Looking for Opinions on PS - Will Read Others' in Exchange

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )

Posts: 17
Joined: Thu Dec 20, 2018 2:24 pm

Looking for Opinions on PS - Will Read Others' in Exchange

Postby ProbablyWaitListed » Wed Aug 28, 2019 6:03 am

Hi forum. The below is a personal statement I originally put together in response to the UCLA prompt ("Separate essay not to exceed two double-spaced typed pages, No less than 12-point font, Discuss any matters relevant to your ability to succeed in law school and the practice of law, and any attributes, experiences, or interests that would enable you to make a distinctive contribution to UCLA Law or the legal profession.") but plan on slightly adapting to use across all applications.

I'm very curious for any comments readers may have on the essay, but I'm particularly interested in people's thoughts on the tone. Am I too self-pitying and self-centered, as one early reader thought, or is the messaging of the essay effective and attractive?

As noted in the subject line, I'm more than happy to review anyone else's PS or other essays if they can review mine also.


No tengo padre yo,” - I have no father, answered the refugee.

The words were like Proust’s madeleine - only with a nasty taste. I saw an exhausted mother. I felt a boy’s regret for a lost past and fear of a worse future. The mother was my mother. I was the boy.

I was working as an immigration paralegal at the time and when the refugee’s case ended happily, I felt almost paternal pride in this stranger who scaled Golgotha without stumbling. He and his wife had come to the office to file for permanent residency. They had fled Honduras in 1998, obtaining the Temporary Protected Status that is now under threat. That same year, my father left my mother and me forever.

Unlike my former client, I know my father in the literal sense. I could provide his full name, birthday, and, at times, even his current address. But that’s where the familiarity stops. I was a toddler when my father left, and afterwards our relationship was one of rare dinners and missed phone calls. Few like to associate with a broken family, and neither my uncle nor my grandfather took any interest in me. A childhood without father and family was a study in alienation.

I would have no other.

My experience taught me dispassion. Paradoxically, it also taught me sympathy for the suffering (that is to say, everyone: even for my father, whose inability to love seemed, to me, punishment enough). Sympathy and dispassion aren’t easily or commonly combined - but, if I fulfill my ambition to practice law, they’ll help me give the utmost and best representation to my clients. I want to do work in which I can help clients move forward through pain and conflict. I hope for a career in plaintiffs’ or immigration law, but realize, with relish, that an open-minded grounding in every kind of jurisprudence is the first step.

My upbringing has equipped me for law, I think, in three further ways: open-mindedness, interest in detail, and a studious disposition. First, with no clear role models or definitive values, I grew up with principles and practicalities but no prejudices: I’d like to work in fields where law and justice converge.

Second, because my mother and I were outsiders in a community of (almost entirely) happy, whole families, I paid keen attention to minute details of behavior, and to every nuance of text and gesture, to cue myself in on signs others could afford to miss. In school, therefore, I was always good at practical textual criticism, and I expect to be able to transfer that skill and sensitivity to the study of law.

Finally, as the only child of a single, working parent, I spent many hours alone in a house full of books. Reading was particularly useful when my father, claiming custody on Christmas, would bring me to his girlfriend du jour’s family gathering, where I would sit in a corner and read, as everyone ignored the strange boy.

In The Gay Science, Nietzsche asks our response if we are told “This life as you now live it and have lived it you will have to live once again and innumerable times again.” For much of my life I would have cursed such a fate - now, I would rejoice. If my application to the UCLA Law School succeeds, I’ll bring a strong vocation, scholarly habits, a taste for minutiae, and a commitment to work, as well as hard-earned human sensitivity.

User avatar

Posts: 6791
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2016 8:01 pm

Re: Looking for Opinions on PS - Will Read Others' in Exchange

Postby cavalier1138 » Mon Sep 02, 2019 7:49 am

I'm a little confused: Is this your PS or a DS? It reads like a hybrid, but it doesn't quite work as either.

If it's a PS, you need to tone down the look-how-educated-I-am references (i.e. stop name-dropping philosophers). And on a related note, you can relax your writing. Right now, it sounds very forced and academic, which makes it difficult for me to hear your voice in the piece. I don't think it sounds too self-pitying, but you also gloss over all the stuff that would make the reader feel pity in the first place by couching it in almost clinical language.

If it's a DS, most of those notes still apply, but there's an added layer of focus needed. I'm not sure which experiences you're drawing on for the statement. Is the experience of growing up as the child of divorced/separated parents the diverse viewpoint you bring to law school? Or is it about your work with immigrant populations as a paralegal? In either case, I'm not sure they warrant a DS. Unfortunately, your childhood doesn't sound all that unique. And the specific interactions with clients you've had as a paralegal might be better-suited to a PS.

So I agree with your prior reader that the issue here is tone, but I don't think they identified the real core issue. Your piece reads like an academic analysis of your life, and that's not what any of the admissions essays should be.

Return to “Law School Personal Statements?

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.