Help on my first draft and topic [PS enclosed]

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Help on my first draft and topic [PS enclosed]

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:03 pm

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved” Helen Keller
I believe that everyone has that moment in life where you are truly tested. The moment can come in many different forms, but sure enough it always comes. How you respond in that instant has the potential to change your life forever. For my Mom that moment came in a homeless shelter alone with 6 children. In a situation where it could have been so easy to give up she refused to surrender. My Mother fought her way out of the hole she found herself in because she had a desire to create better life for her children.
The gun went off and next thing I knew the first hand off was done. As I stared down my teammate sprinting at me I was terrified, it was my first meet back from a season ending hamstring strain. He hit the mark and I surged forward, the baton was now in my hand. With each stride I pushed harder and harder. At the next hand off we were in the lead. I was on top of the world I had completed a four month journey back from a series hamstring injuries just in time to help my relay team win conference and qualify for nationals. Within weeks I found myself out of school, sleeping on a friends couch, and working a job in a museum I had no interest in. I laid awake every night thinking about how I got where I was. I felt lost, I wanted to be lost. I took my car and went down any back road I could find varying every which way I turned trying to lose myself. This was my moment, I felt like everything was lost. I thought about my family, my friends, and all the people I had let down. I pictured the life ahead of me if I kept on the path I was going. I made a choice to never surrender. Even if the odds were against me I would find a way.
After spending a semester out of school I found myself walking through the [school] campus. Against the advice of admission representatives I was walking towards the biggest meeting of my life. I had to plead my case to be admitted to [school]. I thought about this meeting every night, I thought about every outcome and what I would say. At the conclusion of the meeting I successfully advocated my cause. The opportunity I was given to attend [school] would ultimately lead me to law.
In my first semester I received an e-mail that would change everything. The email advertised an actual law school classroom experience. That event was my first taste of mock trial, I stood up in front of everyone scared and gave my best shot at a cross examination. By the end of that meeting I was elected Treasurer and committed to the team. Everything was moving so fast but I left that night knowing one thing, I wanted more. I devoted myself to learning the intricacies of mock trial, I quickly rose through the ranks to be a part of the varsity team and a leader on the team. I became a leader in the classroom and around campus while balancing my academics with working 25 hours a week, involvement as an associate justice on the Student Review Board and representing the largest college at [school] as a student ambassador.
I tell you this story not to illustrate some excuse for my past, but to show the character I possess. I could have easily given up when all the odds were stacked against me but I refused to surrender. My resilience does not come from always being the best, it comes from my struggles. Everything I have struggled against in my life has developed my strength, it has developed the person I am. I acknowledge my past and it only stands to remind me what I am fighting for. That moment ignited my desire for education. My involvement in mock trail ignited my craving for law and solidified the desire to focus my career path on law.
(which law school and how you are connected and why)Attending law school is not simply about my personal desire to be successful, it is the realization of my choice to never surrender. My past only stands to remind me what I am fighting for. I am passionate about continuing my journey and the challenges that await me in at [law school]. The same desire that drove me to turn my life around will continue to excel me through [law school]. I would welcome the opportunity and honor to continue my journey and be part of your program.

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Re: Help on my first draft and topic [PS enclosed]

Postby papercut » Tue Jan 21, 2014 1:32 am

I'm going to give you comments on a small part of your PS. You can use it to edit the rest.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved” Helen Keller


First, don't ever start your PS with a long quote from someone else. These admissions people see thousands of PSs in the career. I can just see them going, "Oh here's another one with that Helen Keller quote."

I believe that everyone has that moment in life where you are truly tested.


If you've taken the LSAT, you should know that "everyone" is extremely strong. Don't exaggerate. Also, you need to stay away from adverbs and adjectives wherever possible. Get rid of "truly", no one reading this is going to think you meant "kind of tested."

How about:

There are moments in life that test us.


The moment can come in many different forms, but sure enough it always comes.


Same thing here. "Always" is an unnecessary exaggeration. At this point your PS sound awfully preachy. How old are you BTW? Maybe if you're in your 40s you could get away with this kind of claim, but definitely not if you're 21ish. Get rid of the above sentence.

How you respond in that instant has the potential to change your life forever.


I would just get rid of the above. You're preaching.

For my Mom that moment came in a homeless shelter alone with 6 children. In a situation where it could have been so easy to give up she refused to surrender.


It is NEVER a good idea to write your personal statement about how strong/awesome/smart someone else was. A PS is supposed to help the admissions officers get to know you as a person, not your mom. She does sound like a strong lady though. I'm sure she'd have an awesome story to tell in her application to law school.

My Mother fought her way out of the hole she found herself in because she had a desire to create better life for her children.


Yeah again, what about you? What did you do? What kind of a person are you? It's your personal statement, not your mom's.

The transition from talking about your mom to talking about yourself comes out of nowhere.

Finally, the injured athlete topic is something you should probably not write about. A former dean of admissions at Chicago talked about how she hates the topic. She's got a book out on the admission process, I'm sure you can google-fu it.

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Re: Help on my first draft and topic [PS enclosed]

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jan 21, 2014 2:22 am

Thank you for your comments. I read the TLS book on personal statement and the quotation approach is one I thought was good. I do agree it seems generic. I will get right on editing. Thank you.

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Re: Help on my first draft and topic [PS enclosed]

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jan 21, 2014 2:36 am

I also googled about injured athletes... although that wasn't the main topic of my statement you are correct.

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Re: Help on my first draft and topic [PS enclosed]

Postby papercut » Tue Jan 21, 2014 2:44 am

I think it's really hard to pull off the quote starter tactfully.

You can often come off as preachy. You might look like you're trying to be "deep." Or you get something generic looking.

Who the quote is from and how that relates to your story matters a lot. Long dead historical figures don't work usually. Now, if it was someone closer to you, that would be better. If you were deaf and blind, and Helen Keller was your personal hero, I could see it working better.

We can all google, "inspiring quotes on X." It's not personal enough IMHO.

So, I'm not a fan of the quote starter.

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Re: Help on my first draft and topic [PS enclosed]

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Jan 21, 2014 4:18 am

I believe my experiences as an undergraduate are what have most prepared me to become a successful law student. There are moments in life that test us and bring out our character. In the summer of 2011 I found myself out of school, sleeping on a friends couch, and working a job in a museum I had no interest in. I laid awake every night thinking about how I got where I was. I felt lost, I wanted to be lost. I took my car and went down any back road I could find varying every turn, trying to lose myself. This was my moment, I felt like everything was lost. I thought about my family, my friends, and all the people I had let down. I was the first to go to college and I would return as just another statistic. I pictured the life ahead of me if I kept on the path I was going. I could have easily given in, no school would want me I was a student with a glaring transcript. […….]. I made a choice to never surrender. Even if the odds were against me I would find a way.
After spending a semester out of school I found myself walking through the [school] campus. Against the advice of admission representatives I was walking towards the biggest meeting of my life. I had to plead my case to be admitted to [school]. I thought about this meeting every night, I thought about what I would say and the outcome. At the conclusion of the meeting I successfully advocated my cause. I was admitted to [school]and would start school immediately. [……] The opportunity I was given to attend [school] would ultimately lead me to law.
I began my career at [school] undecided on a career path. Within four months I received an e-mail that would set my course. The email advertised an actual law school classroom experience. That event was my first taste of mock trial, by the end of that meeting I was elected Treasurer and committed to the team. Everything was moving so fast but I left that night knowing one thing, I wanted more. I devoted myself to learning the intricacies of mock trial, I rose through the ranks to be a part of the varsity team and a leader on the team. In my Bill of Rights course we read and dissected major cases in U.S. history. I found myself more and more excited to come to class every day and debate on what we had read. I became a leader in the classroom and around campus while balancing my academics with working 25 hours a week, involvement as an associate justice on the Student Review Board and representing the largest college at [school] as a student ambassador.
[maybe talk about student review board and law office here?] {My internship at}
I tell you this story not to illustrate some excuse for my past, but to show the character I possess. I could have given up when all the odds were stacked against me but I refused to surrender. My resilience does not come from always being the best, it comes from my struggles. Throughout my life I have leaned on my struggles to develop my strengths, it has developed the person I am. I am a well-rounded and more diverse person because of what I endured.
(which law school and how you are connected and why)Attending law school is not simply about my personal desire to be successful, it is the realization of my choice to never surrender. That choice ignited my desire for education. My involvement in mock trial ignited my craving for law and solidified the desire to focus my career path on law. My past stands a reminder of what I am fighting for and to show others there is a way back.
I am passionate about continuing my journey and the challenges that await me in at [law school]. The same desire that drove me to turn my life around will continue to excel me through [law school]. I would welcome the opportunity and honor to continue my journey and be part of your program.




I trimmed down a lot from the beginning. It still has a lot of work to be done I think. The areas where there are "[....]" is where I think I need to add something.

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Re: Help on my first draft and topic [PS enclosed]

Postby papercut » Tue Jan 21, 2014 5:16 am

Okay let's talk content.

I think there things you can work with. Being the first in your family to graduate from college is one. In fact, that's a HUGE fucking deal. I think you should open with that right away. However, you shouldn't talk about how you wanted to be lost and so on. I don't want to be mean, but it comes off as juvenile angst. Law schools want mature and stable people.

Cut out all the negative parts.

I would tell a little story about some tiny self doubt early on in your college experience, because you were the first in your family. Maybe first day feeling like you didn't belong? Then go right into how mock trial and law classes made you believe in yourself. This should also be in story form. Make them see that you're passionate and motivated right away.

Cut out all your resume bullet points. This is not what a PS is for. They already have your resume. The PS is supposed to be, well, more personal!

Just when the reader starts to feel for you, you bonk them with your resume. And the feeling goes away.

Give it another go, and I'll give you some more feedback. :) Keep at it, it is getting better.

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Re: Help on my first draft and topic [PS enclosed]

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 22, 2014 1:29 am

Here are my new first two paragraphs.



I believe my experiences as an undergraduate are what have most prepared me to become a successful law student. Growing up in Chicago the only challenge was to finish high school. My mother had been pregnant by time she was 16, my father as well as my older siblings finished high school and went to work for the post office. Not only am I the first person to graduate from college in my family but I am the first person to go. College was a place I never thought about until my last semester as a senior in high school; that first experience with college came only after I started playing football. Suddenly I had schools contacting me asking me to come to school to play sports and for the first time I actually felt as if I had choices in life. I didn’t have to graduate high school and begin working bread like I did every summer because college was something we couldn’t afford.
Arriving at college felt as if I was in a foreign land. I looked around and felt as if I didn’t belong. I couldn’t afford my books for classes I felt the same as I felt throughout my childhood, the kid who doesn’t have his lunch. I buried myself in sports and hid myself away from the classroom. There are moments in life that test us and bring out our character. In the summer of 2011 I was out of school, sleeping on a friends couch, and working in the basement of a museum. I laid awake every night thinking about how I got where I was. I saw my friends going to school every day while I stagnated. I took my car and went down any back road I could find varying every turn, trying to lose myself. This was my moment. I thought about my family, my friends, and I thought about what kind of example I was setting for my younger siblings. I was confirmation of the thought that college wasn’t a place for us. I made a choice to never surrender; that was the example I want my family to see. Even if the odds were against me I would find a way.


There are moments in life that test us and bring out our character.
I'm unsure where I should put this put i know I want it in there. It just seems out of place to me.

Not only am I the first person to graduate from college in my family but I am the first person to go.
Seems like funky wording to me.

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Re: Help on my first draft and topic [PS enclosed]

Postby papercut » Wed Jan 22, 2014 2:47 am

You should read my whole post, but definitely read the last quote. It's my final edit.

I believe my experiences as an undergraduate are what have most prepared me to become a successful law student. Growing up in Chicago the only challenge was to finish high school.


Below you mention other challenges. I would cut out this intro. It doesn't do anything for you, it's just delaying this awesome story you're about to tell.

My mother had been pregnant by time she was 16, my father as well as my older siblings finished high school and went to work for the post office. Not only am I the first person to graduate from college in my family but I am the first person to go.


This is too long for the point you're making. Also, you want to paint your family in a positive light, even though they aren't the college going type.

How about:

My mother was pregnant at 16. My father went to work straight out of high school. They worked hard, but wanted better for me.


College was a place I never thought about until my last semester as a senior in high school; that first experience with college came only after I started playing football. Suddenly I had schools contacting me asking me to come to school to play sports and for the first time I actually felt as if I had choices in life.


How about:

We couldn't afford college, so I didn't think about going. Then the football recruiters started calling. Suddenly I felt like I had options.


Arriving at college felt as if I was in a foreign land. I looked around and felt as if I didn’t belong. I couldn’t afford my books for classes I felt the same as I felt throughout my childhood, the kid who doesn’t have his lunch. I buried myself in sports and hid myself away from the classroom.


This is too wordy again. You need to try really hard to cut down on words you don't need.

How about:

College was a foreign land. I felt like I didn't belong. I couldn't afford the books. I was the kid who couldn't afford his lunch again.


I think it's a really bad idea to tell them you skipped classes. So, I'd cut that out.

There are moments in life that test us and bring out our character.


You shouldn't fall in love with your writing. I think you should cut the above sentence out. It's just preachy. Your job is to show not tell. So far you've shown "the moment" well.

In the summer of 2011 I was out of school, sleeping on a friends couch, and working in the basement of a museum. I laid awake every night thinking about how I got where I was. I saw my friends going to school every day while I stagnated.


This doesn't have the effect you want it to have. Not everyone has classes in the summer. It makes sense that you'd have to work, since you're poor. So, working during your summers should be seen as a positive. But here you have your friends couch and the "stagnating" so the image comes out negatively.

Instead of painting a negative image about yourself, how about:

I had deep doubts about my place at college.


Having these doubts is understandable given your background. It makes the reader sympathize with you.

I took my car and went down any back road I could find varying every turn, trying to lose myself. This was my moment.


Do not talk about "trying to lose" yourself. It sounds like juvenile angst. You're an adult. You just need some space to think. The bit about this being your moment is too far from the preachy line about moments. The reader will be confused.

How about:

I needed to clear my head. I took a long drive, and wrestled with my doubts.



I thought about my family, my friends, and I thought about what kind of example I was setting for my younger siblings. I was confirmation of the thought that college wasn’t a place for us. I made a choice to never surrender; that was the example I want my family to see. Even if the odds were against me I would find a way.


I like this bit. I would just change the wording. You're using too many words again, and there's a bit of exaggeration ("never").

I thought about my family and friends. I thought about the example I was setting for my younger siblings. I didn't want them to think that college wasn't for us. I made the choice not to surrender. Even if the odds were against me, I would find a way.


I love that last sentence.

Finally. You need to use paragraphs.

My mother was pregnant at 16. My father went to work straight out of high school. They worked hard, but wanted better for me.

I had to work during the summers. We couldn't afford lunch at school, let alone college. So I didn't think about going. Then the football recruiters started calling. Suddenly, I felt like I had options. I enrolled at UNIVERSITY under an athletic scholarship.

College was a foreign land. I felt like I didn't belong. I couldn't afford the books. I was the kid who couldn't afford his lunch again. I had deep doubts about my place at the school. I needed to clear my head. So I took a long drive, and wrestled with my doubts.

I thought about my family and friends. I thought about the nay sayers. I thought about the example I was setting for my younger siblings. I didn't want them to think that college wasn't for us. So I made the choice not to surrender. Even if the odds were against me, I would find a way.



There are a lot of sentence that start with "I" above, but I think it's okay. It's a PS after all. It's about you, and it's always better to write in the active voice.

I think that's a really powerful story once you take out the parts where you don't look good.

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Re: Help on my first draft and topic [PS enclosed]

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 22, 2014 2:56 am

I really have to say... you are awesome. The comments you have provided me have helped me out so much more than my adviser. I was just in the process of cutting things down because it is too long.

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Re: Help on my first draft and topic [PS enclosed]

Postby papercut » Wed Jan 22, 2014 3:24 am

Anonymous User wrote:I really have to say... you are awesome. The comments you have provided me have helped me out so much more than my adviser. I was just in the process of cutting things down because it is too long.


Glad I could help. I really think you do have a good story.




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