Unfinished PS- Criticism welcome

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

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Unfinished PS- Criticism welcome

Postby tylergreenandgold » Thu Aug 18, 2016 3:52 pm

The writing prompt that lay on the desk in front of me seemed simple enough: “Write an essay arguing either that dissent is good or that dissent is bad.” To an insecure, unprincipled high-school junior, maintaining fraternal bonds and positive social status is as high on the priority list as is inhaling and eating breakfast. So I argued the latter. Dissent, disagreement, and rebellion, after all, were at the root of all of the tense disputes I’d ever had with friends, all of my groundings and boring indoor weekends, and every single one of my detentions and out-of-school suspensions. Feeling self-assured, I pumped out five paragraphs about dissent’s propensity to foster division and disrespect for cherished leaders and institutions. You would be hard pressed, I argued, to find a war in the past 200,000 years which wasn’t the result of someone questioning or assaulting the status quo. As always, I was confident that I was right.

The teacher’s feedback, which proved to be transformative, made it clear that I was wrong. Dissent, he lectured, is the engine of history. Without the bold and pugnacious pursuits of Thomas Jefferson, Susan B. Anthony, and Martin Luther King Jr., among so many others, the world would be stagnant, and would always be marred by death and injustice. In other words, our pivot away from feudalism, slavery, monarchy, fascism, and patriarchy couldn’t have happened without the men and women throughout history who were willing to dissent. The lesson effected my thinking in significant ways. After some time I felt free to stop caring so much about public opinion and to think for myself. I began to ask questions, to raise an eyebrow at questionable claims, and to grapple with friends and family over the issues I thought were important. I probably became a bit more annoying to those around me- sharing highly partisan op-ed articles on social media, inserting myself into discussions with a pretentious “Actually..”- but the benefits of freethinking proved to outweigh the costs. A growing interest in politics, history, and legal issues enriched my worldview and guided my intellectual pursuits for the next five years. Being wrong, it seems, would ultimately serve as the foundation of my decision to apply to law school.

In college, a few things happened which allowed me to transition from a scrappy political hobbyist to an aspiring law school student. First, I decided that I want to devote my life’s work to the problems that I was spending so much time talking and thinking about. I knew that I couldn’t have enjoyed a life selling cars or owning a pastry shop when there are so many more important and stimulating things to work on. The second thing I decided is that having opinions probably wouldn’t suffice alone to help fix things like political unrest, poverty, or climate change. I knew that if I wanted to have any small shot at fixing these problems, there are two things that I would need: an historical mind, and a working understanding of the legal processes and institutions in which these problems would be resolved. The decision to attend law school followed naturally. [Something about desire to go into federal litigation.]

[How the law school I’m applying to meshes well with my interests and aspirations, and how I will contribute to the law school’s academic environment.]

KatCoco

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Re: Unfinished PS- Criticism welcome

Postby KatCoco » Fri Aug 19, 2016 12:55 am

"maintaining fraternal bonds and positive social status is as high on the priority list as is inhaling and eating breakfast"
Fix subject-verb agreement.

Honestly I don't find this a compelling topic at all. Like okay you realized that blindly accepting the status quo is bad... That's an incredibly unremarkable revelation, especially for someone about to enter their undergraduate studies.

"As always, I was confident that I was right." Not a good quality to point out. Sure teenagers are a-holes and I understand that you don't have this attitude now, but you don't need to emphasize this here.

You mention an enormous range of problems--"political unrest, poverty, or climate change"--that you'd like to solve, somehow. You don't make it clear how (though I assume you will touch on this in talking about federal litigation?). Further, it seems naive the way you put forth the generic "I want to save the world" theme without any details about the issues (not sure what they are) you actually care about. All I've gotten from this is that you pay attention to politics... Okay, well I'm pretty sure every person who applies to law school does. Without discussing any personal, educational, or professional experiences (other than getting a bad grade on an essay in high school) that relate to your goals , your declaration of wanting to fix the world comes off as hollow. Have you done any kind of volunteer work/internships that relate, even slightly, to your convictions/goals? Experiences with a family member/a friend relating to the issues you care about?

Not everyone applying to law school has to have a compelling personal experience/reason for wanting to practice law. But writing a "Why Law School" PS when you don't have one is, in my opinion, a bad idea.

Hope this didn't come off as too harsh, just trying to help. Let me know if you want further help.

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call-me-bubbles

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Re: Unfinished PS- Criticism welcome

Postby call-me-bubbles » Fri Aug 19, 2016 3:03 am

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Last edited by call-me-bubbles on Wed Jan 11, 2017 12:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

KatCoco

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Re: Unfinished PS- Criticism welcome

Postby KatCoco » Fri Aug 19, 2016 4:20 am

call-me-bubbles wrote:
tylergreenandgold wrote:I knew that I couldn’t have enjoyed a life selling cars or owning a pastry shop when there are so many more important and stimulating things to work on.


I disagree with the other poster. I think this could actually make for a good personal statement, because, let's face it: All of us struggle with the desire to go along with the status quo for the sake of gaining acceptance. Many people (including lawyers and wannabe-lawyers) encounter the same difficulties day-to-day. I think I can confidently say that there are at least a few people on this board -- though perhaps lurking -- who are simply planning to apply to law school because they fail to think critically about their own goals and desires in life, instead relying on the wishes of parents, the perceived prestige of certain careers and institutions, etc.

Anyway, long story short, I don't think this is the worst topic. Extremely compelling and unique? No. But if you make it personal, I think that's all that matters to admissions committees. (And that's who you're trying to impress; not TLS.) Most of us aren't writing our personal statements on incredibly unique topics.

My biggest critique -- other than some grammar/flow issues -- is the quote above. This line made me cringe. To me, it reeks of privilege and a lack of self-awareness. Not everyone has the means or opportunity to have a career focused on the "more important and stimulating things" you hope to work on. I know exactly what you mean, and I feel the same way, but I don't think admissions committees would necessarily give you the same benefit of the doubt. To an ad-com reader, this might just come across as, "Wow, what an arrogant little brat... He just shat on the vast majority of the American workforce."

Particularly because I come from "those kind of people," this line hit me hard.


All good points. Yes, you could make this a far more successful essay with the addition (as the above poster stated) of more personal elements and most importantly, specifics. Looking back at the essay, I guess it wasn't necessarily the theme of going against the status quo I disliked--the delivery is the issue. I don't like that the essay is entirely based around a small incident from 11th grade without meaningful discussion of other aspects of yourself/experiences. With the addition of substantial content to bolster that theme, it could certainly be a successful one.

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texasellewoods

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Re: Unfinished PS- Criticism welcome

Postby texasellewoods » Fri Aug 19, 2016 9:48 am

KatCoco wrote:
All good points. Yes, you could make this a far more successful essay with the addition (as the above poster stated) of more personal elements and most importantly, specifics. Looking back at the essay, I guess it wasn't necessarily the theme of going against the status quo I disliked--the delivery is the issue. I don't like that the essay is entirely based around a small incident from 11th grade without meaningful discussion of other aspects of yourself/experiences. With the addition of substantial content to bolster that theme, it could certainly be a successful one.


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Last edited by texasellewoods on Sun Sep 18, 2016 8:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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kgm1990

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Re: Unfinished PS- Criticism welcome

Postby kgm1990 » Fri Aug 19, 2016 11:51 am

Besides the stuff addressed above, I think the most pressing issue is that the statement lacks authenticity. Almost anyone could have written a statement of a similar theme. If you're willing to write about something that happened in 11th grade, why not reach a little deeper?



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