Possible Personal Statement Topics/First Draft

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

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Possible Personal Statement Topics/First Draft

Postby sunnydancer » Sun Dec 01, 2013 3:02 am

So, I'm working on my personal statement, and I have two potential topics, and can't decide between them; I would love to hear any advice or words of wisdom - hopefully, this is the appropriate forum for this.

1. When I was seventeen, a first year university student, I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a rare connective tissue disorder that causes easily dislocated joints, easy bruising/bleeding, fatigue, and orthostatic intolerance. EDS is an "invisible" illness, so it's not apparent by looking at me that I'm ill, so I've had to learn to advocate for myself over the last four years, and the experience of being sick is what inspired me to want to advocate for other people and become a lawyer.

2. My undergraduate degree is a B.A. in Dance, which is (obviously) at the other end of the spectrum from law school, and I feel like I should account for that in my personal statement, but honestly, what made me shift my focus away from dance was my EDS diagnosis, which brings me back to topic #1.

I feel like this diagnosis has shaped me so much, but I don't want my PS to come across as a sob story. Thoughts?
Last edited by sunnydancer on Sun Dec 01, 2013 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: Possible Personal Statement Topics

Postby jac101689 » Sun Dec 01, 2013 4:33 pm

Write something!


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Re: Possible Personal Statement Topics

Postby gurlja18 » Sun Dec 01, 2013 6:46 pm

Combine both


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Re: Possible Personal Statement Topics

Postby sunnydancer » Sun Dec 01, 2013 7:07 pm

I was stuck on Amtrak and felt particularly motivated, and whipped something up - this is pretty rough, but this is what I have:

I am eighteen years old, and I am going crazy – at least, that’s what the doctors tell me. I face the doctor for the third time in as many days, and brace myself for what I know is coming: ‘but you don’t look sick.’ When he says it, I do not stand up for myself; I sit silently, digging my nails into my own arm to keep myself from speaking, and accept the referral to a psychiatrist. By this point, I am defeated: if no medical professional can account for the cause of the crippling chest pain and shortness of breath that has plagued me for a month, then maybe it is in my own head.
A year before, I had been diagnosed with a rare connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, but no one seemed to think that could be the culprit, and I never asked questions. My asthma inhaler was doing no good, and tests had shown that I did not have a blood clot, lung cancer, pneumonia, or an aneurysm, so what other explanation was there besides that it was nothing but the stress of coping with being far from home, a demanding course load, and the diagnosis that had blindsided me a year ago? The psychiatrist seemed to agree, and prescribed me an antidepressant, then sent me home, questioning my own sanity. I did not think I was depressed – I had a large, close-knit group of friends, a high GPA, and I was spending every day in the dance studio, the only place I had ever really felt comfortable –, but I didn’t dare question the doctors, so I took the antidepressant.
What followed was a violent allergic reaction that left me bedridden for more than a week, dropped ten pounds from my already petite frame in just a few days, and to add further insult, did nothing for the chest pain from which I had originally sought relief. There, was, of course, no way to know I would react that way to the medication, but I was haunted by the fact that the entire hellish experience could have been avoided if I’d spoken up for myself, insisted that it was not in my head, that I was not just depressed, asked if it was possible that it was a manifestation of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and its hallmark symptom: lax, easily dislocated joints. I had put myself in danger by failing to advocate for myself, because I was so afraid of being dismissed with “but you don’t look sick”, and at eighteen years old, two thousand miles from my family, I was too afraid to question adults, even if what was at stake was my own health.
Eventually, I made a full recovery, and regained the muscle tone and the self-confidence I had lost, but the most important thing I gained from the experience was a sense of how important it is to advocate for myself, whether it be with doctors, teachers, or my own family. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is known as an ‘invisible illness’, so my condition is not immediately apparent to anyone who looks at me. Since no one else can see when I’m in pain, no one else can advocate for me, and the process of learning to defend myself against those who accused me of faking for attention was a long one. The experience transformed me from a child, intimidated by people I trusted to know my body better than I did, to a woman who refuses to stay silent, and inspired me to advocate not only for myself, but for others, which the practice of law will enable me to do. Too often, access to adequate legal counsel is restricted to the wealthy, and the voices of minorities, the mentally ill, and the impoverished are stifled by structural inequality and made invisible to the justice system. As a criminal defense attorney, I want to give a voice to those who have been silenced by their circumstances, as I was silenced by my own fears. In both the criminal justice system and the medical world, lives are often at stake, and no one’s life should be endangered because of their appearance or socioeconomic class, especially within a system that was originally created to protect them.
I am twenty years old, and I am not going crazy. I am a product of four years of learning to put myself back together when I fall apart, and I will no longer be silent.


Am I on the right track here?


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Re: Possible Personal Statement Topics/First Draft

Postby arklaw13 » Mon Dec 02, 2013 4:56 pm

I'm not really sure how I feel about your draft. There are a lot of things I don't like in it, such as:

"My petite frame"

Dancers are usually pretty slim, but that just feels weird there.

"high GPA"

they can see that from your resume. Don't point it out in your PS

"Too often, access to adequate legal counsel is restricted to the wealthy, and the voices of minorities, the mentally ill, and the impoverished are stifled by structural inequality and made invisible to the justice system. "

This could be a bit off-putting. First, do you really know that this is the case? Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Second, a lot of the people that are going to be reading this are lawyers. Are you saying that they aren't doing enough to help people? See what I mean?

Overall, there's more of you as the victim than you as the person who overcame your problems. Switch it around so you highlight your current self more. If I were an adcom reading this, all I would really get out of it is that you have a strange illness and our healthcare system sucks. I like that you picked once experience and connected it to why you want to go to law school. I'm not really sure if this is the best thing to do your PS on. If it were me, I'd stick with something about dance. The adcoms don't care what your undergrad degree is in. Frankly, most people who come to law school do Philosophy, Political Science, or Economics, and a dance major would be something different for them to include.

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Re: Possible Personal Statement Topics/First Draft

Postby Catherinelo365 » Thu Dec 05, 2013 7:30 am

I'd say you may consider adding more details about how you refused to stay silent and coped with yourself and others. You may give some examples.
The idea is interesting and it's there. You just need to add in more contents. Lots of promises.


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Re: Possible Personal Statement Topics/First Draft

Postby torimykel » Fri Dec 06, 2013 12:36 am

I never post to this forum, but after reading your thread I was inclined to do so. I also have EDS (III) and just wanted to encourage you throughout this entire process. I have chosen to also write on this topic for my personal statement since it has literally taken over the past few years of my life. Good Luck on all your endeavors!!!

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Re: Possible Personal Statement Topics/First Draft

Postby scoobysnax » Fri Dec 06, 2013 1:20 am

I agree with the things arklaw mentioned. I understand it's a rough draft, but there a some things that I dislike. Overall, your PS makes me feel for you, but it doesn't convince me that you would be a good lawyer.

The first half of your PS talks about how you never spoke up and how you realized you this was potentially adversely affecting your health. But from there, you suddenly jump to

"the most important thing I gained from the experience was a sense of how important it is to advocate for myself..."

The critical part that you seem to want to highlight at the end of your PS is missing. If you want to talk about how you're advocating on your own behalf, I think there should be something more than "I advocated for myself." An example could be fine. Then take it further and say why YOUR advocacy would make YOU a good lawyer. Plenty of people are advocates, and plenty of people care about the plight of others. Not all of them would make good lawyers.

Also- I didn't like the part about depression. Your illness is "invisible" because other people cannot easily tell you are suffering from a disease. Depression is the same. Having "large, close-knit group of friends, a high GPA," etc. are not necessarily indicators that one does not have depression. You talk about how others misjudge you, yet make the mistake in doing the same to others.


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Re: Possible Personal Statement Topics/First Draft

Postby ltrego » Fri Dec 06, 2013 3:45 am

I would also avoid the present tense in the beginning. It just sounds weird. "Wait. You're 18 and applying to law school? Get outta here." Was the first thing that came to mind. And there's no good reason to avoid past tense.

I would also get to the part about wanting to be a lawyer much earlier. Give us signposts that that is where you are going with this. How has this experience equipped you with the skills to enter the field? Also, you may add something in there about how you persevere through the pain. Schools will probably want to know that your disorder will not prevent you from succeeding in LS. Try to move away from role of victim who wants to help other victim to role of victor who wants to help victims.

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