Probably my final personal statement topic.. please critique

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afnaidel
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Probably my final personal statement topic.. please critique

Postby afnaidel » Tue Jun 18, 2013 11:37 am

I tried to combine as many unique characteristics and stories as possible in this essay, so I think it got somewhat condensed and lost a lot of powerful sentences, stories, etc. But I still believe this is better than what I have written in the past for personal statements.
Still, I don't think this is better than some of the best writings I've done in college, so please help me making it better.

---

As I walk toward my new partner, we glance at each other and blush. Even after years of dancing, this embarrassing stage never disappears. As we move into the tango position, my hands embrace her hands and my chest touches her chest. We blush even more and avoid eye contacts to minimize awkwardness we’re experiencing. However, everything changes as the music starts and we take our first steps. I walk forward as the downbeat hits. She pauses as the break hits. I readjust my pose to accommodate her. We continue to negotiate; as the music changes its flow, she pushes this time and I walk backward. We repeat the process and discover each other more with every step and movements we negotiate. After a certain point, we feel as if we had been a couple for a long time. This is the magic of tango which I love dearly; it connects two strangers as if they were one being from the beginning. Learning tango and discovering its magic were some of the best experiences I acquired in college. There is, however, another magic that fascinated me: the relationship between law and society, which I later found it to be remarkably similar to tango.

Living abroad for a long time provides many interesting experiences, but the most interesting one for me was a unique chance to observe how a society changes. When someone live continuously in a given society, noticing on-going changes in the society is often difficult because he/she is inside the society. However, the occasions of visiting South Korea, my country of origin, once a year for the last 6 years of living in America enabled me to notice dramatic societal changes occurring in the Korean society. For example, one of the most noticeable changes was how men changed their attitudes toward women. A typical Korean man I used to remember viewed a woman as a subordinate to him, but every year I observed more men treating, or at least pretending to treat, women equally. Observing changes such as this intrigued me to seek what causes the changes and how to sustain a stream of such beneficial changes for humanity. Throughout the course of study in college, I sought after for an answer, but I only had a vague idea until the South Korean army drafted me last year.

In the late summer of 2012, I began my mandatory military service as a citizen of South Korea. When I arrived at my unit after the basic training, I discovered that my unit still had many undesirable “traditions” like daily physical and verbal abuses among the enlisted, non-commissioned officers treating the enlisted as their personal servants, and more. Though I was lucky to avoid most of the absurdities, watching others suffering was a horrifying experience. After decades of incidents, the army enacted new military laws prohibiting such absurdities, but officers in charge of imposing them ignored the new laws often. Then, everything changed when abused soldiers deserted the unit and the army replaced my unit’s commander with a veteran from a front-line unit to solve the issues. The new commander imposed military laws strictly, sent abusers to military prison, and called for a respecting culture. At first, senior enlisted soldiers talked about none of these acts having any effect on long-existed “traditions.” However, only several months after the changes, even soldiers who have been in the army the longest began to accept the new rule and culture for granted; and it led me to an interesting observation.

Over the course of the episode, I found the whole process remarkably similar to tango. Just like in tango, two strangers meet: a newly enacted law and a long-existed culture in a given society. At first, they try to avoid each other like new dance partners avoiding each other. Then, something or someone force the two to get together: in the case of tango, by a desire to dance, and in the case of my unit, by the new commander. As soon as the two began to “dance,” they negotiate with each other until they feel comfortable and natural with each other. After a certain point, the two are indistinguishable as if they were the same being from the beginning. In the case of my unit, we combined the new laws we once ignored with the existing culture and eventually created one respecting culture.

This interesting resemblance led me to contemplate about the relationship between law and society deeply. I began to believe law initiated other societal changes I observed over the visitations to Korea; for example, on-going “tango” of the existing tradition and the newly imposed domestic violence laws probably caused the changes I observed in the behavior of Korean men toward women. This new insight on the resemblance between tango and the relationship of law and society led me to desire further study of law. At this point, I’m not particularly set on what field of law I would be studying. Nonetheless, by continuing my journey of discovering how law and society tango with each other, I’m hoping to find the best way to persist streams of beneficial changes in whatever part of the society I’ll be working.

--
Thanks.

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Tigress
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Re: Probably my final personal statement topic.. please critique

Postby Tigress » Tue Jun 18, 2013 7:56 pm

Nice

However, I don't think you sustained the linkage between tango and law throughout your statement. You abruptly started talking about Korea. Make the analogy stronger.

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jselson
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Re: Probably my final personal statement topic.. please critique

Postby jselson » Tue Jun 18, 2013 10:28 pm

I think the analogy between the two fields is a bit of a stretch, but what really concerned me was that the juxtaposition between dance and some crazy military stuff is really jarring. One's horrifying and one's pleasant, so combining the two as similar makes the tone just feel off - each sections works fairly well by itself, but together, it's off-puttinig.

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afnaidel
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Re: Probably my final personal statement topic.. please critique

Postby afnaidel » Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:10 am

Thanks for the advice. I knew that I might went too far trying to mix several different stories/topics.

I'll try to revise some parts so the whole thing is not as jarring as you suggest.

Or maybe I'll just focus on one of these two:
1. How tango led me into seeking the relationship between law and society (basically getting rid of the military part)
The advantage of this choice, I believe, is that it provides an interesting beginning to the essay. I studied journalism as an undergraduate, so I'm somewhat obsessed with such beginnings. But the problem with this choice is that as you mentioned, it's a bit of a stretch.

2. How my experiences in the military led me into seeking the relationship between law and society (basically getting rid of the tango part)
The advantage of this choice is probably the shock factor you mentioned. But I fear that the overall tone might be too depressing.


If I might ask, which one is better?

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jselson
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Re: Probably my final personal statement topic.. please critique

Postby jselson » Wed Jun 19, 2013 12:32 am

afnaidel wrote:Thanks for the advice. I knew that I might went too far trying to mix several different stories/topics.

I'll try to revise some parts so the whole thing is not as jarring as you suggest.

Or maybe I'll just focus on one of these two:
1. How tango led me into seeking the relationship between law and society (basically getting rid of the military part)
The advantage of this choice, I believe, is that it provides an interesting beginning to the essay. I studied journalism as an undergraduate, so I'm somewhat obsessed with such beginnings. But the problem with this choice is that as you mentioned, it's a bit of a stretch.

2. How my experiences in the military led me into seeking the relationship between law and society (basically getting rid of the tango part)
The advantage of this choice is probably the shock factor you mentioned. But I fear that the overall tone might be too depressing.


If I might ask, which one is better?


I like the second approach better since it engages an immediate empathetic response in the reader and the connection is extremely clear and logical. The first approach, by contrast, engages an aesthetic response that may not work and uses the "surprise" factor. And in the end, the first approach seems pretty tenuous - it shows a creative side to you, and a creative way of thinking, but the analogy itself rings pretty hollow to me (ie., the link is not much more THAN an analogy, and the connection may be hard for a reader to identify with).

At the same time, I wrote my PS in large part about the similarities and connections between reading poetry and reading law, so I think stretches can work (or at least not hurt), but that made clear sense within the framework of my academic background. I don't see that same clear connection here.

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aldiddy
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Re: Probably my final personal statement topic.. please critique

Postby aldiddy » Thu Jun 20, 2013 10:20 am

OP, I am also currently working on my personal statement and, although my content is drastically different, I am attempting a VERY similar structure as that of your posted PS. I think this approach is possible, but difficult. I'm attempting to relate my artwork to my scientific research and then relate both to law to depict my interest.

I'm still beginning my first rough draft and my PS has the EXACT same blatant issues that yours has: the switch from one topic to the other is drastic and abrubt, the analogy is not strong throughout, and sensible continuity is not present throughout the paper.

If you decide to keep your original structure I think we could both benefit from critiquing one another's evolving personal statement drafts. Let me know if you are interested!

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aldiddy
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Re: Probably my final personal statement topic.. please critique

Postby aldiddy » Thu Jun 20, 2013 2:24 pm

jselson, it sounds like you took an approach to your personal statement that is similair to the way I am approaching my PS (perhaps without the two contrasting topics). Would you mind pm'ing your personal statement, or at least providing the structure and detailed approach that you took?

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Tekrul
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Re: Probably my final personal statement topic.. please critique

Postby Tekrul » Fri Jun 21, 2013 12:28 am

afnaidel wrote:I tried to combine as many unique characteristics and stories as possible in this essay, so I think it got somewhat condensed and lost a lot of powerful sentences, stories, etc. But I still believe this is better than what I have written in the past for personal statements.
Still, I don't think this is better than some of the best writings I've done in college, so please help me making it better.

---

As I walk toward my new partner, we glance at each other and blush. Even after years of dancing, this embarrassing stage never disappears. As we move into the tango position, my hands embrace her hands and my chest touches her chest. We blush even more and avoid eye contacts to minimize awkwardness we’re experiencing. However, everything changes as the music starts and we take our first steps. I walk forward as the downbeat hits. She pauses as the break hits. I readjust my pose to accommodate her. We continue to negotiate; as the music changes its flow, she pushes this time and I walk backward. We repeat the process and discover each other more with every step and movements we negotiate. After a certain point, we feel as if we had been a couple for a long time. This is the magic of tango which I love dearly; it connects two strangers as if they were one being from the beginning. Learning tango and discovering its magic was one of the best experiences I had in college. There is, however, another magic that fascinated me: the relationship between law and society, which I later found it to be remarkably similar to tango.

Living abroad for a long time provides many interesting experiences, but the most interesting one for me was a unique chance to observe how a society changes. When someone lives continuously in a given society, noticing on-going changes in the society is often difficult because he/she is inside the society. It is easier to observe the NYC skyline from across the river. (I added this suggestion for visual expression) However, the occasions of visiting South Korea, my country of origin, once a year for the last 6 years of living in America enabled me to notice dramatic societal changes occurring in the Korean society. For example, one of the most noticeable changes was how men changed their attitudes toward women. A typical Korean man I used to remember viewed a woman as a subordinate to him, but every year I observed more men treating, or at least pretending to treat, women equally. Observing changes such as these intrigued me to seek what causes the changes and how to sustain a stream of such beneficial changes for humanity. Throughout the course of study in college, I sought after for an answer, but I only had a vague idea until the South Korean army drafted me last year.

In the late summer of 2012, I began my mandatory military service as a citizen of South Korea. When I arrived at my unit after the basic training, I discovered that my unit still had many undesirable “traditions” like daily physical and verbal abuses among the enlisted, non-commissioned officers treating the enlisted as their personal servants, and more. Though I was lucky to avoid most of the absurdities, watching others suffering was a horrifying experience. After decades of incidents, the army enacted new military laws prohibiting such absurdities, but officers in charge of imposing them ignored the new laws often. Then, everything changed when abused soldiers deserted the unit and the army replaced my unit’s commander with a veteran from a front-line unit to solve the issues. The new commander imposed military laws strictly, sent abusers to military prison, and called for a respecting culture. At first, senior enlisted soldiers talked about none of these acts having any effect on long-existed “traditions.” However, only several months after the changes, even soldiers who have been in the army the longest began to accept the new rule and culture for granted; and it led me to an interesting observation.

Over the course of the episode, I found the whole process remarkably similar to tango. Just like in tango, two strangers meet: a newly enacted law and a long-existed culture in a given society. At first, they try to avoid each other like new dance partners avoiding each other. Then, something or someone forces the two to get together: in the case of tango, by a desire to dance, and in the case of my unit, by the new commander. As soon as the two begin to “dance,” they negotiate with each other until they feel comfortable and natural with each other. After a certain point, the two are indistinguishable as if they were the same being from the beginning. In the case of my unit, we combined the new laws we once ignored with the existing culture and eventually created one respectful culture.

This interesting resemblance led me to contemplate about the relationship between law and society deeply. I began to believe law initiated other societal changes I observed over the course of my visitations to Korea; for example, the on-going “tango” of the existing tradition and the newly imposed domestic violence laws probably caused the changes I observed in the behavior of Korean men toward women. This new insight on the resemblance between tango and the relationship of law and society led me to desire further study of law. At this point, I’m not particularly set on what field of law I would be studying. Nonetheless, by continuing my journey of discovering how law and society tango with each other, I’m hoping to find the best way to perpetuate the streams of beneficial changes in whatever part of the society I’ll be working.

--
Thanks.



Mostly did some grammatical stuff, placed in red. Re-arranging a few words may have taken a little bit of the 'foreign' sound out (this is usually what I do when editing Korean and Chinese home-stay high school students when they apply for UG), but I left it because you have a strong grasp on English language anyway and the few instances of it kind of lend authenticity and voice to your statement. I was skeptical of the connection you made between tango and law in your introduction and wasn't really satisfied by the time the introduction ended. But, damn you pulled it together in the essay, I enjoyed reading it. If you could find a way to strengthen up the intro, to avoid that eye-rolling-dismissal response, that would tighten up the statement a lot.

FWIW, I used a similar structure to my PS. I began with a recollection of D1 fencing, and what it took to get to that level, and brought it into the realm of business, then into law. It is not farfetched to interconnect these various aspects of your life and unify them into a single expression of your personality. In fact, I believe it is advantageous to show your range of transferable skills across many disciplines, which is why I chose to write my essay in the same fashion you have written yours. But the posters above me have a fair point - as they have mentioned, the link between tango and law is quite a stretch when you first introduce it.

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smdpnp
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Re: Probably my final personal statement topic.. please critique

Postby smdpnp » Fri Jun 21, 2013 2:41 pm

Re-arranging a few words may have taken a little bit of the 'foreign' sound out (this is usually what I do when editing Korean and Chinese home-stay high school students when they apply for UG), but I left it because you have a strong grasp on English language anyway and the few instances of it kind of lend authenticity and voice to your statement.


I didn't get any ESL vibes from this essay. OP, I would rewrite most of the essay with jselson's advice in mind.




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