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Personal Statement help!!! (especially the conclusion)

Posted: Sun Jul 09, 2017 1:02 pm
by Anonymous User
Edit: Thank you all for the feedback. It's super helpful! I can see now that it does come off as being very negative, so I'm going to work on the balance. I also agree that I can cut the first couple of paragraphs. And like I said, it's a complicated issue and I can't include every sentiment or circumstance in such a short space. And of course, I don't lack compassion or understanding for my Mom; she had a really shitty life. But since it's a personal statement, I can't really talk about her background very much. SO, I'll keep on drafting!!!

Hi,

Any critique would be very helpful. This is a super personal topic and way more complicated than I can get into given length restriction. I'm having the most difficulty wrapping it up and I'm not sure if it all makes any sense. I don't know if this is terrible or not. It feels cliche because its my life! HELP! :?


In essence, I was no different from most teenagers. I was rebellious, moody, and sometimes mean, especially mean to my Mom, who I treated with special cruelty. It had always been just the two of us, so when I got old enough to fit the stereotype of awful teenagers, I knew what pressure points to lean on. I knew what to say, or what not to say that would upset her most. I knew every weakness, vice, and secret: drugs, alcohol, anxiety, depression, chronic pain.

And me.

She depended on me as much as a prescription for the care of her illnesses, and to alleviate everyday stresses like bills, laundry, and groceries. But most of all, she depended on me to love her because I was her whole world.

Years ago, one night in November, she was especially drunk on a cocktail of alcohol and painkillers and it was probably the worst I’d ever seen her. I couldn’t help but feel disgusted because she was supposed to take care of me, not the other way around. Disgusted because she was brilliant and talented, and it was wasted every night in alcoholic stupors. But there I was. She could see the contempt on my face and she started to scream and cry, stumbling around the house accusing me of not loving her. Yelling at me.

And I said nothing.

In the face of her distress, I didn’t move an inch. I let my feelings of resentment keep me rooted to the spot as an act of defiance. With tears all over her face and unfocused eyes she looked at me and sobbed, now begging me to love her. And still I said nothing, but stared at her with dead eyes. Then I turned around, slowly walked to my room and unceremoniously shut the door in her face.

It was a calculated risk, and I couldn’t think of a more horrible thing to do. She needed to know that she was in the wrong, not me. That by standing against her in silent defiance, I was asserting my right to be treated fairly. And her behavior was not fair. She was the adult and I was a kid. It was not ok that I was the only one to take care of her drunkenness. It was not ok that she depended on her teenage daughter instead of getting real help. It was not ok that I could feel everything that she felt.

But the effort was in vain. I was fourteen and that was the last interaction I had with my Mom before she died later that same night.

Her death and the circumstances surrounding my life with her set in motion choices, decisions, and events that I never could have imagined otherwise. Without a doubt, that was the darkest and worst part of my life, but it shaped me into the person I am now. A woman who’s calm and rational under stress, who’s independent and resilient because that’s what I had to be, and who wants to use her education and knowledge to help others.

My Mom won custody of me in a court of law despite allegations by my father of her being “an unfit mother”. I don’t wish things were different, but this knowledge proves to me how murky and grey the interpretation of law can be, and that a single ruling can have far reaching consequences.

I couldn’t save my Mom, but she still inspires me to use my experience and talents to make an impact: to stand in defiance against injustice.

Re: Personal Statement help!!! (especially the conclusion)

Posted: Sun Jul 09, 2017 1:20 pm
by rowdy
You might need some expert help on this one. This is super dark and a really hard knife's edge to walk. I am not judging your experience -- but with a story this emotionally volatile, you never know how a reader could react. IMO that unpredictability is a big risk for a personal statement.

If I were you I would try to do as much as possible to shift to a positive, constructive, and forward-looking tone in the last paragraph. I would want the reader to leave feeling great about how you handled the situation moving forward, not bad for you, or worse, negatively toward you for not doing more to help your mom.

Again, I'm not judging you, and it wasn't your job to save your mom. I understand to a degree from my own experiences. But there are a lot of ways a reader in admissions could react to this.

Re: Personal Statement help!!! (especially the conclusion)

Posted: Sun Jul 09, 2017 1:40 pm
by sev
(Disclaimer: not an admissions dean, just a another 0L who writes about government policy for a living.)

Three impressions:
1. I came away thinking "alrighty, you've explained how the legal system has impacted your life, but why do you specifically want to practice?" Because you know how the marginalized feel? Because you want to make sure every kid is represented in custody hearings? Bunch of powerful answers here that you could use.

2. The introduction was by far the weakest part because you focused on describing the rough parts of the relationship between you and your mom instead of directly helping us understand how your experiences helped you develop. If it were me, I'd just cut the first two paragraphs and start with the description of that night--the reader can infer that the substance abuse probably caused some relationship problems and only need sociological musing about teenagers insofar as it lightens the mood a bit.

3. Sort of along the same lines as point 1 above: I'm not sure how your mom makes you want to fight injustice. Do you mean that the court's placement with your mom feels unjust? I'd say that directly.

I think your conclusion was the best part because it was the only part that directly helped me understand why you wanted to go to law school. I'd keep it focused there, and not on giving us a psychological profile.

Re: Personal Statement help!!! (especially the conclusion)

Posted: Mon Jul 10, 2017 2:08 am
by zkyggi
0L here as well.

My PS has taken a similar angle as yours, so I know how hard it can be to write about a personal topic that has defined you and feeling like you have to include everything. But you don't need to. These kinds of experiences speak for themselves and you speaking for them has the potential to backfire. I recommend you shorten the part about your mom to a paragraph, then spend the rest on how it has changed you. Everything you speak about towards the end should be shown with examples rather than told.

I'm sorry to be so blunt, but there will be lots of sad stories in an applicant pool. People feel like they need one to be special, but unless you do it well and clearly show that you are past it, it can hurt you. If you'd like, I am more than willing to look at future drafts.

Re: Personal Statement help!!! (especially the conclusion)

Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 11:44 am
by Alive97
I only read the first couple paragraphs and stopped, because the topic is too negative and dark. It doesn't actually make me feel good. I wouldn't be surprised if an adcomm would do the same thing. I would switch gears completely if I were you.

Re: Personal Statement help!!! (especially the conclusion)

Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 11:59 am
by ashrice13
I agree with completely scrapping the first couple of paragraphs. You can easily start this at "years ago, one night in November..." and not lose anything but still gain a lot f space to delve into more detail. From a technical stand point, I think focusing on grammar and sentence/paragraph structure is needed and will also add more space.

I don't think you need to shy away from this topic because it's real and it's impacted you so that's important. I definitely think it needs to be shaped in a more positive way. I had a similar problem with my PS....I wrote it about losing my father at a young age but the first several drafts came across very negative. I think mine had a very "please feel bad for me" vibe which wasn't intentional by any means but was still there. It took me a while to find that balance but that balance is possible and can definitely make for a great PS.

I think this topic can be done well with a little bit of writing style changes and a healthy dose of positivity. You really don't need to answer the "Why law school" question (unless they specifically ask) but I think it's important to answer "Why this topic for your law school PS". The trajectory of the story should be clear and say something that you want the adcomms to know about you as a person (not just you as a daughter).

I can delve into more specifics later (at work right now) but all in all, I think this is a good topic as long as you can change it up a bit

Re: Personal Statement help!!! (especially the conclusion)

Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 12:02 pm
by UVA2B
I think the issue I struggle with most (and likely the one you deal with most in real life) is that this seriously lacks compassion for your mother's problems. If you could put a compassionate twist on seeing your mother as a flawed human being, you would extract much more pathos. Considering the intensely personal nature of the topic to begin with, you need pathos to play a major factor in the way the narrative is shaped (even if that's extremely hard because you still likely feel resentment toward her and her shortcomings as a mother and human being).