Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
wlee1220
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Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby wlee1220 » Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:14 pm

10/15-My last post is the most updated version of my statement. I wrote another statement that I'm getting edited that deals more specifically with my current job, but I liked this theme better. Any advice and harsh critique would be really appreciated.

If familiarity breeds contempt, I should hate nothing more than church. I am to a point where I can, with my eyes closed, predict every moment of the service. Yet, I actually relish the sameness of it all. But I love my pastor’s messages most, messages that speak about one who challenged political and social institutions, spoke truth to power, and triumphed over pervasive forces designed to maintain the status quo. The sermons communicated that faith, hard work and determination could break unjust shackles, lift heavy burdens, and uproot evil institutions.

The community surrounding the church seemed to proclaim an altogether different message. The urban decay, poverty and drug abuse boldly declared that my pastor’s messages of faith and hope were not welcome there. Many Sundays, as I walked out of church, I wondered how my neighbors could experience the jubilation that I felt during those services. But I was taught that even the mention of religion would suggest that I was a fanatic desiring to convert someone over to my faith tradition. Therefore, I decided to minimize my expressions of faith in public.

As time went on, I came to realize that there are other, less obtrusive ways to express my faith. My current position as a community organizer for a multi-faith nonprofit afforded me a glimpse of what that looks like. I was first assigned to work with a resident-based team to initiate a campaign to combat unjust living conditions within their apartment complex. The sights that I saw when I visited their apartments sickened me. Some apartments had countertops covered with mold while others had pieces of wet sheetrock littered throughout the living room because of leaky pipes left unfixed. While walking between apartments, I noticed debris and human waste in stairwell corners left by maintenance after their supposed daily cleanings.

However, I was more heartbroken by the people who had to endure these conditions than the sights themselves. I found them to be honest, hard-working people that struggled to maintain healthy, close-knit families in the midst of indescribable chaos. These people definitely deserved better. But despite our best organizing efforts, we could not seem to make any meaningful progress. We came to a decision that we would be more effective if we had a lawyer advocate our cause in court. However, my nonprofit was unwilling to wage a legal war with a slumlord and I was told that the team would have to bear the costs for legal representation. Realizing that they couldn’t afford the fees they envisioned it would cost to sustain a long battle with the rich slumlord, the team went to visit two local legal aid clinics. The clinics, however, would not accept them as clients due to short-staffing and backlogged cases.

Disheartened, but unwilling to quit, the team continues to press on. But I continue to wrestle with the setbacks that we faced fighting for change. Sure, we would gain small victories here and there, in an effort for a rich slumlord to save face. But without legal counsel that shared their resolve and knew how to confront the powers necessary to bring meaningful change, any campaign would be an uphill battle at best. My experience reaffirmed, in my mind, the need for competent lawyers, undergirded with a strong moral foundation, who would advocate for the least of these.

My desire to pursue a legal career is my next step in living out my faith. My faith tells me that the quality of one’s life should not be predetermined based on the color of their skin or the neighborhood they came from. I want to practice law to do my small part to help create more equitable work situations, which in turn will give people the ability to escape the horrid conditions that constitutes my team’s lived experiences. In this way, I can practice my faith without proselytizing, without passing out tracts, and without offending people of different faith traditions. As I think back to those Sunday mornings at church, I can still hear those church mothers singing hymns of Zion; I can still feel the passion as the deacons pray and travail; and I can sense the jubilation of those who dance and leap in celebration. This is how they choose to express their faith. I want my legal career to serve as my expression of faith.
Last edited by wlee1220 on Tue Oct 15, 2013 1:46 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Ramius
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby Ramius » Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:28 pm

Let me start off by saying this is a really strong first effort. You really own your connection between faith and the law and make it your own. Using your faith in God as a theme seems to work for you, and I applaud you for that. Do not, in the least, be concerned about voicing your views and opinions on this matter because you do so in an unassuming and non-confrontational manner, which is refreshing.

To give my own critique, the paragraph talking about the positions you held and how you were practicing your faith seemed forced, like you were still trying to put your resume on paper in written form. If you want the impact of your faith to really hit home (and not read like a resume), pick a significant event in your dealings with people since evolving your ideas of faith and focusing on how you took what you learned, applied it to real life and grew from it. I can't tell you how to do it, but don't be afraid to dig deep and find a snapshot in your past that you draw from as being significant to your growth both in faith and intelligence. I believe your goal here should be to intertwine your faith with your intelligence.

Also, try reading the statement out loud a few times to make sure you aren't tripping up in the flow at all. I noticed a few times readily where words were missing or structures were awkward to the flow, but you might not pick up on it because you've probably read over this so many times that the words you meant to put in are implied in your brain. Force yourself to give this like a speech, like your story, and make sure you can tell it in a way that someone will want to hear it.

All in all, I enjoyed this statement and think you have strong material to work from.

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CyanIdes Of March
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby CyanIdes Of March » Sun Mar 31, 2013 11:21 pm

I don't think it's bad. It's well written and it's not offensive... but I hope, for your sake, adcomms don't share my reaction to shoehorning Jesus and God into a PS. It just doesn't seem like the place for it and it annoys some people. An excerpt from a book by the ex-admissions Dean of Chicago says "I would also steer clear of your personal relationship with Jesus or other religious topics, which make some admissions officers squeamish (unless you’re applying to a religious school, in which case, that’s fair game)."

Wile E.
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby Wile E. » Sun Mar 31, 2013 11:54 pm

You have an excellent writing style. And to echo the first response, don't be concerned about how others will view your beliefs. Sure, some professors reading your personal statement won't be interested in faith, but most are respectful and considerate of all viewpoints. Plus, if your faith is as important to you as you emphasize, I suspect you believe you will have a larger reward waiting for you someday by standing firm in your faith. That may be worth more than a professor's 2 cents.

I wrote a personal statement with information about my faith. I received a large scholarship.

chillipepper
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby chillipepper » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:02 am

I stopped reading after the first sentence. "had" is used incorrectly.


Ok I read it and liked it. You have some grammar issues, but they can be easily fixed.
Last edited by chillipepper on Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

cynthiad
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby cynthiad » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:19 am

it's "tracts," not "tracks."

wlee1220
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby wlee1220 » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:29 am

I appreciate the comments. I'm working on a rewrite and will post when I'm done.

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CyanIdes Of March
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby CyanIdes Of March » Mon Apr 01, 2013 12:50 am

Wile E. wrote:You have an excellent writing style. And to echo the first response, don't be concerned about how others will view your beliefs. Sure, some professors reading your personal statement won't be interested in faith, but most are respectful and considerate of all viewpoints. Plus, if your faith is as important to you as you emphasize, I suspect you believe you will have a larger reward waiting for you someday by standing firm in your faith. That may be worth more than a professor's 2 cents.

I wrote a personal statement with information about my faith. I received a large scholarship.


Those professor's "2 cents" matter a lot considering they may be the ones determining whether you get into their school or not. These aren't the opinions of random people on the internet, they are the opinions of top admissions deans. It's not about respecting beliefs, it's about not putting yourself in a negative light voluntarily. The person reading it may respect your opinion but still think you had bad judgment in taking a major part of your application and using it to talk about your religion. Then again, with the OPs numbers maybe the schools he plans to attend have a different mind set then the ones I've read.

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whosonfirst
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby whosonfirst » Mon Apr 01, 2013 1:48 am

You are absolutely not putting yourself in a negative light voluntarily. You have an excellent basis for a personal statement. You want to do PI work and talking about your motivation for such work is absolutely crucial for adcomms. The way you describe your faith as your motivation reminds me of all the goods things about religion and how it can bring people closer together and generate a tight-knit community. Additionally, you've got experience on your side - this makes your PI credentials a lot stronger than some kids out there who say they're interested in public interest work but have never done anything. Your PS is different, in a good way entirely, and I believe adcomms will respond positively to it.

Listen to the first response - that's excellent advice. To help you narrow to a specific incidence (instead of your resume as the first poster said) think about this: why doesn't your current role as a community organizer seem like enough? Why do you need to be a lawyer? You're already doing a lot of good; how are you limited in your current position? How can law help you break those barriers and do even more good for your community? Was there a specific case that you worked on, helping someone with labor law?

Also, retake. Study hard and retake so you can go to a T-14 with a great LRAP and continue to do good in the world without worrying about servicing that debt.

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CyanIdes Of March
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby CyanIdes Of March » Mon Apr 01, 2013 3:43 am

whosonfirst wrote:You are absolutely not putting yourself in a negative light voluntarily. You have an excellent basis for a personal statement.


How can you be sure of that? For one, I've literally quoted someone in a position of authority saying that it definitely could put them in a negative light and warning specifically not to do something like this. There definitely are people who will see Jesus written 5 times,God 3 times, and the implication that everyone has faith to influence them, and come away from it differently than you did.

Redfactor
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby Redfactor » Mon Apr 01, 2013 4:16 am

I agree that you are safe with this piece.

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Ave
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby Ave » Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:48 am

wlee1220 wrote:Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics

This is quite trivial but: Nicomachean, not Nichomachean.

Also, if you could change most of your "is" and "was" to stronger verbs (in addition to changing your passive voice structures to active), your essay will improve in tone. Of course, I am not suggesting you to avoid all forms of "to be" because it's a good verb with certain phrasings, just not everywhere.

mustached
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby mustached » Mon Apr 01, 2013 9:58 am

FWIW, I also had a strongly religious PS, although I didn't mention Jesus by name (not purposefully; it just happened that way). I've got my JS1 with Harvard tomorrow.

wlee1220
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby wlee1220 » Mon Apr 01, 2013 6:50 pm

CyanIdes Of March wrote:
Wile E. wrote:You have an excellent writing style. And to echo the first response, don't be concerned about how others will view your beliefs. Sure, some professors reading your personal statement won't be interested in faith, but most are respectful and considerate of all viewpoints. Plus, if your faith is as important to you as you emphasize, I suspect you believe you will have a larger reward waiting for you someday by standing firm in your faith. That may be worth more than a professor's 2 cents.

I wrote a personal statement with information about my faith. I received a large scholarship.


Those professor's "2 cents" matter a lot considering they may be the ones determining whether you get into their school or not. These aren't the opinions of random people on the internet, they are the opinions of top admissions deans. It's not about respecting beliefs, it's about not putting yourself in a negative light voluntarily. The person reading it may respect your opinion but still think you had bad judgment in taking a major part of your application and using it to talk about your religion. Then again, with the OPs numbers maybe the schools he plans to attend have a different mind set then the ones I've read.


I hear you. I realize that my numbers were low. That's why I'm retaking the LSAT in June and reapplying.

wlee1220
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby wlee1220 » Mon Apr 01, 2013 6:58 pm

.
Last edited by wlee1220 on Mon Jul 08, 2013 1:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Ling520
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby Ling520 » Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:31 pm

wlee1220 wrote:
I’ve seen this dance far too many times before. I could literally


I thought this first sentence flowed better with the pluperfect, as in your original, because the event and reference time both occur in the past (you can test this by adding a temporal adverbial). (Be careful with the grammar advice you receive; I majored in linguistics and am often puzzled by the grammar claims/corrections given out here.)

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Ave
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby Ave » Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:51 pm

Ling520 wrote:
wlee1220 wrote:I’ve seen this dance far too many times before.

I thought this first sentence flowed better with the pluperfect, as in your original, because the event and reference time both occur in the past (you can test this by adding a temporal adverbial). (Be careful with the grammar advice you receive; I majored in linguistics and am often puzzled by the grammar claims/corrections given out here.)

Actually, the current sentence is grammatically correct but it's because the OP changed the rhythm of the sentence with the contraction that you prefer the flow of the original. Also, what's the connection between majoring in linguistics and grammar? When I took a linguistics course in UG, we spent the whole semester condemning prescriptivists

wlee1220
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby wlee1220 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 2:51 am

.
Last edited by wlee1220 on Mon Jul 08, 2013 1:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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JaviSTB
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby JaviSTB » Sun Apr 28, 2013 4:42 am

This is really good! I'm going to provide more opinion/critique tomorrow when I'm not on my phone.

However, I would say, that the first few lines sound awkward. There is a disconnected flow of thought that made it difficult to jump into your statement. While stacatto phrases/sentences can add emphasis and energy to your statement, I feel like the lack of flow at the beginning creates a hurdle for the reader. I had to read the first few lines just to comfortably adjust myself to the world you were presenting. I might have to do with the many commas used in the opening sentences. I will look at this more tomorrow, though.

wlee1220
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby wlee1220 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 8:37 am

JaviSTB12 wrote:This is really good! I'm going to provide more opinion/critique tomorrow when I'm not on my phone.

However, I would say, that the first few lines sound awkward. There is a disconnected flow of thought that made it difficult to jump into your statement. While stacatto phrases/sentences can add emphasis and energy to your statement, I feel like the lack of flow at the beginning creates a hurdle for the reader. I had to read the first few lines just to comfortably adjust myself to the world you were presenting. I might have to do with the many commas used in the opening sentences. I will look at this more tomorrow, though.


Yea that's an issue. I'm really not feeling how everything flows. It sounds weird as I read it. Thanks for looking at it. I appreciate any feedback I get.

wlee1220
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby wlee1220 » Fri Jul 05, 2013 12:52 am

Took a break from my LSAT studying to work on my PS. If you care to read, my newest version follows.

If familiarity breeds contempt, I should hate nothing more than church. I am to a point where I can, with my eyes closed, predict every moment of the service. Yet, I actually relish the sameness of it all. But I love my pastor’s messages most, messages that speak about one who challenged political and social institutions, spoke truth to power, and triumphed over pervasive forces designed to maintain the status quo. The sermons communicated that faith, hard work and determination could break unjust shackles, lift heavy burdens, and uproot evil institutions.

The community surrounding the church seemed to proclaim an altogether different message. The urban decay, poverty and drug abuse boldly declared that my pastor’s messages of faith and hope were not welcome there. Many Sundays, as I walked out of church, I wondered how my neighbors could experience the jubilation that I felt during those services. But I was taught that even the mention of religion would suggest that I was a fanatic desiring to convert someone over to my faith tradition. Therefore, I decided to minimize my expressions of faith in public.

As time went on, I came to realize that there are other, less obtrusive ways to express my faith. My current position as a community organizer for a multi-faith nonprofit afforded me a glimpse of what that looks like. I was first assigned to work with a resident-based team to initiate a campaign to combat unjust living conditions within their apartment complex. The sights that I saw when I visited their apartments sickened me. Some apartments had countertops covered with mold while others had pieces of wet sheetrock littered throughout the living room because of leaky pipes left unfixed. While walking between apartments, I noticed debris and human waste in stairwell corners left by maintenance after their supposed daily cleanings.

However, I was more heartbroken by the people who had to endure these conditions than the sights themselves. I found them to be honest, hard-working people that struggled to maintain healthy, close-knit families in the midst of indescribable chaos. These people definitely deserved better. But despite our best organizing efforts, we could not seem to make any meaningful progress. We came to a decision that we would be more effective if we had a lawyer advocate our cause in court. However, my nonprofit was unwilling to wage a legal war with a slumlord and I was told that the team would have to bear the costs for legal representation. Realizing that they couldn’t afford the fees they envisioned it would cost to sustain a long battle with the rich slumlord, the team went to visit two local legal aid clinics. The clinics, however, would not accept them as clients due to short-staffing and backlogged cases.

Disheartened, but unwilling to quit, the team continues to press on. But I continue to wrestle with the setbacks that we faced fighting for change. Sure, we would gain small victories here and there, in an effort for a rich slumlord to save face. But without legal counsel that shared their resolve and knew how to confront the powers necessary to bring meaningful change, any campaign would be an uphill battle at best. My experience reaffirmed, in my mind, the need for competent lawyers, undergirded with a strong moral foundation, who would advocate for the least of these.

My desire to pursue a legal career is my next step in living out my faith. My faith tells me that the quality of one’s life should not be predetermined based on the color of their skin or the neighborhood they came from. I want to practice law to do my small part to help create more equitable work situations, which in turn will give people the ability to escape the horrid conditions that constitutes my team’s lived experiences. In this way, I can practice my faith without proselytizing, without passing out tracts, and without offending people of different faith traditions. As I think back to those Sunday mornings at church, I can still hear those church mothers singing hymns of Zion; I can still feel the passion as the deacons pray and travail; and I can sense the jubilation of those who dance and leap in celebration. This is how they choose to express their faith. I want my legal career to serve as my expression of faith.
Last edited by wlee1220 on Mon Jul 08, 2013 1:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

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laotze
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby laotze » Fri Jul 05, 2013 1:18 am

"The community surrounding the church seemed to proclaim an altogether different message. The urban decay, poverty and drug abuse that plagued my hometown boldly declared that neither my Jesus or his hope were welcome there."

I'm a little confused by this passage. How do any of those things inherently indicate an animosity toward Jesus or Christianity? Impoverished populations of the United States are among the most deeply religious groups in the country statistically speaking, and from my own experience living in such low-income areas I can attest that Christian faith is an often inescapable trait of those communities.
I don't know, it just strikes a strange (and maybe potentially offensive?) chord with me compared to the rest of the statement.

I would echo others here in repeating what I have been told by deans, that religious statements should be avoided as a rule. But I would also mention that I broke that rule myself and did pretty well with acceptances anyway, so if you feel comfortable taking your chances then by all means go for it.

wlee1220
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby wlee1220 » Fri Jul 05, 2013 1:48 am

Basically what I was trying to say was that my neighbor's lived experiences contradict my notions and understanding of how God wants people to live in community and the world. Their oppression in my opinion goes against God's will for them. But I don't want to get into a theological debate on that.

Also, your point is interesting because no one else picked up on that. Actually, my hometown is surprisingly unaffiliated withwith religion given it's demographics. Most of the people that attend church and other places of worship here commute from the outside. I think a recent statistic I found said that 1/2 the people here are either agnostic or atheist

To your point on the statement itself, I am looking to do a joint degree in theology so I'm tailoring it to that crowd as well. But I wrote another statement that is not religious; I just feel this one is stronger. But I will use that one instead of this one for certain schools.

nugnoy
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby nugnoy » Fri Jul 05, 2013 7:58 pm

Personal notes
1. I think religion is fine the way you're handling it. The key to appear reasonable and not religious is to introduce religion concisely, then quickly show your "doubt/reservation/questioning" stage. Basically, focus on your reaction to religion and coming to peace with it, not on the initial faith or blind adherence to it. I think OP does a pretty good job in not sounding religious, although I'm sure a better writer than me could concretely improve the essay in this respect.
2. I read your entire original and commented on it. Then when I came to post my comments, I realized you had done 2 rewrites -. -. This experience taught me that maybe if I have done a rewrite, I should somehow prevent newer proofreaders from analyzing my original draft. I'd probably take the original down, since it's not crucially relevant, and write that there's a rewrite in a later post.



1. "Yet I relish...But I love..." The contrasting "but" isn't that necessary. Yet and But back to back feels repetitive.

2. You don't define "one" anymore, so it just seems kinda hanging.

3. wondering how others can feel your joy sounds pompous. And it doesn't make that much sense to me. Are you saying your neighbors should not be able to feel the same joy but they do?

Maybe they don't feel it, so wondering how they feel do feel it seems out of place. After reading your initial draft, I feel like I know where you're going, but I don't feel this is the best way to express it.

4. Since you didn't express your faith at all, it makes little sense to say "other, less obtrusive ways." Instead, "I realized that there IS a way to express my faith" may be more appropriate.

5. Sickened has sort of a bad connotation to me. My personal suggestion is to consider a different word like horrified.

6. Debris and human waste are unclear. I thought "human waste" would be human feces. But after reading "left BY maintenance" I'm not sure. Did the maintenance urinate/take a dump in the stairwell corners?

smaller note, countertops covered with mold and wet sheetrock littered throughout don't give me a strong impression. This is where you might benefit from using maybe 60% of the strength of a word like "sicken" - connotations like graphic or disgusting.

7. There are so many contrasting conjunctions. #1 above in intro, and also in the heartbroken paragraph, there is 1 contrasting conjunction every 2 sentences, with 3 howevers. Try to make the writing less twist-and-turn-y, and consider other words like "unfortunately."

8. Afford the fees they estimated/assessed/appraised is more precise and appropriate than envisioned if the nonprofit actually tried to calculate/estimate the cost. Did the nonprofit literally just imagine the cost would be large?

9. Confront the powers necessary to bring meaningful change? Don't you want to bring about meaningful change? So you wouldn't want to confront it. You'd want to embrace/use/utilize/harness it.

10. advocate for the least of these? What does "these" refer to? competent lawyers ? uphill battles? Former doesn't make sense. The latter is just too far from "these."

11. Shouldn't be predetermined based on the color of their skin? Where is this from? Nothing I've read relates to skin color. If you want to tie this into the people/families from 4th paragraph, you need to make it clear their lives were forced on them because of the color of their skin.

12. constitutes my team's lived experiences. I think it's just bad way to express what you want to say

13. I think the last sentence is the core of what ties your essay into law. But right now it's placed very abruptly and awkwardly ("I want X" is not the best last sentence imo). Also, it doesn't give a nice, warm, finishing feeling for me.

14. Backtracking a bit, you gained small victories in an effort for a rich slumlord to save face? What? Do you mean you won because you wanted to save the reputation of a rich slumlord? Or because the rich slumlord wanted to save his own reputation? It's not clear to me from this whose effort it was and why this would help you win.

Edited bolded parts...typos

akg144
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Re: Religious Personal Statement...PLEASE HELP!!

Postby akg144 » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:50 pm

-
Last edited by akg144 on Sun Jul 07, 2013 9:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.




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