Brutal honesty appreciated

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

Brutal honesty appreciated

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Nov 22, 2012 3:29 am

“To be honest, I expected [applicant] to be the weak link; he’s a freshman who’s never been to elimination rounds, much less the finals of a tournament.” As I waited for the judge to explain what I had done to cost my partner and me a chance at the state debate title, my foot began to loudly tap the commercial-grade tile of the high school classroom despite lacking my conscious approval to do so. At 10:30 PM, 15 long hours since the start of our first debate of the day, the physical effects of desperately demanding that my Ford Pinto-level debate ability facilitate the performance of a Ferrari had begun to set in. The headache that would be a frequent visitor later in my debate career (then soothed by an appetizing cocktail of Excedrin, Alka-Seltzer, and Coke) began to blur the faces of the three judges occupying a table in front of the crowd of 30 spectators.

“That expectation turned out not to be the case. The panel’s decision is three votes to zero in favor of the affirmative team. Congratulations to our new state champions, [redacted] and [applicant].” Applause from the spectators framed handshakes and hugs between my partner, me, and the two opposing senior debaters who feigned sincerity in their congratulations. For them, this was the end of the road – a finality that I couldn’t understand due either to my young age or relative inexperience in an activity I had haphazardly fallen into. They understood that few are fortunate enough to begin a highly competitive pursuit at its peak and justifiably considered it an affront to their thousands of hours of preparation that someone with little experience had won. But, it was hard work and a bit of luck which allowed me to begin debate, an experience that would thoroughly alter not only what but how I thought, with a sense of perspective that can only be found through the vantage point at the summit.

Many teenagers spend their weekends at the movies or friends’ houses, but I spent mine traveling across the country chasing the same thrill of victory and sense of accomplishment of which the state championship had given me a sample. Competition was against the best students from privileged backgrounds and consisted of trying to persuade judges of frequently outlandish scenarios which I did not necessarily believe. One Saturday in Nashville would be spent proclaiming that ending federal subsidies to Iowa corn farmers would lead to global nuclear war, and the next weekend in San Francisco we outlined the reasons why removing landmines from the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea would lead to a Chinese military invasion.

In truth, the conclusions such arguments arrived at mattered little compared to the logical path of how they were reached. I quickly learned that warranted chains of causality won debates. Unsupported assertions did not, regardless of how polished one’s rhetorical presentation was. In fact, one would be required to passionately speak on behalf of a course of action in one round and then subsequently insist that such a path could only lead to immense, irrevocable catastrophe. My mentor’s favorite cliché was that the best debaters do not need good arguments to win. Accepting this mantra, I often challenged myself to make arguments I felt were poor or those with which I was uncomfortable. To win a debate with such an argument represented a sign of its validity to me.

While the ability to objectively evaluate the merits of an argument’s dimensions from multiple perspectives proved to be an invaluable tool, I discovered it must be used with discretion and incorporate perspective. The ability to justify any argument led to difficulty committing to opinions and beliefs in some cases, and the resulting cynicism, when unchecked, undermined my ability to recognize and convey an idea’s pathos. The detached, calculating assessment of policy required in debate ignored the vibrancy and sincerity that marked interaction out of it. The ability to critically dissect worldviews tested the mettle of guiding principles I consider to be inviolable. Debate trained me in sophistry of the highest order – it gave me a set of specialized tools for evaluation, but the framework of values by which those skills are applied was up to me. As a result of this rigorous methodology, the convictions that have withstood scrutiny are of first priority as I enter the legal profession and work to effect real and lasting change.

I often consider what I left debate with, other than the ability to recommend a great burrito place in Denver and a breadth of knowledge across a wide variety of subjects. The answer to that question depends largely on the day on which it is asked. The truth is, when navigating the experiences of day-to-day life, the analytical ability and ideals to which I am committed continue to inform the paradigm I view the world through in new, unexpected ways. For me, law school is not only a forum for the exercise of these skills, but it also promises to be the source of new perspective with which I can serve more effectively. Both humbled and excited by the opportunity to proceed in a profession that values these factors as much as I do, I look forward to the possibility of attending law school at [LAW SCHOOL].

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The Platypus
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Re: Brutal honesty appreciated

Postby The Platypus » Thu Nov 22, 2012 4:50 am

Lolzes at the way over-the-top self-indulgent adjectives in the first paragraph..at least. Skimmed after that.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Brutal honesty appreciated

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Nov 22, 2012 10:03 am

The fifth of the six paragraphs of your PS is among the worst that I have ever read. The last paragraph is also atrocious.

If your goal is to communicate that you are a skilled, long-winded, bullshit artist, then you have succeeded.

Anonymous User
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Re: Brutal honesty appreciated

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Nov 22, 2012 10:45 am

Anything salvageable or should I throw it away?

CanadianWolf
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Re: Brutal honesty appreciated

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Nov 22, 2012 10:58 am

Define your theme, then present it in a more concise manner using crisp, clear sentences. Try to offer meaningful insights rather than repetitious ramblings.

As written, parts of all but the last two & the introductory paragraphs have useful portions. Unfortunately, however, your writing style needs refinement since it's too verbose. For example, the third paragraph could be more effective if cut in half while the entire writing should be cut in half. You just don't have enough substance in this piece to justify its current length. The entire first paragraph could be eliminated, in my opinion.

Writing about one's high school debate experiences is probably not the best way to sell oneself to law schools. What did you experience & learn during the next seven years ? Few, if any, law school admissions officers want to read about an applicant scoring the winning touchdown during the big game.


P.S. It's unclear to me whether this event occurred during your freshman year of high school or during your first year of college; my guess is that you recalling events from your first year of high school.

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Leaborb192
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Re: Brutal honesty appreciated

Postby Leaborb192 » Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:06 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Define your theme, then present it in a more concise manner using crisp, clear sentences. Try to offer meaningful insights rather than repetitious ramblings.

As written, parts of all but the last two & the introductory paragraphs have useful portions. Unfortunately, however, your writing style needs refinement since it's too verbose. For example, the third paragraph could be more effective if cut in half while the entire writing should be cut in half. You just don't have enough substance in this piece to justify its current length. The entire first paragraph could be eliminated, in my opinion.

Writing about one's high school debate experiences is probably not the best way to sell oneself to law schools. What did you experience & learn during the next seven years ? Few, if any, law school admissions officers want to read about an applicant scoring the winning touchdown during the big game.

Unless the applicant was in a wheelchair, had one leg, or somehow managed to overcome some severe obstacle in his life. In my COMP class a kid wrote his final paper about "bullying" and how one kid, who had one leg, finally got his revenge after years of enduring constant harassment and ridicule. The kid took off his fake leg and beat the hell out of the bully. Naturally, we all cheered for him! :D

P.S. It's unclear to me whether this event occurred during your freshman year of high school or during your first year of college; my guess is that you recalling events from your first year of high school.


I agree. I would downplay the metaphors and really chip away at the "wordiness" of the essay. If there was tension or a struggle, it was lost. I also agree about the challenge of selling oneself to admissions based on HS debate experiences. They'll read it and say, "So this kid was on the debate team and now wants to practice law?" Not to downplay your experience, but was there anything more challenging or a personal struggle you had to overcome that you could write about? A good, basic story, has conflict: what's yours? You want to make sure that your essay "wows" the admissions people and that you stand out as a candidate. You always, as a writer, want to answer the question: "Why should my audience care?"

Anonymous User
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Re: Brutal honesty appreciated

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:26 pm

Thanks for the input, and I agree re: the high school debate experience being a stretch. I guess I just got committed to the subject and some of the verbosity probably results from there not being a well-defined story there. I'm going to start over and find a new angle on a more relevant experience.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Brutal honesty appreciated

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:28 pm

A well-defined theme, not a well-defined story.

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Leaborb192
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Re: Brutal honesty appreciated

Postby Leaborb192 » Thu Nov 22, 2012 12:32 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:A well-defined theme, not a well-defined story.


But a good story has a well-defined theme. What am I trying to say? Prove? The essay is nothing more than a personal story. Here's what I'm trying to say to my audience, in this case: law school admissions people. Keep in mind that this essay will be read alongside other peoples' essays. I just want to make sure the reader has a kick ass, well written essay that says: "HERE I AM, AND HERE'S WHY I DESERVE TO BE IN LAW SCHOOL!" :D

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CorkBoard
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Re: Brutal honesty appreciated

Postby CorkBoard » Fri Nov 23, 2012 4:27 am

Anonymous User wrote:“To be honest, I expected [applicant] to be the weak link; he’s a freshman who’s never been to elimination rounds, much less the finals of a tournament.” As I waited for the judge to explain what I had done to cost my partner and me a chance at the state debate title, my foot began to loudly tap the commercial-grade tile of the high school classroom despite lacking my conscious approval to do so. At 10:30 PM, 15 long hours since the start of our first debate of the day, the physical effects of desperately demanding that my Ford Pinto-level debate ability facilitate the performance of a Ferrari had begun to set in. The headache that would be a frequent visitor later in my debate career (then soothed by an appetizing cocktail of Excedrin, Alka-Seltzer, and Coke) began to blur the faces of the three judges occupying a table in front of the crowd of 30 spectators. ugh, I'm the one with a headache from reading this paragraph. Too many fluff words. Get to the point.

“That expectation turned out not to be the case. The panel’s decision is three votes to zero in favor of the affirmative team. Congratulations to our new state champions, [redacted] and [applicant].” Applause from the spectators framed handshakes and hugs between my partner, me, and the two opposing senior debaters who feigned sincerity in their congratulations. For them, this was the end of the road – a finality that I couldn’t understand due either to my young age or relative inexperience in an activity I had haphazardly fallen into. They understood that few are fortunate enough to begin a highly competitive pursuit at its peak and justifiably considered it an affront to their thousands of hours of preparation that someone with little experience had won. But, it was hard work and a bit of luck which allowed me to begin debate, an experience that would thoroughly alter not only what but how I thought, with a sense of perspective that can only be found through the vantage point at the summit. hm, okay. A little better, more direction

Many teenagers spend their weekends at the movies or friends’ houses, but I spent mine traveling across the country chasing the same thrill of victory and sense of accomplishment of which the state championship had given me a sample. Competition was against the best debatestudents from privileged backgrounds and it consisted of trying to persuade judges of frequently outlandish scenarios which I did not necessarily believe. Uh, weird sentence One Saturday in Nashville would be tense change spent proclaiming that ending federal subsidies to Iowa corn farmers would lead to global nuclear war, and the next weekend in San Francisco we outlined the reasons why removing landmines from the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea would lead to a Chinese military invasion.

In truth, the conclusions such arguments arrived at mattered little compared to the logical path of how they were reached. I quickly learned that warranted chains of causality won debates. Unsupported assertions did not, regardless of how polished one’s rhetorical presentation was. In fact, one would be required to passionately speak on behalf of a course of action in one round and then subsequently insist that such a path could only lead to immense, irrevocable catastrophe. My mentor’s favorite cliché was that the best debaters do not need good arguments to win. Accepting this mantra, I often challenged myself to make arguments I felt were poor or those with which I was uncomfortable. To win a debate with such an argument represented a sign of its validity to me.

While the ability to objectively evaluate the merits of an argument’s dimensions from multiple perspectives proved to be an invaluable tool, I discovered it must be used with discretion and incorporate perspective. The ability to justify any argument led to difficulty committing to opinions and beliefs in some cases, and the resulting cynicism, when unchecked, undermined my ability to recognize and convey an idea’s pathos. The detached, calculating assessment of policy required in debate ignored the vibrancy and sincerity that marked interaction out of it. The ability to critically dissect worldviews tested the mettle of guiding principles I consider to be inviolable. Debate trained me in sophistry of the highest order – it gave me a set of specialized tools for evaluation, but the framework of values by which those skills are applied was up to me. As a result of this rigorous methodology, the convictions that have withstood scrutiny are of first priority as I enter the legal profession and work to effect real and lasting change.

I often consider what I left debate with, other than the ability to recommend a great burrito place in Denver and a breadth of knowledge across a wide variety of subjects. The answer to that question depends largely on the day on which it is asked. The truth is, when navigating the experiences of day-to-day life, the analytical ability and ideals to which I am committed continue to inform the paradigm I view the world through in new, unexpected ways. For me, law school is not only a forum for the exercise of these skills, but it also promises to be the source of new perspective with which I can serve more effectively. Both humbled and excited by the opportunity to proceed in a profession that values these factors as much as I do, I look forward to the possibility of attending law school at [LAW SCHOOL].


I made some edits but I couldn't finish it because I'm not sure where you're going. I think using something from high school is a big stretch and the way you write this PS is really draining. It sounds like you're trying a little too hard to be prolific and you are using too many words to convey points that could be made in shorter, more concise sentences. I would probably try another topic before doing anything else on this one.

basketball law guy
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Joined: Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:13 pm

Re: Brutal honesty appreciated

Postby basketball law guy » Mon Nov 26, 2012 5:51 pm

Do not use a high school achievement as your personal statement- too far removed and says nothing about your college highlights. I have plenty to write about from high school regarding state championships in athletics and other similar awards but writing about "Glory days" would turn off anybody but my parents. I would pick a new subject or a similar event from college. Going back 8 years or so is really a stretch IMHO.

basketball law guy
Posts: 84
Joined: Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:13 pm

Re: Brutal honesty appreciated

Postby basketball law guy » Mon Nov 26, 2012 5:54 pm

I forgot to add but reminded by above poster- short and simple is usually better in writing. Don't write "big words" to describe relatively simple events- just write naturally.




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