Personal Statement Critique...

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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nrand001
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Joined: Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:28 pm

Personal Statement Critique...

Postby nrand001 » Mon Mar 18, 2013 12:13 am

I would really appreciate some feedback on my personal statement. Currently it's about a paragraph or two above the allowed limit. Still working on making the essay more concise as a whole. Have no idea on what to throw out just yet. The conclusion is definitely on the rough side right now. Working on a stronger overall conclusion.

Much appreciated!!

It was the year of 1999, and the month was September. At the age of nine, a feeling of being ostracized is most of what I can remember. It was this very month and year when my family and I first arrived at this place famously known as the land of opportunities. Although we were all thrilled for this new journey, feelings of consternation were inevitable as we approached closer to the states, chasing that American dream to fulfill our dreams. Little did I know that this excitement would soon turn into frustration and anxiety when I was to begin elementary school upon my arrival. Starting the 4th grade is a positive journey for many kids, except for me, who did not know a syllable of english. Being born in Austria, I possessed fluency in German, while also being fluent in my mother language, Punjabi and Hindi, as I am of Indian Asian ethnicity. Here I was on this venture to learn a 4th language at this foreign place. I did not want to begin school until I could communicate at least at the novice level. Without much hesitation my parents decided to enroll me into the 4th grade a month after classes had begun. The following 10 months of the 4th grade for me were equivalent to my 4 years of high school. The amount of information, knowledge, criticism, getting bullied, being an outsider, random outbursts of tears, and sleepless nights that I digested that year was just enough for me to go insane. Only I know what I went through that very year with my emotions all over the chart. I know for certain that if my parents were not there for me every step of the way to motivate me, teach me, encourage me, and push me, I would not have the drive to succeed that I posses today. With such amazing support, I was able to not only pick up the english language at an adequate level, but also passed the class with above average grades in my first year of schooling in the United States. Upon arrival of my grade report just weeks before summer break, I remember tears in the eyes of my mother, and my father clearly trying to control his emotions. I hugged them both with such a great feeling of accomplishment, as if I had just graduated from a doctorate program. My father looked at me and says in Punjabi, “Son, you did it, you really did it, you made me one of the proudest fathers in the world today. You do realize that right?”. Not saying anything back I quickly hugged my father while tears were flowing down my cheeks rapidly. In my head I remember making a promise to myself to try my hardest to maintain that same priceless look on my parents face.

This positive feeling of accomplishment was all I needed to further ride the wave towards success, with my surfboard being my parents, who without, I would have no wave to ride. I had an intrinsic drive to succeed beyond expectations because I knew it was possible. My parents always stressed to me the importance of an education, something they were unable to receive given their conditions in India. I knew then and I know now, as they continue to push me to do my very best, that they have nothing to gain from this, it is all for my benefit alone.

In 2001, I went to study in India for a full academic year as a 6th grade student. It was this experience that took my drive to succeed and appreciation of receiving further knowledge, that led me one step closer on the path to receiving a successful education. Within this year I learned to respect my teachers and appreciate the books we learned from, something that I was not exposed to in the states. As the year came to an end I began to perceive my teachers as gurus and my textbooks as bibles. This attachment made to teachers and books was one of the fundamental values the school focused on educating us on. They stressed to us the fact of not being able to engage in the material fully until we built that appreciation towards the books, and people who further promote that material to us. Such lessons in India has made learning and studying more fruitful for me as years progressed. There was really no direct methodical approach to this style of learning, but merely a unique way to perceive it.

Coming back to the states in 2002 with an improved mentality helped me further achieve great results in middle school, focusing solely on the best I can be. Coming back a year after the tragic event of 9/11 did not serve to my benefit, as I was continuously harassed and bullied, as the color of my skin had a negative connotation. Many times I would think of just skipping school in order to get a full day of peace and quiet, without being harassed. Expressing my feelings to my parents was exactly what I needed to avoid making such a rash decision. They told me to watch for such actions or decisions, as they quickly become habits. My parents told me to remain strong and positive throughout my struggles in middle school. They further advised me to forget these everyday predicaments, as they are minor obstacles, like speed bumps, which will indeed slow you down, but should never stop you from achieving the desired goal. My father was the type who always put things into perspective for me; where he said that if he had made such rash decisions in his life, our whole family would currently be in India working ten hour shifts on a daily basis, receiving minimal pay and little, if any, education. Stories such as these were perhaps essential for me at the time, which gave me a chance to reevaluate my ambition and goals. I realized that my job of merely excelling in school was little to nothing compared to what my father went through to provide food and shelter for my family.

My freshmen year of high school was finally a prosperous time for me as I began to feel very comfortable with the english language and made new friends with ease. I was very fortunate to join my high school wrestling team my freshmen year, which taught me many things that would help me not only in school, but also in the real world. I learned and adapted the positive habits of being punctual, maintaining a high level of self motivation, and setting realistic short term and long term goals for myself. I was named captain of my wrestling team my junior year of high school, where I was granted my first leadership position. In this role I had to learn to always maintain a positive attitude and strong work ethic in practice and tournaments, not for personal gains, but for my fellow teammates, who would in turn be motivated to continue to strive to be the best they can be. A few months later I was elected to be president of the german club. I was filled joy and gratitude to be worthy enough to be elected president by the club members. I handled the job with much dedication and hard work outside of school in attempts to set up various fundraisers, plan german club field trips, and participate in community service events. Here I was, this kid who came from Austria at the age of 9, who did not know English, someone who was rejected by his peers throughout elementary and middle school. Yet here I was, proudly standing as a captain of my wrestling team, and president of our german club.

I come from the religion of Sikhism. The term Sikh in Sanskrit refers to a student or disciple. From this I have always accepted and thrived on the fact that I will always be a student no matter how far I get in life. I believe I will always learn from someone or something, because I firmly believe the process of learning does not stop at any point. I do not believe that there is a peak on the amount of knowledge one can consume. Everyone has unique experiences in life, lessons they have learned, outcomes that were presented, and new information that was learned from such outcomes. There are roughly 7 billion people in the world, with 7 billion distinct individuals who have learned a multitude of things based on countless unique experiences. Many of us have a story to tell, and all of us can learn, or at least, take away one thing we did not know before. I believe this way of life can keep individuals away from the evils of being arrogant and egoistical to a point where they begin to mentally block out relevant information that is not aligned with their views or beliefs. I have gradually developed a firm belief in this process as I have lived on 3 different continents where I met people who varied in personality, tradition, religion, beliefs, and their socioeconomic status.

I remember when I received my admission letter to UCR in the spring of 2008. It was deja vu for me as I was once again fortunate enough to see that very look on my parents face as I barged into their room with excitement to know how ecstatic they would be. It was very exciting for me to be accepted to one the top 10 diverse university in the entire nation. I believe deep down it gave me a sense of serenity to know there will be individuals who vary in culture, religion, and personality. I want to be accepted to your law school because I know I have the drive to succeed and the motivation to become the best lawyer, not only because I have the capabilities and support, but because I want to see that very priceless look on my parents face a few more times in my lifetime, once when I get accepted and the other upon graduation from your prestigious university. I will be bringing to your law school that one new unique voice and diversified experiences to further progress as an individual to meet my life and career goals.
Working on something for a stronger conclusion...

Redfactor
Posts: 374
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 8:52 pm

Re: Personal Statement Critique...

Postby Redfactor » Mon Mar 18, 2013 5:48 am

It's a personal statement, not a biography.

Okay, I would cut all of this: "It was the year of 1999, and the month was September. At the age of nine, a feeling of being ostracized is most of what I can remember. It was this very month and year when my family and I first arrived at this place famously known as the land of opportunities. Although we were all thrilled for this new journey, feelings of consternation were inevitable as we approached closer to the states, chasing that American dream to fulfill our dreams. Little did I know that this excitement would soon turn into frustration and anxiety when I was to begin elementary school upon my arrival."

It sounds like the opening of a 19th century English novel.

Overall, I feel you're spending WAAAY too much time talking about your experiences as a child. Cut that down. No need to drag on over every detail. Make the highlights pop more by removing the muddle. Starting a new school without speaking the language, making your parents proud, post-9/11 racism.

Do you think that admissions people feel that you being elected as president of the German club in high school is as important as the diversity and perspective you bring by having lived in varied regions of the world or being a Sikh? Me either; so don't treat it as such. Same thing with wrestling. Stay focused about the statement you want to make with this piece. If it doesn't help add to the impression that you'll bring diversity and perspective to their enrolling class along with a superior desire for learning, cut it out of the paper. Yes, even cut some (not all) of the family stuff too.

As for your approach to learning formed by your experience in India, I don't think kissing the asses of teachers and texts while giving a not-so-subtle slight to American education is helpful. The people reading the applications may or may not be professors. But nobody likes a kiss-ass. Besides, while law work might be a lot of plug-and-play, I get the sense that law school very much values creativity in how you apply statements of facts. Maybe I am wrong. Also, I would cut a reference to the Bible if you're Sikh.

"This positive feeling of accomplishment was all I needed to further ride the wave towards success, with my surfboard being my parents, who without, I would have no wave to ride." This line makes no sense. Your parents are the surfboard, but yet they also enable the existence of the wave. Stop trying so hard.

Also, I wouldn't use the term UCR. I live in Los Angeles and it took me a while to understand what you were talking about. Even if you're applying to one of the UC schools, I would just write it out. Don't make them look at your resume to fill in the gaps of your PS.

"It was very exciting for me to be accepted to one the top 10 diverse university in the entire nation. I believe deep down it gave me a sense of serenity to know there will be individuals who vary in culture, religion, and personality." Unless the school has a high proportion of minority students, I would cut this. If you're applying University of North Dakota and you say how the diversity at University of California - Riverside made your undergraduate studies comfortable, they might ding you as they don't feel that they're a good fit for you. Law school admissions people are VERY aware of how diverse their student body is. And while pretty much all law schools state that they seek a diverse class, not all of them actually achieve it.

"I want to be accepted to your law school because I know I have the drive to succeed and the motivation to become the best lawyer, not only because I have the capabilities and support, but because I want to see that very priceless look on my parents face a few more times in my lifetime, once when I get accepted and the other upon graduation from your prestigious university. I will be bringing to your law school that one new unique voice and diversified experiences to further progress as an individual to meet my life and career goals.
Working on something for a stronger conclusion..."

Cut this. If they haven't gotten that your self worth is tied to your parents' opinion and that you're going to work hard and be successful because of it, then explicitly stating so at the end will not help your cause.

"when I get accepted and the other upon graduation from your prestigious university"

Again, nobody likes a kiss-ass.

Besides, saying "your school" instead of Columbia Law School / Harvard Law School / Thomas Jefferson School of Law makes the PS an obvious generic.

The honest truth is I would have dinged you. I get no connection to you as a reader. I feel the PS is standoffish. It's like you've read historical non-fiction and wrote your book in a similar fashion. I would suggest you rewrite with more of a conversational tone and build a connection with the reader.

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nrand001
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Re: Personal Statement Critique...

Postby nrand001 » Thu Mar 21, 2013 5:34 pm

Thanks for the feedback. Made serious changes to the paper to make it more relevant...


In September of 1999, I was nine years old and had just arrived in this country, a land of opportunities. Although my family had been excited to make this journey, we were also filled with consternation and fear of the unknown. My excitement soon turned into frustration and anxiety when I began the fourth grade in my new elementary school. I did not know a word of English. Having been born in Austria, I was fluent in German, as well as my mother language, Punjabi, as well as Hindi, due to my Indian Asian ethnicity. About to learn a fourth language in a foreign place, I was hesitant to begin school until I could communicate at least my basic needs. Regardless, my parents enrolled me in the fourth grade a month after classes started. The massive amount of information, the constant criticism and bullying and the stress of being an outsider led to many sleepless nights that year. The amount of information being taught in a foreign language, coupled with criticism and bullying I had to endure was a real challenge that most domestically born Americans will never have to face.

That year, my emotions were constantly heightened. If my parents had not been there at every step motivating, teaching, and encouraging me, I would not have developed the drive to succeed that I possess today. With their incredible support, I was able to learn to speak English and earn above average grades in my first year of American schooling. When my grades arrived, my mother cried for joy and my father struggled to control his emotions. I hugged them both with as much a feeling of accomplishment as if I had just graduated from a doctorate program. My father looked at me and said in Punjabi, “Son, you did it! You really did it. You made me one of the proudest fathers in the world today”. Speechless with pride, I hugged my father as tears flowed down my cheeks. I made a promise to myself to try my hardest to maintain those priceless expressions of joy on my parents’ faces.

This feeling of accomplishment was all I needed to ride the wave towards success. My surfboard was my parents’, without whom I would have no wave to ride. I have always had a deep drive to exceed expectations because I knew that this was possible. My parents always emphasized the importance of a good education, something they were unable to receive given the poor economic conditions in India. I realized that my parents’ push to work hard and receive a good education had been a completely selfless act and that only I could decide whether or not to take advantage of the opportunities they had given me.

In 2001, I went to study in India for the academic year as a sixth grade student. This experience was invaluable because it not only helped me excel in school but also made me appreciate the knowledge that I was soaking in. During this year, I gained a new respect for my teachers and the life lessons they imparted upon me, as textbooks in the Indian culture are held in the same regard as a holy book. By the time the year came to an end, I considered my teachers to be my gurus and my textbooks to be like bibles. This strong attachment was one of the fundamental values that the school focused on instilling in us. They emphasized that we would not be able to engage in the material fully until we had gained an appreciation for the books and the teachers who taught us the material. The lessons I learned in India have made studying more fruitful for me as the years passed. There was not a direct methodical approach to this style of learning but rather a unique way of perceiving it.

Coming back to the United States in 2002 with an improved mentality, I was able to focus on my studies in middle school and continue to excel. The aftermath of the tragedies of 9/11 made life harder: I was continuously harassed and bullied due to the color of my skin. Many times, I considered skipping school in order to get a day of peace and quiet without being harassed. However, when I expressed my feelings to my parents, they helped me avoid making such a rash decision. They advised me to watch out for such actions or decisions, as they could quickly become a habit. My parents counseled me to remain strong and stay positive throughout my struggles in middle school. They advised me to forget these everyday predicaments and to consider them like speed bumps that could slow me down but never stop me from achieving my goals. His guidance was essential for me, enabling me to reevaluate my ambitions and goals. I realized that my job of excelling in school was little compared to what my father had gone through to provide food and a home for my family.

My freshmen year of high school was finally a comfortable time for me as I began to feel very confident with my English language skills and made new friends easily. I joined the wrestling team during my freshman year and was named team captain at the beginning of my junior year. As this was my first leadership position, I had to learn to maintain a positive attitude and strong work ethic during practices and tournaments, in order to inspire my teammates to be the best they could be. A few months later, I was elected president of the German club, a responsibility that filled me with joy and gratitude. Despite my athletic commitments, I handled the responsibility with dedication and hard work. Outside of school, I organized various fundraisers, planned German club field trips and participated in a variety of community service events. Having come from Austria at the age of nine without knowing a word of English and facing the rejection of his peers throughout elementary and middle school, I was extremely proud to be the captain of the wrestling team and the president of the German club.

I hope to use my law degree in the field of either the entertainment or sports industry. Both industries appeal to me at an equal level, as I would enjoy negotiating, drafting contracts, and mediating between two parties. I look forward to taking classes on contracts and legal procedures as it would pertain to the field of entertainment and sports law. In roughly ten years I see myself opening a law firm in California that would provide services within the frame of sports and entertainment law. I look forward to expanding my network within the legal and entertainment society/community? while interning at firms to further gain knowledge within my field of interest. I look forward to utilizing the one of many appreciable services and resources your law school has to offer. I will bring to your law school my unique voice and diverse experiences and look forward to progressing as an individual toward my career goals. I will contribute my hard work ethic, my original perspective and my desire to help others in the student body.

Redfactor
Posts: 374
Joined: Fri Jun 10, 2011 8:52 pm

Re: Personal Statement Critique...

Postby Redfactor » Fri Mar 22, 2013 4:31 am

First off, it's markedly better.

The opening is much better in terms of content for a Personal Statement. I still think it you would be benefited to go to a writing center if you still live near UCR and get some help wordsmithing the statement.

I don't get any more sense of you brown nosing, so that's good.

I feel like you're playing the victim card too heavy handed. "the constant criticism and bullying and the stress of being an outsider" "coupled with criticism and bullying I had to endure was a real challenge that most domestically born Americans will never have to face." "I was continuously harassed and bullied due to the color of my skin." "Many times, I considered skipping school in order to get a day of peace and quiet without being harassed."

I feel that you will have better results without being so absolute with the language. Which sounds better?

"The aftermath of the tragedies of 9/11 made life harder: I was continuously harassed and bullied due to the color of my skin."
or
Upon coming back to the United States in 2002 with an improved mentality for my studies, I was greeted to post-9/11 America. The racial undertones that surfaced in the wake of the tragedies sadly became overtones in the lives of people who shared my skin color.

As for the German club and wrestling team, I noticed you left them in. I will say one thing about it and that's it. It's your personal statement; you can choose whichever path to follow.

The main reason that I wouldn’t put those two topics is because they’re… not that impressive.

To cite being the high school wrestling team captain and German club president in your personal statement is the same as asking your high school teacher to be one of your recommenders. Sure, that teacher might write a glowing review but it won’t carry the same weight as the recommenders your peers are applying with. It makes you appear to be a sub-par applicant.

Some have led troops in combat. Others that you will be competing against are team leaders or managers in their professions. Other applicants, if coming straight from undergrad, may have been student body president or treasurer. The personal statement is the BEST opportunity to highlight your strengths. What you don’t want to do is skyline something about you that is mediocre.

I wholeheartedly feel that you’ll be better off leaving out leadership examples entirely than using the ones you have.

If you are determined to keep those in there, I think you should avoid any direct relationship of those examples to leadership. Cite being captain of the wrestling team and German club president as indicators of how far you’d assimilated / been accepted, but that’s all. Purposely leave out anything that alludes to leadership. The reader will understand that those are leadership positions, but it won’t sound like you’re using them to make a demonstrable statement about your leadership abilities.

Last paragraph needs some serious retooling.

gaucholaw
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Sep 01, 2011 8:29 pm

Re: Personal Statement Critique...

Postby gaucholaw » Fri Mar 22, 2013 7:45 am

Here's my advice:
(and for what its worth my admissions consultant had previously been dean of admissions at uchic)

First of all, be concise.... shorter is better... 2 pgs. double spaced, 3 max.... remember that the people reading these read dozens of them a day, and they appreciate when they can get through something quickly

Second, this isn't a résumé, assume that this is the last part of your application that the admissions officer is reading, and they already know your softs (accomplishments, urm, etc.) and the things that you're objectively good at

Third, avoid explicitly stating things "I'm a hard worker" etc.... rather than stating these qualities directly, it should be revealed through the ps

fourth, rather than giving a "special snowflake" PS, try and just sound human.... we all are 'unique' yet there are certain things we can all relate to

IMO, the best PS is a small anecdote, something formative, that is honest, relatable, and will make you seem fit for law school:

My PS: my anecdote centred on my college mock-trial regional... I was about to go up and give opening statements... and there was a lot of pressure... during the hour lunch break prior to that I reflected on the last time that I had been under that kind of pressure... 4 years earlier during the last race of cross country.... essentially, I ended up "choking" during that race because i was scared and caved into pressure.... i then tied that to mock trial, realizing that the MT regional could give me that closure that I needed... I proceeded to do well on my opening statement... and learned how to get over myself
done. one anecdote, that shows that I'm a flawed human being that has nonetheless gained some insight during my 4 years of college, and a little bit of growth..... lastly, I stayed away from the epic language, rather I tried to depict myself as human as possible, I'm sure the admissions counselor was able to look at their life and think of a moment when they had "choked" at something,

gaucholaw
Posts: 136
Joined: Thu Sep 01, 2011 8:29 pm

Re: Personal Statement Critique...

Postby gaucholaw » Fri Mar 22, 2013 7:48 am

BTW, if you PM me, I'd be happy to send you mine 8)




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