PS Topic: Life Changing Event or Description of Time Off?

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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Joined: Thu Jul 11, 2013 1:59 pm

PS Topic: Life Changing Event or Description of Time Off?

Postby karmapolicelady » Thu Jul 11, 2013 2:11 pm

Hi everyone,

Hopefully this applies to other people and not just to me, because I don't want to clog up the forum with super self-specific questions. I'm getting ready to write my personal statement and I'm trying to decide on a topic. I was either thinking of writing about a life-altering event (the suicide of someone very close to me and how it changed my life and relates to my own struggles with depression), or I was thinking of explaining what I did with my time off between graduating from college and applying to law school. The description of my time off wouldn't really recount my résumé since graduating but would be a more broad explanation of why I felt it was so important for me to take a few years off and how I have used this time, the difficulties I have faced, the revelations of the past year and how this will change my approach to law school. I have done a lot of creative writing so I would hopefully make it enjoyable to read and come up with some amazing conclusion about life today in America for recent graduates/people living on a low income (now I just have to actually come up with that conclusion... haha). I'm worried that the topic of 'suicide' might be too dramatic (even though I really don't think it is!) or 'controversial' for a personal statement.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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Joined: Mon Oct 15, 2012 10:19 pm

Re: PS Topic: Life Changing Event or Description of Time Off?

Postby nugnoy » Thu Jul 11, 2013 5:07 pm

1. Talking about suicide of someone else and how it affected you is fine - it's neither controversial nor dramatic at all.
Were you yourself suicidal? If that's the case, a writing on it could indicate that you're unstable. Even if you state that you're not suicidal any more, your stability is not something that can be supported by words - it needs to be supported by facts and documents. And once you bring the possibility of instability on the table, I don't think you can take it off with 100% certainty.

2. I think writing about your time off is especially beneficial if your resume doesn't inform the reader what you've done in that time. For example, I've been working on remodeling a house for my family to sell. I do the same things a person who works for a remodeling company might do, but because it's not an official business I can't write it as work experience. So, from my resume alone it seems like I have 1 year gap that wasn't addressed. If I were to write about this, it would not only tell a story but it would also say that this is what I've been doing during that year.

On the other hand, if you have official work experience or list-able experience throughout your gap years, there's really no extra benefit to get from writing about those experiences in your personal statement. You should just write about whatever that can make the strongest statement (bonus points if it leads to law, but not necessary depending on prompts).

Of course, flowing through your resume experience should be easier because those items will serve as concrete examples. If you didn't describe those examples, your PS may bring them to life and make your application seem more "complete" and "whole" - your PS complements your resume rather than being totally unrelated.

3. I'm not too sure what you mean by "creative writing" (I'm a neurosci major). I've read some PSs being sort of creative, but many end up being cute and annoying or pointless and cringe-worthy.

4. If you're thinking about writing about A or B, and A took place 8 years ago whereas B took place in the last 4 years, I'd write about B (if they seem to be equally good).

As for your ultimate question, it's too general. What you've told us is very little and not very important. Consider the following factors:

1. Is this story supportable by concrete facts (numbers, official documents, etc.)? Or is it going to be a subjective topic? Generally I'd advise you to write the former.
2. What's the ultimate message? Whether it is productive, noble, enlightening, etc., it should be positive. It would be good if it gave you a future direction (doesn't have to be law - maybe you just want to help people with low income. It'd make your application more natural though if it did connect to law school).
3. Are you gonna have too little substance? too much? I'd advise you to write the latter case.

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Joined: Thu Jul 11, 2013 1:59 pm

Re: PS Topic: Life Changing Event or Description of Time Off?

Postby karmapolicelady » Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:04 am

Thanks for your advice, that makes sense. I think I'll go with writing about my experiences since graduating from college.

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