First draft PS, please critique

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Anonymous User
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First draft PS, please critique

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Aug 18, 2013 10:16 pm

Hi all,

This is the first draft of my personal statement. I'm concerned that it's not specific enough, or comes across as too generalized and not enough about me personally. I'd appreciate any feedback.

The pile of brightly wrapped candy in front of me tantalizes, the hard-earned bounty of my Halloween night’s journey traipsing up and down countless apartment steps. I am munching proudly on a Kit-Kat when my mom smiles and says, “you know, my patients would love this. They love candy.” My mother, a psychologist at XXXX, doesn’t mean to spark an idea, but I immediately resolve to share my riches with her patients. I want to give them a taste of the holiday that my eight-year-old mind can’t imagine being left out. I devise a plan, using the next two days to meticulously separate candy varieties into equal portions. I insist that each person receive their own baggie, personalized with a scratch’n’sniff sticker. The more elaborate my project becomes, the less enthused my mother feels. She tries to convince me that I am making things overly complicated, but I am sure that I know what is best, and that my plan will make her patients the happiest.
This memory stands out as a starting point for my interest in public service. Not because it was my first altruistic moment, but because it encapsulates the unconscious attitude I held for many years - that I could know more about a person’s needs than they do, and that I am able to properly address these needs without input from others. As a smart girl growing up in a privileged community, I felt that I could assess a situation and move forward without seeking other opinions, especially those of the people I wanted to help. Though my intentions were good, my methods were hasty. Predictably, my earliest efforts had mixed results.
Fifteen years later, and with more experience, I am the intake person for XXXX, and I know that I don’t know the best way to help everyone who seeks our services. Invariably, someone will launch into a complicated story - Mr. Smith begins describing the car accident that led to his disability, and ends up talking about his trouble accessing home health aide services. With such difficult and detailed calls coming in each day, it is not possible to enact a ‘one size fits all’ routine to help them. I find myself balancing the knowledge I have learned on the job against the need to keep the conversation open, in case something else essential comes up and the matter switches gears entirely.
Overall, the rule that always gets me through even the hardest of cases is surprisingly simple: always listen. Practicing this has become almost a form of meditation: I clear my mind, forget about myself, and focus my attention completely on the caller. I created this rule after a particularly challenging call back in my earlier intake days at XXXX; a caller’s son was being harassed by a neighbor, and she was terrified for her family’s safety. I began the call feeling confident, but quickly realized I had absolutely no idea what to say to her; I had no suggestions of what she could do to improve her situation. All I could do was listen to her story, and take down notes for my supervisor to make a final decision about a case I was fairly sure we would not be able to take on. I spent nearly half an hour on the phone with her, and, by the end, felt completely useless. Much to my surprise, the women ended the call by saying, “thank you. Thank you for listening to me. You’re the first person who has.” I reflected on this call for a long time, and came to the conclusion that, while I can’t always offer a solution, I can offer my attention, and that means that I am moving in the right direction.
This is exactly why I believe that law school is the next step for me. Apart from my personal fascination with the inner workings of the legal system, I long to take the skills I’ve developed further and actually be able to provide solutions to real world problems. Right now, I pass on cases to the attorneys as soon as the initial interview is done, so I don’t get to work towards a resolution; where I am now, this is the most I can offer and I am happy to do it. While my time as an intake worker has taught me a great deal, I am excited to work toward a legal education that would help me tackle those next steps and see them all the way through- no longer dividing the candy, but standing in the middle of the room with a full bowl and a welcoming smile.

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jselson
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Re: First draft PS, please critique

Postby jselson » Sun Aug 18, 2013 11:12 pm

I wish we could ban the word "privileged." The only time I ever hear it uttered by white twenty-somethings is when they're trying to humblebrag in order to make themselves look better for peers or to advance their professional career aspirations. It's so transparently self-serving, even when sincere.

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Ramius
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Re: First draft PS, please critique

Postby Ramius » Mon Aug 19, 2013 12:39 pm

When I started reading this, I honestly thought I'd hate it based on the opening. Very rarely will someone start with such a trivial anecdote from childhood and tie it into something more, but I think you've done a passable job with it here.

One thing doesn't work about it though. I am having trouble pinpointing what made me feel this way about it, but the whole statement felt a little disingenuous. I've read it twice to try to figure it out, but I can't quite put my finger on it. The best explanation I can come up with is that you claim now know the importance of listening to a client's complaints, yet you conclude that having a law degree will leave you with a bowl full of candy, thereby implying you will again have all the answers. Sorry I can't better elucidate this feeling, but it was definitely there both times I read it.

I wish we could ban the word "privileged." The only time I ever hear it uttered by white twenty-somethings is when they're trying to humblebrag in order to make themselves look better for peers or to advance their professional career aspirations. It's so transparently self-serving, even when sincere.


+1

blsingindisguise
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Re: First draft PS, please critique

Postby blsingindisguise » Wed Aug 28, 2013 3:22 pm

I was really turned off by the opening anecdote, tbh. First of all, when someone really lingers on childhood memory details in a PS, "immaturity" bells start to go off in my head (unless it's some really significant childhood memory like parent or sibling death). Second, you use it to set up the idea that you think you know better than the people you want to help what's best for them, which, even if ultimately true, is not the kind of thing you want to brag about.

NYstate
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Re: First draft PS, please critique

Postby NYstate » Wed Aug 28, 2013 4:16 pm

matthewsean85 wrote:When I started reading this, I honestly thought I'd hate it based on the opening. Very rarely will someone start with such a trivial anecdote from childhood and tie it into something more, but I think you've done a passable job with it here.

One thing doesn't work about it though. I am having trouble pinpointing what made me feel this way about it, but the whole statement felt a little disingenuous. I've read it twice to try to figure it out, but I can't quite put my finger on it. The best explanation I can come up with is that you claim now know the importance of listening to a client's complaints, yet you conclude that having a law degree will leave you with a bowl full of candy, thereby implying you will again have all the answers. Sorry I can't better elucidate this feeling, but it was definitely there both times I read it.

I wish we could ban the word "privileged." The only time I ever hear it uttered by white twenty-somethings is when they're trying to humblebrag in order to make themselves look better for peers or to advance their professional career aspirations. It's so transparently self-serving, even when sincere.


+1


Are you serious with this statement? You think you are an altruistic person because you shared candy when you were 8 years old.
Where have all the really accomplished people gone? Maybe they don't post PS for review.

In addition to privileged, can we also get rid of the writing an opening statement full of adjectives followed by a plain statement.

The thing that doesn't work about this statement is the attitude of entitlement and condescension. I don't know if that can be changed enough to redeem your PS.

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Ramius
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Re: First draft PS, please critique

Postby Ramius » Wed Aug 28, 2013 6:33 pm

NYstate wrote:
matthewsean85 wrote:When I started reading this, I honestly thought I'd hate it based on the opening. Very rarely will someone start with such a trivial anecdote from childhood and tie it into something more, but I think you've done a passable job with it here.

One thing doesn't work about it though. I am having trouble pinpointing what made me feel this way about it, but the whole statement felt a little disingenuous. I've read it twice to try to figure it out, but I can't quite put my finger on it. The best explanation I can come up with is that you claim now know the importance of listening to a client's complaints, yet you conclude that having a law degree will leave you with a bowl full of candy, thereby implying you will again have all the answers. Sorry I can't better elucidate this feeling, but it was definitely there both times I read it.

I wish we could ban the word "privileged." The only time I ever hear it uttered by white twenty-somethings is when they're trying to humblebrag in order to make themselves look better for peers or to advance their professional career aspirations. It's so transparently self-serving, even when sincere.


+1


Are you serious with this statement? You think you are an altruistic person because you shared candy when you were 8 years old.
Where have all the really accomplished people gone? Maybe they don't post PS for review.

In addition to privileged, can we also get rid of the writing an opening statement full of adjectives followed by a plain statement.

The thing that doesn't work about this statement is the attitude of entitlement and condescension. I don't know if that can be changed enough to redeem your PS.


...So you're saying I sugarcoated my response too much?

Seriously though, I agree with you that there is an air of entitlement and condescension in this PS and perhaps that was what was bothering me at the time. Reading through it again to get my own second impression, I liked it less than I apparently did last time. On principle, I feel like it's possible to use a seemingly insignificant event from childhood like this packaging of candy as symbolism for how you've learned an important lesson as an adult, which is what I think she was going for here. But, on the other hand, having read it again, I finally figured out what felt disingenuous to me that I spoke of in my original response. It's the way things are phrased and the tone of her statement. Upon reading it this time, it really did scream of entitlement, naivete and condescension. Truly learning to listen to the plight of others is an admirable skill, but the way she talks about it (and really the entire statement) makes it seem completely self-involved. Quite ironic when the statement is all about public service. That being said, I couldn't really in good conscience ream through the PS when I couldn't decide what it was I didn't like about it.

To OP, you will really have to control that tone that pervades your statement. For this approach to work, you need to come from a very humble position and show that you do not, in fact, know everything. It might take a complete rewrite and it might not depending on how much you want to work to make this work, but regardless, any statement you write needs to convey a much more positive message of who you are as a candidate.




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