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HELP!! PS Initial Drafts on Various Topics

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 2:36 pm
by Anonymous User
I request feedback as to which of the following topics has the most potential and how I can improve my writing style/approach overall. Thank you kindly for your help!



In daily conversation, the word is often casually tossed around as though it were an air-filled beach ball. It roles off of people’s tongues with ease, a word you might use to describe your temperamental boss or the weather when a hailstorm hits just after a heat spell. But it was no beach ball that came crashing through my life several years ago; it was more a wrecking ball utterly refigured my reality.

When I was about twelve years old and she had just graduated from high school, my sister began exhibiting symptoms. A decade later, when I make an extended visit to my family in Los Angeles I am reminded what this word really means for my family. I see my still-beautiful older sister changed. As a kid I used to listen to her light soprano voice wafting throughout the house as she rehearsed for her choir concerts; now I hear it, strident and resentful, as she storms from room to room hurling expletives, some directed at me, some at my parents, and still more at the many friends she has lost. My typical conversation with her requires very sensitive, shrewd forethought by the instant: Should I point out that her suspicions are unfounded, or does she just need the silence of a patient listener? Will this word trigger some explosive reaction in her?
On my last trip home there was a memorable night I spent camped out in my mother’s car. Over the last weeks my sister had begun to show symptoms of mania—one pole of the bipolar axis, so to speak. The sister I knew to be truly sweet and gentle was inexplicably enraged. Her emotions were bordering on violence. So in a panicked scramble I grabbed the car keys and drove away. Afraid for her, for my parents who had stayed behind to try to calm her—it wasn’t exactly the way I had imagined “cruising” down Sunset Boulevard.

That was my previous visit. On this trip, my sister has felt relatively better. We go for walks together and chat about where we want to live when we are older, what we want to do: She aims to sing with the LA Opera, and I to be an attorney. She asks me about my law clerkship with the District Attorney’s Office, about the kind of cases I had been assigned. I catch myself mid-sentence, deciding to sidestep any mention of the murder case at the heart of my work. A twenty-eight-year-old returned some years earlier from active duty in Iraq stands accused of first-degree murder. Having stabbed the mother of his five-week-old baby with a kitchen knife sixteen times, he pleads to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. I do not tell my sister this. Instead, we chuckle about the hours’ worth of rated-R conversations between a prison inmate and his girlfriend that I have had to transcribe.

I do not tell her about hearing the deceased victim’s mother as she, seated a few feet behind me, suppressed sobs of anguish during proceedings earlier that day. I do not tell her that I held my breath as I stole frequent glances at the defendant one table over, intent to see if his stoic expression would break during his sister’s testimony. I do not tell her that when I looked at that boy—for he is just a boy—my insides ached at the thought that this disorder could put little between her and the defendant’s chair.

I want to go to law school because I know I belong there: my mind always wanders to the gray that muddies the pristine black-and-white façade of the law; my reasoning engages in negotiation as to what constitutes justice and injustice, innocence and guilt. As I sit in that courtroom, as I hear the jury forewoman declare a verdict, as I conclude my clerkship still engaged in an internal debate about what exactly I had witnessed that summer, I feel a remarkable thrill at the prospect of where the law could take me—and where I will one day lead it.

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There is something to be said about picking up the phone and telling a complete stranger of your deepest fears, your most broken relationships, and your darkest truths. It’s another thing entirely to be on the receiving end of that conversation: straining to hear the words; trying to process the unarticulated emotions; translating life-changing experiences into bullet points of gross approximation.

As a client intake intern at the Center for Civic Mediation in downtown Los Angeles, I essentially spent three months on the phone asking questions and listening to the responses of the voices at the other end of the line. I worked primarily with the Center’s Spanish-speaking constituents, who often contacted organizations like ours only to find that their supposed saviors could not understand a word they said. With a love for Latin America and several years of devoted Spanish language study to my credit, I joined the Center’s team of client intake specialists. Our mission was to provide alternative dispute resolution services to those who did not have access to traditional legal channels. After a few days of training, I waited eagerly for my line to ring.

The jingle of my telephone announced a caller. The voice of a middle-aged woman timidly peered through some cellphone static. Perdon, no le escucho. “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you,” I prodded. The woman, who I later learned was named Rocío Díaz, spoke up then and with increasing volition began to share her story: How she had co-signed on a car loan for a friend; how he had been deported; how notices regarding overdue payments began to sprout up in her mailbox; that despite Rocío’s efforts to contact Toyota—to explain!—her intent had been nullified by the fact she knew so little of their language; and that they completely dismissed hers.
With notes from my few days’ training bouncing in my head, I began with her a question-and-answer volley in hopes of figuring out how best to proceed: Where is the car? I don’t know. Do you have any of the car documents? No, I don’t have anything, he took everything with him. Where is your friend now? In Mexico. Have you tried contacting him? He doesn’t answer my messages. Where did he buy the car? Toyota of Glendora. She then punctuated my spew of questions with one of her own. Puede ayudarme? “Can you help me?” she asked. I felt my brow begin to furrow, and an acidic wrenching in my stomach. My brief experience with cases like hers already pointed to a sad likelihood—that mediation would not be sufficient to resolve this type of merchant-consumer dispute. From the desperation in Rocio’s voice, I could sense her livelihood beginning to collapse under the staggering weight of this financial hardship.

In the following days, I was swallowed whole by the Toyota employee directory as I tried to obtain more information regarding Rocío’s records. From operators to receptionists to robotic answering machines, my inquiries bounced from one department to another.

One afternoon as I returned to my desk from my lunch break, I saw the red light on the telephone blinking at me. I had a message. The jaunty voice of the dealership’s finance director projected through the speaker. He informed me bluntly that neither Toyota nor its lienholders participated in mediation. With that, the acidic twisting in my stomach reminded me that one conversation between Rocío and me had yet to take place. I dialed Rocío’s number one last time. By the end of that summer internship, I had informed a handful of clients that the Center’s purview could extend no further; that there was nothing more I could do to help them.

I had spent a large part of my undergraduate career attempting to navigate the fascinating diversity of the Spanish-speaking world with the hope that the language itself would be my compass, directing my explorations through literature, history and geo-politics. I quickly found that Spanish is as multi-faceted as the people who were so lucky as to claim it their mother tongue. So when I started my work at the Center for Civic Mediation, I had some understanding already of the colorful mosaic that is the Latino community of Los Angeles. All those voices I had listened to, voices like Rocío’s, had affirmed this—and something more. Silence is a language too; the human connection afforded simply by listening to someone’s story is as much a component of advocacy as is knowledge of the law. I am grateful to Rocío for sharing hers with me.



My love for writing, literary analysis, and the study of foreign language drew me to the comparative literature department at New York University. By the second semester of my freshman year, I knew I wanted to contribute to the small close-knit department in tangible ways, to bring to light for the broader University community the odd wonder that is comparative literature. Though still in my first year of study, I had already tasted how eclectic and colorful this field could be, having taken classes on subjects like literature’s drug culture and the uneven development of the “Global South.” So when I held a copy of Brio in my hands for the first time, I felt the Department’s sparsely-paged literary journal in no way reflected the gravity of work conducted by my peers or professors. When I flipped through the student-run publication, I could not help but envision something more substantial than the simple black print on white cardstock.

There is something utterly magical about opening a book: the rustle of pages whispers histories and the ink travails the human politics that too often divide us. I have been inspired by the written word since my early years, gravitating toward a slew of editorships and tutoring others on composition in hopes of one day creating a great work of my own. When Brio needed new leadership in my third year, I seized the opportunity with the aspiration to do just that—create something great.

As an annual publication, Brio was limited to a year-end release around final exams; as a literary journal, its distribution was confined to our small building on University Place. It was time for the lackluster Brio to live up to its name and garner some much-deserved attention. Having recruited a new team of eager editors, I approached the Director of Undergraduate Studies and presented a case for an injection of funds into the Brio account—with a new grant and the sure dedication of the editorial team we could grow the Journal into a biannual one, invigorate our publicity efforts and even add (literal) color to Brio’s pages. The Director agreed, going so far as to double our budget, convinced that the Journal was a worthy investment.

I am of the philosophy that to engage in an endeavor one must commit to it fully with the passion and determination to produce quality work. The evenings spent reviewing Journal submissions in Spanish, negotiating prices with various printing services, and formatting page layouts were often long and very caffeine-driven. I relished them nonetheless because I had the opportunity to make creative decisions and weigh practical ones, consult and learn from my fellow editors, and preview the outstanding creative works of my peers.

A crux of comparative literature is the notion of ownership. Who owns a work once it has been committed to paper? Can words be possessed at all, or do they seep into a domain of existence independent of the writer? What thrills me about publications like Brio is that they become part of a literary culture. Whether belonging to the contributors or the department, the staff or the school as a whole, Brio at once feeds off of and nourishes the dynamic community around me—I am a “Comp Litter” who works to broaden the purview of cross-cultural exploratory writing.

Re: HELP!! PS Initial Drafts on Various Topics

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 3:26 pm
by Ramius
Your second option is your strongest in showing a connection between you and a career in the law. The first one may hit home personally, but it bounced around a lot and failed to really demonstrate you as a candidate. The third option could work if you focus much more heavily on your involvement in, and how you brought serious improvement to, that literary magazine. You spend far too much time painting some flowery BS prose about your love of literature that is ultimately unnecessary in describing what should be your focus (you having a lasting and positive impact on that magazine).

It's clear you have spent a lot of time writing and you don't lack a distinct voice, but I don't think this is the type of voice you want to use for an admissions essay to law school. Focus on being much more analytical, more focused, more direct. Brevity is your friend in the law school game. You don't need to overstate things, you don't need to paint overly dramatic pictures and you don't need to hyperbolize to get the readers attention. All you need to do is paint a clear, interesting image of yourself as a candidate and give the person reading it reason to believe you bring a strong, thoughtful voice to the classroom and you will bring success to their law school. The second option has the brightest future in doing that, but you have a long way to go in bringing out your image in it and conveying a clear message. Think long and hard about what you want this essay to say (this goes well beyond just finding a theme) and make sure that it says just that. To be honest, I'm not sure what any of these options are really supposed to say about you, which leads me to believe you're not sure of how you want me to see you either.

You have strong writing abilities, now just use them to focus your effort toward a strong, focused voice and a clear image of you as a law school applicant. GL!