difference between "sob story" and great, moving PS

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difference between "sob story" and great, moving PS

Postby taylorswiftfan » Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:46 pm

I'm trying to write my personal statement about a topic that is very sensitive and may come off sounding like a sob story. However, it is a huge reason why i want to attend law school. I'm at that point where I think I should just scrap it and write something really creative about a hobby I have that would be a bit more enlightening.

When do you know you are writing a PS that is a sob story and when is it just a brilliant PS that moves people to know why you would be a great law school candidate with a unique background (someone who overcame major obstacles)?

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Re: difference between "sob story" and great, moving PS

Postby ScottRiqui » Sat Dec 14, 2013 3:16 pm

Obviously, a "sob story" where you come off as still having a "victim" mentality makes for a horrible PS. But I don't think that even a good "overcoming adversity" story by itself is necessarily much better.

The best advice I got when writing my PS was to answer two questions - "Why law" (why you think you want to become a lawyer), and "Why me" (why the school should believe you have what it takes to be a good student and eventually, a good lawyer). A good "overcoming adversity" story can help with the second part, but don't neglect the first part in the process.

Edit: Wasn't there originally a reply before mine? I left stuff off of mine because the other poster already made some good points.

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Re: difference between "sob story" and great, moving PS

Postby jac101689 » Sat Dec 14, 2013 3:37 pm

I had deleted this but here it is again:

I'd say start writing both and see which one reads more like "I was a victim once and I still am." Commit that one to the flames because it won't compel anyone with the self-respect and self-confidence that comes through beating adversity. If you have a story where you started off as a victim but overcame it, focus much more on the overcoming part, what you learned from it, and how it has influenced/prepared you to serve others. I think that formula can work. If the hobby-focused essay flows better, go with that.

I think what turns adcomms off about victims is that they'll be likely to blame the rest of the world for things within their control or they'll dwell on that which they can't control as an excuse not to solve problems. What does this mean? If you're an unethical lawyer, you might point fingers at other unethical lawyers who have already "degraded the integrity of the profession." You might make up lies when you neglect your work and justify them through "oh, poor me" kind of thinking. Victims are almost never leaders. The only exceptions I can think of are dead. Leaders end up being better ambassadors for law schools than victims. Therefore, they'll have little incentive to accept you if you come off as a victim.

Perhaps that explanation is unnecessary, but I think it pretty well captures why sob stories are abject failures.

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Re: difference between "sob story" and great, moving PS

Postby taylorswiftfan » Sun Dec 15, 2013 4:43 pm

Thanks for the advice. I'm going to start writing up both. I've been brainstorming, but struggling with a topic for the "creative, non-sob story" one. My recommenders all asked for a personal statement draft and I was going to give them my original PS but I just feel like it's so crappy and emotional/verging on "sob story/extremely depressing topic" territory. I try to go into details about how i managed to overcome a particular situation, but it's hard to write such an essay if there are many others writing essays that are so serious.

I promised my recommenders that I'd submit the PS to them within the next few days, but I'm thinking it might just make more sense for me to submit an essay explaining why i want to attend law school.

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Re: difference between "sob story" and great, moving PS

Postby powder » Mon Dec 16, 2013 10:44 am

It's probably going to take several drafts to get where you want. I wrote an adversity PS and my first couple of drafts came off as angry/bitter, even without intending it. Tell the story and let it speak for itself. Don't overplay your hand, don't try to shade things to make them seem worse than they were, or focus too heavily on your emotional state. What happened and what did you do in response--write about that, not what it did to your psyche. If you want someone to read it over, pm me.

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Re: difference between "sob story" and great, moving PS

Postby collegewriter » Mon Dec 16, 2013 8:54 pm

In a sob story the point is to make the reader feel strong emotions for the author (i.e. feel grief, sympathy, empathy). An overcoming adversity PS uses a strong storyline to effectively show why you would be a good law school candidate. In essence, the "sob"-like aspects of this essay support the point but are not the main focus, where in a sob story, the focus is on the story itself and the emotions it elicits. Your best bet is to focus on what makes you a good candidate and then use your story to prove those points. If the connection is tenuous between the two then you should probably choose another PS topic.

Message me if you want more help. Law student who tutors admissions essays as a job.

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