Personal Statement First Draft

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
ryan2524
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Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2017 1:16 pm

Personal Statement First Draft

Postby ryan2524 » Mon Jun 19, 2017 1:19 pm

Hi all, I just finished the first draft of my personal statement and would love if someone could rip it apart for me. Although the story I tell is true barring a name change, I fear it comes off as cliche or manufactured so let me know if that's the case. Thanks so much.

I stood in front of the door with my fist raised and shaking, prepared to knock. My eyes darted back and forth down the hallway, desperate for a circumstance that would drag me away from my task. When that failed to materialize, I was left with little choice. As my fingers traced the gold lettering that simply read “Guidance Office,” I took a deep breath and made what felt like the most monumental decision of my young life.

I was 14 years old when I met Veronica in 9th grade English class. We were partnered together on a project for Animal Farm and quickly bonded over a shared passion of dystopian literature. Even though she skipped school most of the time, we’d often meet at the coffee cart before school and discuss the issues of the day. She was unusually guarded and careful for someone our age but never failed to bring a unique perspective to the discussion.

One particularly memorable exchange began with me ranting about the injustice that was my latest math test. When I denounced it as unfair, she responded with “Who ever told you that life was fair?” I pointed out the pessimism in her response and could feel the eye roll I received in return. “I’m not pessimistic, I’m realistic. I just had to face reality a little sooner than you did.”

I later came to understand the meaning of her cryptic statement. When Veronica’s mother had passed away, her father turned his anger towards her, lashing out both verbally and physically. I begged her to report it, if not to the police then the school. She was adamantly against any involvement with authorities and warned me not to intervene or it would cost me her friendship.

This is how I found myself outside the guidance office that day, wrestling with the decision of whether it was my place to be there. I was convinced that the only way for her to improve her situation was if she actually got the help she deserved, even if she would never admit it.

I would like to say that I knocked on the office door that day and revealed everything I knew, leading to a reconciliation between Veronica and her father and something resembling a happy ending. That is not what happened. I didn’t have many friends at the time and did not want to place my friendship in harm’s way, regardless of the cause. I walked away that day because I thought it would preserve our friendship.

I didn’t see Veronica much after that. Her attendance at school grew sparser and I transferred schools soon afterwards. We lost touch and I never told her how close I had come to reporting what she had told me. The following year, I received word that Veronica withdrew from our school and I wasn’t able to get a straight answer on where she went. To this day, I haven’t been able to answer that question.

Veronica’s time in my life was brief but reinforced a number of ideals in which I believe strongly. No one who is suffering should be left without someone to advocate for them, especially a child that is unable to defend oneself. Cases like Veronica’s are far from unique and many of our most vulnerable citizens slip through the cracks. I don’t know whether deciding to knock on that door ultimately would’ve made a positive difference in her case and it is a hypothetical I have reflected on many times since that day. While I can’t do anything to change the past, I can work with those who will need an advocate in the future. I intend to do what I couldn’t bring myself to do as a naïve teenager: Provide resources, support, and a voice to those who need it most.

cavalier1138
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Re: Personal Statement First Draft

Postby cavalier1138 » Mon Jun 19, 2017 1:42 pm

I like this quite a bit.

The only change I'd suggest is to avoid getting too grandiose in the end. You don't need to tell the reader that this kind of thing happens all the time. Stay focused on this specific instance and your desire to not repeat your past mistakes. Otherwise, I think you're in great shape with this one.

hi1everyone
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Re: Personal Statement First Draft

Postby hi1everyone » Mon Jun 19, 2017 6:39 pm

So I'm wondering if in your time since that moment, you've had any experiences that reaffirm the ideals you mention in the last paragraph. Have you advocated for children in some capacity since? Volunteered? Taught? You write that you don't know the outcome of knocking on the door, and I think you may want to choose a moment of action rather than inaction for your personal statement. While I think it is a learning moment that you've highlighted, I'm not sure if it's necessarily the strongest way to convey that you want to work with those who need advocates. Is law school the only way you can "provide resources, support, and a voice to those who need it most"? Maybe, but you probably tried to do that in some other way before deciding on law school and that's what I'd rather read.

I don't mean to knock your whole topic, because I think the bones are solid and the message you want to convey is clear. However, I think the anecdote or accompaniment can be stronger.

Hope that helps!

ryan2524
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Re: Personal Statement First Draft

Postby ryan2524 » Mon Jun 19, 2017 7:40 pm

I appreciate the help, guys. I will try and narrow my focus a little and cut out a line or two that sound a bit preachy now that I'm looking at it again. Do you have any other suggestions on where it can be improved?

In regards to advocacy experiences, it's been difficult to do the sort of things I wanted to do. I had a lot of mental health issues throughout high school and my economic situation required me to work extensively when I wasn't in school. I did participate in student government in high school and the honor council throughout undergrad that were both framed around my desire to be a voice for others but I don't know if I could work that in without it being awkward. There's been a lot of informal ways I've tried to help younger family members, neighbors, people in the community I knew for whatever reason but I can't recall any individual circumstance that was as impactful as this one.

I don't take it as a knock on my topic at all. I know I have trouble looking at my own work objectively so by all means point out any deficiencies in it.

jrc223
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Re: Personal Statement First Draft

Postby jrc223 » Sat Jun 24, 2017 2:11 am

I think this would be a lot better if you deleted the entire first paragraph. Beginning in medias res is really cliche, and your second paragraph would make for a more interesting introduction anyway. My two cents

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zkyggi
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Re: Personal Statement First Draft

Postby zkyggi » Sat Jun 24, 2017 4:42 am

Without experiences backing up that last paragraph, I don't see a lot of value in this topic for your PS. You didn't actually do anything, and the dialogue is pretty basic. You say that there were reasons keeping you from being more involved, my hunch is that starting there will be better for you.

ryan2524
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Re: Personal Statement First Draft

Postby ryan2524 » Sat Jun 24, 2017 1:15 pm

zkyggi wrote:Without experiences backing up that last paragraph, I don't see a lot of value in this topic for your PS. You didn't actually do anything, and the dialogue is pretty basic. You say that there were reasons keeping you from being more involved, my hunch is that starting there will be better for you.


I appreciate the feedback but I don't think I could reframe it around why I didn't do more in the future. To put it very briefly, I couldn't afford to carve out much time beyond a job and homework and what little I did have I tried out a club/sport. It was a difficult few years sure, but it's nothing particularly out of the ordinary that's worth writing about. I could scrap the whole thing and start over but I feel like the base topic is solid even if more needs to be added and kinks need to be worked out

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zkyggi
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Re: Personal Statement First Draft

Postby zkyggi » Sat Jun 24, 2017 2:43 pm

ryan2524 wrote:
zkyggi wrote:Without experiences backing up that last paragraph, I don't see a lot of value in this topic for your PS. You didn't actually do anything, and the dialogue is pretty basic. You say that there were reasons keeping you from being more involved, my hunch is that starting there will be better for you.


I appreciate the feedback but I don't think I could reframe it around why I didn't do more in the future. To put it very briefly, I couldn't afford to carve out much time beyond a job and homework and what little I did have I tried out a club/sport. It was a difficult few years sure, but it's nothing particularly out of the ordinary that's worth writing about. I could scrap the whole thing and start over but I feel like the base topic is solid even if more needs to be added and kinks need to be worked out


The PS doesn't need to be an about extraordinary event. It just needs to be genuine, personal, and introspective. I personally have a hard time finding this genuine given you don't have a history of displaying that you learned from your inaction. Ultimately, it is your PS. If you are happy with the topic, use it.

ryan2524
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Re: Personal Statement First Draft

Postby ryan2524 » Sat Jun 24, 2017 8:51 pm

zkyggi wrote:
ryan2524 wrote:
zkyggi wrote:Without experiences backing up that last paragraph, I don't see a lot of value in this topic for your PS. You didn't actually do anything, and the dialogue is pretty basic. You say that there were reasons keeping you from being more involved, my hunch is that starting there will be better for you.


I appreciate the feedback but I don't think I could reframe it around why I didn't do more in the future. To put it very briefly, I couldn't afford to carve out much time beyond a job and homework and what little I did have I tried out a club/sport. It was a difficult few years sure, but it's nothing particularly out of the ordinary that's worth writing about. I could scrap the whole thing and start over but I feel like the base topic is solid even if more needs to be added and kinks need to be worked out


The PS doesn't need to be an about extraordinary event. It just needs to be genuine, personal, and introspective. I personally have a hard time finding this genuine given you don't have a history of displaying that you learned from your inaction. Ultimately, it is your PS. If you are happy with the topic, use it.


That makes a lot of sense and I was trying to go for that genuine/personal/introspective tandem but I can see why it would come off as inauthentic without further demonstration. Do you think it would be stronger if I elaborated on how I've tried to correct that mistake in other life situations or is it somewhat dead in the water?

lucretius_
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Re: Personal Statement First Draft

Postby lucretius_ » Mon Jun 26, 2017 7:26 pm

My biggest reservation with this topic is that it's from high school. I agree with other posters above that urge you to use something more recent that involves you taking an action that aligns with your ideals.

You talk about having to work through college because of your financial situation. Maybe talking about an instance where you succeeding in helping a friend/family member/acquaintance through a difficult time while also maintaining your grades and work schedule would provide a more personal tone while also giving the reader a better sense of how your ideals inspire your actions.

Other than that, it's well written. Keep plugging away for a few weeks and see what happens.

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cbbinnyc
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Re: Personal Statement First Draft

Postby cbbinnyc » Mon Jun 26, 2017 8:43 pm

Don't have much new to add, but lucretius is right that writing about high school is risky. Also, to say what said zkyggi in a slightly different way, you should think of your application holistically: you are selling yourself to the school through your materials, and your resume, personal statement, and any other materials should tell some sort of cogent story about who you are. If you write a PS about your concern for vulnerable people like Veronica, but you have no experiences on your resume that demonstrate a follow through about that concern, you are not accomplishing that. This statement is pretty well-written, but I agree with most other posters that you would be better served by finding a different topic that is post-high school and will jibe with your other application materials.

ryan2524
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Re: Personal Statement First Draft

Postby ryan2524 » Wed Jun 28, 2017 11:53 am

I took everyone's advice and tried to rewrite the last paragraph to see if adding material on my future experiences would make this a more relevant statement. I acknowledge that the actual wording is a bit rough around the edges but I hope I conveyed the message that I've learned from the experience. Would going in this direction with some editing/fine-tuning be enough for this personal statement or would finding a completely new topic make for a stronger essay?


While I can’t do anything to change the past, I have strived to incorporate the lessons I learned into my everyday life. Several years later, I joined the (College) Honor Council. My role as a member of the University Hearing Board and Appeals Committee is to give students an opportunity to offer their perspective without judgment and to make an informed decision on that basis. My primary objective in these proceedings has been to ensure that no single actor is left without a voice. Over the years, I have worked with students, as both a tutor and paraprofessional, to guide them professionally and personally. As a result, I have learned that advocacy does not begin and end at life-changing moments. It is not simply a knock on a door but every decision from school projects to coffee runs that matters when it comes to speaking out. I haven’t faced a decision that paralleled the one I made that day but I try to remind myself of the bigger picture. As a wise young woman once told me, life is often unfair but that doesn’t mean your path has to be set in stone. I can only hope that I am able to positively impact someone’s life in the way that Veronica did mine. As a naïve fourteen year old, I didn’t have the strength to speak up on behalf of someone who needed it. Seven years later, I have found my voice and I firmly intend to use it.

lucretius_
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Re: Personal Statement First Draft

Postby lucretius_ » Wed Jun 28, 2017 3:11 pm

ryan2524 wrote:I took everyone's advice and tried to rewrite the last paragraph to see if adding material on my future experiences would make this a more relevant statement. I acknowledge that the actual wording is a bit rough around the edges but I hope I conveyed the message that I've learned from the experience. Would going in this direction with some editing/fine-tuning be enough for this personal statement or would finding a completely new topic make for a stronger essay?


While I can’t do anything to change the past, I have strived to incorporate the lessons I learned into my everyday life. Several years later, I joined the (College) Honor Council. My role as a member of the University Hearing Board and Appeals Committee is to give students an opportunity to offer their perspective without judgment and to make an informed decision on that basis. My primary objective in these proceedings has been to ensure that no single actor is left without a voice. Over the years, I have worked with students, as both a tutor and paraprofessional, to guide them professionally and personally. As a result, I have learned that advocacy does not begin and end at life-changing moments. It is not simply a knock on a door but every decision from school projects to coffee runs that matters when it comes to speaking out. I haven’t faced a decision that paralleled the one I made that day but I try to remind myself of the bigger picture. As a wise young woman once told me, life is often unfair but that doesn’t mean your path has to be set in stone. I can only hope that I am able to positively impact someone’s life in the way that Veronica did mine. As a naïve fourteen year old, I didn’t have the strength to speak up on behalf of someone who needed it. Seven years later, I have found my voice and I firmly intend to use it.


I like this addition to your statement so much that I would rather hear a story about a time when you worked to give a specific student a specific voice. You can still discuss Veronica, but make that a beginning instead of a focus. First paragraph can discuss Veronica, then the bulk of the statements shows us how your later experience(s) were influenced by her story. Then show how in these new situations you've changed even more, and finish up by talking about what sorts of complexity you expect to encounter in the future and how your experiences have provided you with the necessary skills to overcome your inevitable ignorance in the face of new challenges.

Good work! Keep chuggin!




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