Critique my PS please!

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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fonzeee
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Critique my PS please!

Postby fonzeee » Wed Jul 19, 2017 3:42 pm

Hey TLSers...if anyone could be bothered to critique my PS here, it would be greatly appreciated (warning: it is a bit long)

Please please please be as harsh as possible...my numbers aren't going to blow anyone away so my essays must be on point. Any and all criticisms are welcome.

---------------------------------

When I received the letter officially notifying me that I had failed out of college a little over six years ago, I responded in the same way I responded to most things at that time: with indifference.

Looking back now, I truly wish that I could have someone to blame, or a set of mitigating circumstances that I could point to in order to absolve myself for what constitutes the single greatest failure of my life. But the fact of the matter is that I don’t. I had all of the tools, all of the advantages, all of the resources necessary to help me succeed, and I still managed to throw it all away for no reason whatsoever. Worst of all, I just didn’t care. Not a day goes by now that I don’t regret the series of choices I made which led me to that point, a series of choices characterized by a lack of responsibility and a nonexistent sense of purpose.

Aimless and with my life derailed from the path I had assumed it would take, I returned home to suburban St. Louis and began looking for a job. After a brief stint handling packages at a UPS facility across the city, I eventually found work delivering pizzas for a Domino’s franchise just a few minutes from my house. Going through the motions as I generally did at that time, I expected little from this job other than a meager paycheck, the primary purpose of which was to placate my parents’ demands to do something other than sit around the house all day.

Though it took me only a six-minute drive from my house to reach the store, I arrived on the day of my interview fairly shocked at the change that had occurred in the short commute to my new workplace. Trim lawns and well-dressed neighbors had been replaced with squalor and beggars; a string of tenements that I would learn to be Section 8 housing lay adjacent to the store. Growing up in northern St. Louis County, even in its further reaches as I did, one can never entirely escape the destitution that always lurks only a few mere miles down the road, festering nearby in places like the now-infamous Ferguson. However, like most St. Louisans I always had the ability to make my interaction with this aspect of the city relatively brief, experiencing it only momentarily as the backdrop for a shortcut to the downtown district or fleetingly as a series of images on the nightly news. I figured that the nature of the job for which I was applying would be similarly unable to interrupt the illusion I had constructed for myself. Hoping never to need to stray too far from the comfort of indifference, I took the job.

Unexpectedly though, as the weeks became months the squalor was gradually proving inescapable, and daily experiences with poverty, crime, and stark disenfranchisement became the norm rather than the exception. With every answer to my knock on the door as I went from delivery to delivery, it became more difficult to remain apathetic to the environment I now found myself in. One door opened to reveal a room entirely barren, save for a mattress on the floor and an overturned box-turned-ad hoc table beside it; another opened to reveal trash strewn across the floor and heroin paraphernalia on the table. In both cases, there were young children in the room. Such sights became sadly commonplace as I became more familiar with the area, and inescapable slowly morphed into suffocating.

However, what was perhaps most striking to me was the manner in which my coworkers reacted to this state of affairs, casually accepting each story I would recount to them and every event that we would witness: a gun pulled on a neighboring shop owner in the parking lot, an overdose behind the store, drug deals made in plain sight, etc. My new friends, having grown up just minutes away from where I did, nevertheless did not share my reality, nor indeed anything with me on paper: we differed by education, we differed by class, we differed by race and identity and any other litany of defining characteristics. Yet in spite of our seemingly disparate backgrounds, my co-workers and I quickly became close. My experiences communicating with my family, among whom I am an outsider of sorts as a native English speaker, helped me connect with people who otherwise might have considered me an outsider due to any one of our many divergent traits. I eventually became particularly close to my manager Michael: we would end up spending hours chatting in the store lobby after close, talking about our lives, our upbringings, and practically everything as time went on. He told me with tears in his eyes about his father’s (and his) struggles with alcoholism, about watching his best friend get shot and killed for a Michael Jordan jersey, and about the general lack of hope he had that things would ever truly get much better for him.

The continual juxtaposition of my life, defined by relatively good fortune, with his, defined by a lack thereof, increasingly engendered a feeling of deep self-loathing within me. My experiences with the area only amplified the effect, and soon, for the first time in my life, nagging questions began to spring up in my mind. How did I let myself get to this point? How could I have so callously refused to take advantage of what my friend would have killed to have had but a fraction of? How could I continue to justify my indifference to life and the resulting worthlessness I had thus condemned myself to? For a time, I genuinely hated myself: for the arrogance of having disregarded my opportunities, for the selfishness with which I had approached the world and my role within it, and for the lack of responsibility that was threatening to ensure that I never amounted to anything.

The pain of this series of realizations was debilitating at first, but slowly gave rise to something that I had so desperately lacked all along: a sense of purpose. I came gradually to believe that I owed it not just to myself to make something of my life and my intellect, but more importantly to others who did not have the ability or means to make much of theirs. Though I had been blessed with parents who embedded within me an empathy for the less fortunate, I realize now that it was only effectively an abstract appreciation of poverty and disenfranchisement. It was a detached compassion which demanded little more than my sympathy, yet the multitude of things I had witnessed called for a response as substantive as the hardship that had so moved me. A career in law therefore increasingly beckoned, its immense role in a society organized by rules seeming all the more important in light of my experiences.

Although I had previously toyed with the idea of becoming a lawyer, I now finally had a reason to undergo the long journey to reach that point, a reason to get out of bed in the morning to go to class, study for my exams, complete my papers, and so on. Eventually, my newfound sense of purpose brought forth a corresponding sense of responsibility, both of which served to guide me as I gradually made my way back to college. Over time, each would grow ever stronger as I progressed from those shaky first days back at community college to now being on the verge of obtaining a bachelor’s degree with honors from a respected university. Looking ahead, I fully expect the pattern to continue as I progress through law school and eventually embark upon my career as an attorney.

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cbbinnyc
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Re: Critique my PS please!

Postby cbbinnyc » Wed Jul 19, 2017 4:15 pm

I enjoyed reading this statement. Very well written, aside from some minor grammatical things which are easily fixed. In the context of being a Law School PS, some thoughts:

First, it's definitely way too long. I could be wrong about this, as I am a couple years removed from the application process and the memory is quickly fading, but I'm pretty sure you want to shoot for 500 words, and right now you're well over 1200. So your first step here is probably to cut this down mercilessly. You can definitely get rid of a lot of the "I used to be an apathetic little shit" stuff. It's engaging to read to set the scene from a storytelling standpoint, but it's laid on a little thick for a PS. The ad coms want somebody who they think will succeed in law school and, despite your turnaround and subsequent good grades and such, the long opening about your failure and apathy doesn't inspire confidence. I think it's fine to generally use the theme of developing a sense of purpose, but just back off the opening a little bit. Also, you can probably go through and cut out anything that smacks of guilt or self-loathing. You definitely want to come across as somebody who is observant, empathetic and driven, but there are places where you (sometimes explicitly) talk about feeling guilty or hating yourself for your previous apathy, which won't read as well.

My other question, coming away from this ... it seems like the "conclusion" here is that you want to be a lawyer to combat the problems of poverty that you outline in the essay. However, I'm not sure, from this statement, why you think being a lawyer is the best course of action, if that is your main driving force. Why not work at a not-for-profit? Why not work in government? Also, it definitely helps your narrative that you went back to school and graduated with honors, but, if you are concerned about poverty and such, what did you do in school (or extracurricularly) to demonstrate that you are dedicated to this purpose?

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fonzeee
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Re: Critique my PS please!

Postby fonzeee » Wed Jul 19, 2017 4:53 pm

Greatly appreciate the comments CBB.

To your points:

So your first step here is probably to cut this down mercilessly.


Yeah, I figured as much. Surprisingly, though, I only encountered one school last cycle which explicitly placed a length limit lower than what I'd written. Nevertheless, in the interests of good taste, I will definitely do some trimming. The apathy and self-loathing will be targeted...I guess I'm just still pretty bitter about that period in my life :lol:


However, I'm not sure, from this statement, why you think being a lawyer is the best course of action, if that is your main driving force. Why not work at a not-for-profit? Why not work in government?


It's a long-term goal, but I do want the chance to secure more gainful employment for my family's sake before that time. And though it's something I certainly care very deeply about, I do have other interests and wouldn't characterize that as my "main driving force" necessarily.


Also, it definitely helps your narrative that you went back to school and graduated with honors, but, if you are concerned about poverty and such, what did you do in school (or extracurricularly) to demonstrate that you are dedicated to this purpose?


I mean, I have some volunteer experience in such communities which I mention on my resume, and I majored in political science (whoop-de-doo...), so nothing spectacular but it's probably fair to say it fits, right? Ought there be more? I do plan on working in a similar sort of public service-y job this year before I head off to school, but I plan on applying very early so I'm not sure this will make it on the applications.

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Re: Critique my PS please!

Postby LurkerTurnedMember » Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:08 pm

Not as big of a fan of this PS as above poster. I have a friend from St. Louis who grew up with the background you recently "discovered" and I've been there several times. The place is highly segregated by race and socioeconomic status. So I read your PS to basically say, "I'm a rich white kid from Ladue or Chesterfield and I spent my time growing up doing whatever knowing there's gonna be privilege to prop me up no matter what happens. But now I've crossed into the 'bad' neighborhoods people in St. Louis are openly told to avoid (let me guess, north of Olive?), not because a job and paying bills are necessary but because my parents kept nagging at me and I wanted them to shut up, and I finally interacted with a poor person of color so I guess I should try harder and help them because white savior complex. If you let me into your law school I swear I'll do that (without explaining how or when, which makes it sound like you're still having just a "detached" concern for the poor and marginalized and are using their struggles to prop your admission to law school)."


I don't mean to be harsh, and I'm sorry if it sounds like it, but I would change the PS completely. Now it just sounds like you're essentially a regular Joe who's using affluenza as an excuse for his failures.

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fonzeee
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Re: Critique my PS please!

Postby fonzeee » Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:21 pm

Well LTM, I'm from Florissant (i.e. north county, sorry to burst your bubble), the son of immigrants (well, if you count PR as a separate country; first native English speaker at any rate), and I think I pretty fairly establish that I had no concept of responsibility at the time. Besides, there's a difference between a middle/lower middle-class black community (which I grew up in; I was the "white" boy) and the very poor one I worked in detailed here. Where's your friend from?

But, I said I wanted harsh, so thanks anyways for your input.

EDIT: And FWIW, I applied last cycle and definitely outdid my numbers, so I think the PS is not quite as bad as you suggest (I certainly don't plan on throwing it out entirely)...that said, I want my essays to be as strong as possible so I'm more than open to critiquing what I have presently.
Last edited by fonzeee on Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Critique my PS please!

Postby LurkerTurnedMember » Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:33 pm

fonzeee wrote:Well LTM, I'm from Florissant (i.e. north county, sorry to burst your bubble), the son of immigrants (well, if you count PR as a separate country; first native English speaker at any rate), and I think I pretty fairly establish that I had no concept of responsibility at the time. Besides, there's a difference between a middle/lower middle-class black community (which I grew up in; I was the "white" boy) and the very poor one I worked in detailed here.

But, I said I wanted harsh, so thanks anyways for your input.

EDIT: And FWIW, I applied last cycle and definitely outdid my numbers, so I think the PS is not quite as bad as you suggest (I certainly don't plan on throwing it out entirely)...that said, I want my essays to be as strong as possible so I'm more than open to critiquing what I have presently.


Add that to your personal statement! I would've liked it much more then. I noticed you mentioned you're the first native English speaker and I wanted to know more about that so bad but you kinda just left it hanging. And please don't take what I said personally. I hope it was clear that my comment was just about how your PS "sounded," and specifically just to me, not necessarily about you directly. It made you seem much more well off than what I suspect is the case. So just watch out for that. Nothing wrong per se about being well off but it makes your set backs look a lot worse and your PS insincere. Tell them more about who you are and your background and it'll improve I think.

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fonzeee
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Re: Critique my PS please!

Postby fonzeee » Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:43 pm

LurkerTurnedMember wrote:
fonzeee wrote:Well LTM, I'm from Florissant (i.e. north county, sorry to burst your bubble), the son of immigrants (well, if you count PR as a separate country; first native English speaker at any rate), and I think I pretty fairly establish that I had no concept of responsibility at the time. Besides, there's a difference between a middle/lower middle-class black community (which I grew up in; I was the "white" boy) and the very poor one I worked in detailed here.

But, I said I wanted harsh, so thanks anyways for your input.

EDIT: And FWIW, I applied last cycle and definitely outdid my numbers, so I think the PS is not quite as bad as you suggest (I certainly don't plan on throwing it out entirely)...that said, I want my essays to be as strong as possible so I'm more than open to critiquing what I have presently.


Add that to your personal statement! I would've liked it much more then. I noticed you mentioned you're the first native English speaker and I wanted to know more about that so bad but you kinda just left it hanging. And please don't take what I said personally. I hope it was clear that my comment was just about how your PS "sounded," and specifically just to me, not necessarily about you directly. It made you seem much more well off than what I suspect is the case. So just watch out for that. Nothing wrong per se about being well off but it makes your set backs look a lot worse and your PS insincere. Tell them more about who you are and your background and it'll improve I think.


Very fair points LTM, and seriously, I very much do appreciate your input!

I mean, I mention that I grew up near Ferguson (I guess it reads like "same city", whereas I mean "like, five minute drive from places that were burnt down during the riots"), so perhaps I could clarify that.

As for the first English speaker bit, I have a diversity statement which goes into more detail there (as well as into detail with regard to the community I grew up in), so I just kinda expected adcoms to read about that there. Maybe I can expand on that here, though. Problem is, if anything I'll probably need to trim considerably...so not sure where I'll find the room.

And I think I edited too late for you to see but, out of curiosity, where's your friend from? You probably know by now how parochial we are in STL :lol:

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fonzeee
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Re: Critique my PS please!

Postby fonzeee » Thu Jul 20, 2017 1:32 pm

Any more takers??

Alive97
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Re: Critique my PS please!

Postby Alive97 » Thu Jul 20, 2017 1:53 pm

Personally I would split this into a PS and an addendum regarding failing out of college. In the addendum give the reasons for dropping out, take responsibility, and say how you grew. Don't make it too long; I don't think you need all of the details about self-loathing and wishing you could blame someone else.

Then begin the PS with starting the Domino's job, and make it about your witnessing of poverty contrasting with your privileged background, and subsequent motivation for law school. You don't want that motivation to be too vague though; simply wanting to help people because we live in a society of rules might not cut it. Use the words "public interest law". But if you have no volunteer or other demonstrated commitment to public interest, that may take away from your PS.

EDIT: and with this strategy, you could cut out the part about your exposure to poverty being what motivated you to do something with yourself and find a career. That part is not particularly compelling; you shouldn't necessarily need such a drastic experience to get motivated to do well in school. It's also not compelling to say you wanted to do something with yourself because other people don't have the same opportunities. Removing this part from the PS would effectively disconnect the college drop out story from the poverty exposure story, allowing you to split this as I suggested.

Also for the PS, you could flesh out the law school related motivation you received from exposure to poverty by tying it in with more aspects of your background, rather than just the fact that you were privileged.
Last edited by Alive97 on Thu Jul 20, 2017 3:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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fonzeee
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Re: Critique my PS please!

Postby fonzeee » Thu Jul 20, 2017 2:43 pm

Interesting ideas Alive97, that could definitely be an effective strategy to cut down on the length of my PS. On a phone now so can't say much more...

Appreciate the input though!




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