Berkeley Personal Statement

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

Berkeley Personal Statement

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 18, 2012 11:33 pm

Would love some feedback on my PS for Berkeley. It's 3/4 of a page too long right now, but I have bracketed sections that I hope to cut, condense or combine in some way. (They have a 4 page limit.) These bracketed sections are largely products of how I drafted this essay: I brainstormed and wrote different sections at various points in time and then worked to combine all into a single essay. I realize this is not the best writing strategy, but I was stuck for a long time and wrote as ideas came to me. Berkeley is my number one (realistic choice), and I am really hoping my PS will help (or at least not hurt) my application.

Also, my girlfriend is a high school English teacher and hasn't yet proofed my essay, so I'm mainly looking for structural/bigger picture criticism from the TLS community, not grammar-related stuff. Thanks in advance for your time, and I would be happy to read your PS as well.




In college, my friends and professors thought of me as an “environmentalist.” I was an active member of the campus environmental organization, and I was a student representative on the chancellor’s environmental advisory committee. But I don’t have any particular fondness for polar bears or pandas. I don’t think big business—even the energy industry—is universally “evil.” And I don’t consider myself to be an environmentalist in the traditional sense of the term.

Most people I know who proudly bear the title “environmentalist” are passionate advocates for preserving nature and protecting wildlife, and they are equally passionate critics of humans’ role in degrading the natural environment. This mindset has predominated within the environmentalist community since the late 1960s, when environmentalism took root within mainstream American culture. Many of my close friends and mentors hold these views, and I do not look unfavorably upon them for doing so. There is certainly a need for using activism and the law to stop environmentally destructive projects: The health of our populace and of our environment necessitates the work of people (often lawyers) to shut down coal-fired power plants and halt construction in sensitive wetlands. However, my interests and work style would not be best applied in such endeavors. I—like my more traditional environmentalist friends and colleagues—have a deeply rooted environmental concern, but I’m not passionate about stopping projects and development. I’m passionate about making things happen, about moving forward and working toward more economically and environmentally favorable outcomes in energy production.

This perspective stems, in part, from my experiences growing up in a conservative, rural community in the South and from my parents’ environmental outlooks. I spent the first eighteen years of my life in _____, where Republicans have held the U.S. Congressional seat since 1881 and where being dubbed an “environmentalist” is tantamount to being called a “communist” during McCarthyism. However, my family is something of a political pariah in ______, and my parents instilled in me a sincere respect for the environment. My mother is an environmentalist, who loves hiking and supporting nonprofits that are concerned with stopping ecologically harmful policies and activities. In this way, she represents the more traditional environmental perspective that is focused primarily on using the law and other reactive methods to protect the environment from humans. (New paragraph?) My father is a general contractor and real estate developer, who sought, even before “green building” was a trendy concept, to build in environmentally sensitive ways and who has enrolled in voluntary environmental best practice seminars at his own expense. [Even before I developed a coherent environmental perspective, his actions and ideas began to shape my thoughts about how best to improve environmental quality, i.e. by moving forward with better, more environmentally sound forms of production and development. Although my parents agree on many environmental topics, they have clashed on others, and these dual, sometimes conflicting influences have helped shape my current environmental perspective—one that appreciates nature for its own sake but looks forward to creating new and better methods to improve environmental and economic outcomes.]

[For most of my young adult life, I more closely identified with my mother’s environmental outlook, and from senior year of high school until late in college, I wanted to become a public interest environmental lawyer. My goal was to work for an organization, such as Earthjustice or the Southern Environmental Law Center, which uses the law to stop environmental degradation. However, after studying environmental problems and policy in college, I came to realize that this type of combative legal strategy could make only limited, piecemeal environmental progress. If a lawyer successfully challenges a permit for a new ridgetop development, she wins that day, and importantly, she makes a genuine, positive impact in the lives of the people who would have been injured by that project. Again, this is essential work, and I do not fault those who aspire to be environmental lawyer-activists. But as I learned more about contemporary environmental problems, I began to firmly believe that renewable energy development is the most effective method for addressing the root cause of environmental problems, since the majority of these issues stem from humans’ reliance on fossil fuels.]

[Over the past five years, I have studied energy and environmental issues both independently and in a wide array of college courses, and I have seen that renewable energy production can dramatically reduce emissions intensity while simultaneously creating good jobs and lasting economic vitality.] I want to focus my career on facilitating the expansion of wind, solar, geothermal, and other forms of renewable energy, and I find the legal, financial, and regulatory frameworks of these developments particularly interesting. Last summer, I worked as a research assistant on the SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge, a U.S. Department of Energy-funded project that aims to increase solar energy production in the U.S. by driving down the “soft” (non-technical) costs of solar energy, which remain stubbornly high compared to those costs in peer countries (e.g. Germany). This work provided me a glimpse at the fascinating world of solar energy production, including its recent explosive growth and continuing financing difficulties. While this research-oriented work was intellectually stimulating, I found myself craving to be more fully involved with the on-the-ground development of solar projects, instead of only providing academic support to the industry. [I wanted to be involved with the real action, the real deal making of renewable energy development.]

Just before I left the SunShot research team to move to _____, I received an even more enticing look at this type of work. One of my research projects involved writing a white paper on crowdfunded solar energy. Crowdfunding is the process of aggregating many individual investments to finance a project. In the last several years, crowdfunding has grown exponentially, but it has been primarily utilized in the entertainment and tech industries to help artists and entrepreneurs fund new projects (e.g. Pledge Music and Kickstarter). However, in researching and writing my white paper, I learned of an Oakland-based organization called Solar Mosaic, which is working to promote crowdfunded solar energy. Through Mosaic’s online platform, individuals will soon be able to invest in solar energy projects for nonprofits and community groups, and as those project produce energy and profits for their owners, the investors will be paid back at competitive interest rates. This innovative concept fascinated me, and I began to look for ways to bring this type of funding to solar projects in State X as a way to reduce the soft costs of solar and fulfill the mission of the SunShot project. I contacted Solar Mosaic and organized a conference call that included one of their project managers and my research team at University X. We brainstormed ideas for bringing Mosaic’s operations to State X and provided key contact info for developers in the State X solar industry. As clichéd as it might sound, I found it difficult to contain my excitement and maintain my focus during this meeting, as my mind darted from one idea to another about how to best utilize this creative new financing option to benefit Residents of State X, the solar industry, and the environment. Since this meeting I have spent hours researching the firms and attorneys whose work makes possible these types of renewable energy developments. I see myself one day working at a law firm on the project finance or structuring of renewable energy developments, or possibly even as in-house counsel for a renewable energy company or organization. [This work will allow me to combine my passions for forward-looking environmentalism and renewable energy with my interest in using the law to produce better environmental and economic outcomes.] In talking to Berkeley Law representatives at the City X admissions forum and in following up with the Ecology Law Quarterly and a current Berkeley student, I learned that recent Berkeley Law graduates have been successful in pursuing these career paths.

Berkeley’s Energy and Clean Technology Law program will provide me with an excellent foundation in the areas of law necessary to practice in this field. Most law schools’ environmental law curriculums—as reflections of the traditional environmental mindset—focus on the major federal environmental statutes, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. These are essential pieces of U.S. law that play a vital role in protecting human health and the environment, but, again, I do not want to devote my career to limiting emissions and environmental harm through legal action. Conversely, Berkeley Law’s Energy and Clean Technology Law program is forward-looking and will prepare me to play an important role in furthering renewable energy development in the United States and beyond. I am eager to enroll in classes such as Energy Project Development and Finance and to become an active member of the Berkeley Law energy and environmental law community.

[My experiences growing up as a “Southern environmentalist,” studying a wide variety of environmental topics in college, working on the Department of Energy SunShot project, and working as a corporate finance paralegal will allow me to bring a unique voice to the Berkeley Law energy and environmental law community, both inside the classroom and in student organizations.]

cslouisck
Posts: 134
Joined: Sun Oct 14, 2012 11:59 am

Re: Berkeley Personal Statement

Postby cslouisck » Mon Nov 19, 2012 12:22 am

Anonymous User wrote:Would love some feedback on my PS for Berkeley. It's 3/4 of a page too long right now, but I have bracketed sections that I hope to cut, condense or combine in some way. (They have a 4 page limit.) These bracketed sections are largely products of how I drafted this essay: I brainstormed and wrote different sections at various points in time and then worked to combine all into a single essay. I realize this is not the best writing strategy, but I was stuck for a long time and wrote as ideas came to me. Berkeley is my number one (realistic choice), and I am really hoping my PS will help (or at least not hurt) my application.

Also, my girlfriend is a high school English teacher and hasn't yet proofed my essay, so I'm mainly looking for structural/bigger picture criticism from the TLS community, not grammar-related stuff. Thanks in advance for your time, and I would be happy to read your PS as well.




In college, my friends and professors thought of me as an “environmentalist.” I was an active member of the campus environmental organization, and I was a student representative on the chancellor’s environmental advisory committee. But I don’t have any particular fondness for polar bears or pandas. I don’t think big business—even the energy industry—is universally “evil.” And I don’t consider myself to be an environmentalist in the traditional sense of the term. I like this intro.

Most people I know who proudly bear the title “environmentalist” are passionate advocates for preserving nature and protecting wildlife, and they are equally passionate critics of humans’ role in degrading the natural environment. This mindset has predominated within the environmentalist community since the late 1960s, when environmentalism took root within mainstream American culture. Many of my close friends and mentors hold these views, and I do not look unfavorably upon them for doing so. There is certainly a need for using activism and the law to stop environmentally destructive projects: The health of our populace and of our environment necessitates the work of people (often lawyers) to shut down coal-fired power plants and halt construction in sensitive wetlands. However, my interests and work style would not be best applied in such endeavors. I—like my more traditional environmentalist friends and colleagues—have a deeply rooted environmental concern, but I’m not passionate about stopping projects and development. I’m passionate about making things happen, about moving forward and working toward more economically and environmentally favorable outcomes in energy production. You've just used 179 words to say, in essence, "While environmentalists have traditionally fought to protect wildlife while decrying humans' role in environmental degradation, I'm focused on shaping more environmentally favorable outcomes via energy production. That's not a perfect paraphrase, of course, or what I'd choose if I were seeking the most compelling message, but you've dedicated too much text to reiterating that point.

This perspective stems, in part, from my experiences growing up in a conservative, rural community in the South and from my parents’ environmental outlooks. I spent the first eighteen years of my life in _____, where Republicans have held the U.S. Congressional seat since 1881 and where being dubbed an “environmentalist” is tantamount to being called a “communist” during McCarthyism. However, my family is something of a political pariah in ______, and my parents instilled in me a sincere respect for the environment. Again, too much text to say that your southern peers held a poor view of environmentalism.My mother is an environmentalist, who loves hiking and supporting nonprofits that are concerned with stopping ecologically harmful policies and activities. In this way, she represents the more traditional environmental perspective that is focused primarily on using the law and other reactive methods to protect the environment from humans. (New paragraph?) My father is a general contractor and real estate developer, who sought, even before “green building” was a trendy concept, to build in environmentally sensitive ways and who has enrolled in voluntary environmental best practice seminars at his own expense. [Even before I developed a coherent environmental perspective, his actions and ideas began to shape my thoughts about how best to improve environmental quality, i.e. by moving forward with better, more environmentally sound forms of production and development. Although my parents agree on many environmental topics, they have clashed on others, and these dual, sometimes conflicting influences have helped shape my current environmental perspective—one that appreciates nature for its own sake but looks forward to creating new and better methods to improve environmental and economic outcomes.]These sentences say "My parents' sometimes conflicting experiences as a traditional environmental and green building pioneer have shaped my own views on how best to effect environmental policy change.

[For most of my young adult life, I more closely identified with my mother’s environmental outlook, and from senior year of high school until late in college, I wanted to become a public interest environmental lawyer. My goal was to work for an organization, such as Earthjustice or the Southern Environmental Law Center, which uses the law to stop environmental degradation. However, after studying environmental problems and policy in college, I came to realize that this type of combative legal strategy could make only limited, piecemeal environmental progress. If a lawyer successfully challenges a permit for a new ridgetop development, she wins that day, and importantly, she makes a genuine, positive impact in the lives of the people who would have been injured by that project. Again, this is essential work, and I do not fault those who aspire to be environmental lawyer-activists. But as I learned more about contemporary environmental problems, I began to firmly believe that renewable energy development is the most effective method for addressing the root cause of environmental problems, since the majority of these issues stem from humans’ reliance on fossil fuels.]I'd be careful here. Saying you'll bring about sweeping change where everyone else has failed to make much progress sounds idealistic at best, and naive at worst. Change has been piecemeal because it's difficult. That's not to say you won't be awesome, but, you know, try to manage expectations a bit.

[Over the past five years, I have studied energy and environmental issues both independently and in a wide array of college courses, and I have seen that renewable energy production can dramatically reduce emissions intensity while simultaneously creating good jobs and lasting economic vitality.] I want to focus my career on facilitating the expansion of wind, solar, geothermal, and other forms of renewable energy, and I find the legal, financial, and regulatory frameworks of these developments particularly interesting. Last summer, I worked as a research assistant on the SunShot Initiative Rooftop Solar Challenge, a U.S. Department of Energy-funded project that aims to increase solar energy production in the U.S. by driving down the “soft” (non-technical) costs of solar energy, which remain stubbornly high compared to those costs in peer countries (e.g. Germany). This work provided me a glimpse at the fascinating world of solar energy production, including its recent explosive growth and continuing financing difficulties. While this research-oriented work was intellectually stimulating, I found myself craving to be more fully involved with the on-the-ground development of solar projects, instead of only providing academic support to the industry. [I wanted to be involved with the real action, the real deal making of renewable energy development.]I'm not sure I understand how what you've said here intersects with the law. Law relates to the contracts of course, but most of the folks doing the dealmaking aren't lawyers. Are you perhaps more interested in shaping the regulatory environment to produce more favorable results for green energy organizations?

Just before I left the SunShot research team to move to _____, I received an even more enticing look at this type of work. One of my research projects involved writing a white paper on crowdfunded solar energy. Crowdfunding is the process of aggregating many individual investments to finance a project. In the last several years, crowdfunding has grown exponentially, but it has been primarily utilized in the entertainment and tech industries to help artists and entrepreneurs fund new projects (e.g. Pledge Music and Kickstarter).I think you can safely assume that the adcomms understand what crowdfunding is. However, in researching and writing my white paper, I learned of an Oakland-based organization called Solar Mosaic, which is working to promote crowdfunded solar energy. Through Mosaic’s online platform, individuals will soon be able to invest in solar energy projects for nonprofits and community groups, and as those project produce energy and profits for their owners, the investors will be paid back at competitive interest rates. This innovative concept fascinated me, and I began to look for ways to bring this type of funding to solar projects in State X as a way to reduce the soft costs of solar and fulfill the mission of the SunShot project. I contacted Solar Mosaic and organized a conference call that included one of their project managers and my research team at University X. We brainstormed ideas for bringing Mosaic’s operations to State X and provided key contact info for developers in the State X solar industry. As clichéd as it might sound, I found it difficult to contain my excitement and maintain my focus during this meeting, as my mind darted from one idea to another about how to best utilize this creative new financing option to benefit Residents of State X, the solar industry, and the environment. Since this meeting I have spent hours researching the firms and attorneys whose work makes possible these types of renewable energy developments. Maybe it's just me, but this anecdote still fails to make clear why pursuing law will help you more than will finding and cultivating some other career within a green energy company. Again, if you're interested in changing the green energy regulatory environment and directing more state or federal money toward these companies, then perhaps this makes sense. But if you want to promote new avenues for funding internally, then you should make a case for why a law degree is a necessary part of that process. If that's self-evident and I just don't understand corporate finance (which I don't), then feel free to ignore this comment. I see myself one day working at a law firm on the project finance or structuring of renewable energy developments, or possibly even as in-house counsel for a renewable energy company or organization. [This work will allow me to combine my passions for forward-looking environmentalism and renewable energy with my interest in using the law to produce better environmental and economic outcomes.] In talking to Berkeley Law representatives at the City X admissions forum and in following up with the Ecology Law Quarterly and a current Berkeley student, I learned that recent Berkeley Law graduates have been successful in pursuing these career paths.

Berkeley’s Energy and Clean Technology Law program will provide me with an excellent foundation in the areas of law necessary to practice in this field. Most law schools’ environmental law curriculums—as reflections of the traditional environmental mindset—focus on the major federal environmental statutes, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. These are essential pieces of U.S. law that play a vital role in protecting human health and the environment, but, again, I do not want to devote my career to limiting emissions and environmental harm through legal action. Conversely, Berkeley Law’s Energy and Clean Technology Law program is forward-looking and will prepare me to play an important role in furthering renewable energy development in the United States and beyond.I like this makes clear how your own environmental perspective is reflected in Berkeley's approach. I am eager to enroll in classes such as Energy Project Development and Finance and to become an active member of the Berkeley Law energy and environmental law community.

[My experiences growing up as a “Southern environmentalist,” studying a wide variety of environmental topics in college, working on the Department of Energy SunShot project, and working as a corporate finance paralegal will allow me to bring a unique voice to the Berkeley Law energy and environmental law community, both inside the classroom and in student organizations.]


Overall, I think you have the components of a strong PS in here but because you've chosen the "law is the only path to do what I want to do approach" you need to make clear why law is, in fact, the only approach. Assuming you can build that thread into the statement, then you should also focus on culling excess description and ensuring that every sentence advances your thesis.

On a more general level, as someone who has also picked Berkeley as his number one choice, I really hope you do well in the admissions process, and I'd love to meet you afterward if we both make it. You've focused on an important issue that needs more bright minds to tackle it. Good luck!

Anonymous User
Posts: 273522
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Berkeley Personal Statement

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 19, 2012 1:22 am

Thank you SO much for these comments. I will probably work through them some more and might come back with some follow-up questions/comments. But one that comes to mind right now is the "why law" aspect of what I want to do. I've written almost a whole page on that, but I cut it due to length. Basically, my argument is that my personality and work style are not conducive to the entrepreneurial aspects of project development. I want to be involved in the on the ground development of renewable energy, but I have little interest in being the actual developer. Also, from my understanding of corporate finance, I do feel that the lawyers sometimes play a very active role in the negotiations/"deal-making" of renewable energy development. Often, the developer is off doing a million other things, and the attorneys are making sure a specific project gets off the ground (e.g. working around permitting/siting issues, negotiating financing, etc.) Does that make some sense? I will try to work a concise version of this explanation into the essay as it stands now.

Thanks again!

cslouisck
Posts: 134
Joined: Sun Oct 14, 2012 11:59 am

Re: Berkeley Personal Statement

Postby cslouisck » Mon Nov 19, 2012 1:37 am

Anonymous User wrote:Thank you SO much for these comments. I will probably work through them some more and might come back with some follow-up questions/comments. But one that comes to mind right now is the "why law" aspect of what I want to do. I've written almost a whole page on that, but I cut it due to length. Basically, my argument is that my personality and work style are not conducive to the entrepreneurial aspects of project development. I want to be involved in the on the ground development of renewable energy, but I have little interest in being the actual developer. Also, from my understanding of corporate finance, I do feel that the lawyers sometimes play a very active role in the negotiations/"deal-making" of renewable energy development. Often, the developer is off doing a million other things, and the attorneys are making sure a specific project gets off the ground (e.g. working around permitting/siting issues, negotiating financing, etc.) Does that make some sense? I will try to work a concise version of this explanation into the essay as it stands now.

Thanks again!


Great. Happy to help. Re "why law," I think incorporating some of what you've said right here (more formally, of course) would be enormously helpful.




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