Seeking PS Advice from Northwestern Alums and Admits

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NightmanCometh
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Seeking PS Advice from Northwestern Alums and Admits

Postby NightmanCometh » Tue Oct 30, 2012 8:05 pm

Hi all,

I am applying this cycle and in the middle of the ps process. Northwestern is my top choice, and I came across the TLS interview with Dean Van Zandt:

What are admissions staff looking for in a good personal statement?

The reality is that we get a lot more information from the interviews than we do from the personal statements. Obviously, the personal statement needs to be well-written, but you never know how original it is or how much help the person received. In the end, it is about the substance – what someone has accomplished up to this point – not the way they write about it. Like all of the other parts of the application, the bottom line is that we are looking for evidence that demonstrates strong leadership potential and the ability to succeed in what will be a multi-job career. As a result, examples of past leadership experiences, management of complex projects, or situations that involve overcoming obstacles or challenges tend to be the most useful. The personal statement should not be generic. It needs to be tailored to Northwestern Law in the same way that you would show interest if you were applying for a job.


I am not quite sure what to make of this advice, as it is noticeably different from some other admissions deans like Yale's who say it's not really about substance but more about how you present your ideas in an introspective way. I sort of get the vibe that Northwestern wants a well-written resume clarification in more of a professional tone, where I would pick a project from work and describe how I made an impact, or something like that (fits with the personality of the school?).

Right now I have two drafts. One is a more personal "character sketch" which threads along my academic and work experience into a coherent theme. It is more introspective but not that detailed as I cover a lot of ground. The other is about a specific project from work in which I made a big impact and overcame challenges. It is more vivid and detailed since it only covers one anecdote, but I don't think it's as personal or introspective nor does it have any overarching themes.

Do any Northwestern alums or new admits mind sharing what tone or topic they adopted in writing their PS? Do you think I should stick to the more general and personal one, or the more specific and professional one? Hard to do both because of the limited word count...

Any help appreciated!

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TheThriller
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Re: Seeking PS Advice from Northwestern Alums and Admits

Postby TheThriller » Tue Oct 30, 2012 8:39 pm

came here to say that I love Always Sunny

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crumpetsandtea
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Re: Seeking PS Advice from Northwestern Alums and Admits

Postby crumpetsandtea » Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:07 pm

When it comes down to it, unless you have an EXCEEDINGLY IMPRESSIVE or EXCEEDINGLY HORRIBLE personal statement, you shouldn't be giving your PS topic this much thought. Pick the topic you think hits home closest for you, because writing your PS will be easier that way, and it will show in your writing if you're passionate about it. Your goal should be to write a PS that won't hurt you - ideally it will help but more realistically it probably won't matter.

I am a current NU student - my PS was about my work in the 2008 elections running a 2 campaigns for a non-profit grassroots-activism org that I worked for during all 4 years of UG.

Also, in case you weren't aware, Van Zandt is no longer the Dean of NU (:

NightmanCometh
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Joined: Thu Jul 21, 2011 9:03 pm

Re: Seeking PS Advice from Northwestern Alums and Admits

Postby NightmanCometh » Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:45 pm

TheThriller wrote:came here to say that I love Always Sunny


Lol, yes. The funniest show ever imo, although it dropped off after season 4 :(

crumpetsandtea wrote:When it comes down to it, unless you have an EXCEEDINGLY IMPRESSIVE or EXCEEDINGLY HORRIBLE personal statement, you shouldn't be giving your PS topic this much thought. Pick the topic you think hits home closest for you, because writing your PS will be easier that way, and it will show in your writing if you're passionate about it. Your goal should be to write a PS that won't hurt you - ideally it will help but more realistically it probably won't matter.

I am a current NU student - my PS was about my work in the 2008 elections running a 2 campaigns for a non-profit grassroots-activism org that I worked for during all 4 years of UG.

Also, in case you weren't aware, Van Zandt is no longer the Dean of NU (:


Thanks so much!! Yeah I guess the reason I am fretting on the topic is that I have already written both drafts, so it's more the matter of which one I prefer to refine and send it at this point. Perhaps I will work on both and see which of the two final products turns out better. But thanks for sharing your PS experience.

And thanks for the heads up about Van Zandt- I obviously need to do some more due diligence :)

This is the last thing I can control in my application. Just took my third LSAT retake in October and not sure how well I did, although I can say for sure I gave it my all. My LORs are everything are already in. Want to finish strong on this PS so I won't regret it down the line...

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rinkrat19
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Re: Seeking PS Advice from Northwestern Alums and Admits

Postby rinkrat19 » Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:36 pm

NU 1L here.
Two things you should ask yourself:
1. Is PS #1 a resume dump? In skimming over so many things, does it manage to include anything that someone can't learn or infer from your resume?
2. Is PS #2 about a work project, or about YOU doing a work project? (The latter would be ok. The former is probably boring.)

Here's the Asst. Dean of Admissions' opinion on personal statements, and Johann is still here.
TLS: Which types of personal statements strike you? Do the best personal statements that you read share any common themes?

Yes — introspection. I think the best personal statements that I’ve read show that the applicant has actually thought about the topic that they’re writing about, and they’ve looked within themselves to write about said topic. They don’t read as being formulaic. There’s also some emotion in the writing. I think the personal statements that stick out in my mind are the ones that definitely reflectedt the individual and are distinctive, where I can say that X person wrote this personal statement and I’ve never read anything like it.


My PS wasn't anything thrilling. I talked about my hobbies (snowboarding and hockey), my major, my boredom (put more delicately) in my current job, and my childhood growing up in an uber-liberal household. I used some self-deprecating humor without making the writing too informal. It's a fairly blah why-law-school topic, but there's personality in the writing.

NightmanCometh
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Joined: Thu Jul 21, 2011 9:03 pm

Re: Seeking PS Advice from Northwestern Alums and Admits

Postby NightmanCometh » Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:57 pm

rinkrat19 wrote:NU 1L here.
Two things you should ask yourself:
1. Is PS #1 a resume dump? In skimming over so many things, does it manage to include anything that someone can't learn or infer from your resume?
2. Is PS #2 about a work project, or about YOU doing a work project? (The latter would be ok. The former is probably boring.)

Here's the Asst. Dean of Admissions' opinion on personal statements, and Johann is still here.
TLS: Which types of personal statements strike you? Do the best personal statements that you read share any common themes?

Yes — introspection. I think the best personal statements that I’ve read show that the applicant has actually thought about the topic that they’re writing about, and they’ve looked within themselves to write about said topic. They don’t read as being formulaic. There’s also some emotion in the writing. I think the personal statements that stick out in my mind are the ones that definitely reflectedt the individual and are distinctive, where I can say that X person wrote this personal statement and I’ve never read anything like it.


My PS wasn't anything thrilling. I talked about my hobbies (snowboarding and hockey), my major, my boredom (put more delicately) in my current job, and my childhood growing up in an uber-liberal household. I used some self-deprecating humor without making the writing too informal. It's a fairly blah why-law-school topic, but there's personality in the writing.


Thanks! Yeah, I read Johann's interview too, which is why I thought it was odd when paired together with the other one...but now that Van Zandt is gone I guess this is more pertinent.

As to your questions:
1. Not too sure. It actually has a coherent theme (related to constructing my cultural identity), and I view my academic and work experiences within that overarching theme; basically makes every element in my application come together as a whole and make sense. I pared it down as much as possible to keep only the important details. Is it a resume dump? Only in the sense that it discusses different academic and work experiences throughout my life that you can see on my resume/transcript, but within the frame of a greater theme.

2. It is about a team project which I played a large role in and shows certain good qualities and my overcoming obstacles through the narrative. This is more detailed and definitely more impressive in terms of showcasing my professional achievement that is not immediately apparent in the resume, but not as personal since the scope is limited to that one project and has nothing about my cultural identity or any of that stuff. Another consideration is that I got a great LOR from my boss regarding that project (in fact, he asked me if he could write it!), so I'm worried that with the resume and LOR, it might be overkill to talk about it again.

Any further thoughts? Mind taking a quick look at it when I am done? :)




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