Redid Personal Statement... Help!

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
Anonymous User
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Redid Personal Statement... Help!

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 30, 2014 3:05 pm

Hi all, I recently rewrote my PS and would appreciate any and all feedback on it, particularly content-related.

THANK YOU IN ADVANCE!

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Last edited by Anonymous User on Mon Feb 03, 2014 3:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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papercut
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Re: Redid Personal Statement... Help!

Postby papercut » Thu Jan 30, 2014 9:51 pm

I think this is too much about everyone else in your family, and not enough about you directly. The PS should be almost entirely about you.

Now for the writing. I'll give you my feedback on your first paragraph. If you generalize the advice to the rest of your writing, I'll take a closer look at the whole thing on your next submission.

“Let’s get started with an easy question,” the alumni representative said pleasantly, “tell me about your family.” I was at my first college admissions interview at the local Starbucks. I smiled nervously as I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. What was supposed to be a casual question to make me comfortable made me instantly uneasy. Whether I was at a job interview, chatting with a new acquaintance, or making small talk with a stranger, this question never failed to make me uncomfortable. My family’s atypical, complicated structure made this question difficult to answer, often leading me to give vague, ambiguous answers, hoping for a nod of indifferent approval rather than risking judgment from giving a full, accurate description.


Adverbs are evil. Don't use them unless you have to. We can see he's being pleasant, you don't have to tell us. "Alumni representative" should just be "alumnus/a". "Representative" does nothing extra to inform the reader. Also, he didn't ask you a question. And, "get started" should just be "start." Try to cut out any unnecessary words or phrases. How about:

“Let’s start with something easy,” the alumnus said. “Tell me about your family.”


Your third sentence has some of the same issues. How about:

I smiled and shifted in my seat.


You want the reader to see that you are a bit nervous. You want to avoid having to tell the reader directly what's going on in your mind. This is what people mean by, "show don't tell."

You should cut down on the adjectives. Adjectives are often unnecessary fluff. Other times they are a crutch. Instead of showing, you end up telling. In your last sentence you doubled up on nearly all the adjectives. And it did nothing for you. How about this for your last sentence:

My family’s complicated structure made this question difficult to answer, often leading me to give vague answers, hoping for a nod of indifferent approval rather than risking judgment by giving an accurate description.


The meaning is exactly the same, but now there's less clutter.

This sentence is also on bit on the long side. You could break it up like this:

My family’s complicated structure made this question difficult to answer. I'd often give vague answers, hoping for a nod of indifferent approval rather than risking judgment by giving a more accurate description.


I think you're also under the impression that you're not allowed to use contractions. That's just silly. Without contractions your writing sounds stuffy and too formal. It doesn't read the way people speak. Say these out loud:

"I don't want any more pizza."

"I do not want any more pizza."

The latter sounds robotic. It's too formal, or maybe even aggressive.

Anonymous User
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Re: Redid Personal Statement... Help!

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 31, 2014 1:20 am

Papercut, thank you VERY MUCH for your insight.

I was thinking the same thing RE: too much about my family and not enough about myself. I ended up cutting out the entire portion on my sister; between the details about my father and my sister, there was really no room for me to discuss myself :|

I'm definitely still struggling with the style... I like flowery descriptions and it is hard for me to recognize when they are not appropriate/needed :roll:

Below is my updated version if anyone is interested. I am still planning on refining it a few more times so I would consider this a second draft.

Thanks again, y'all; I really appreciate it!

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See further updated post below:
Last edited by Anonymous User on Fri Jan 31, 2014 8:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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papercut
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Re: Redid Personal Statement... Help!

Postby papercut » Fri Jan 31, 2014 2:56 am

Glad I could help.

There are still some rough spots in the writing like:

He died from a fatal heart attack in 2006.


Here, "fatal" is another one of those adjectives you don't need. We know from the verb ("died") that the heart attack was fatal.

Your story arc isn't good. You spend too many lines on the low points. You need to pick it up and get positive a lot sooner.

I now consider much of the pain and frustration I felt in the past a means of shaping me into the individual I am today and what I want to accomplish with a career in public interest law.


The above sentence is very important in your PS. Here's my take on it:

First, you don't ever have to tell us "I consider," or "I think," or "I believe." We know it's you doing the "considering." It's your writing after all. So we can cut that right out. "In the past," is unnecessary since you're already using the past tense ("felt"). Instead of "means of shaping" you should just say "shaped." In general "-ing" words and extra "of's" don't read well. Finally, does "my career" instead of "a career" sound more personal, or committed? With all that in mind, how's this look:

The pain and frustration I felt shaped me into the individual I am today and what I want to accomplish with my career in public interest law.


On second thought. I don't like "me into the individual I am today," so how about:

The pain and frustration I felt shaped my character and what I want to accomplish with my career in public interest law.


Shorter is usually better.

Your support for the ACA is the central evidence for your point. But, you don't tell us enough about how much you supported it. Did you just tell your friends it was a good thing? Or did you spend 60+ hours a week promoting it? There's too much room for such questions in your story.

In general, I hope you have a resume that can support your claims about wanting to do public interest law. Without this evidence your application won't be taken well.

Let me know what you think. I'm looking forward to your next rewrite.

Anonymous User
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Re: Redid Personal Statement... Help!

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 31, 2014 1:12 pm

Papercut, thank you again for your feedback. I can't express how helpful this is for me. I really, really appreciate it.

I've added a lot more detail re: my ACA work and, I hope, focused more on my personal growth in the draft below.

Fortunately, my resume is almost entirely nonprofit/government work (several internships; currently working fulltime at non-controversial HHS agency) so I hope this resonates well with that.

My latest draft is below. Thanks all!

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Further updated version below:
Last edited by Anonymous User on Fri Jan 31, 2014 8:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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

Re: Redid Personal Statement... Help!

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 31, 2014 8:34 pm

Did another round of edits after work today. Updated version is below:

All feedback is MUCH appreciated!

THANKS :lol:

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Last edited by Anonymous User on Mon Feb 03, 2014 3:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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papercut
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Re: Redid Personal Statement... Help!

Postby papercut » Sat Feb 01, 2014 9:57 am

Great rewrite.

I have only a few comments.

I think you can cut this paragraph out:

There was nothing special about my early childhood. I was born in 1991 in Indianapolis, Indiana to a married couple. We lived a typical middle-class life. My father worked 9-5 as an accountant, and my mother stayed at home with my sister and me.


To get the same effect, you can just add a sentence to the next paragraph. Like:

Until 1996 my family led a simple middle-class life. Then my father was abruptly fired from his job for “odd behavior.”...


I think the shift is interesting, but all the "normal" stuff doesn't do anything for your story.

Thus, I never knew how to respond to questions about my parents.


Out of all the conclusion indicators, "thus" is my least favorite. It sounds too old fashioned. How about:

So, I never knew how to respond to questions about my parents.


This anger and embarrassment about my father began to subside as I put my father’s situation into context during college. As a social science major, many of my classes touched on mental health and the non-biological factors that can positively and negatively affect an individual’s mental wellbeing. I began to realize that my father’s denial of his illness was likely influenced by the stigma associated with mental illness and depression. My father liked to think of himself as a “man’s man.” Yet, as I learned as a Women’s Studies major, mental illness and depression are associated with femininity and the ideas of physical and mental weakness.


The biggest change I'd make is to get rid of this paragraph and use the one you had before where your mother tells you how your father's parents reacted to his diagnosis. The latter is a personal, touching story. What you have now is a restatement of your transcript, which is almost always a mistake.

With a greater knowledge of the factors surrounding my father’s situation, I realized that I had a unique understanding of the struggles those with mental illness and their families face. I became an active supporter of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, particularly for its requirement that insurance policies cover mental health treatment including depression screenings and counseling. I regularly contacted my U.S. Congressman, John Boccieri, one of the last Democratic House members to support the bill, to share my story and voice my support. This led to my summer internship in Congressman Boccieri’s district office, where I spoke with constituents regularly about the Congressman’s decision to support the bill and what the ACA would mean for them. My involvement with the ACA did not stop after its passage. As an Organizing For Action volunteer, I participate in “Obamacare Information Blizzards” across Atlanta. These are casual gatherings at local universities where OFA members distribute informational flyers and try to answer people’s questions. In my work with the ACA, I often share my father’s story as a powerful illustration of why mental health coverage is so vital.


This paragraph could be stronger if it was a story. Also I don't think congressman is supposed to be capitalized unless it comes right before the congressman's name. See: https://nautical.uwf.edu/unitapp/faq/li ... 5&CLAN=333

I feel grateful for my powerful story and the opportunity to provides me to impact positive change.


Last thing. You just told the story. You showed us that it was powerful. Don't tell us it was powerful now. Also there's a typo. How about just:

I feel grateful for the personal growth that came out of my family's story.


I think it's nice to bring it back around to your family's story, since that's how the PS starts out.




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