but resembles more of a generic UG admissions essay. You want to convey the "why" LS while providing a personal touch. Not your whole life journey. You have an essay to showcase your writing abilities, every word should be there for a reason. I think you already know theres a whole bunch of stuff in your essay that is fillers for a storyline rather than well written work that highlights why they should take you over someone else.

Also, it's weird because you make this revolving pattern from saying you grew up in this terrible environment from childhood, to then saying you wanted to leave your town after high school so you got good scores and grades and even a scholarship. Then you loose the scholarship, as well as the motivation. From here, it goes back to you wanting out of a bad environment (pizza place) and going back and getting good grades and wanting more again. It's this exact kind of stuff you want to stay away from. You are the one putting the idea in the readers head that it's possible you'll lose interest if things don't go your way or you're unhappy.

Good luck and I wish you the best.

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NoodleyOne
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Re: Be Brutal Take Two

Postby NoodleyOne » Mon Oct 08, 2012 8:02 pm

No need to preface everything with no offense... I have some thick skin. Alright, fair point. I was worried I was focusing too much on the sob story aspect... might try another tack.

More feedback still appreciated.

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99.9luft
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Re: Be Brutal Take Two

Postby 99.9luft » Mon Oct 08, 2012 8:35 pm

After reading it, I have no idea why you are applying to law school. This can be written for a med or business school. Cut on the bio, put a more positive spin, and explain why law.

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EttaJ
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Re: Be Brutal Take Two

Postby EttaJ » Mon Oct 08, 2012 8:38 pm

I agree with BerkeleyBear. There is no doubt that you have had a tough past, and I do think your background is something that the admission committees should see somewhere and somehow. However, there is probably a way to limit your discussion of your childhood, while making it a smaller part of a larger story. I don't necessarily think the solution has to involve writing about why law, but maybe it can focus on something else you are passionate about and perhaps how this thing helped you to overcome your childhood? Or how you became successful at your passion despite your childhood? Focusing on a passion may give it a more positive, determined vibe that may balance nicely with the more weighty aspects of your story.

I agree that there is some wishy-washiness in saying that you did well in high school, only to lose your focus in college. I personally love your honesty, but I don't know if disclosing that fact puts you in the best light. I really like the personal tone of your essay, so please don't lose that.

Good luck!

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whatisthewhat
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Re: Be Brutal Take Two

Postby whatisthewhat » Mon Oct 08, 2012 9:06 pm

As another data point, I would also say that it's a good idea to put a "why law" element in. However, it's my intuition that this might work better if it's not explicitly stated, i.e., you show why you have a vision of yourself contributing to the profession as opposed to including a paragraph about what drew you to the law. Maybe there's a problem that interests you related to the story you're telling?

I was definitely emotionally affected by the subject, and I think I would remember it among a pile of essays. But it also made me uncomfortable. It was my initial thought that this was because I wasn't sure how to respond appropriately, since the bad stuff is what was sticking in my mind. I felt an obligation to be sympathetic, yet that's not what you were going for and there's something condescending about that.

Not that it's always a good idea to put in a line like, "What I learned was X. Now everything is great," but it might smooth the edges to include something that interprets what you went through--not "it was terrible, then I moved on," but "this was meaningful and added to who I am as a person/what I wanted to be after I woke up"--to guide the reader. I know as one person, that might have helped me to feel more comfortable with the essay and come away with a more defined impression.

Edit: I think a lot of this is about trusting the writer. You can get away with pretty heavy subject matter as long as you appear to have everything under control and the reader can trust where you're going.

lawbuddy1
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Re: Be Brutal Take Two

Postby lawbuddy1 » Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:37 am

My two cents:

I agree with previous commenters, you need to weave into this why it impacted you in such a way you would want to go to law school. Have you done anything to prove it is important to you to fight injustice? Are you all talk or action?

I know that there is no barrier life can place in front of me that I am incapable of overcoming. My past is not one I would wish on anyone else, but it is one that today, happy with where I am and where I am headed, I’m glad I had, because those obstacles made me the man I am today.


These are your final sentences and they don't pack much of a "this is where this legal education would take me" punch. "because those obstacles made me the man I am today" is a bit cliche. If you're going to use this, you may want to make it very clear WHAT kind of man you are today.

seacow
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Re: Be Brutal Take Two

Postby seacow » Tue Oct 09, 2012 12:40 pm

OP, I argued with TLS world about needing to exclude the "Why law?" portion of a PS, so take all of this advice with a grain of salt.

My (frank) criticisms - I hope you do indeed have thick skin.

With that being said, I think the middle ground (half-personal, half-why law?) will be the best for your case. We have very similar backgrounds and I am using said background as the starting point in my PS. However, for the reasons stated above, namely it's too sobby and your reverting back to your old life for five years before realizing you needed a change puts you in a negative light...

Actually, I'll expand on those criticisms so it's help. A friend recently read mine and he said it was void of any emotion whatsoever. I said, "but this is what law schools want, man." Then I thought, "...wait, no it's not." A PS is your opportunity to talk about yourself. If you are passionate, excited, and outgoing, make sure that comes out in your PS because otherwise your story doesn't add up. I've been living life on a whim for 2 years now (it's noticeable on my CV) and if I come off as serious then that's just not the whole story - the pieces wouldn't come together.

Anyway, I say all of that to say the other extreme is bad too. :)

And the second criticism, it sounds like you need to be more honest with the reader. My eureka moment came when I first had the opportunity to leave - when I went to uni, and it stayed! My using of this theme is more powerful than yours is, as a result.

That being said, don't trash it. Just frame the PS with the moment looking around in the pizza place as your conclusion, for example.

Also, explain your thought process more vividly. You come off as a mixture of shallow (attorney's salary > that of a pizza man) and someone not interested in law. Law school is great because it tends to equalize the underprivileged and privileged better than most other disciplines but I think adcomms aren't impressed but just dude try to make a buck. (This is another reason why you should discuss your interest in law, by the way).

And your conclusion is terrible, in my opinion. Show me you have perspective, don't tell me. Don't say you wouldn't wish your upbringing on anyone else. Of course you wouldn't. Those (and the rest of your conclusion largely) is wasted and oversaid. It's granted that anyone coming out of a s***hole has a decent perspective on the world. You don't need to tell me.

I think that's all I wanted to say.

Don't trash it, man. Keep the theme. It can make you appear mature and grounded. But there's work to be done. A lot of work.

PM me to discuss or if you want my opinion on another draft. It'd be dope if you wanted to look at mine too!
Last edited by seacow on Sun Mar 13, 2016 2:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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NoodleyOne
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Re: Be Brutal Take Two

Postby NoodleyOne » Tue Oct 09, 2012 4:02 pm

So this is what I'm gathering from all of this... You all are just haters that don't know what I've been through.


But seriously folks. I think I'm going to go for a more positive view of myself and steer away from the negative aspects. I'll probably play more on the socioeconomic features of my upbringing and the small town Appalachian culture that I had to push through rather than the negative abuse aspect. I want them to remember me for accomplishing and overcoming, not for how many scars I have. Also, it's much more natural to fit the "Why Law" aspect into that structure, which I think I have a compelling story about. Thanks for the input and criticism guys. Never hesitate to be brutal... you guys being friendly isn't going to do me any favors come admissions time.

Edit: I'll probably post another rewrite soon and more feedback is always appreciated, and I will absolutely pay it forward and read over any and all of your PS if you so desire. If you want a less public forum, you can send it to me over PM. Much love for the best message board on the internet.

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applemaroon
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Re: Be Brutal Take Two

Postby applemaroon » Wed Oct 10, 2012 12:08 am

So I'm just going to chime in here and say that it's a really good start, but it does scream "Sob Story" a little too much. The parts about you forgiving your mother, I'm not exactly sure that does much for a law school PS. I think at a certain point you need to focus more on you and what your potentials are and less on your rocky relationships that might've shaped who you are.

But it really is a good start and it takes guts to share something so personal on a forum. Good luck!

lawbuddy1
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Re: Be Brutal Take Two

Postby lawbuddy1 » Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:24 am

What you have is more of a long-form diversity statement. That can always be attached.

Go to the application site for the schools you hope to apply to, read their LSAT description - this should give you a better idea of what to and not to include for each school.




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