Personal Statement - Any advice or critique will be greatly appreciated

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

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Personal Statement - Any advice or critique will be greatly appreciated

Postby luckboxr » Thu Jun 30, 2016 4:46 am

In a commercial airliner traveling around 600 miles per hour, thirty thousand miles in the air, there are thousands of things that can go wrong and cause disaster. Many of those things involve human error. Although many people control the fate of such a flight, ultimately the pilots wield the most influence. As a layman—in this case, someone with no aviation ability—in transit, I am powerless concerning the outcome of the trip; I rely on the pilots of the aircraft to correctly navigate and control the plane in order to help ensure a safe trip.

Before I was 14 years old, I remember my life as the passenger; the pilots in this case were my divorced parents. Turbulence was not atypical; the pilots were always fighting for control, and just as the economic weather changed for the worse. Even though a new pilot would eventually be introduced, the conditions would remain the same, and in some cases, worsen. As a result, some type of intervention became necessary, or circumstances could become even worse.

If I blinked, I would have missed it, but as soon as I realized what was going to happen, my adrenaline began to kick in and instinct took over: I got in front of my mother and shielded her from any additional blows from my stepfather, who had been pushing and slapping her around the family room. The noise from the altercation brought my sister down, who started crying once she realized that they were fighting again. It was Deja vu: I remember my mother and father always arguing, screaming, and crying, which caused my sister to scream and cry. I guess their relationship was so bad that they had to divorce before it got even worse. Nevertheless, my mom’s second marriage was different because my stepfather was a violent alcoholic; he would often drink in the morning, sometimes becoming a violent drunk throughout the day, and would eventually begin drinking and driving. Being an impressionable child at that point, I had taking a liking to my stepfather, but my opinion of him began to deteriorate as his drinking began to consume him, causing him to lose control and lash out regularly in violence and anger. I do not hate my stepfather, but I do pity him, because he became addicted to a substance and lost everything—his wife, his house, his car, his job, his freedom, and his good life. One day, the police came to my parent’s house looking for him; they said he was wanted for a hit-and-run, and was suspected of driving while under the influence—luckily, no one was hurt. I felt partly responsible, for he was my stepfather—someone I was supposed to trust and love. Why didn’t I convince him to stop drinking? Why couldn’t I prevent his fate? I first felt powerless, then frustrated for allowing myself to become so powerless. In an effort to cull the frustration and solve my dilemma, I would eventually vow to do be more vigilant concerning family matters.

After seeing others neglect their duty with abandon, I knew it was my responsibility to protect my sister from the same fate of my mother and stepfather. I could only hope that she understood this was not a type of family to emulate. I especially wanted her to learn from the mistakes of my stepfather by being cognizant of how easy it is become addicted and lose control. Thankfully, she has decided to major in health sciences in order to increase the quality of life for herself and others. In addition, I urged my sister to learn from my mother’s mistakes concerning relationships and marriages. I warned her about having similar relationship and marriage woes in the future, and, if she had any children, the impact that would have on them. Lastly, with my stepfather gone, and the loss of our home in 2008, I knew it was my duty to financially support my mother and sister. I began working full-time while going to school in order to help pay the rent and support myself.

After all these experiences, I have become more and more discontent with my ability to control my destination. Rather than being just a passive observer who is along for the ride, I want to effect change, and not be helpless in the face of injustice or calamity. After having experienced periods of powerlessness during my life, I feel motivated and humbled to take the pilot’s controls and plot a new course.
Last edited by luckboxr on Sat Jul 16, 2016 5:37 am, edited 2 times in total.

cavalier1138

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Re: Personal Statement - Any advice or critique will be greatly appreciated

Postby cavalier1138 » Thu Jun 30, 2016 8:05 am

I think it's too dark.

It's clear that your family dynamic has been one of the biggest influences on your life, so I don't think you need to change the topic entirely. But I didn't come away from it thinking, "Wow, what a resilient guy/girl." I came away thinking, "I want to give this person a hug." Which is good if you want to inspire sympathy, but I don't think that serves you well on a PS.

I think the best way you can turn this topic to your advantage is to focus on breaking patterns. You're talking about breaking out of vicious family cycles of abuse and addiction. We don't need all the details of the actual abuse and addiction, but we do need to see how it's molded you into the person you are today, the person that's ready to go to law school.

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34iplaw

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Re: Personal Statement - Any advice or critique will be greatly appreciated

Postby 34iplaw » Sat Jul 02, 2016 12:12 pm

I think it's a bit dark as well, and I also don't get the connection to the plane nor care for it much. I like expounding on the mundane, but I, personally, feel like it should be something relevant to you.

It just reads off to me to frame something in a way that almost leads one to believe you are an airline pilot with the major qualifier of stating that you are not one. I'm not sure that it would matter to an AdCom, but, as a reader, I found it really unusual, disjointed, or, perhaps a better word, forced.

I think you have the benefit of being a strong writer capable of conveying emotion and hardship. I also think the idea of lack of control is something a lot of people can feel. I just think the plane thing is really odd. Perhaps, it would stick out to AdComs in a good way, but I'm not sure... the "as a layman" made me become more disinterested, TBH.

luckboxr

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Re: Personal Statement - Any advice or critique will be greatly appreciated

Postby luckboxr » Sat Jul 02, 2016 10:47 pm

Firstly, thank you for your responses and advice. Getting another perspective on my writing is always very important to me.

Concerning the "darkness" of my statement, I concede it might be a little too dark, but life isn't suppose to be all neat and happy all the time. I think the darkness makes it unique—I mean, it is suppose to be a personal statement; apparently you guys think it's too personal?

In regard to the introduction paragraph, I think it's vital to the theme of my statement; it's suppose to be an attention grabber and I think it accomplishes that goal; however, I think you're right about the layman part. Also, I think it helps me setup a strong conclusion.

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4LTsPointingNorth

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Re: Personal Statement - Any advice or critique will be greatly appreciated

Postby 4LTsPointingNorth » Sat Jul 02, 2016 11:12 pm

luckboxr wrote:Firstly, thank you for your responses and advice. Getting another perspective on my writing is always very important to me.

Concerning the "darkness" of my statement, I concede it might be a little too dark, but life isn't suppose to be all neat and happy all the time. I think the darkness makes it unique—I mean, it is suppose to be a personal statement; apparently you guys think it's too personal?

In regard to the introduction paragraph, I think it's vital to the theme of my statement; it's suppose to be an attention grabber and I think it accomplishes that goal; however, I think you're right about the layman part. Also, I think it helps me setup a strong conclusion.


First I just want to say that you write well. That's foundational to a successful personal statement, so you're in a good place in that regard. But as others have said, your personal statement is personal without being persuasive.

The point of a personal statement isn't to be personal for its own sake. The point is to clearly communicate something about yourself as it relates to your capacity to be successful in the practice of law. In other words, you don't necessarily want to show your true self to the admissions committee. Instead, you want to show your best self with respect to those experiences and those ambitions that have led you to the point in your life where you are seeking admission to their law school.

As a final note, although you use the through-line of traveling in a commercial airliner consistently throughout your statement, I am confused as to why you include that through-line at all. You don't seem to be a pilot or at all affiliated with that industry. So it seems like your only use is for the sake of having some literary flourish in your personal statement.

As a reader, I would rather you directly addressed your feelings of powerlessness earlier in life and tied that directly into how your future study and practice of law directly relates to those feelings. That would be much more effective to me as a reader than your current statement. As it stands now, I don't think that piloting a commercial airliner is an adequate stand-in for feeling in control of your life and your destiny (consider, for instance, the fact that commercial airline pilots set auto-pilot for much of the flight and really only fully tune-in for take-off and landing).

Anyway, if you have specific questions feel free to engage. Otherwise, I just wanted to comment so that you reconsider what I felt to be valid criticisms by earlier posters that you seemed to be politely rejecting in your response just now.

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34iplaw

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Re: Personal Statement - Any advice or critique will be greatly appreciated

Postby 34iplaw » Sun Jul 03, 2016 12:00 am

I think that is a fair point regarding how dark it is, how dark a personal statement can be, etc. I think the particular problem is that the statement has a dark tone, is about being helpless, and there is no turn around or redemption of note. If you are going to get so dark, I think it needs to show some redemption or how you have been made stronger or how this has caused you to achieve what you have so far. It almost reads or implies that law school is your means to change your direction in your life, and, while that is fantastic and good on you, I do not know how it will read to AdComs.

I very much agree with 4LTsPointingNorth. I think that they very much encapsulated what I was trying to convey initially but in a much more articulate, precise, and succinct manner. In particular, the personal without being persuasive comment is quite pertinent. The rough draft of my current statement suffers from this as well IMO, and it is something I will use to try and revise mine a bit.

I think this is good starting point though - a very good one. Being able to open up and be personal in a statement, really is not an easy feat. I think you have accomplished a lot by being able to be open about these matters in your personal statement.

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justonemoregame

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Re: Personal Statement - Any advice or critique will be greatly appreciated

Postby justonemoregame » Sun Jul 03, 2016 12:35 am

4LTsPointingNorth states it all in a kinder, better way, but in my opinion...

This PS is god-awful, and submitting it will hurt more than it will help. I was expecting something about piloting (after fighting through a terribly-written first paragraph), but instead I got a sob story, and I just sifted through a stack of 30 sob stories. Try to be more logical and less evocative.

Why are you applying to X school? Because your stepdads were assholes? Not a great reason.

Who are you? Someone with asshole stepdads? Along with 1K other applicants. So much for unique.

And by the way, whomever is reading your PS will almost certainly be a person with a life that is neat and happy all of the time. All of the time. So try to get on their level. The most redeeming part of your statement is that you worked to support your family. Literally scrap the rest, because hardship is easily implied. Don't talk about the assholes in your life; it only belies the fact that you hold a petulant grudge, which lawyers shouldn't do.

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Re: Personal Statement - Any advice or critique will be greatly appreciated

Postby luckboxr » Sun Jul 03, 2016 2:53 am

justonemoregame wrote:4LTsPointingNorth states it all in a kinder, better way, but in my opinion...

This PS is god-awful, and submitting it will hurt more than it will help. I was expecting something about piloting (after fighting through a terribly-written first paragraph), but instead I got a sob story, and I just sifted through a stack of 30 sob stories. Try to be more logical and less evocative.

Why are you applying to X school? Because your stepdads were assholes? Not a great reason.

Who are you? Someone with asshole stepdads? Along with 1K other applicants. So much for unique.

And by the way, whomever is reading your PS will almost certainly be a person with a life that is neat and happy all of the time. All of the time. So try to get on their level. The most redeeming part of your statement is that you worked to support your family. Literally scrap the rest, because hardship is easily implied. Don't talk about the assholes in your life; it only belies the fact that you hold a petulant grudge, which lawyers shouldn't do.


You incorrectly used the word belie: be·lie
bəˈlī/
verb
3rd person present: belies
1.
(of an appearance) fail to give a true notion or impression of (something); disguise or contradict.
"his lively alert manner belied his years"
synonyms: contradict, be at odds with, call into question, show/prove to be false, disprove, debunk, discredit, controvert, negate; formalconfute
"his eyes belied his words"
antonyms: testify to, reveal
2.
fail to fulfill or justify (a claim or expectation); betray.
"the notebooks belie Darwin's later recollection"

Please don't use words you can't define. Thank you.

Anyway, how does it imply I hold a grudge? I emphatically said I hold no anger towards the man; in fact, I said I pitied the man; how does that mean I hold a grudge?

Also, the part about the person reading my personal statement "will be a person with a life that is neat and happy all of the time." The illogical nature of this statement is just outstanding; not only did you make many unwarranted assumptions, but you actually really believe some people, which includes admission officers, live their lives in interminable bliss? Did you even take the LSAT? If you did, you learned nothing buddy. You said I should be more logical, but maybe you should look to yourself first.

In addition, the introduction is a metaphor about life as a child (passenger) under parents (pilots). Your reading comprehension is worse than your logical reasoning.

Are you a practicing attorney? If you are, tell me your name so I can avoid you like the plague. If you're in admissions, I'm in disbelief any law school would hire such a person with such a horrible attitude and illogical nature. What school do you work for? You shouldn't have the honor of reading people's sob stories. And people wonder why our law schools are failing?

cavalier1138

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Re: Personal Statement - Any advice or critique will be greatly appreciated

Postby cavalier1138 » Sun Jul 03, 2016 6:09 am

Ok, I understand your point, but you submitted your statement for criticism. And you're getting fairly universal feedback, so maybe you should actually listen to it.

Everyone has said the exact same thing: it's too dark. That doesn't mean that anyone thinks that life is rainbows and kittens or that you should somehow lie about your experiences growing up. But you're writing a statement that's supposed to convince a school to accept you. Just chronicling the various ways in which you were abused as a child isn't going to do anything but make them feel sorry for you. And as I mentioned in the first post, that's the current effect your PS has on me.

You can submit whatever you want as a PS, but I guarantee you that a statement which highlights things like redemption, pattern-breaking, etc. will be 10x more effective than what you have now. Ignoring that advice is just being plain stubborn.

Edit: Incidentally, I agree about the airline. You seem to think that no one here "got it". Everyone understands the metaphor, but it is so divorced from everything else you write about (and from your personal experiences) that it sticks out. If you're going to employ it as a metaphor for your childhood, then don't spend a whole paragraph on it.

luckboxr

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Re: Personal Statement - Any advice or critique will be greatly appreciated

Postby luckboxr » Sun Jul 03, 2016 8:03 am

Cavalier, I will take your advice and make the changes. Thank you very much.

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bmathers

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Re: Personal Statement - Any advice or critique will be greatly appreciated

Postby bmathers » Fri Jul 15, 2016 9:36 pm

luckboxr wrote:
justonemoregame wrote:4LTsPointingNorth states it all in a kinder, better way, but in my opinion...

This PS is god-awful, and submitting it will hurt more than it will help. I was expecting something about piloting (after fighting through a terribly-written first paragraph), but instead I got a sob story, and I just sifted through a stack of 30 sob stories. Try to be more logical and less evocative.

Why are you applying to X school? Because your stepdads were assholes? Not a great reason.

Who are you? Someone with asshole stepdads? Along with 1K other applicants. So much for unique.

And by the way, whomever is reading your PS will almost certainly be a person with a life that is neat and happy all of the time. All of the time. So try to get on their level. The most redeeming part of your statement is that you worked to support your family. Literally scrap the rest, because hardship is easily implied. Don't talk about the assholes in your life; it only belies the fact that you hold a petulant grudge, which lawyers shouldn't do.


You incorrectly used the word belie: be·lie
bəˈlī/
verb
3rd person present: belies
1.
(of an appearance) fail to give a true notion or impression of (something); disguise or contradict.
"his lively alert manner belied his years"
synonyms: contradict, be at odds with, call into question, show/prove to be false, disprove, debunk, discredit, controvert, negate; formalconfute
"his eyes belied his words"
antonyms: testify to, reveal
2.
fail to fulfill or justify (a claim or expectation); betray.
"the notebooks belie Darwin's later recollection"

Please don't use words you can't define. Thank you.

Anyway, how does it imply I hold a grudge? I emphatically said I hold no anger towards the man; in fact, I said I pitied the man; how does that mean I hold a grudge?

Also, the part about the person reading my personal statement "will be a person with a life that is neat and happy all of the time." The illogical nature of this statement is just outstanding; not only did you make many unwarranted assumptions, but you actually really believe some people, which includes admission officers, live their lives in interminable bliss? Did you even take the LSAT? If you did, you learned nothing buddy. You said I should be more logical, but maybe you should look to yourself first.

In addition, the introduction is a metaphor about life as a child (passenger) under parents (pilots). Your reading comprehension is worse than your logical reasoning.

Are you a practicing attorney? If you are, tell me your name so I can avoid you like the plague. If you're in admissions, I'm in disbelief any law school would hire such a person with such a horrible attitude and illogical nature. What school do you work for? You shouldn't have the honor of reading people's sob stories. And people wonder why our law schools are failing?

Dude, be coachable. That's all. You're attitude in the first half of this thread that I read is a coach'a or teacher's nightmare. How do I know that? Bc I am one.

If you find it perfect, no need to ask for opinions - just tell us to admire it. Case closed

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Re: Personal Statement - Any advice or critique will be greatly appreciated

Postby lavarman84 » Fri Jul 15, 2016 11:54 pm

luckboxr wrote:In addition, the introduction is a metaphor about life as a child (passenger) under parents (pilots). Your reading comprehension is worse than your logical reasoning.


I agree with the other people in this thread. The airplane metaphor is not effective. It left me wondering how airplanes are relevant at all. I get that it's a metaphor, but it's completely out of left field and not connected to your passions or experiences (as far as I can tell). It's wasted space.

You have two pages (IIRC). I think you can fill two pages with relevant, persuasive information about you.

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brinicolec

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Re: Personal Statement - Any advice or critique will be greatly appreciated

Postby brinicolec » Sat Jul 16, 2016 2:22 am

A couple things:

1) Echoing everyone else's sentiment: I don't love... or like... the plane metaphor. It was something that drew me in, but only because I was misled. I thought you were about to take me on a plane trip with you or something but it ended up being about something completely different. I wouldn't even bother trying to rework this part. Just trash it.

2) The subject matter might be a little too dark, but this really is more of a subjective thing. Some people will say personal statements aren't actually supposed to be personal; some people think it should be more about getting adcomm to see you as a future lawyer than anything else. I think it just depends. When I recently went to one of the forums, the deans from the schools talked about PS for awhile and one of them (from Yale) said she prefers a PS that shows you've taken a wall down, basically, not necessarily one that just paints you in a positive light. Her example was a PS she once read written by a male who had previously viewed himself as a feminist but became conflicted when he was invited to join some exclusive all-male club. Essentially, his PS went through his internal conflict (and ultimate decision to join the club). Another dean's (from Chicago) example was about someone who was the youngest child of 5 and wrote about spaghetti and meatball dinners with her family that they had once a week and how, since she was the youngest, she had to fight for her meatball. So as you can see, the things that stick out enough for them to go to a forum and provide them as examples of great PS vary.

3) Since it seems like most everyone else is just telling you to scratch this topic, I'll give you some opinions for if you choose not to: I think if you want to write about something like this, you have to write about it very, very well and it has to have a turning point. Yours seems more like a narrative and then the turning point comes RIGHT at the end. For a subject like this, I don't think you want that. If you decide to continue with this topic, I'd recommend ridding of that weird plane metaphor and starting with "If I blinked, I would have missed it" in your next draft and going from there. I think you should really sit down and figure out why this topic is what you're drawn to for your PS. If you feel it's been formative to who you are now... IN A WAY THAT IS POSITIVE... then hone in on that in your PS. If you're going to talk about obstacles, you have to talk about how you've overcome them. If you can't really think of any way you've done that, then this topic's no good.

Good luck! I know it's tough trying to figure out how to write about/if you should write about something that's truly personal but you feel has shaped you in an important way; I'm going through the same thing over here!



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