Critique for Personal Statement

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Critique for Personal Statement

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 25, 2018 4:47 pm

I would appreciate any criticism that can be shared for the following personal statement. This is a rough first draft. I set out to write a personal statement that was honest--which is why I focused on Ranger School rather than my combat deployment because, in today's combat environment, Ranger School was more challenging and I grew there more as a person. I focused on my military experience because it's what most defines me most as a person today. Thanks in advance for any time you take to provide much appreciated feedback.

“Look at yourselves,” the Ranger Instructor said, “this is real.” I was standing in a line of Ranger students on the ninth day of swamp phase, the final phase, of U.S. Army Ranger School. Our uniforms were stained black and brown and were perennially wet from rain and sweat. We were severely underweight from operating at a caloric deficit for the last fifty or so days we had been in the school. Our faces and hands were cracked and crusted in dry blood from the cold and moving through brush, many students were struggling to conceal minor injuries them from cadre so they not be dropped from the course, and some were asleep while standing after not sleeping for four of the last eight nights—a “walk ‘til dawn” as it was called. It’s not common to get a pep talk from a Ranger Instructor, but we got one that night. “This is real”, he repeated, “I can smell ammonia coming off your bodies from muscle degradation, your uniforms are destroyed, and you can barely stay awake. You look like skeletons. You’ve been in this school for a while—don’t give up now. If you can do this you can do anything.”

Ranger School is the U.S. Army’s premier leadership school. Its purpose is to assess a Soldier’s ability to lead troops in combat. If a leader who is starving, sleep deprived, and physically exerted to his or her limits can lead Soldiers who are all just as tired and hungry across long distances, under heavy load, to accomplish their mission—that leader can lead in combat. Completing Ranger School is the single most defining moment of my Army career as an active duty Infantry Officer. The leadership lessons I learned there enabled me to serve effectively as a Platoon Leader for eleven months and as a Company Executive Officer for sixteen months including nine months forward deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. When people ask, “What do you learn in Ranger School,” a common reply is, “You learn about yourself”. I agree wholeheartedly with this assessment.

I learned that I can effectively lead and I can effectively follow. A team is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a trite statement that’s been reiterated by teachers, coaches, and military instructors throughout my life—but one that was fully actualized in Ranger School. One Soldier failing in his subordinate task can lead to mission failure. My failures can lead to mission failure. A Soldier must be cognizant of the needs of those serving under him. It’s in this regard that I learned putting my own needs by the wayside to take care of others benefits the team—whether that be fifteen more minutes of sleep, calling a “short halt” for a brief respite from hours of traveling through woods, mountains, or swamps, or deciding to delay an assault so that my Soldiers can eat for their health and welfare.

Ranger School taught me that every man and woman can accomplish great feats they never thought possible when they work together and take care of one another. I see this every day through the accomplishments of the diverse group of men and women that serve alongside me in the United States Army. Leading these outstanding Soldiers has been the greatest privilege of my life and is, without question, the hardest part of voluntarily leaving the Army to pursue a legal education and career.

Whether it be getting all my Soldiers home safely from Iraq, developing that much coveted rest plan during Ranger School, or simply ensuring my Soldiers participating in a rifle range at Fort Polk, Louisiana have lunch available—the military instills a respect for taking care of others that translates to the legal profession. I’ve always strove to be a fair and compassionate leader and intend to display the same compassion and fairness in my study and practice of the law. I treat all Soldiers, regardless of race, gender, orientation, or religious preference, equally. As we say in the Army, “the only color is green”. I know from that Ranger Instructor’s rare pep talk in the Florida swamps that I can conquer any challenge. I know from my honorable service as an Officer in the United States Army that I can do so with integrity. If I am afforded the opportunity to attend (law school here) I will be a valuable member of the University’s community and, upon graduation, serve as a legal professional in a manner consistent with (law school here)’s exemplary reputation.


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Re: Critique for Personal Statement

Postby Tommiahipp » Thu Oct 25, 2018 9:50 pm

First off, thanks for your service.

Full disclosure, I haven't applied to LS yet and won't be until next cycle, but I am neurotic and have read probably 100 PS and wrote my own already so I think my feedback can still be of use.

*Ok you use the past passive tense of the verb "to be" (were,was) probably 50x too many. In paragraph 1 alone....

"We were standing on the line" should say "We stood on the line". More cogent, and shows agency.

"Our uniforms were stained black and brown and were perennially wet from rain and sweat" --> Our uniforms were stained black and brown, perennially wet from rain and sweat."

"many students were struggling (struggled)to conceal minor injuries them from cadre so they not be dropped from the course, and some were asleep (slept)while standing after not sleeping for four of the last eight nights—a “walk ‘til dawn” as it was called"

You get the point.

* I learned that I can effectively lead and I can effectively follow. --> I dont like this sentence. Perhaps "I learned that I can lead as effectively as I can follow"?

*Is soldiers supposed to be capitalized all over the place? Not sure if it counts as a proper noun. Double check unless youre certain.

Alright, I am really going to give you something to chew on. Take it or leave it...

Change the structure of your essay.

P1: Intro (good, cool story, Army Ranger School is legit)

P2: Good, no apparent changes here. I think the last 2 sentences are strong and should be the setup for the rest of the paper.

P3: Entire paragraph about "Following as effectively as I can lead". I am sure you have a good story about these, and it is an important quality. While I, and probably AdComms dont doubt this, I think painting a more poignant picture of it could strengthen your PS. It shows all types of great qualities if you could give a nice 3 sentence story about being a great follower and leader. You gave that one line, and when I finished I was confused because you did not elaborate on it. I guess sort've in the last paragraph, but definitely nothing about following. Point is, I think you could have a cool story here.

Alternate P3: Just keep reading till the end and then come back to this. Entire paragraph about "Following as effectively as I can lead". Start with an example of one, and then an example of the other. I think towards the end of your paper where you talk about anyone being able to accomplish great things could tie in nicely with the leadership aspect here. What great thing did someone do, perhaps under your leadership? Or what did you witness someone do, and how did that move you?

P4: Entire paragraph about "group is greater than the sum of its parts". I think you elaborate on this well, better than the following/leading bit I mentioned previously

P5: People accomplishing great things. Again, can you give an example? Examples will always be more inspiring & memorable than platitudes, no offense. Put the most inspiring thing someone under your leadership has done. In fact, this could even be combined with the "following as well as I lead" paragraph if you need to make space. See part titled "Alternate P3"

P6: Seems good. I had to read the first sentence a couple of times to understand it. Maybe try and make it two sentences, or make it shorter.

I hope that these edits help you out in some way. Best of luck with your cycle and again, thank you for your service.

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