Am I off target with my Personal Statement?

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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Am I off target with my Personal Statement?

Postby juxtapolemic » Sat Jan 19, 2013 6:15 pm

Here's a draft of my personal statement, it feels clunky to me. Does anyone have any advice?
The desire to study and practice law derives from a few instances in my life, and from the character I’ve cultivated in response to those and other experiences. Though I am no longer a member of any church or religion, my early life as a sheltered Christian kid is one of the larger influences on my decision to study law. Since early in my life, I wanted to be a minister of sorts, and I feel as though I’ve found my “calling” in law. Directly connected to my sheltered early life is my enduring appetite for knowledge, which drove me to search for education outside of the narrow reality I had been given. Left to recreate the foundations of my life and the meaning of the world, I began searching through literature, which helped spur a love for language and the interpretation of text that speaks to my interest in working with law and the legal profession. At a point, I found literature too much based in fantasy to fulfill my ambitions. The study of law, however, appeals to my desire to work with a system which we as citizens can (often) all agree upon, one without the inherent subjectivity of religious texts and literature.

When I was seven years old, I told my Dad that I wanted to become a pastor. I didn’t quite have the words for it then, but I considered pastors to be ministers of a particular set of laws. They are charged with interpreting something greatly important to the lives of many people. Not only that, but pastors are often seen as wise men in their community, they have access to a greater understanding of the ways and methods by which the church community lives. The days of the priestly class are behind us, but there survives a similar idea in the minds of churchgoers that a pastor knows something they don’t, and studies books the language of which is unfamiliar to them. Because I was raised in a strict Christian home, I saw pastors as professors of a truth I thought was universal. As I grew older, I moved away from those beliefs, but I never lost my childhood interest in studying and interpreting language with the hope of discovering laws which could apply to all people, regardless of their beliefs.

My appetite for learning was evident from early in my life. From kindergarten through 8th grade, I attended a Christian school. The school isn’t exactly known for its strength of academic study; its teachers were often recent high school graduates who attended the adjacent Pentecostal church, and it served more as a continuation school for students who had been kicked out of the local public continuation schools. In fact, those who graduated from the school in those years do not have valid high school diplomas according to the state of California. The lack of an adequate learning environment at New Life Christian School further inspired my need for information. In the summers between class, I often worked with the next year’s math books and read from encyclopedias at the library to satiate my need for information. Reading soon became my favorite method of learning. Though I was only permitted to read books centered around Christianity, I began reading voraciously. The first non-Christian writer I was allowed to read was John Grisham. Cheesy as it sounds, that was the way I became acquainted with a different sort of minister in the form of lawyers and judges. At that point, there was no stopping me from reading whatever I liked to. I had been introduced to a world outside of my parent’s belief system, and it was then necessary for me to create my own world, and populate it with my own beliefs and ideas about the purpose of my life. This was surely one of the largest obstacles in my life, one which took a great amount of fortitude and courage to overcome. Every foundation I had been given was foreign, as though intended for someone else. For a while, reading literature provided both a relief and a source of subject material for my brazen attempt to recreate myself.

This interest in literature continued into college, where I enjoyed the training in critical thinking and interpretation of language offered by my English and Linguistics courses. I read literature as a way to describe the capabilities of human experience, and the necessity of empathy and sympathy in the lives of good citizens. Whatever truth can be found in literature, however, is still to be considered only in the context of a subjective audience and/or a subjective author. It, too, is lacking a universal application. I eventually came to understand that law is more of a universal truth. People of all creeds can agree it is a method of ensuring the quality of civil life and administering justice. Though I recreated my entire world after moving away from my parent’s beliefs, I came around to my initial interest in serving my community as a capable and knowledgeable citizen. The most interesting and productive way to do so based on my skills and experiences is obviously through the study and practice of law.

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Re: Am I off target with my Personal Statement?

Postby cgw » Sat Jan 19, 2013 10:31 pm

You're right, this is clunky. You seem to be styling your intro paragraph as an outline of the rest of the essay and this is really ineffective. Mainly, it's boring; you just blew your whole wad in the first few sentences. And without context it's also confusing. I would scrap the whole intro.

If you're set on this as your PS topic, I would also scrap everything about literature (it only makes me wonder why you're not pursuing an MA in Lit). Focus on the religious aspect and your sub-par early education (your description of the school could use work), how it led to your interest in language and the skills you developed as a result, and then connect it to law. If there's a compelling story to tell, perhaps describe how you moved away from your parents' religion.

Also, contractions. They are not your friend.

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Re: Am I off target with my Personal Statement?

Postby juxtapolemic » Sun Jan 20, 2013 1:06 am

Thanks for the feedback. It feels boring to me, too, and it's my life. That's a bad sign... Edits in progress

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Re: Am I off target with my Personal Statement?

Postby anattorney » Sun Jan 20, 2013 7:49 pm

1st: Use more active language. "There survives a similar idea in the minds of churchgoers that a pastor knows something they don't, and studies books the language of which is unfamiliar to them." --> "Churchgoers still believe that a pastor knows something they don't. A pastor distills the universal concepts set forth in ancient texts, and makes those concepts accessible to modern churchgoers." (or something)

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Re: Am I off target with my Personal Statement?

Postby ManOfTheMinute » Mon Jan 21, 2013 11:22 pm

Definitely work on your grammar - although if this is a first draft, and you just put it here for "subject," you can clearly ignore this.

I would not start it off with "My desire to go to law school" -- if adcoms had a penny for every time a PS started off that way, they would have a lot of pennies. Its a sure way to make the reader get turned off due to a lack of creativity/hook in the first 10 seconds. Try to start off talking about literature/a story about literature and more subtly transition to law.

Side note: never, ever write obviously/clearly in a academic paper

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