166/4.0. but my PS SUCKS

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
lawschoolishappening
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166/4.0. but my PS SUCKS

Postby lawschoolishappening » Mon Nov 18, 2013 8:33 pm

I am in the process of applying to schools ranging fromT14 to UW, U Maryland, and various other state schools. I am agonizing over my personal statement. For the most part, I have written an extremely concise, well-written piece that states my interest in public interest law and details three jobs/internships I've had that "show" what I've learned about the field and why I want to pursue it. However, it is not anecdotal. I feel any efforts I make to "tell a story" are forced and ridiculous. I am smart and a hard worker, but I don't have a "defining moment" when my desire to pursue law became clear. Is the story element essential, or can I be straightforward and direct? Any advice for how to approach a PS this way would be helpful.

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rinkrat19
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Re: 166/4.0. but my PS SUCKS

Postby rinkrat19 » Mon Nov 18, 2013 8:43 pm

From the way you've described it, it doesn't sound like your PS tells the adcoms anything they don't get from your resume except for maybe "Why law school." Law schools are pretty specific in that they do not want resume dump personal statements. That's why it's called a PERSONAL statement.

You'd really need to post it here for us to tell you whether it's hurting you or not.

This is my standard PS advice:
Absolutely do not send them a resume dump. That's what your resume is for. There is a reason it's called a PERSONAL Statement; it's supposed to be personal.
My advice is to write about what makes you 'you.' If I asked your closest friends and family members about you, what is something they would all mention? It could be something as simple as 'he likes to tinker with his car' or 'he learned to cook vegetarian after he got married.' It might be hard to write an entire essay on vegetarian cooking (although it could totally be done), but I believe that including personal details like this can make an otherwise sterile essay a lot more personal. And it is a personal statement, after all. (Are you getting the fact that the word "personal" is key here?)

In my mind, the PS serves these functions, in this order:
1. Introduce yourself as a person to the adcoms
2. Show you can write well (and follow instructions)
3. Illustrate (via showing, not telling) some positive qualities or skills you have that--just coincidentally!--would be useful for a lawyer/law student
4. OPTIONAL: Explicity explain why you want to go to law school and/or why you would do well in law school

I belong to the 'bang out some words and see what happens' school of writing. Don't worry so much about structure or content, but squish out some paragraphs on whatever personal details you came up with. Tell a short story or two about specific people/places/incidents/situations. Don't worry about how they connect or how they illustrate useful qualities until you've written for a while. Then see if the bits you've come up with can connect in anyway.

A PS doesn't have to be super dramatic and "try-hard," but it should be sincere and there should be some emotion and personality in it. The essay prompt for these things is not "write a brief chronology of your life and career;" it is generally variations on "tell us about yourself."

Plenty of people write their PSes about otherwise mundane-seeming events or situations that happened at work or school or sports. It's the details and the personalities involved (and the WRITING) that turn a bullet point on a resume into a personal story that fulfills the functions of a PS that I outlined above.

Do not try to cover everything on your resume. 2-3 pages is enough space to discuss one (MAYBE two, if you can tie them together) items. If you try to write any kind of chronology, you're not going to be able to fit enough detail in 2-3 pages. It's going to be a barebones timeline, just like your resume.


But if you don't want to take my word for it...
Dean of Admissions at Harvard wrote:Ultimately, the personal statement is a chance to tell us more about you in a way that isn’t reflected in the other elements of your application. Let us know how your broad range of experiences, coursework, and extracurricular activities fit together and how they will allow you to make a unique contribution to the Harvard community. Let your personality and writing style shine through and tell us what we should know about you.

Read over your personal statement with a critical eye when you are done and ask yourself if it’s an accurate portrayal of who you are. Does your voice come through? Or is it just a laundry list of your achievements? When we read a personal statement, we are looking for a person, not a set of accomplishments. Also, don’t take for granted that the person reading your application is familiar with your point of view, so take the time to paint at least some broad strokes that provide context.
Dean of Admissions at Boalt wrote:The personal statements is the applicant’s opportunity to distinguish himself from hundreds of other applicants who have the same numbers, and the same major, and come from a similar school. The personal statement is an applicant’s opportunity to describe the distance they’ve come in their lives.

Most everyone is a very different person now than they were in high school and along that journey they develop a voice that they will be bringing into the classroom. I want to learn about the journey that developed that voice, and to the decision to apply to law school. We are looking for intellectually curious people, and we are looking for people with a diverse array of experiences. So, the ideal personal statement would bring all of that out.
Dean of Admissions at Northwestern wrote:I think the best personal statements that I’ve read show that the applicant has actually thought about the topic that they’re writing about, and they’ve looked within themselves to write about said topic. They don’t read as being formulaic. There’s also some emotion in the writing.
Dean of Admissions at Michigan wrote:What makes those stand out? One is just that they are well written and well expressed. Two is that they are just good stories. You’re telling a story here; I don’t mean it in a fictional sense, a huge part of lawyering is being a persuasive writer so you have to figure out what’s going to appeal to a reader; what’s going to draw him in.

Sometimes it’s not that it’s an amazing personal tale, it’s more that it’s incredibly well-expressed and clever in the sense of they have drawn together the many separate threads of their application and brought it all together in a coherent package. That’s just impressive.
Dean of Admissions at BU wrote:The most critical attributes of an effective personal statement are that it be very well written--concise, easy to read, engaging—and that it clearly explain something important about who you are.

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SweetTort
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Re: 166/4.0. but my PS SUCKS

Postby SweetTort » Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:06 pm

Isn't the consensus on TLS for an app like this to wait a cycle, study for the LSAT, and write a baller PS?

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rinkrat19
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Re: 166/4.0. but my PS SUCKS

Postby rinkrat19 » Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:15 pm

SweetTort wrote:Isn't the consensus on TLS for an app like this to wait a cycle, study for the LSAT, and write a baller PS?

Of course, but I'm tired of wading through that particular argument. People are stubborn and I don't have that kind of energy. My personal crusade is against resume dump personal statements.

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SweetTort
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Re: 166/4.0. but my PS SUCKS

Postby SweetTort » Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:16 pm

rinkrat19 wrote:
SweetTort wrote:Isn't the consensus on TLS for an app like this to wait a cycle, study for the LSAT, and write a baller PS?

Of course, but I'm tired of wading through that particular argument. People are stubborn and I don't have that kind of energy. My personal crusade is against resume dump personal statements.



I'm sure from the OP's username that they'd be willing to sit out a cycle. ;)

abovethelaw
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Re: 166/4.0. but my PS SUCKS

Postby abovethelaw » Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:19 pm

OP, that's really interesting. I have the exact same numbers as you (166/4.0) and also wrote a "why law" PS having to do with my internships and other motivations.

I eventually scrapped the "why law" version and realized that I'd have to go way outside the box for my PS. Essentially, I turned my DS into my PS and wrote a new DS. Hopefully, this works out for me (fingers crossed). I'd be happy to go into more detail if you shoot me a PM. It'd actually be interesting to speak with my law school admissions doppleganger haha..

sinclair
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Re: 166/4.0. but my PS SUCKS

Postby sinclair » Wed Nov 27, 2013 12:50 am

I am in a similar situation. I am about to blanket the T10-14, but the PS is KILLING me. I'm just trying to keep it safe and 'normal' but I don't really have people around me who can critique it well.

Is there anyone I can PM it to and get some feedback? I would appreciate it so much..

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MarkinKansasCity
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Re: 166/4.0. but my PS SUCKS

Postby MarkinKansasCity » Wed Nov 27, 2013 12:59 am

My personal statement was about how my ability to walk on top of walls and deal with difficult situations on job sites proved I could perform under pressure, and that that performance was transferable to a new field. Get creative. What makes you who you are? Figure that out, and then tell a story about it.




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