Please Critique

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
Anonymous User
Posts: 273433
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Please Critique

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 03, 2012 5:51 pm

Value all constructive input, thank you


Sweat dripped off my forehead as I placed my helmet on the ground. I looked over at the man sitting on the carpet before me. He appeared in his late fifties, had a full beard and sipped a cup of chai. We were located inside a large walled compound in Eastern Afghanistan. I took a moment to detach myself from the situation and noted the stark contrast between myself and the man. I was twenty-three years old and assigned to lead a platoon four months earlier upon reporting to my unit overseas. He was an elder exposed to war his entire life and a prominent leader in a village fiercely contested by the Taliban. It was June of 2011, the height of the ‘fighting season’, and I had arranged a meeting in order to determine how to win over his support.

My role as an Infantry Platoon Leader in Afghanistan was twofold. By definition the Platoon Leader “is responsible for what the Platoon does or fails to do”, which entails making tactical decisions on the battlefield, accomplishing a given mission, and taking personal responsibility for the lives of Soldiers. My other responsibility involved establishing relationships with local leaders and finding ways to gain their confidence and backing. Winning over the support of a village was crucial to our over-arching mission in Afghanistan, and to getting my Soldiers home alive. Villagers commonly knew the location of improvised explosive devices and when future attacks would occur. Whether they were forthcoming with this information was influenced greatly by the strength of the relationship we had with their leaders.

When asked why villagers were shying away from Afghan soldiers and police officers, the man replied it was because they were scared. He explained that the Taliban was ‘always watching’. Insurgents went to villagers’ homes at night and threatened their lives if they were seen talking to coalition forces. I understood their predicament. In this district of Afghanistan government institutions were still in their infancy. Lawlessness was rampant and the Taliban used intimidation to project power over the local population. Though I could not blame him for being hesitant to work with us, I asserted that if he ever wanted change we would need the villagers help. I pledged to him that the U.S and Afghan security forces could fight off the Taliban in the area, but only with his support.

Though fighting remained fierce I remained persistent in meeting with the village leader every week. I made it a point to engage in conversation with any local that would talk to us and build a sense of trust. As our relationship with the village became stronger we started receiving information about insurgent activity allowing us to interdict attacks and remain a step ahead of the enemy. Over the course of several weeks we were able to establish a security bubble in the village, and limit Taliban activity in the area.

After recovering from wounds received in combat I was left with a decision to either continue a promising career as an Infantry Officer or to pursue other endeavors. Conducting meetings with village leaders and talking to locals gave me insight into in a society plagued by lawlessness, injustice and coercion. Such experience instilled in me a deeper appreciation for our judicial system which facilitates civil conflict resolution and allows justice to be brought to those who deserve it. I decided that becoming a lawyer would be a fulfilling and honorable endeavor. Lawyers are an integral part of an institution that prevents people from living in fear, and they serve as a voice for those seeking justice.

In addition to possessing several qualities which will enable me to be a successful lawyer, such as the ability to work under stressful conditions, an eye for detail, and a talent for making persuasive arguments, I have an intellectual drive which steers me towards meaningful work. Ultimately, I would like to continue my service to this country by working for the Department of Justice as a Federal Prosecutor, ensuring organizations or individuals that violate the law are held accountable for their actions and that the rights of citizens are protected. School Specific closing sentences.

cynthiad
Posts: 163
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2012 1:16 pm

Re: Please Critique

Postby cynthiad » Sat Nov 03, 2012 6:44 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Value all constructive input, thank you


Sweat dripped off my forehead as I placed my helmet on the ground. I looked over at the man sitting on the carpet before me. He appeared in his late fifties, had a full beard and sipped a cup of chai. We were located inside a large walled compound in Eastern Afghanistan. I took a moment to detach myself from the situation and noted the stark contrast between myself and the man. I was twenty-three years old and assigned to lead a platoon four months earlier upon reporting to my unit overseas. He was an elder exposed to war his entire life and a prominent leader in a village fiercely contested by the Taliban. It was June of 2011, the height of the ‘fighting season’, and I had arranged a meeting in order to determine how to win over his support.

My role as an Infantry Platoon Leader in Afghanistan was twofold. By definition the Platoon Leader “is responsible for what the Platoon does or fails to do”, which entails making tactical decisions on the battlefield, accomplishing a given mission, and taking personal responsibility for the lives of Soldiers. My other responsibility involved establishing relationships with local leaders and finding ways to gain their confidence and backing. Winning over the support of a village was crucial to our over-arching mission in Afghanistan, and to getting my Soldiers home alive. Villagers commonly knew the location of improvised explosive devices and when future attacks would occur. Whether they were forthcoming with this information was influenced greatly by the strength of the relationship we had with their leaders.

When asked why villagers were shying away from Afghan soldiers and police officers, the man replied it was because they were scared. He explained that the Taliban was ‘always watching’. Insurgents went to villagers’ homes at night and threatened their lives if they were seen talking to coalition forces. I understood their predicament. In this district of Afghanistan government institutions were still in their infancy. Lawlessness was rampant and the Taliban used intimidation to project power over the local population. Though I could not blame him for being hesitant to work with us, I asserted that if he ever wanted change we would need the villagers help. I pledged to him that the U.S and Afghan security forces could fight off the Taliban in the area, but only with his support.

Though fighting remained fierce I remained persistent in meeting with the village leader every week. I made it a point to engage in conversation with any local that would talk to us and build a sense of trust. As our relationship with the village became stronger we started receiving information about insurgent activity allowing us to interdict attacks and remain a step ahead of the enemy. Over the course of several weeks we were able to establish a security bubble in the village, and limit Taliban activity in the area.

After recovering from wounds received in combat I was left with a decision to either continue a promising career as an Infantry Officer or to pursue other endeavors. Conducting meetings with village leaders and talking to locals gave me insight into in a society plagued by lawlessness, injustice and coercion. Such experience instilled in me a deeper appreciation for our judicial system which facilitates civil conflict resolution and allows justice to be brought to those who deserve it. I decided that becoming a lawyer would be a fulfilling and honorable endeavor. Lawyers are an integral part of an institution that prevents people from living in fear, and they serve as a voice for those seeking justice.

In addition to possessing several qualities which will enable me to be a successful lawyer, such as the ability to work under stressful conditions, an eye for detail, and a talent for making persuasive arguments, I have an intellectual drive which steers me towards meaningful work. Ultimately, I would like to continue my service to this country by working for the Department of Justice as a Federal Prosecutor, ensuring organizations or individuals that violate the law are held accountable for their actions and that the rights of citizens are protected. School Specific closing sentences.


The content of this is great. You tell the story well, paint a picture, and do a good job of tying it into why you want to be a lawyer. I don't have criticism of the overall statement, but there are a few minor details you could work on.
Warning: nitpicky grammer/flow recommendations ahead.

There are a few phrases which are a bit stiff and awkward. For instance, "I had arranged a meeting in order to determine." You could try just taking out "in order to," this phrase is almost never necessary. "I asserted," (I know some people say to use words other than "said," but it can end up sounding like you went crazy with a thesaurus. "I said" or "I told him" would flow better. I'm not saying take out every "ten-dollar word," there are plenty of instances in the statement where you use fancier words and the flow is fine, but only use words like this if they actually fit what you're trying to say better than the simpler word, or they're something you would actually say in conversation).

Also, "he appeared in his late fifties" should be "he appeared *to be* in his late fifties," otherwise it sounds like he just appeared one day, fully grown.

Commas and periods go inside quotation marks, "like this," not "like this".

"I was twenty-three years old and assigned to lead a platoon four months earlier" should be "I had been assigned," because you're telling the whole story in the past, so when you talk about something that took place before the main story, it should be in past perfect tense (just use "had").

"Overarching" is one word, no hyphen needed.

Also, comma usage: "In this district of Afghanistan" should have a comma after it. You could also just use "here" to make it seem more immediate, it's up to you.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273433
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Please Critique

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 03, 2012 6:50 pm

Thank you very much! It has been a while since I have had to write something academic, and the military destoys your writing style by making you used to typing things like "in order to". I appreciate your time and feedback.

p.s
I am looking for this type of nit-picky critique so sharpshoot by all means

cynthiad
Posts: 163
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2012 1:16 pm

Re: Please Critique

Postby cynthiad » Sat Nov 03, 2012 10:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Thank you very much! It has been a while since I have had to write something academic, and the military destoys your writing style by making you used to typing things like "in order to". I appreciate your time and feedback.

p.s
I am looking for this type of nit-picky critique so sharpshoot by all means


Glad you found it helpful! I think in most cases your use of military-style phrases makes the essay stronger, because it gives you more credibility and fits the subject, but just be careful it doesn't sound too much like a report. Another example of this is "we were located inside," versus just "we were inside," that definitely seems like something the military would want you to say because the meaning is absolutely clear, but it's not something a civilian would ever say in normal speech. I don't know if you'd want to change it, like I said the use of military-sounding phrases mostly makes your essay stronger, but it's something to be aware of. Usually I tell people to read their essay aloud to catch any awkward phrases, but that might not work if you've been trained to speak that way. Maybe ask someone you know who wasn't in the military to read it aloud and tell you if they find it awkward or stilted?

I'm not sure about the structure of this sentence: "He was an elder exposed to war his entire life and a prominent leader in a village fiercely contested by the Taliban."
I think the beginning of the sentence, "He was an elder" is a little weak, especially since the rest of the sentence is very strong. You should keep it because of the contrast with your age, but it needs some sort of adjective or extra description, I'm not sure what. I would suggest "village elder" but since you use "village" later in the sentence it would be repetitive.

It should be "who'd been exposed to war" or you could change "exposed to" to "lived through" or come up with a phrase you think works better. I think "exposed to" isn't quite strong enough--it doesn't really convey how this man was affected by living in a war zone his whole life.

More comma stuff: "we were able to establish a security bubble in the village, and limit Taliban activity in the area. " Doesn't need a comma because the second phrase (and limit Taliban activity...) has the same subject (we) as the first.

"Whether they were forthcoming with this information was influenced greatly by the strength of the relationship we had with their leaders." Passive voice isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you could change this to "Whether they were forthcoming with this information depended on" which conveys the same meaning but flows better.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273433
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Please Critique

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Nov 03, 2012 11:01 pm

Again thanks for the tidbits- they'll def help polish this statement and get it ready for sumbission (which I hope to do soon). When I wrote this I imagined myself in a formal environment and that is why a lot of the sentences come off as strict, and I agree with you that it helps for the most part but shouldn't be abused. I'll see where I can edge off a bit and be less formal with the writing. That village elder sentence has given me trouble for some time, and I do mention he is an elder to contrast my age with his (kudos for picking up on that) but will try to rework it somehow.

Everything else makes sense and I will change.
Insert this after the last sentence and please let me know if you think its a good conclusion:
Georgetown University is where I want to study law because of its academic prestige, location in the nation’s capital and commitment to public service. The Law School's motto “Law is but the means, Justice is the end” embodies the same ideology that has compelled me to pursue law. I look forward to earning my Juris Doctorate with students who share the desire to deliver justice in our society.

cynthiad
Posts: 163
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2012 1:16 pm

Re: Please Critique

Postby cynthiad » Sun Nov 04, 2012 12:26 am

Anonymous User wrote:Again thanks for the tidbits- they'll def help polish this statement and get it ready for sumbission (which I hope to do soon). When I wrote this I imagined myself in a formal environment and that is why a lot of the sentences come off as strict, and I agree with you that it helps for the most part but shouldn't be abused. I'll see where I can edge off a bit and be less formal with the writing. That village elder sentence has given me trouble for some time, and I do mention he is an elder to contrast my age with his (kudos for picking up on that) but will try to rework it somehow.

Everything else makes sense and I will change.
Insert this after the last sentence and please let me know if you think its a good conclusion:
Georgetown University is where I want to study law because of its academic prestige, location in the nation’s capital and commitment to public service. The Law School's motto “Law is but the means, Justice is the end” embodies the same ideology that has compelled me to pursue law. I look forward to earning my Juris Doctorate with students who share the desire to deliver justice in our society.


I think it's pretty good. It does sound a little generic, though. You should add at least one specific detail that really speaks to why Georgetown. The motto ties in with the rest of your essay, but I don't know if the motto is really that important. I would recommend expanding on the location in DC by saying something specific you want to get out of it and on the commitment to public service. Basically make sure it's school specific enough that you couldn't switch out a few words and make it apply to another school. Also, no one really says "Juris Doctorate," just use "J.D." or change it to "studying the law" or something.




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