Urgent - critique T14 statement, be harsh (splitter 3/176)

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )

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Urgent - critique T14 statement, be harsh (splitter 3/176)

Postby oman » Sat Jan 19, 2013 4:21 am

Square pegs do not typically fit into round holes, and offbeat applicants do not normally find their way into high-caliber law schools. That said, there are rare occasions on which the candidate, after putting forth sufficient effort and immense attention to their personal development, can enter an institution as august as [the school]. In other words, square pegs – with a bit of chiseling – can fit into round holes.

I have chiseled. I was expelled from three high schools. I have a sub-par GPA and a criminal record (see addenda) – but these are not indicative of who I am. They do not tell the full story, the story of a young man from difficult circumstances who disciplined his energies and poured them into positive things. I have participated in the economic reconstruction of post-Katrina New Orleans. I have run my own firm for three years (it failed, but put me through college). I have returned to India, where I was born, and joined the small-but-growing effort to eliminate the archaic social-managerial immobilisme that keeps nearly a tenth of humanity mired in grinding poverty – an unacceptable waste of resources, and one of the greatest economic and human problems of our time. Along the way, I have become operationally fluent in three new languages and conquered my hyperactivity disorder.

I am capable of performing well in law school. My current job involves (usually) 72-hour weeks writing highly structured notes and proposals within intense and absolutely non-negotiable timeframes. My target audience – policy professionals at bodies like the UN Development Program, the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and various sovereign aid organizations like the UK's Department for International Development – is far more intelligent and discriminating than I. Much of my work boils down to asking them for money to fund my employer organization’s policy projects; anything less than impeccable writing is impotent and frankly unacceptable. I anchor all writing in the organization, and report directly to the CEO, who ensures my work is held to an extremely high standard.

I am also extremely comfortable with independent research. I am new to the world of international development, and the writing I am tasked with often calls for immense amounts of research in fields that are new to me – healthcare, economics, agronomy, climate change, human-capital development, labour relations, obscure areas of South Asian law and governance… the list goes on, seemingly ad infinitum. Since a winning proposal (of which I have authored a few) will be subjected to detailed scrutiny by experts, accuracy is paramount. Maybe a third of my 72-hour week is spent actually writing; the remainder is spent reading academic journals, seminar proceedings, policy notes and field research reports.

I have worked in the private sector, the public sector, and the non-profit sector – and in each, my work has repeatedly intersected with the law. But that is not why I want to study the law; I am not reactionary, but proactive. I want to have a positive impact on my community – the global community, our community – by reducing the barriers that all too often keep capable, motivated young people from being able to realize their potential. India is a perfect example of this – despite what we might read in The Economist, the country is plagued by social immobility. If you are born poor in India, you will likely die poor in India (in economic parlance, this is a “sub-optimal outcome”). I was born poor in India, and I know it does not have to be this way – but I was lucky. I would like to reduce the role of luck in determining who does, and does not, end up a sub-optimal outcome.

That is why I want to study the law – so I can work toward ensuring young people everywhere an equality of access to opportunity. I was once naïve, and thought that I could change the world; in fact I still think that, but my naïveté is slightly more bounded insofar as I realize the limits of my current skillset. Professor Ran Hirschl of the NYU School of Law writes of “the ascendancy of legal discourse… in virtually every aspect of modern life [and] almost every decision-making forum in modern rule-of-law polities”. I would like to be an informed and capable participant in these decision-making forums, and thus want to work toward the best in legal education.

I want to be a lawyer so I can impact my community in a positive way. I would like to enter public service. I define this broadly: it could be counterintelligence (I am working to publish a counterterrorism policy paper I wrote last year) or it could be academia. I have a deep respect for academia – contrary to most belief, theory is not divorced from the practical, and the owl of Minerva can take flight at dawn. Montesquieu’s The Spirit of Laws infused the United States with the idea of civil liberty. It is now read (albeit on the sly) by my friends in Beijing and New Delhi, who see it as a clarion call, impending change for the better. As a humble engineer who wants to help architect this change, I can think of no better tool than a legal education from [the school].

Thank you very much for your critique.

As mentioned, I'm a splitter - 176 with a 3.09 GPA - but I have high aims.

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Re: Urgent - critique T14 statement, be harsh (splitter 3/176)

Postby John_rizzy_rawls » Sat Jan 19, 2013 7:44 am

That maintained my attention and was well written. Pretty damn good overall.

Two things:
1. Don't talk down to AdComms ("what's known in economic parlance as..."/"see addenda").
2. Be more specific about what you aim to do with a law degree.


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Re: Urgent - critique T14 statement, be harsh (splitter 3/176)

Postby doing_it_in_a_car » Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:04 am

Positive things first: it sounds like you have a lot of life experience to work with. And it sounds like you are a genuinely concerned human being who has gone to great lengths to do good for other people. So there is a spectacular PS you could write. However, I don't think is very close to being that extraordinary PS.

I got a sense of arrogance and condescension throughout this essay. In part, I think it is because you do too much telling. Don't say you're "proactive" instead, it will be more persuasive to tell them about all the proactive things you have done. You can't simply write "I am capable of performing well in law school." It's much more credible to say "I believe I am capable of performing well in law school." And it's also more credible to show that with specific examples. If you're going to run through material on your resume, add a level of detail that they can't draw from the resume itself.

Another example - the arrogance comes through in the way you suggested that you are intelligent by proxy because various aid organizations approved proposals you wrote and those organizations are more intelligent than you. Was there a particularly compelling proposal you could focus on? Are there specific examples you could use to make this more of a narrative - a story that has a beginning and end as opposed to simply stating how great you are?

As the above poster wrote, don't talk down to adcomms. In the first paragraph, you are backhandedly telling adcomms how to do their job. They know offbeat applicants can be successful at their schools. Your PS should be describing your specific story - don't tell them things they already know. They know their school is "august" - I don't think it will help to remind them of that.

Furthermore, I think you need to rethink your square pegs analogy. You suggest that square pegs represent offbeat applicants, but they can be chiseled to fit into round holes. You go on to suggest that you were chiseled by certain experiences (presumably to fit into a round hole), but in my reading it sounded like those experiences are precisely what made you offbeat and "square" in the first place.

There are word choice issues throughout as well. Drop the academic jargon and talk like a human being. " archaic social-managerial immobilisme?" how about "backwards institutions"?

I think you should try drafting another PS that focuses on your interaction with India - a chronological narrative thick with vivid details about your experiences abroad, your ethical concerns about social justice, your professional efforts to correct the problems, your kindred connections, your emotional reactions to what you saw and did - and overall your growth over time.

In every draft, read it over for focus. Think about every sentence. Does a reference to Montesquieu really tie into the central theme? Also, read it aloud and throw in more short sentences here and there to vary up the rhythm.

Good luck - I'm sure you have a great PS within you - just work on how you're telling it.

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Re: Urgent - critique T14 statement, be harsh (splitter 3/176)

Postby dingbat » Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:09 am

oman wrote:I have chiseled. I was expelled from three high schools.

I'm not familiar with that term, but I'd like to know what it means that got you expelled from three high schools


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Re: Urgent - critique T14 statement, be harsh (splitter 3/176)

Postby cgw » Sun Jan 20, 2013 3:24 am

I like your PS a lot.

I agree with John rizzy rawls suggestions and add that I think the parenthetical asides are informal and I would either remove them or find a way to say them directly. They're a little distracting as you have a lot of them, and kind of interrupt the flow while reading. I'm also a little biased against the dash. The dash tends to be an informal punctuation that is used sparingly for emphasis. There are a few places where I definitely think a comma would suffice. For the most part, however, you have used it correctly, so this is purely my own bias. Take it or leave it.

I would also suggest discussing your current position in more detail. I get what you do on the day-to-day, I think, but you mention that you "anchor all the writing in the organization." What does this mean, exactly? Do you do all the writing? Do you supervise the work of others?

I also think it would be a nice touch to call back to your square peg-round hole metaphor somewhere in the conclusion of your essay.

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Re: Urgent - critique T14 statement, be harsh (splitter 3/176)

Postby ManOfTheMinute » Mon Jan 21, 2013 11:35 pm

I agree with doing_it_in_a_car!

And yeah... adcoms don't want a punch of people who "fit" -- at least not at T14 schools.

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