PS First Draft – Criticism Greatly Appreciated!

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
London_LA
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PS First Draft – Criticism Greatly Appreciated!

Postby London_LA » Mon Jul 03, 2017 10:10 am

I have always tried to think critically, so it is somewhat ironic that I would open this personal statement with a quote from one of the most heavily allegorical works of all time – the Bible. Matthew 6:24 reads, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” This passage has particular significance for me as it speaks to a fundamental choice that I faced in my life, namely the decision to live a life dedicated to serving myself, or to serving the greater good instead. This choice in turn explains why I aspire to attend law school, not only as an end in itself, but also as a means to helping others.

In truth, my experience of boarding school made my decision for me. I had the exceptional opportunity to attend a school with some of the most privileged students in the world. It was the first hand experience of knowing these students and their families that led me to the conclusion that wealth does not lead to existential happiness, and oftentimes it comes at a direct cost to one’s well-being. Whereas most of my classmates saw their blessings as fortuitous circumstances to be enjoyed, I saw mine more as a debt to be repaid to society. This belief that I owe something back has manifested itself in my life decisions in a number of ways. While at school, I managed an independent business that raised five figures for a local children’s hospital over the course of two years. I have also worked in innovative programs within the Santa Barbara Superior Court to keep young offenders out of the judicial system for minor drug infractions, as well as with local progressive political campaigns that promoted policies aimed at alleviating poverty. At university, I tutored neighboring high-school students who dreamed of being first-generation college students, and after university, I donated a large part of my time to working in a charity shop before starting my career. In my spare time, I am still politically active, contributing where I can with writings and protest actions, some of which have had a marked effect on public discourse. However, I do not feel that these efforts are anywhere near sufficient, and I believe that I have much more to learn at law school, where I could build up a skill-set on top of my natural talents that will help me contribute a greater impact in the fight to destroy want and prejudice, injustice and sorrow. The law is the most effective tool in this fight, and without training in it, I will be relatively unarmed.

I also have had a longstanding desire to apply for law school because I believe it suits my nature. I relish an argument, am a fierce advocate, and have established in my current line of work a reputation as an effective persuader in high-pressure situations. I believe these traits would make me well-suited to prosecution in particular. I recall watching every minute of Juan Martinez prosecuting Jodi Arias for murder, and saw in his zealous pursuit of the truth a possible future career I knew I would enjoy, and which would be a worthwhile purpose. Although I have not always demonstrated discipline in my academic efforts, I have strengthened this weakness and developed a consistent hard-working habit as a result of employment for several years in a demanding professional environment that requires a twelve hour work day in the office, but continues 24/7/365 wherever I am. I hope that my four years in the workforce before continuing my education demonstrates that I am serious not only about my principles, but also about a future career in law. I am fully aware that I should no longer be relying on my family, or the taxpayer, to pay for my further education, as I have received many unearned benefits from them already. I have therefore taken steps over the last few years to save enough to fund law school solely by myself, in order to avoid relying on the generosity of others, or having to pay back debt on a public service salary. I am more than happy to pay this price, and have no hesitation whatsoever in giving up a profitable private-sector career for the chance of becoming a public-sector lawyer. I have the means and the will, and I sincerely wish to be given this opportunity to repay my debt, because I intend to repay it as many times over as I can.

cavalier1138
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Re: PS First Draft – Criticism Greatly Appreciated!

Postby cavalier1138 » Mon Jul 03, 2017 10:27 am

This is all over the place, and I'd recommend starting from scratch.

-A personal statement is supposed to be just that: personal. I don't learn anything about you that I couldn't figure out from glancing over your resume and transcript. This seems like it's 1/3 generic summary of your private school years, 1/3 resume rehashing, and 1/3 something between a GPA addendum and a weird plea to not receive financial aid.

-The tone is extremely aloof, and starting with one of the most-quoted passages of all time doesn't help you out.

-You need to take the maxim "show, don't tell" to heart. This is all telling. I am immediately turned off by someone describing how dedicated they are to the public good, how strong their work ethic is, and especially how much of a model rich person they are. Try a specific story about what you've done to demonstrate all the qualities that you're beating the reader about the head with in the current draft.

Short version: back to the drawing board. This isn't a PS.

London_LA
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Re: PS First Draft – Criticism Greatly Appreciated!

Postby London_LA » Mon Jul 03, 2017 10:44 am

Thanks.

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Future Ex-Engineer
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Re: PS First Draft – Criticism Greatly Appreciated!

Postby Future Ex-Engineer » Mon Jul 03, 2017 10:51 am

This is bad.

My gut feeling after reading it is that I would strongly dislike you because you're arrogant and think you're the smartest person in the room (no idea if either of those are true, but that's what the paragraphs tell me) - not the feel you want to give in a PS.

Strongly agree with cav - back to the drawing board, and make it read less like a stoic/formal listing of how good you are. A good PS shouldn't make me upset that there is still another paragraph. I should be sad that it's over because it was that enjoyable of a read.

London_LA
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Re: PS First Draft – Criticism Greatly Appreciated!

Postby London_LA » Mon Jul 03, 2017 10:57 am

In terms of personal stories, the first that comes to mind (it was relatively recent) was burning my passport at a anti-Muslim ban rally in London. I think I can use this as a spring board to demonstrate value for law schools, but I am not sure whether the content is off-putting. I was not in US jurisdiction, but it is still an illegal act in the States, and obviously highly controversial. I wouldn't mind risking a Trump supporting admissions officer reading it and throwing it out, but do you think it otherwise has potential from a personal story perspective, or just too far out?

London_LA
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Re: PS First Draft – Criticism Greatly Appreciated!

Postby London_LA » Mon Jul 03, 2017 11:04 am

Actually, I have another story that is less controversial and equal merit.

cavalier1138
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Re: PS First Draft – Criticism Greatly Appreciated!

Postby cavalier1138 » Mon Jul 03, 2017 11:07 am

Don't worry about whether something is "controversial" (within reason... there are some lines you probably shouldn't be crossing). Don't worry about whether the story has "merit". Write about something that was personally meaningful.

The PS is not meant to be a chance to show off anything except your ability to write in an engaging way. Tell the reader something about yourself that they can't figure out from looking at the rest of your application.

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mjb447
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Re: PS First Draft – Criticism Greatly Appreciated!

Postby mjb447 » Mon Jul 03, 2017 11:16 am

I agree with most of the advice already given - instead of listing seriatim half a dozen things you did, which should be done elsewhere in your application, maybe choose one thing or experience to reflect on at length and what you learned from it. I would be much more interested to read a vignette from, e.g., the Santa Barbara Superior Court program rather than your current PS (or the passport burning).

London_LA
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Re: PS First Draft – Criticism Greatly Appreciated!

Postby London_LA » Mon Jul 03, 2017 11:20 am

That helps a lot, I was treating the PS as an argument for my candidacy rather than just writing about something personal in an emotive way. Thanks.

I'm not sure how far realistically I can go back for content though. The SB program was when I was 16 for example and I'm now 26...that was a long time ago.

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mjb447
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Re: PS First Draft – Criticism Greatly Appreciated!

Postby mjb447 » Mon Jul 03, 2017 11:35 am

London_LA wrote:That helps a lot, I was treating the PS as an argument for my candidacy rather than just writing about something personal in an emotive way. Thanks.

I'm not sure how far realistically I can go back for content though. The SB program was when I was 16 for example and I'm now 26...that was a long time ago.

Oh, fair point. I just picked it as the most obviously law-related thing in your background (not that your PS has to be law related, but it's an obvious route to go if you can make it work). You're right that something more recent would probably be better.




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