Personal Statement - Thoughts, Feedback?

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

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Personal Statement - Thoughts, Feedback?

Postby MexicanCountryBoy » Mon Oct 07, 2019 3:19 pm

(my goal school is Vanderbilt)

One of my greatest passions is writing. When I was young, I would build fantasy worlds full of elven kingdoms and barbarian hordes of orcs. I wrote stories about gruff anti-heroes on a quest for a contrived magical artifact that would save the world. Of course, most of my writing at the time was just recycling clichés from Lord of the Rings and World of Warcraft but I was convinced that I was on the cusp of becoming the next Tolkien. I wasn’t trying to convey themes, deliver a message, or express personal experiences. Only recently has writing become an outlet for me to explore the politics and social issues that I feel most strongly about. Eventually, this change in my writing also changed how I envisioned my legal career.

The thing that changed was simple: I took the time to really get to know my own father. I became mature enough to hear his life story and realize what it meant for me. My grandfather was always distant and never really in my life. I never knew he was a heroin addict who spent years away from his family. My family is Mexican but we never spoke Spanish at home. I just assumed my parents preferred English. I eventually learned from my father that officials from his elementary complained to my grandmother that her children were not acting or speaking like the white students. They ordered her to stop speaking Spanish with her children. My father was thus denied this important part of his heritage.

For a while, I had only a vague idea of my father’s struggles with poverty. Only now do I realize the severity of his circumstances. As young as eight years old, my father and his siblings spent their summers and weekends working for the farmers of Colusa County, California. Small children working in fields and orchards, picking prunes, walnuts, and tomatoes in the California heat. Walking on eggshells whenever they had the audacity to take a break. They weren’t even given minimum wage, the landowners only paid them by the number of buckets they could fill. All this toil just so my grandmother could have enough money to pay for new clothes and school supplies. I asked my father how such a thing could happen despite the obvious illegality of such exploitative child labor. He didn’t think much of it, he said nobody cared back then. This was only the early 70s in California. There was nobody to advocate for the wellbeing of my father and his siblings, nobody to advocate for the many with similar stories.

Although I haven’t experienced these hardships myself, they anger me greatly. My father and mother have both worked hard to afford my siblings and I comfortable lives but we are the statistical exceptions. For most people, these sorts of things are perpetual impediments, the kind that carry over to the next generation. I began to think about these issues more and more. This began to influence not only my political views but my creative writings as well. Inspired by my father’s experiences and the works of my favorite author, John Steinbeck, I started to write historical fiction set in my father’s hometown just before the First World War. I didn’t want to write about goblins and dragons, I wanted to write about the struggles of normal, working-class people. I wanted to explore questions of injustice and liberty.

I’m currently writing a novel that has been (tentatively) titled Shadow Gods: Exodus. While it takes place in a fantasy setting, its themes and characters are very much relevant to our own society. I drew inspiration for the story from the coverage and discussion surrounding police misconduct, unjustified imprisonment, abuses of institutional power, and the legacies of racial supremacy in America. Unlike my Steinbeck-inspired stories, I actually want to finish the novel and have Exodus published. I hope that it will resonate with those who have been victims of similar acts of injustice.

As these questions become more and more pressing on my mind, they’ve influenced how I envisioned my career. I’ve known for a while that I want to be a lawyer. I’ve been doing extracurriculars geared towards that career since I was in 7th grade. But for the longest time I thought I was going to go into corporate law or sports law and become an agent. I wanted to do something glamorous and lucrative. But by exploring ideas of justice and liberty in my writing, I’ve realized that those are the issues that I am most passionate about. And while writing is a good outlet, I know that I want to do more than that. I want to study public interest law so that I may learn how to fight for those who have had their liberties, their personal freedom, and their civil and economic rights violated. I want to be an advocate for those who faced injustice like my father did.

LBJ's Hair

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Re: Personal Statement - Thoughts, Feedback?

Postby LBJ's Hair » Mon Oct 07, 2019 3:53 pm

Not bad, but think you should write about (1) your passion for fantasy writing, OR (2) your father and social justice. I get why you're trying to blend the two together, but it comes across as two sorta under-explored topics awkwardly mashed together.

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Re: Personal Statement - Thoughts, Feedback?

Postby cavalier1138 » Mon Oct 07, 2019 8:45 pm

LBJ's Hair wrote:Not bad, but think you should write about (1) your passion for fantasy writing, OR (2) your father and social justice. I get why you're trying to blend the two together, but it comes across as two sorta under-explored topics awkwardly mashed together.

I agree with this entirely.

The statement is beautifully written (no surprise there), but it's hard to understand why you're mentioning the fantasy novels. If you want to tie in the way that the fantasy worlds you wrote about were allegorical (and/or escapist), then you might be able to keep the themes together. But because you talk about your more Steinbeck-y work as being inspired by your father, it makes it difficult for the reader to understand why you would tell us about the goblins and orcs in the first place.

If you're concerned that the adcomm who reads your statement might look down their nose at fantasy writing, take that as a challenge. Remind them of the great works of fantasy and sci-fi that Tolkien, etc. used to write about exactly the topics you're interested in.

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