In the very earliest stages... (poll added)

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )

Where do I stand?

Throw it out immediately, you're way off on this one.
4
100%
Far from being what it needs to be, but potentially usable.
0
No votes
Solid start, needs serious revision.
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 4

Anonymous User
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In the very earliest stages... (poll added)

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 05, 2013 6:31 pm

Don't bother with grammatical errors or wording. I'm just wondering if this'll do for the T14 and what strategies I need to employ or eliminate. Please don't quote. Any advice is much appreciated!


“Victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat.” I printed Malcolm Forbes’ quote out and stuck it on my wall in the summer of 2009, just after I got kicked out of the Honors program, stripped of my scholarships, and nearly forced to move back home by my parents. It was not my finest hour and to be honest, I printed that quote out as a desperate measure to keep hope alive. After all, I was really getting to know defeat: I had just rattled off two years of 2.7 GPA, complete with several Withdrawals. The story of how I tasted victory and the fact that I can confirm Forbes’ quote through my own experience have redefined my life and made me into the man I am today. Most importantly, my experience has instilled in me a deep desire to lead others to personally savor victory at its sweetest.

I was born into a stable two-parent home and attended public school in an affluent, mostly white suburb in <RURAL TOWN>. I went off to XYZ school never having had much experience with other cultures- one of the great shortcomings of my hometown. The diversity at XYZ and the wide array of activities to get involved in was remarkable, and regrettably my “studies” took a backseat. My favorite pastime was always basketball and in <CITY>, I found an entirely new aspect of the sport.

The streets of <CITY> are alive with ball players and it was there among almost exclusively young African-American men that I had my most formative interactions. It was on those basketball courts, where I was typically the only white player and XYZ student, that I discovered one of America’s great tragedies. It took time for me to earn the respect of my peers, but eventually we came to a mutual understanding. After that, all that mattered was what I could do on the court, and not how different we were off the court. Here was where I made the most simple, yet profound revelation: I could have just as easily been born into any one of their lives, but I was not, and I had absolutely no control over that. I was lucky enough to be a student at one of the world’s foremost research institutions, a place where any one of those young men would have done anything to attend, and I was on the verge of throwing it all away.

It occurred to me that while I was always good at school, I was rarely passionate about it. While in high school and early in college, I never thought of education as anything more than simply a necessary requirement for a successful career. My experiences on the basketball court changed this completely. Education can be a tool to achieve transformation and equality and I made up my mind that I would never take education lightly again. It was around this time that I discovered Teach For America, but I was also very much aware that a C-student who played a lot of basketball was not going anywhere fast. I overhauled my habits, got a job, took out loans, and found myself on a mission to do something about the problem I became aware of on the court. For the first time, my academics became purposeful and passionate.

Nearly three years later, in my final quarter as an undergraduate student, I finally started to understand what Forbes was talking about. I was accepted into TFA and placed as an upper-level math teacher at <HIGH SCHOOL> in <NEW CITY>. Around that time, I was readmitted to the Honors program, regained my old scholarship, and even achieved Latin honors on my two degrees from XYZ school, carrying a 3.85 grade point average through my final three years. At long last I was able to savor a victory very few people saw coming. I eagerly looked towards my future in <NEW CITY>, where I might lead others to do the same.

<HIGH SCHOOL> exemplifies that great American tragedy that I had become privy to years earlier. In the same ways as before, I had to earn my keep as the only white man in the room. As before, basketball became my saving grace; students and staff alike saw me as someone who did not quite fit their preconceived notions. I fell in love with my students and every morning that I went to work I reminded myself that the job I had worked so hard for, that often worked so hard against me, was a great opportunity. Many of my students let me into their lives and I define my success in the classroom by the quality of relationships I’ve been able to forge with those students who have learned that passion and education can be a potent combination as they go out into the world.

During my last years at XYZ, I became fascinated by the law. The law can do many things, and originally I had no idea which way I wanted to pursue it, that is, until I reflected on the lessons I learned on the courts of <CITY> and revisited in the school system in <NEW CITY>. I was exposed to something I already knew, but didn’t ever truly feel: there are far too many young people in America without a father, without a home, without an education. All of those things, I took for granted, the last of which I almost threw away.

As my second year at <HIGH SCHOOL> approaches, I have come to understand that classroom teaching is not my calling. Each of my students has at least one major factor in their life that is preventing them from being all they can be, and nearly all of those issues occur outside the classroom. If I am to address these issues, I need to assume a larger role within the community. I want to use my leadership abilities, relentless perseverance, and experience in underserved populations to be someone to those young men and women who need it so badly, to become an advocate on their behalf. My students have known defeat better than anyone, but as I have shown them throughout last year, the victories that they achieve are sweet above all else.

My passion for my own education and the education of others, as well as my awareness and dedication to the struggles of our communities has led me to attend law school. If I am fortunate enough to be admitted to your law school, you will find that I have an incredible appreciation for all that I have experienced and the passion that I have derived from that will someday help me become the worthy advocate that our community needs to bring about change for our young men and women.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:18 pm, edited 3 times in total.

lmr
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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby lmr » Mon Aug 05, 2013 7:48 pm

Not to be mean but I think you need to come up with something other than the black-white bb thing and how you realized how fortunate you were that you weren't born black. It sounds condescending just cheap-looks like you are trying so hard to make yourself seem cultural or something. Im also not crazy about the forbes quote theme. Idk I think it just comes across as self-serving and insincere. *Don't take this personal, it's just the way my cynical self reads this. It's just my pov. Maybe try to be more personal, less dramatic language? It just seemed too structured.

rduffy5
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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby rduffy5 » Mon Aug 05, 2013 11:10 pm

Really think this is too long, and I agree with the previous comment.

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Nightrunner
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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby Nightrunner » Mon Aug 05, 2013 11:13 pm

You don't just need a re-write, you need an entirely different topic.

erik the viking
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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby erik the viking » Tue Aug 06, 2013 3:03 am

I like it. I think it would do fine as a topic for T-14. Definitely go for brevity and conciseness. You can probably condense this by half and make it more powerful in so doing. Also maybe highlight the social, economic, and structural inequalities rather than bringing up race directly. It's a fraught topic when referenced explicitly.

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 06, 2013 3:04 am

OP here. Thanks for reading. Why start over? Does that mean there's nothing to build off of? What parts are hurting me?

ETA: the length is certainly a problem, but I've read to have a 2 pager, 3 pager and 4 pager ready to go...no?

erik the viking
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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby erik the viking » Tue Aug 06, 2013 3:18 am

It's probably better not to focus on page length as much as what you what to say and how you can say it most powerfully.

The narrative of realizing your privilege and resolving to repair society is difficult do without alienating some people. It's really easy to come off as arrogant or as taking up the 'white man's burden.' I think you're well intentioned. You just need to tighten it up and be really mindful about stressing your humility. This might help:

http://whitepriv.blogspot.de/2010/02/10 ... -ally.html

blsingindisguise
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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby blsingindisguise » Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:52 am

I get the "white privilege" comments, but wouldn't those same comments apply to like 1/3 of law school essays? So many personal statements I've read on here is about how I helped Darius learn to love fractions or how I learned the value of physical labor while digging wells in little Margarita's village. In fact someone recently posted a YLS adcom article about how the "Teach For America" essay has become such a trope -- maybe there's something a bit too on-the-nose about the way the OP did it, but the subtexts are always the same -- benevolent white person helps underprivileged black kids and learns something about himself in the process too.

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby blsingindisguise » Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:57 am

Anyway, I think the bigger problem here is it's too long and trying to say too many different things. I actually do like the angle of a person who performed poorly in school in spite of privilege, then turned themselves around while doing TFA -- I think that's interesting and worth exploring more. I don't really think the Forbes quote is the point -- you didn't really "fail" so much as you didn't apply yourself. It sounds to me more like you matured a little because you realized the gifts you had been given and that you were squandering them, compared to people who had much less, and I think that's a good story.

I frowned a little though when I got to the part about realizing after only a year or two of teaching that it's "not your calling" and that somehow this all led you to want to be a lawyer -- it's very vague and makes you sound flighty. I'd leave it out.

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby blsingindisguise » Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:00 am

btw I also kind of was interested in the local pickup basketball part of the story -- maybe just because I'm a basketball fan and because I do the same thing -- but perhaps you could expand that part a little.

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:21 pm

OP here. By on-the-nose, do you mean the same as an earlier poster who said being too direct about race issues is a problem?

Thanks for all of the replies. So far, assuming I shouldn't throw the whole thing out, I need to trim it down by as much as half, tread a bit more carefully when discussing race issues, rethink the use of the quote, and make the transition to why law school a bit more clear?

I'd like to hear more opinions if you get a chance!

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby Nightrunner » Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:24 pm

All right, man - I'm bored and you apparently don't know how bad this is, so let's have at it.

WARNING: annoyed former writing teacher here. FYI: I can go back and edit out the quotes later on.

“Victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat.” I printed Malcolm Forbes’ quote out and stuck it on my wall in the summer of 2009, just after I got kicked out of the Honors program, stripped of my scholarships, and nearly forced to move back home by my parents. It was not my finest hour and to be honest, I printed that quote out as a desperate measure to keep hope alive. After all, I was really getting to know defeat: I had just rattled off two years of 2.7 GPA, complete with several Withdrawals. The story of how I tasted victory and the fact that I can confirm Forbes’ quote through my own experience have redefined my life and made me into the man I am today. Most importantly, my experience has instilled in me a deep desire to lead others to personally savor victory at its sweetest.

OH GOOD, WE STARTED WITH A QUOTE. And I can see that we've begun a "this is an excuse for my transcript" essay. Two strikes in one paragraph. Excellent.

I was born into a stable two-parent home and attended public school in an affluent, mostly white suburb in <RURAL TOWN>. I went off to XYZ school never having had much experience with other cultures- one of the great shortcomings of my hometown. The diversity at XYZ and the wide array of activities to get involved in was remarkable, and regrettably my “studies” took a backseat. My favorite pastime was always basketball and in <CITY>, I found an entirely new aspect of the sport.

Another apology for your transcript. Also: you realize this is your one window to say something about you that will lead me to believe you're going to be a rock star in law school and a solid contributor to the legal community upon graduation, right? And you've used two paragraphs to tell me "white kid, stable family, likes basketball, shitty GPA." As an AdComm, I already knew you were a white kid with a shitty GPA. So you used two paragraphs to add "my family is stable and I like basketball."

The streets of <CITY> are alive with ball players and it was there among almost exclusively young African-American men that I had my most formative interactions. It was on those basketball courts, where I was typically the only white player and XYZ student, that I discovered one of America’s great tragedies.

OK I'm pausing this mid-paragraph: wut. What the fuck is "one of America's great tragedies?" And how in the shit have you managed to grow through high school and into adulthood without "discovering" it?
It took time for me to earn the respect of my peers, but eventually we came to a mutual understanding. After that, all that mattered was what I could do on the court, and not how different we were off the court. Here was where I made the most simple, yet profound revelation: I could have just as easily been born into any one of their lives, but I was not, and I had absolutely no control over that. I was lucky enough to be a student at one of the world’s foremost research institutions, a place where any one of those young men would have done anything to attend, and I was on the verge of throwing it all away.

You haven't told me what this "great tragedy" is. You haven't even identified a single attribute about these poor, poor people who deserve your white-guilt-pity yet, other than "they don't go to one of the world's foremost research institutions" (lol) and that they're black. Is being black one of America's great tragedies? How the fuck did you go your whole life without "discovering" black people?

Here's a good way to approach essay writing: you need to ask yourself what, exactly, the reader is going to learn about you from each paragraph. And then you need to make sure that what the reader is learning about you is something that makes the reader want to admit you to their school. This paragraph has added absolutely nothing positive about you, and depending on how carefully someone dissects the language you use, it might have added some serious negative points.

It occurred to me that while I was always good at school, I was rarely passionate about it.

Congratulations, you're the same as, like, 60% of the people applying to law school.

While in high school and early in college, I never thought of education as anything more than simply a necessary requirement for a successful career. My experiences on the basketball court changed this completely. Education can be a tool to achieve transformation and equality and I made up my mind that I would never take education lightly again.

WHAT EXPERIENCES ON A BASKETBALL COURT?!? You haven't actually told a goddamn story yet. Just that you balled with some black bros, whose stories were also not told, but whose lives qualify as some undiscovered and indistinct Great American Tragedy™. This better be going somewhere.

It was around this time that I discovered Teach For America, but I was also very much aware that a C-student who played a lot of basketball was not going anywhere fast. I overhauled my habits, got a job, took out loans, and found myself on a mission to do something about the problem I became aware of on the court. For the first time, my academics became purposeful and passionate.

OH GOOD, THE ILL-FITTING NON-SEQUITUR TO TFA! You haven't identified a problem (other than blackness), you haven't described how it actually instigated your passion, and you haven't connected a single dot of the random array of facts you have given me so far. This essay just screams "I'm looking for some backstory that makes my Teach For America gig look extra noble." SPOILER: this has been done hundreds (thousands?) of times, and most people tell a much better backstory than "I was balling with some black bros."

Nearly three years later, in my final quarter as an undergraduate student, I finally started to understand what Forbes was talking about. I was accepted into TFA and placed as an upper-level math teacher at <HIGH SCHOOL> in <NEW CITY>. Around that time, I was readmitted to the Honors program, regained my old scholarship, and even achieved Latin honors on my two degrees from XYZ school, carrying a 3.85 grade point average through my final three years. At long last I was able to savor a victory very few people saw coming. I eagerly looked towards my future in <NEW CITY>, where I might lead others to do the same.

Riddle me this: what does this paragraph tell me about you that I don't already know from reviewing your transcript and resume?

<HIGH SCHOOL> exemplifies that great American tragedy that I had become privy to years earlier. In the same ways as before, I had to earn my keep as the only white man in the room. As before, basketball became my saving grace; students and staff alike saw me as someone who did not quite fit their preconceived notions. I fell in love with my students and every morning that I went to work I reminded myself that the job I had worked so hard for, that often worked so hard against me, was a great opportunity. Many of my students let me into their lives and I define my success in the classroom by the quality of relationships I’ve been able to forge with those students who have learned that passion and education can be a potent combination as they go out into the world.

I'd like to point out that again you have completely failed to identify a tragedy. You just talk about being in a non-white place. That's not a tragedy (unless you actually enjoy "Accidental Racist" or something, but even then it should be do-able). The last 2/3 of the paragraph takes what might actually be an interesting story (or five) that would tell me something about you and squishes it into a few blasé, completely abstract sentences.

During my last years at XYZ, I became fascinated by the law. The law can do many things, and originally I had no idea which way I wanted to pursue it, that is, until I reflected on the lessons I learned on the courts of <CITY> and revisited in the school system in <NEW CITY>. I was exposed to something I already knew, but didn’t ever truly feel: there are far too many young people in America without a father, without a home, without an education. All of those things, I took for granted, the last of which I almost threw away.

Look: you don't have to necessarily answer "why law." But if you are going to answer "why law," you should actually answer. "Society is imperfect and the law can do stuff" says some things about you, sure, but few of those things are good.

As my second year at <HIGH SCHOOL> approaches, I have come to understand that classroom teaching is not my calling. Each of my students has at least one major factor in their life that is preventing them from being all they can be, and nearly all of those issues occur outside the classroom. If I am to address these issues, I need to assume a larger role within the community.

OK, so "life outside of school" needs fixing. I'm down with that. You're going to use the law to do that...how, exactly? This sounds like an application essay for a Masters in Social Work.

I want to use my leadership abilities, relentless perseverance, and experience in underserved populations to be someone to those young men and women who need it so badly, to become an advocate on their behalf. My students have known defeat better than anyone, but as I have shown them throughout last year, the victories that they achieve are sweet above all else.

Remember that old "Show, don't tell" thing? How have you shown me leadership abilities? How have you shown me "relentless perseverance?" Personally, I'm not sold on the "I fucked around with my opportunities but life was safe for me and I was never really at risk of losing those opportunities, and then I started trying for, like, two whole years!" as a tale of relentless perseverance. I'm learning that you want to be a role model for underprivileged kids. That's good. Although that sounds like the sort of role for, I don't know, SOMEONE WHO TEACHES KIDS AND ACTUALLY INTERACTS WITH THEM. If that were your driving goal, you'd stick in education. I'm not dumb, and neither are AdComms. This entire paragraph is self-aggrandizing bullshit.

My passion for my own education and the education of others, as well as my awareness and dedication to the struggles of our communities has led me to attend law school. If I am fortunate enough to be admitted to your law school, you will find that I have an incredible appreciation for all that I have experienced and the passion that I have derived from that will someday help me become the worthy advocate that our community needs to bring about change for our young men and women.

Again: what am I learning about you from this paragraph? Because I think what I'm getting is "I'm an educator who swears he is passionate about education, but I'm leaving education to fix unspecified problems in society through some plan I either (a) do not have or (b) have not articulated." In general, this whole essay gives off the impression that you don't really want to be a lawyer, that you're going to law school because your TFA is up and you are reasonably good at standardized tests and you don't know what else to do.

My advice: pick a story that actually shows the reader who you are, and what motivates you, and tell that story instead. If you are actually set on being a lawyer (which, to be honest, I'm still uncertain about), then tell us why. Tell us what the fuck you actually want to do. If you're uncertain, and you're just leaping toward law school because you don't know, then that's fair enough -- avoid the "why law" bit and just tell us who you are. But don't give some half-cocked, detail-free "society's got problems, especially minorities, and I'm gonna fix it with that there J.D." like it actually says anything about you or why you want to be a part of my law school.

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:25 pm

lmr wrote:Not to be mean but I think you need to come up with something other than the black-white bb thing and how you realized how fortunate you were that you weren't born black. It sounds condescending just cheap-looks like you are trying so hard to make yourself seem cultural or something. Im also not crazy about the forbes quote theme. Idk I think it just comes across as self-serving and insincere. *Don't take this personal, it's just the way my cynical self reads this. It's just my pov. Maybe try to be more personal, less dramatic language? It just seemed too structured.



Thanks for the advice. The fact is, it's tricky to write about TFA without it sounding like the usual TFA PS. I don't want to sound cheap or self-serving or insincere. How could I word some things to make this less "dramatic"?

whynot123
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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby whynot123 » Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:27 pm

blsingindisguise wrote:Anyway, I think the bigger problem here is it's too long and trying to say too many different things. I actually do like the angle of a person who performed poorly in school in spite of privilege, then turned themselves around while doing TFA -- I think that's interesting and worth exploring more. I don't really think the Forbes quote is the point -- you didn't really "fail" so much as you didn't apply yourself. It sounds to me more like you matured a little because you realized the gifts you had been given and that you were squandering them, compared to people who had much less, and I think that's a good story.

I frowned a little though when I got to the part about realizing after only a year or two of teaching that it's "not your calling" and that somehow this all led you to want to be a lawyer -- it's very vague and makes you sound flighty. I'd leave it out.



I agree with blsdingindisguise, it seems that there is alot of different points you are trying to make. Though, I also really like the basketball imagery and think you could go a little further with it.

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:40 pm

Nightrunner wrote:All right, man - I'm bored and you apparently don't know how bad this is, so let's have at it.

WARNING: annoyed former writing teacher here. FYI: I can go back and edit out the quotes later on.

“Victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat.” I printed Malcolm Forbes’ quote out and stuck it on my wall in the summer of 2009, just after I got kicked out of the Honors program, stripped of my scholarships, and nearly forced to move back home by my parents. It was not my finest hour and to be honest, I printed that quote out as a desperate measure to keep hope alive. After all, I was really getting to know defeat: I had just rattled off two years of 2.7 GPA, complete with several Withdrawals. The story of how I tasted victory and the fact that I can confirm Forbes’ quote through my own experience have redefined my life and made me into the man I am today. Most importantly, my experience has instilled in me a deep desire to lead others to personally savor victory at its sweetest.

OH GOOD, WE STARTED WITH A QUOTE. And I can see that we've begun a "this is an excuse for my transcript" essay. Two strikes in one paragraph. Excellent.

I was born into a stable two-parent home and attended public school in an affluent, mostly white suburb in <RURAL TOWN>. I went off to XYZ school never having had much experience with other cultures- one of the great shortcomings of my hometown. The diversity at XYZ and the wide array of activities to get involved in was remarkable, and regrettably my “studies” took a backseat. My favorite pastime was always basketball and in <CITY>, I found an entirely new aspect of the sport.

I guess this isn't terrible. Although this is the second excuse for your transcript already, and you haven't told me anything substantive about you yet. "White kid, stable family, likes basketball." You realize this is your one window to say something about you that will lead me to believe you're going to be a rock star in law school and a solid contributor to the legal community upon graduation, right? And you've used two paragraphs to tell me "white kid, stable family, likes basketball, shitty GPA." As an AdComm, I already knew you were a white kid with a shitty GPA. So you used two paragraphs to add "my family is stable and I like basketball."

The streets of <CITY> are alive with ball players and it was there among almost exclusively young African-American men that I had my most formative interactions. It was on those basketball courts, where I was typically the only white player and XYZ student, that I discovered one of America’s great tragedies.

OK I'm pausing this mid-paragraph: wut. What the fuck is "one of America's great tragedies?" And how in the shit have you managed to grow through high school and into adulthood without "discovering" it?
It took time for me to earn the respect of my peers, but eventually we came to a mutual understanding. After that, all that mattered was what I could do on the court, and not how different we were off the court. Here was where I made the most simple, yet profound revelation: I could have just as easily been born into any one of their lives, but I was not, and I had absolutely no control over that. I was lucky enough to be a student at one of the world’s foremost research institutions, a place where any one of those young men would have done anything to attend, and I was on the verge of throwing it all away.

You haven't told me what this "great tragedy" is. You haven't even identified a single attribute about these poor, poor people who deserve your white-guilt-pity yet, other than "they don't go to one of the world's foremost research institutions" (lol) and that they're black. Is being black one of America's great tragedies? How the fuck did you go your whole life without "discovering" black people?

Here's a good way to approach essay writing: you need to ask yourself what, exactly, the reader is going to learn about you from each paragraph. And then you need to make sure that what the reader is learning about you is something that makes the reader want to admit you to their school. This paragraph has added absolutely nothing positive about you, and depending on how carefully someone dissects the language you use, it might have added some serious negative points.

It occurred to me that while I was always good at school, I was rarely passionate about it.

Congratulations, you're the same as, like, 60% of the people applying to law school.

While in high school and early in college, I never thought of education as anything more than simply a necessary requirement for a successful career. My experiences on the basketball court changed this completely. Education can be a tool to achieve transformation and equality and I made up my mind that I would never take education lightly again.

WHAT EXPERIENCES ON A BASKETBALL COURT?!? You haven't actually told a goddamn story yet. Just that you balled with some black bros, whose stories were also not told, but whose lives qualify as some undiscovered and indistinct Great American Tragedy™. This better be going somewhere.

It was around this time that I discovered Teach For America, but I was also very much aware that a C-student who played a lot of basketball was not going anywhere fast. I overhauled my habits, got a job, took out loans, and found myself on a mission to do something about the problem I became aware of on the court. For the first time, my academics became purposeful and passionate.

OH GOOD, THE ILL-FITTING NON-SEQUITUR TO TFA! You haven't identified a problem (other than blackness), you haven't described how it actually instigated your passion, and you haven't connected a single dot of the random array of facts you have given me so far. This essay just screams "I'm looking for some backstory that makes my Teach For America gig look extra noble." SPOILER: this has been done hundreds of times, and most people tell a much better backstory than "I was balling with some black bros."

Nearly three years later, in my final quarter as an undergraduate student, I finally started to understand what Forbes was talking about. I was accepted into TFA and placed as an upper-level math teacher at <HIGH SCHOOL> in <NEW CITY>. Around that time, I was readmitted to the Honors program, regained my old scholarship, and even achieved Latin honors on my two degrees from XYZ school, carrying a 3.85 grade point average through my final three years. At long last I was able to savor a victory very few people saw coming. I eagerly looked towards my future in <NEW CITY>, where I might lead others to do the same.

Riddle me this: what does this paragraph tell me about you that I don't already know from reviewing your transcript and resume?

<HIGH SCHOOL> exemplifies that great American tragedy that I had become privy to years earlier. In the same ways as before, I had to earn my keep as the only white man in the room. As before, basketball became my saving grace; students and staff alike saw me as someone who did not quite fit their preconceived notions. I fell in love with my students and every morning that I went to work I reminded myself that the job I had worked so hard for, that often worked so hard against me, was a great opportunity. Many of my students let me into their lives and I define my success in the classroom by the quality of relationships I’ve been able to forge with those students who have learned that passion and education can be a potent combination as they go out into the world.

I'd like to point out that again you have completely failed to identify a tragedy. You just talk about being in a non-white place. That's not a tragedy (unless you actually enjoy "Accidental Racist" or something, but even then it should be do-able). The last 2/3 of the paragraph takes what might actually be an interesting story (or five) that would tell me something about you and squishes it into a few blasé, completely abstract sentences.

During my last years at XYZ, I became fascinated by the law. The law can do many things, and originally I had no idea which way I wanted to pursue it, that is, until I reflected on the lessons I learned on the courts of <CITY> and revisited in the school system in <NEW CITY>. I was exposed to something I already knew, but didn’t ever truly feel: there are far too many young people in America without a father, without a home, without an education. All of those things, I took for granted, the last of which I almost threw away.

Look: you don't have to necessarily answer "why law." But if you are going to answer "why law," you should actually answer. "Society is imperfect and the law can do stuff" says some things about you, sure, but few of those things are good.

As my second year at <HIGH SCHOOL> approaches, I have come to understand that classroom teaching is not my calling. Each of my students has at least one major factor in their life that is preventing them from being all they can be, and nearly all of those issues occur outside the classroom. If I am to address these issues, I need to assume a larger role within the community.

OK, so "life outside of school" needs fixing. I'm down with that. You're going to use the law to do that...how, exactly? This sounds like an application essay for a Masters in Social Work.

I want to use my leadership abilities, relentless perseverance, and experience in underserved populations to be someone to those young men and women who need it so badly, to become an advocate on their behalf. My students have known defeat better than anyone, but as I have shown them throughout last year, the victories that they achieve are sweet above all else.

Remember that old "Show, don't tell" thing? How have you shown me leadership abilities? How have you shown me "relentless perseverance?" Personally, I'm not sold on the "I fucked around with my opportunities but life was safe for me and I was never really at risk of losing those opportunities, and then I started trying for, like, two whole years!" as a tale of relentless perseverance. I'm learning that you want to be a role model for underprivileged kids. That's good. Although that sounds like the sort of role for, I don't know, SOMEONE WHO TEACHES KIDS AND ACTUALLY INTERACTS WITH THEM. If that were your driving goal, you'd stick in education. I'm not dumb, and neither are AdComms. This entire paragraph is self-aggrandizing bullshit.

My passion for my own education and the education of others, as well as my awareness and dedication to the struggles of our communities has led me to attend law school. If I am fortunate enough to be admitted to your law school, you will find that I have an incredible appreciation for all that I have experienced and the passion that I have derived from that will someday help me become the worthy advocate that our community needs to bring about change for our young men and women.

Again: what am I learning about you from this paragraph? Because I think what I'm getting is "I'm an educator who swears he is passionate about education, but I'm leaving education to fix unspecified problems in society through some plan I either (a) do not have or (b) have not articulated." In general, this whole essay gives off the impression that you don't really want to be a lawyer, that you're going to law school because your TFA is up and you are reasonably good at standardized tests and you don't know what else to do.

My advice: pick a story that actually shows the reader who you are, and what motivates you, and tell that story instead. If you are actually set on being a lawyer (which, to be honest, I'm still uncertain about), then tell us why. Tell us what the fuck you actually want to do. If you're uncertain, and you're just leaping toward law school because you don't know, then that's fair enough -- avoid the "why law" bit and just tell us who you are. But don't give some half-cocked, detail-free "society's got problems, especially minorities, and I'm gonna fix it with that there J.D." like it actually says anything about you or why you want to be a part of my law school.


Wow, thank you for taking the time to ream me like that, it's definitely helpful. A few things that I should point out:

1) As strange as this may sound to you, there are a ton of places in America where one can grow up and not really know any black people. I don't necessarily think that should end up as a slam on me, right? idk.

2) great American tragedy is certainly too dramatic but in my opinion, no less true.

3) you'd be surprised how little impact you can have on students when you have 150 of them and you only see them a total of 50 min a day. I would much rather do something I would enjoy (practice law) while volunteering at Big Brother/Big Sister or something of the like, than be a teacher. my TFA isn't "up", I still have another year and i could stay another 10 years if I wanted to. How can I make it really clear that I want to address issues outside the classroom? (how many 0Ls can accurately explain exactly how they plan to do that?)

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:45 pm

The challenge that I was trying to overcome in this essay is how to effectively write about TFA, but not fall into Asha's example of what not to do, combining that with something that would be different and set me apart.

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby Nightrunner » Tue Aug 06, 2013 12:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:2) great American tragedy is certainly too dramatic but in my opinion, no less true.

I actually don't have a problem with it being dramatic; I have a problem with the fact that you never showed us what the hell you were talking about. The Wire isn't a great show because David Simon just pointed to Baltimore on a map, or stood up and said, "Man, fucking heroin, right?" Tell a story. Did you ball with a kid who was hustling to get a GED after getting kicked out of high school? Or with a bro who was working and going to community college in order to have some opportunity that seemed incredible to his family but minuscule to yours? Or some kid who would have been an entrepreneur if he had been born in suburbia, but instead grew up in a place where the only way to capitalize on his skills was to sell drugs? (NOTE: I'm actually describing people I know from the rez, but I hope you get the idea.)

Tragedies aren't tragedies because we call them that; they are tragedies because once you hear someone's story, your heart goes "well, fuck." My problem (with that aspect of your essay) is that you haven't actually shown us anyone's story. You don't even give us the one sentence version. You just say "I balled with these guys and shit was tragic. They were black, too." Which, if we're being honest, is almost tantamount to saying nothing at all.

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby blsingindisguise » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:05 pm

Anonymous User wrote:The challenge that I was trying to overcome in this essay is how to effectively write about TFA, but not fall into Asha's example of what not to do, combining that with something that would be different and set me apart.


Which is partly why I think "I turned myself around" is a better angle than "I saved a black kid."

But overall I agree this needs substantial rewriting. I wouldn't avoid race, but I would handle it with a bit more subtlety. Reading it again, the basketball story is a bit suspect. How did merely playing basketball with local black people make you realize anything about poverty? How did you know the people you were playing with were especially poor or had tragic lives? Were you in a really poor area of the city? Did you visit their homes? What actually "opened your eyes" about the experience?

All that said, I just wanted to push back against the pile-on a little, because I really think so many PS's do exactly what the OP did with regard to race and poverty only in a less obvious way. At least in the OP's story the redemption is his own and he doesn't turn out to be some white angel swooping down to fix black people's problems.

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby Nightrunner » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:10 pm

blsingindisguise wrote:All that said, I just wanted to push back against the pile-on a little, because I really think so many PS's do exactly what the OP did with regard to race and poverty only in a less obvious way. At least in the OP's story the redemption is his own and he doesn't turn out to be some white angel swooping down to fix black people's problems.

In fairness: those essays also drive me crazy. This thread was just the right essay at the right moment in my attention span and workload. And it isn't the only thing wrong with this essay.

To me, your PS/DS are the only windows you have to tell a story that says something special about you. There are a lot of ways that many, many people screw up that opportunity (e.g., the "here's my resume in prose" essay; the "this doesn't add anything about me" essay; the "this should really be a GPA addendum" essay, etc.) and still have reasonably solid cycles. But just because people can piss away opportunities and still perform reasonably well doesn't mean that anyone should actively choose to piss away those opportunities.

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:11 pm

Nightrunner wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:2) great American tragedy is certainly too dramatic but in my opinion, no less true.

I actually don't have a problem with it being dramatic; I have a problem with the fact that you never showed us what the hell you were talking about. The Wire isn't a great show because David Simon just pointed to Baltimore on a map, or stood up and said, "Man, fucking heroin, right?" Tell a story. Did you ball with a kid who was hustling to get a GED after getting kicked out of high school? Or with a bro who was working and going to community college in order to have some opportunity that seemed incredible to his family but minuscule to yours? Or some kid who would have been an entrepreneur if he had been born in suburbia, but instead grew up in a place where the only way to capitalize on his skills was to sell drugs? (NOTE: I'm actually describing people I know from the rez, but I hope you get the idea.)

Tragedies aren't tragedies because we call them that; they are tragedies because once you hear someone's story, your heart goes "well, fuck." My problem (with that aspect of your essay) is that you haven't actually shown us anyone's story. You don't even give us the one sentence version. You just say "I balled with these guys and shit was tragic. They were black, too." Which, if we're being honest, is almost tantamount to saying nothing at all.



:idea:

Got it. I would prefer to keep the basketball angle, and yes, I know a bunch of guys like that. They were the best and worst part of my day because of how much I enjoyed being around them, but how bad their stories made me feel. "well, fuck" is exactly right. I felt like an undeserving piece of shit compared to them.

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby blsingindisguise » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:15 pm

Nightrunner wrote:
blsingindisguise wrote:All that said, I just wanted to push back against the pile-on a little, because I really think so many PS's do exactly what the OP did with regard to race and poverty only in a less obvious way. At least in the OP's story the redemption is his own and he doesn't turn out to be some white angel swooping down to fix black people's problems.

In fairness: those essays also drive me crazy. This thread was just the right essay at the right moment in my attention span and workload. And it isn't the only thing wrong with this essay.

To me, your PS/DS are the only windows you have to tell a story that says something special about you. There are a lot of ways that many, many people screw up that opportunity (e.g., the "here's my resume in prose" essay; the "this doesn't add anything about me" essay; the "this should really be a GPA addendum" essay, etc.) and still have reasonably solid cycles. But just because people can piss away opportunities and still perform reasonably well doesn't mean that anyone should actively choose to piss away those opportunities.


http://www.theonion.com/articles/my-yea ... e-a,28803/

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:20 pm

Nightrunner wrote:
blsingindisguise wrote:All that said, I just wanted to push back against the pile-on a little, because I really think so many PS's do exactly what the OP did with regard to race and poverty only in a less obvious way. At least in the OP's story the redemption is his own and he doesn't turn out to be some white angel swooping down to fix black people's problems.

In fairness: those essays also drive me crazy. This thread was just the right essay at the right moment in my attention span and workload. And it isn't the only thing wrong with this essay.

To me, your PS/DS are the only windows you have to tell a story that says something special about you. There are a lot of ways that many, many people screw up that opportunity (e.g., the "here's my resume in prose" essay; the "this doesn't add anything about me" essay; the "this should really be a GPA addendum" essay, etc.) and still have reasonably solid cycles. But just because people can piss away opportunities and still perform reasonably well doesn't mean that anyone should actively choose to piss away those opportunities.



Question: what if I shifted the angle a bit to how much our school systems are failing us? I remember that striking me about some of the guys I used to play with and it certainly stares me in the face everyday at work. Instead of emphasizing outside problems, discuss how I am interested in educational policy instead? I have trouble knowing how to say what I want to do because, although I know what types of issues I want to address, I don't know exactly how I'll do it. The problem is, I just become even more like the typical TFA essay if I do that. Just as long as you realize it doesn't make it any less true.

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby Nightrunner » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:20 pm

Here's a trick I made up, and I've recommended it to a few people (the majority of whom used it and expressed gratitude for it). I guess this is the first time I'm posting it publicly. I'll call it "The NR Method," because I'm egotistical.

Start by making a table. Your columns are "positive attributes I want to show or reinforce to an AdComm." Your rows are "stories I can tell." Then go through and check off which stories hit on the most possible points you want to show or reinforce. Then write those stories. Here's a really simple sample, complete with typo (my table had 6-7 columns and probably a dozen rows, but you get the idea):

Image

With this applicant, I can see legitimate stories emerging from basketball. I'm positive he has something from TFA. Shit, he might even have an "I grew up in this rural white cocoon and now check me out" narrative he can spin. But he has to hit on stories, not just talking points. Above all else, the essay in OP's major fault is that it, like a dead man, tells no tales.

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:25 pm

blsingindisguise wrote:
Nightrunner wrote:
blsingindisguise wrote:All that said, I just wanted to push back against the pile-on a little, because I really think so many PS's do exactly what the OP did with regard to race and poverty only in a less obvious way. At least in the OP's story the redemption is his own and he doesn't turn out to be some white angel swooping down to fix black people's problems.

In fairness: those essays also drive me crazy. This thread was just the right essay at the right moment in my attention span and workload. And it isn't the only thing wrong with this essay.

To me, your PS/DS are the only windows you have to tell a story that says something special about you. There are a lot of ways that many, many people screw up that opportunity (e.g., the "here's my resume in prose" essay; the "this doesn't add anything about me" essay; the "this should really be a GPA addendum" essay, etc.) and still have reasonably solid cycles. But just because people can piss away opportunities and still perform reasonably well doesn't mean that anyone should actively choose to piss away those opportunities.


http://www.theonion.com/articles/my-yea ... e-a,28803/


It's awful how true that article really is for a lot of people. I'm desperately trying to separate myself from that lot, but I don't know how unless I just don't write about TFA at all...

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Re: In the very earliest stages...

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 06, 2013 1:28 pm

Nightrunner wrote:Here's a trick I made up, and I've recommended it to a few people (the majority of whom used it and expressed gratitude for it). I guess this is the first time I'm posting it publicly. I'll call it "The NR Method," because I'm egotistical.

Start by making a table. Your columns are "positive attributes I want to show or reinforce to an AdComm." Your rows are "stories I can tell." Then go through and check off which stories hit on the most possible points you want to show or reinforce. Then write those stories. Here's a really simple sample, complete with typo (my table had 6-7 columns and probably a dozen rows, but you get the idea):

Image

With this applicant, I can see legitimate stories emerging from basketball. I'm positive he has something from TFA. Shit, he might even have an "I grew up in this rural white cocoon and now check me out" narrative he can spin. But he has to hit on stories, not just talking points. Above all else, the essay in OP's major fault is that it, like a dead man, tells no tales.


I'm trying this. Although, if I had the BK bathroom one, there'd be no sense in going any further with the chart... :lol:

ETA: Thanks for all the help NR and others




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