This PS has a gimmick. Tell me if it's terrible.

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
Anonymous User
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This PS has a gimmick. Tell me if it's terrible.

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:26 pm

I'm a splitter (3.45/173) shooting for a t-14. Don't hold anything back please.

Personal Statement

My mother, a classical pianist, claims that I started playing the violin before I learned to tie my shoes. I was four when I unleashed horrific screeches throughout the house, accompanied by white clouds of rosin dust. In time, cacophony gave way to music. Scratch upon scratch, I gradually peeled away each blemish, until I developed a refined purity in my sound. This is how I first learned to improve myself, and for much of my life, it is through the violin that I found intellectual and emotional guidance.

Everything about violin playing is about balance. Yes, physical balance is a requirement: your feet must be flat, your weight must be centered, your fingers must find the right posture at the right time. This can be taught to almost anyone with a passion for the violin. But it will take a lifetime of experience to find the right balance between the emotion and intellect. Listen only to your heart, and you will miss notes and neglect structural features in the music. Rely entirely on cognition, and your interpretation is at risk of being dry and uninteresting to others and, more importantly, to yourself. This capacity often distinguishes the good from the great.

I have sought a similar kind of balance in my life. It took me a year to learn Latin and Ancient Greek, and two years to cultivate the mind in classical literature. I specialized in ancient philosophy and dissected the arguments of Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, etc. However, at the same time, I never lost sight of what my heart was telling me. I spent a summer at [non-profit] fighting for funding to introduce music education in schools in low income neighborhoods of the Bronx and Harlem. I volunteered for a year after graduation as an assistant editor and contributor to [publication], writing articles about the horrific state of education in the developing world. I have a passion for education reform and these experiences brought me closer to problems I am emotionally attached to. I also began to see the connection between these problems and the policies fighting them or, unfortunately in some cases, exacerbating them. In law school, I hope to learn more about the intersection between policies and the public good.

One of the most important developments in my playing was my first encounter with Bach, who is still my favorite composer. The violin is most often a melodic instrument: it captures a single musical line with a sustained elegance that few instruments can match. For technical reasons, it is rare to find more than a single line at a time written for the violin. So it was revolutionary to me when I opened up Bach's Partitas and found up to four simultaneous voices written for solo violin in fugue. Here, a single musical idea is presented alone and then introduced one after another in separate voices to create complex polyphony. I realized that the finest music takes isolated ideas and welds them together, thereby synthesizing something new.

Bach changed the way I thought about texts. I isolated themes and their permutations in the Aeneid and paid close attention to the effects of their synthesis. I pinpointed premises in De Rerum Natura and studied how they interacted to form an argument as a whole. I analyzed Cicero's Pro Sestio and admired each individual element, but always kept a close ear to the combined effect of emotional and logical appeals. I am prepared to approach the law in this same contrapuntal mode.

It is these virtues, all sparked by a piece of wood under my fingers, that I hope to bring to law school. I am not simply a mind without a conscience, but a deep thinker who brings purpose and meaning to his studies. I am not an intellectual who gets buried in isolated facts, but a reader who actively synthesizes these elements and finds new meaning in the whole. Lastly, the violin has generated in me a desire for self-perfection. As my bow arm works away at the strings, honing my sound, I have worked hard to find the purest and most honest version of myself.

delusional
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Re: This PS has a gimmick. Tell me if it's terrible.

Postby delusional » Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:30 pm

I admire your accomplishments and your ability to articulate the elements of your development, but it comes across as a bit self-congratulatory.

Anonymous User
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Re: This PS has a gimmick. Tell me if it's terrible.

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:33 pm

Thanks delusional. I was a little worried about this. Which parts of it did you find to be the worst as far as self-congratulations go?

TigerDude
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Re: This PS has a gimmick. Tell me if it's terrible.

Postby TigerDude » Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:42 pm

It rambles around from violin to classics, poor people, then back to violin again. Seems like you should just make bullet points. There is no story, just facts about you. You want to look great, but you don't want to look like you're making yourself look great.

* I played violin when I was 5
* I learned all of greek and latin in 1 year
* I helped the poor
* I see complex relationships in music where no mere mortal can.

With your accomplishments I hope you have stellar scores & grades to go along. So they should know you've got the stuff. Be more subtle, tell a great story.

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thewaves
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Re: This PS has a gimmick. Tell me if it's terrible.

Postby thewaves » Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:48 pm

TigerDude wrote:It rambles around from violin to classics, poor people, then back to violin again. Seems like you should just make bullet points. There is no story, just facts about you. You want to look great, but you don't want to look like you're making yourself look great.

* I played violin when I was 5
* I learned all of greek and latin in 1 year
* I helped the poor
* I see complex relationships in music where no mere mortal can.

With your accomplishments I hope you have stellar scores & grades to go along. So they should know you've got the stuff. Be more subtle, tell a great story.


+1

To put it bluntly, you're not a special snowflake academic wunderkind with that GPA. This essay is all over the place, and law school seems like just another whim to add to your list of accomplishments. Next you'll take up the bongos and head to Zambia to work on wildlife conservation.

Also, if you're going to talk about why law school, you should provide concrete explanations. You mention something about education and policy in one sentence, but that is it. The majority is through the violin shtick.
Last edited by thewaves on Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:51 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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hephaestus
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Re: This PS has a gimmick. Tell me if it's terrible.

Postby hephaestus » Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:49 pm

delusional wrote:I admire your accomplishments and your ability to articulate the elements of your development, but it comes across as a bit self-congratulatory.

I agree with this sentiment. It's certainly most visible in the last paragraph.

Anonymous User
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Re: This PS has a gimmick. Tell me if it's terrible.

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:52 pm

Thanks for the responses. I think my not-so-hot GPA made me overcompensate on my PS. I'm going to to ease up on the details about classics and non-profit work and put more of a focus on the violin.

hawkeye10
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Re: This PS has a gimmick. Tell me if it's terrible.

Postby hawkeye10 » Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:56 pm

It's a bit pompous. The language you've chosen (for example, "a lifetime of experience") and the way that you've constructed it gives off that feeling. I can see where you're going with it, no doubt, and it's better than most of the essays on here asking for feedback. But it still needs work.

1. You have a bunch of unnecessary stuff in the personal statement.

I would take out:
"Yes, physical balance is a requirement: your feet must be flat, your weight must be centered, your fingers must find the right posture at the right time. This can be taught to almost anyone with a passion for the violin."
This doesn't help your essay, and distracts from what your point about emotional vs. logical balance.

"I realized that the finest music takes isolated ideas and welds them together, thereby synthesizing something new." - This is basically the definition of music, not just good music.


Other than that:
1. Keep in mind that most people reading it will not have as strong a music background. If you're going to talk about fugues keep it simple. Shit, I majored in music and we barely talked about them.

2. Why do you have the stuff in there about classical literature and Ancient Greek? If you're going to mention it, be clearer about why we (the readers) should care.

Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: This PS has a gimmick. Tell me if it's terrible.

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:22 am

I posted in another thread, but I guess I should have posted here. Don't really know the rules for this. Anyways, this is my second draft:

I was a clumsy kid when I first started playing the violin. I was four when I unleashed horrific screeches throughout the house, accompanied by white clouds of rosin dust. In time, cacophony gave way to music. Scratch upon scratch, I gradually peeled away each blemish, until I developed a refined purity in my sound. This is how I first learned to improve myself, and for much of my life, it is through the violin that I found intellectual and emotional guidance.

Everything about violin playing is about balance. Yes, physical balance is essential: your feet must be flat, your weight must be centered, your fingers must find the right posture at the right time. This can be taught to almost anyone with a passion for the violin. But it will take a good deal of experience to find the right balance between the emotion and intellect. Listen only to your heart, and you will miss notes and neglect structural features in the music. Rely entirely on cognition, and your interpretation is at risk of being dry and uninteresting to others and, more importantly, to yourself. This capacity often distinguishes the good from the great. I still struggle to find this balance with the violin.

I have also sought a similar kind of balance in my life. At [university], I focused my research on ancient philosophy and dissected the arguments of Lucretius in my thesis. I was fond of cold, logical thinking. However, at the same time, I never lost sight of what my emotions were telling me. I took a film class and did some creative work on campus. I played my heart out in various musical ensembles. I also devoted some time to non-profit work that dealt with education reform, an issue I have a strong emotional attachment to. I didn't want to be an icy intellectual without compassion. I wanted to be rational without compromising my feelings.

One of the most important developments in my playing was my first encounter with Bach, who is still my favorite composer. The violin is most often a melodic instrument: it captures a single musical line with a sustained elegance that few instruments can match. For technical reasons, it is rare to find two or more lines being played on the violin at the same time. So it was revolutionary to me when I opened up Bach's Partitas for the first time and found up to four simultaneous voices written for solo violin in a fugue. Bach first presented a single musical line by itself. As the line continued, a second line was suddenly introduced, until a third and even a fourth line were added on to create harmonies of jaw-dropping beauty. I realized that the finest music took interesting individual elements and threaded them together into an even more elegant and meaningful whole.

Bach changed the way I thought about texts as a classics major. I isolated themes and their permutations in the Aeneid and paid close attention to the effects of their synthesis. I pinpointed premises in De Rerum Natura and studied how they interacted to form an argument as a whole. I analyzed Cicero's Pro Sestio and admired each individual element, but always kept a close ear to the combined effect of emotional and logical appeals. I wanted to learn how great writers not only created each wonderful idea, but also combined them into powerful large-scale concepts. I am excited to approach the law in this same contrapuntal mode.

It is these virtues, all sparked by a piece of wood under my fingers, that I hope to refine in law school. I refuse to be a mind without a conscience, and will approach my studies with passion and self-awareness. I refuse to be an pedant who gets buried in isolated facts, and will work on being a reader who actively synthesizes the elements and finds new meaning in the whole. As my bow arm works away at the strings, honing my sound, I wish to work away at my imperfections to find the purest and most honest version of myself.

hawkeye10
Posts: 38
Joined: Sat Aug 31, 2013 8:01 pm

Re: This PS has a gimmick. Tell me if it's terrible.

Postby hawkeye10 » Tue Nov 12, 2013 1:46 am

Anonymous User wrote:I posted in another thread, but I guess I should have posted here. Don't really know the rules for this. Anyways, this is my second draft:

I was a clumsy kid when I first started playing the violin. I was four when I unleashed horrific screeches throughout the house, accompanied by white clouds of rosin dust. In time, cacophony gave way to music. Scratch upon scratch, I gradually peeled away each blemish, until I developed a refined purity in my sound. This is how I first learned to improve myself, and for much of my life, it is through the violin that I found intellectual and emotional guidance.

Everything about violin playing is about balance. Yes, physical balance is essential: your feet must be flat, your weight must be centered, your fingers must find the right posture at the right time. This can be taught to almost anyone with a passion for the violin. But it will take a good deal of experience to find the right balance between the emotion and intellect. Listen only to your heart, and you will miss notes and neglect structural features in the music. Rely entirely on cognition, and your interpretation is at risk of being dry and uninteresting to others and, more importantly, to yourself. This capacity often distinguishes the good from the great. I still struggle to find this balance with the violin.

I have also sought a similar kind of balance in my life. At [university], I focused my research on ancient philosophy and dissected the arguments of Lucretius in my thesis. I was fond of cold, logical thinking. However, at the same time, I never lost sight of what my emotions were telling me. I took a film class and did some creative work on campus. I played my heart out in various musical ensembles. I also devoted some time to non-profit work that dealt with education reform, an issue I have a strong emotional attachment to. I didn't want to be an icy intellectual without compassion. I wanted to be rational without compromising my feelings.

One of the most important developments in my playing was my first encounter with Bach, who is still my favorite composer. The violin is most often a melodic instrument: it captures a single musical line with a sustained elegance that few instruments can match. For technical reasons, it is rare to find two or more lines being played on the violin at the same time. So it was revolutionary to me when I opened up Bach's Partitas for the first time and found up to four simultaneous voices written for solo violin in a fugue. Bach first presented a single musical line by itself. As the line continued, a second line was suddenly introduced, until a third and even a fourth line were added on to create harmonies of jaw-dropping beauty. I realized that the finest music took interesting individual elements and threaded them together into an even more elegant and meaningful whole.

Bach changed the way I thought about texts as a classics major. I isolated themes and their permutations in the Aeneid and paid close attention to the effects of their synthesis. I pinpointed premises in De Rerum Natura and studied how they interacted to form an argument as a whole. I analyzed Cicero's Pro Sestio and admired each individual element, but always kept a close ear to the combined effect of emotional and logical appeals. I wanted to learn how great writers not only created each wonderful idea, but also combined them into powerful large-scale concepts. I am excited to approach the law in this same contrapuntal mode.

It is these virtues, all sparked by a piece of wood under my fingers, that I hope to refine in law school. I refuse to be a mind without a conscience, and will approach my studies with passion and self-awareness. I refuse to be an pedant who gets buried in isolated facts, and will work on being a reader who actively synthesizes the elements and finds new meaning in the whole. As my bow arm works away at the strings, honing my sound, I wish to work away at my imperfections to find the purest and most honest version of myself.


Ok, find a better first line. You want to hook your readers, which it doesn't do currently.
See http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=82279 for info on how to do it, and why. Seriously, what dj_spin suggested works.

I would take out "This capacity often distinguishes the good from the great. I still struggle to find this balance with the violin". While this sentence is true, it doesn't contribute anything to the larger idea of the violin providing a framework from which you've approached life. It also introduces the idea of struggling and doesn't provide a resolution to it, which is probably not a theme you want showing up in your personal statement.

Good job on making the connections to classics/philosophy more explicit.

In paragraph 3, I would keep the first sentence (it's a good transition), and rewrite the rest of it.

Good job on simplifying fugues!

Also, think about structure. Right now, there's no transition between paragraph 3 and 4, so it's a jarring subject change.

How old were you when you first encountered Bach? I'm guessing young, since it's part of the standard string repertoire. If that's true, you can't say "Bach changed the way I thought about texts as a classics major" because you had nothing to change from. You could do something along the lines of "The skills that I learned through playing Bach provided me with a unique framework to approach classic philosophy. I isolated . . ."

Anonymous User
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Re: This PS has a gimmick. Tell me if it's terrible.

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 12, 2013 2:04 am

Hawkeye you are a godsend! I'm going to rewrite again and post sometime tomorrow. Thanks for the pointers.




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