Personal Statement Final Draft--look over?

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
elcee1987
Posts: 90
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2012 2:40 am

Personal Statement Final Draft--look over?

Postby elcee1987 » Thu Jan 03, 2013 7:03 am

This is exactly 2 pages in Word. It has been EDITED to reflect changes from comments of the first two posters. Any other thoughts?

Breathing deeply, I begin to push away the worries in my mind. As the steady rhythm of the powwow drum washes over me, I feel my rapidly beating heart begin to slow. I study the dancers as they work intricate footsteps to the beat of the music. Finally, I feel at peace.

I’ve been seeking all my life for a place to belong. I am the child of a full-blooded member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe from South Dakota—my father—who was adopted into a white family at an early age. I’ve always taken pride in being Native American, but I didn’t have any true cultural connections as a child. My father had spent many years ignoring his heritage in a quest to properly assimilate into “white” culture, so he had no desire to teach me about Native traditions.

As a sheltered high-school student, I attended a six-week summer camp for Native students, designed to provide extra high school credits for graduation. It exposed me to Native American culture in a way I’d never anticipated. That summer, I put away my childish ideals of being Native American. Instead, I saw what life seems like for many Native American youth today—a dead end world of drinking and joblessness, with few opportunities to succeed. That summer, I attended my first powwow. I discovered the depths of Native spirituality, and learned how some kids still fight to change their stereotypes, often without any help from the outside world.

In my early 20’s, I moved to the Nez Perce Reservation near Lewiston, Idaho, as part of an effort to find myself through embracing the Native side of my birthright. There, I continued to see the depressing portrayal of life for many Native Americans living on a reservation. I saw how things get done, or rather, are discussed endlessly but are never accomplished. I learned about the lack of positive role models for children on the reservation as I helped several smart girls ignore peer pressure and feel comfortable enjoying education. And I learned about the deep emotions felt by a number of Natives against “the white man,” stemming from their colonization hundreds of years ago, being placed in boarding schools as recently as the 1970s, and continuing today, with emotions rising most strongly when Native Americans are misunderstood or vilified by the courts. As someone of Native American heritage who was raised in the “white” world, I developed a rare ability to see the perspectives of both worlds, which became more obvious when I was witness to several preventable guilty verdicts that were handed to tribal members close to me. Tribal members were understandably upset and angry, but I was able to recognize what had happened: the judge didn’t have any understanding of tribal laws, nor had the public defender, so the ruling was based on county and state laws instead. Had a lawyer been present with an understanding of how tribal law worked with federal, state and county laws, the outcome might have been different.

Watching those myriad legal issues unfold was when I began to seek out my calling. With my upbringing in the “white” world, I realized I had the potential to be a leader and role model in the Native world and liaison for Natives in the “white” world. Then, I discovered that I enjoyed studying tribal bylaws and discussing tribal strategy with knowledgeable tribal members, because the interpretations and defenses would affect generations of indigenous people. It made me want to learn more, and I realized that I wanted to attend law school to become a lawyer for my people.

My goal is to be accepted as an asset into this culture I’ve inherited, and to be a resource to my people in preserving and improving our traditions. I hope I can find ways to bring jobs to reservations and protect treaty rights that are quickly eroding. I hope to be a connection in the gap between the white world and the Indian world. But most importantly, I want to improve conditions for those struggling to find their place in our culture. I want to help the child growing up on the reservation cultivate a desire to learn amidst poverty and alcoholism; stand up for the grandmother who fights daily to instill good morals in her descendants; and help the elders who do what they can to teach young people about Indian customs and history. Just as I honor this heritage every time I step into the ring of a powwow, I want to do more to pass on our legacy.

Native life is a different culture, one both ancient and modern. It’s where I belong, and it’s where I can make the most difference. Some people have tried to dissuade me from choosing a specialty before attending law school, advising that just getting through the first year will be a miracle. Certainly it will be, but I am fueled by goals that I am determined to accomplish. I choose to not only get into and finish law school, but to practice Native American law, be a role model for Native youth, and secure a more positive future for indigenous people everywhere.
Last edited by elcee1987 on Thu Jan 03, 2013 11:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
LexLeon
Posts: 400
Joined: Fri Oct 07, 2011 11:03 pm

Re: Personal Statement Final Draft--look over?

Postby LexLeon » Thu Jan 03, 2013 12:39 pm

I don't think you should refer to Native Americans as "Indians;" and I wouldn't refer to "many" of them, so generally, in a negative way (e.g. "...what life is really like for many Native American youth today—a dead end world of drinking and joblessnes...; or "...the drive to compassionately fight for justice, something that many Natives have given up on.")

Don't (scare?) quote "find myself." If anything should be scare quoted it should be "the white man."

I wouldn't state, outright, that "I am intelligent."

"I don’t allow depression in my life anymore" sounds awkward.

What does "rez's" mean? If Rez is a name, it should be capitalized.

I am a strong opponent of mentioning numbers like GPA or LSAT score in a statement (though I suppose there are few cases where it may be effective). It generally sounds distasteful.


I think you should focus your personal statement instead of talking about, virtually, your entire life. You should elaborate on what you actually did when you "planned legal strategy for tribal members." That sounds really vague and like you didn't do much of anything; if you did, there would be a lot more to say, and it would sound far more impressive. I also believe that, if you'd like to mention it, you should explain what "several tribal members close to [you being] handed preventable verdicts that eroded tribal sovereignty" means. That's an awkwardly phrased sentence anyway, but it clearly requires further detail if it is worth a mention.

What did you do to "help an incredibly bright young girl learn to enjoy education and ignore peer pressure?" I tend to believe that when applicants state things like that (as they would be stated on a resume) and don't provide further explanation, it looks poor. Also, I'd call the "girl" a "young woman."

You have great potential here for a compelling statement if you were actually involved with the legal affairs of your tribe. At many points (e.g. "I have a heritage to honor and represent;" or "...the drive to compassionately fight for justice") you sound too cliche).

I would carefully scrutinize the statement for these pitfalls and rewrite the entire thing from scratch.

User avatar
francesfarmer
Posts: 1409
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:52 am

Re: Personal Statement Final Draft--look over?

Postby francesfarmer » Thu Jan 03, 2013 12:55 pm

elcee1987 wrote:This is 2 pages exactly in Word. What do you think?

Breathing deeply, I begin to push away the worries in my mind. As the steady rhythm of the powwow drum washes over me, I feel my rapidly beating heart begin to slow. I study the dancers as they work intricate footsteps to the beat of the music. Finally, I feel at peace.

I’ve been seeking all my life for a place to belong. I am the child of a full-blooded member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe from South Dakota—my father—who was adopted into a white family at an early age. I’ve always taken pride in being Native American, but I didn’t have any true cultural connections as a child. My father had spent many years ignoring his heritage in a quest to properly assimilate into “white” culture, so he had no desire to teach me about Indian culture.

As a sheltered high-school student, flirting with mild rebellion within the safety of upper-middle class suburbia, I attended a six-week summer camp for Native students, designed to provide extra high school credits for graduation. That summer, I put away my childish ideals of Native culture. Instead, I saw what life is really like for many Native American youth today—a dead end world of drinking and joblessness, with few opportunities to succeed. That summer, I attended my first powwow. I discovered the depths of Native spirituality, and learned how kids fight to change their stereotypes, without any help from the outside world. [I think you should leave out the upper middle class suburbia part and just talk about entering the reservation as an outsider, seeing the destitution, etc.]

In my early 20’s, I moved to the Nez Perce Reservation near Lewiston, Idaho, as part of an effort to “find myself",” which I thought it would be accomplished through embracing the Native side of my birthright. There, on “the rez,” I continued to [observe?] the see the rez’sdepressing reality of life for many Native Americans todayof a stagnant day-to-day life. I saw how things get done, or rather, are discussed endlessly but are never accomplished. I learned about the poor quality of education as I fought to help an incredibly bright young girl learn to enjoy [studying] education and ignore peer pressure to slack off instead. And I learned about the deep emotions felt by a number of Natives against towards the white man, often due to conflicts involving the law. [obviously native Americans have a lot of legal complaints against their colonizers—I think you can state this more elegantly.]


I think the rest of it needs a major reworking. Don’t mention your grades, leave out the bits about being a special snowflake, drop the idealism. It will be evident that you will be an asset to your people as a lawyer, since you are a member of the most impoverished demographic in the United States.

elcee1987
Posts: 90
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2012 2:40 am

Re: Personal Statement Final Draft--look over?

Postby elcee1987 » Thu Jan 03, 2013 10:24 pm

I should add that I am only applying to schools with strong Native American focus, like University of New Mexico and ASU, or U of Arizona. So that's why I'm taking the strong focus on my heritage. I did edit it and expand on the more specific details, so feel free to re-read!

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 22892
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: Personal Statement Final Draft--look over?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:01 am

1) saying Indian is totally fine. Most native people I know refer to themselves as Indians, and in the legal context, people generally say Indian law, rather than Native American law (I worked in an Indian law clinic and my school had an Indian law program).

2) don't say the problem was that rulings were based on state/county laws rather than tribal laws - state/county courts cannot apply tribal law. Only tribal courts can apply tribal law. If an Indian is in state/county court, s/he will be charged under state law. (It's way more complicated than this, but this will have to do). It's definitely a good thing for judges/lawyer to understand native culture, including legal traditions, to best be able to communicate with the defendant/client and put their actions into their proper context (and especially for something like sentencing, where there may be more discretion). But that's different from saying tribal law should apply in any court case involving an Indian defendant. (I mean, you could make that argument, but you'd have to be aware it is not currently the case AT ALL and make clear that you know that).

3) I personally hate openings like the italicized, "you are there," memoir-style opening. I think they're almost impossible to pull off without sounding cheesy, and if you cut it entirely your PS would lose nothing. If you're really attached to the powwow image (too many adjectives for my taste), I'd put it in the body of the PS, when you talk about moving to the rez (it could be a counter to the depressing bits). But I went to LS after another career and wrote almost entirely about WE. I'm totally happy to defer to the wisdom of others here on whether that kind of creative non-fiction opening works.

Seriously, though, good luck and I hope you get in and LS works out for you!

User avatar
francesfarmer
Posts: 1409
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:52 am

Re: Personal Statement Final Draft--look over?

Postby francesfarmer » Fri Jan 04, 2013 10:44 am

elcee1987 wrote:I should add that I am only applying to schools with strong Native American focus, like University of New Mexico and ASU, or U of Arizona. So that's why I'm taking the strong focus on my heritage. I did edit it and expand on the more specific details, so feel free to re-read!

Go to one of those schools with a huge scholarship or go somewhere better. You are a URM. Use it!!!

anela00
Posts: 188
Joined: Sun Apr 18, 2010 9:05 pm

Re: Personal Statement Final Draft--look over?

Postby anela00 » Fri Jan 11, 2013 8:04 am

LexLeon wrote:I think you should focus your personal statement instead of talking about, virtually, your entire life. You should elaborate on what you actually did when you "planned legal strategy for tribal members."


I completely agree with this. I think your statement could be very powerful if you focus it, and as the poster quoted above said, the anecdote about seeing the law unevenly applied to tribal members could be a good place to elaborate. I'm also NA and would be happy to look at another draft if you PM me.




Return to “Law School Personal Statements”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.