Personal Statement Critique Forum

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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Signal3

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Personal Statement Critique

Post by Signal3 » Mon Sep 05, 2022 8:37 pm

First draft. Need to cut a page for most schools.

Portions of statement that relate to addendums:
"Frozen, couldn't do the essay"= related to an academic dismissal of a grad school I transferred to after
"trouble in grad school" : suspension pending psych eval- over turned after psych eval- resulting in me transferring grad schools
marijuana: 20 year old expunged charge, related to high school development
Gpa, low 2's.

With all that, you will see that I sort of blended a meta addendum in with my personal statement in order to explain all the areas needing attention.
Please let me know what you think. I have done over 50 drafts so far, and each one is very different from the last, so I may still have plenty of work left to do.

I definitely think I need to get a stronger opening, and I think that the closing is too much and too grandiose, or that I didn't provide enough evidence for why I would say my closing line.

After attending a new school almost every year up until 9th grade due to my mother's frequent changes, I had trouble settling in when I entered high school. After the "new kid" novelty wore off, and I started having problems fitting in with the "cool kids," I started to exhibit increasingly risky behavior. I stopped caring about grades. I started smoking marijuana, and my sophmore year my grades declined in a picture perfect fashion of straight A's the first semester, straight B's the second, straight C's the third, and all D's and F's the fourth.

By my junior year, I had somehow figured out how to skip school and either hide in my closet or go walk around the woods all day, and then every two weeks call into the school, tell them I've been sick, and have them collect all my homework from the teachers. I would then go pick up my homework, turn it in, and somehow passed my junior year while missing school over half of the days of the year!
Although I was being groomed for football scholarships, and was all-county, I did not go out for football my senior year.

The police, often filled the role of a father during this time period. On one occasion being searched by the police with a group of adolescents I was trying to fit in with, I remember two state police telling me I was being disrespectful and that I had to get organized. I remember whining to them that "I was being respectful, and I want to be a lawyer." For some reason that quieted them. About a year later, I was involved in a traffic accident, and the state policeman remembered me by name, and asked me if I still wanted to be a lawyer. On another occasion, after my mother had called the cops on me for marijuana usage, I remember a cop sitting down next to me on our two patio chairs overlooking the garden, where he just talked to me like a mentor. I remember him saying, "I bet you'd be playing football if you weren't smoking marijuana."

Needless to say, I left this all behind when I joined the military to get my life back on track. Walking through a warzone in Iraq with an M16, was an experience like no other, and having a madhi militia leader challenge me to an arm wrestling match in the iraqi police station, was quite memorable.

However, three years of structure, adventure, and brother/sisterhood was not enough to redirect an unsettled youth in my case. I still had the internal conflict of attempting to match my family's standard of ambition, likely set from my CEO grandfather and my uncle who was State Governor of [redacted], contradicting my natural free spiritedness that perhaps came from being an only child to a single mother, who just wanted everyone to stop competing and get along.

I went to school, began studying martial arts with a colleague who later attempted to introduce me to "corporate life" as a property manager for [redacted] law firm in [redacted], but this just wasn't the life (or law environment) I was seeking, despite all the positive lessons and mentorship.

I became engaged to a woman, and we both began to get our masters of mental health counseling. I thrived, and was the only student in my class to be named in a published peer reviewed article. With this new thriving, though, I also had blindspots, and ended up getting in trouble. I transferred schools, and eventually "froze" and burned out at the final end of the program. I remember just staring at the essay instructions for what was probably the easiest class of the entire program, and just not being able to write.

This was the event in life that I finally resigned to the fact that a major change was needed. I entered the retail workforce, and experienced conditions I did not think were humanely possible, and attempted to do what I refer to as the "starfish technique." You compartmentalize the part of you that you do not like and numb it out, then like a limb, you cut it off, and grow it back. This took several years until I was ready to ride the horse again. I once again attempted to work for my martial arts mentor, who made me general manager of a startup in west hollywood. Something I've learned from that experience, is that if the work is not meaningful, is shallow and superficial, that I will not passionately engage as I once did in my masters in counseling program.

I left, and returned to family in a small town in [redacted], but something was different this time. Either time, the "starfish technique," or my new passion in nutrition and health had grown me enough to enter a new, meaningful challenge. Still an explorer at heart, perhaps due to moving around so much in my youth, I sought out an area of life I was always fascinated by. The state prison system. With my free spiritedness and my psychology background, I figured that if I could see what it would take for someone to find happiness even in the worst conditions, in a prison, that I could gain valuable insight into life.

My first three months as an officer, I was in shock and very nervous. I made up for it with sheer determination and work ethic, but the first time you are alone, surrounded by 300 felons all waving angrily at you, to say that there is no way to prepare for that would be an understatement. After three months, however, I was promoted to center court control, which controlled the movement of all dorms and effectively gave commands to dorm sergeants repeatedly throughout the day. I then attended the academy, and upon returning I was moved into the most difficult section, disciplinary confinement, and three months later, I was lead officer in the most difficult maximum security section. Being able to thrive under this level of pressure while working 60 hour weeks and having high rapport with coworkers, administration, supervisors, as well as my clients (the inmates) I knew that I was able to handle any position in life, as long as it had meaning.

As a public defender, and after graduating in the top 10% of my class, I expect to fight and argue in the court room, an area of life I have always been fascinated by, in a way that holds great meaning. Due to the poor conditions of many public defenders offices, I will not be distracted by a community over reliant on class and status, and I will be able to bond with my coworkers based on the mission alone. In time, I will have the option of opening my own family law and criminal defense practice, using my mental health background to appropriately mitigate family issues.

There is one thing I know for certain, and that is I will not engage in a new challenge in life that I believe there is a chance of failure. You don't go through what I've gone through, and risk failure. You over prepare, you over plan, you train yourself to thrive, and you do whatever it takes to develop trust of those around you, be an expert, and affect positive change in the world. That being said, I have learned how to deal with failure and be flexible, and when this issue does arise again, perhaps 7 years from now, I will be prepared for it.

I cannot in good faith believe that there is a better candidate than I, with as diverse a background, to represent our law community, all citizens of our country, as well as the never ending evolution of our global humanity.

Rule23andMe

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Re: Personal Statement Critique

Post by Rule23andMe » Tue Sep 06, 2022 1:44 pm

I'll bite - here's some high-level advice: You already know that this is way too long, so cutting it down should be step one. Focus on how your experiences would make you a good lawyer and advocate, which you should also mention up front to frame the narrative. I skimmed a chunk of the middle to see when you'd finally mention where you're going with it all.

The writing and grammar in general needs some serious work as well. Maybe have a friend do some line edits if you can't see any issues yourself.

And yeah, re: the closing, you're the single best candidate to represent the country and the "evolution of global humanity"? Really? Anyway, you're not running for President so just focus on what would make you a good advocate.

Signal3

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Re: Personal Statement Critique

Post by Signal3 » Tue Sep 06, 2022 3:53 pm

Thank you!
I'm guessing this is the portion you skimmed over? That is really good to know, because I know where the essay starts to get boring, which helps me know what to cut. Thanks again!

"I went to school, began studying martial arts with a colleague who later attempted to introduce me to "corporate life" as a property manager for [redacted] law firm in [redacted], but this just wasn't the life (or law environment) I was seeking, despite all the positive lessons and mentorship.

I became engaged to a woman, and we both began to get our masters of mental health counseling. I thrived, and was the only student in my class to be named in a published peer reviewed article. With this new thriving, though, I also had blindspots, and ended up getting in trouble. I transferred schools, and eventually "froze" and burned out at the final end of the program. I remember just staring at the essay instructions for what was probably the easiest class of the entire program, and just not being able to write.

This was the event in life that I finally resigned to the fact that a major change was needed. I entered the retail workforce, and experienced conditions I did not think were humanely possible, and attempted to do what I refer to as the "starfish technique." You compartmentalize the part of you that you do not like and numb it out, then like a limb, you cut it off, and grow it back. This took several years until I was ready to ride the horse again. I once again attempted to work for my martial arts mentor, who made me general manager of a startup in west hollywood. Something I've learned from that experience, is that if the work is not meaningful, is shallow and superficial, that I will not passionately engage as I once did in my masters in counseling program.

I left, and returned to family in a small town in [redacted], but something was different this time. Either time, the "starfish technique," or my new passion in nutrition and health had grown me enough to enter a new, meaningful challenge. Still an explorer at heart, perhaps due to moving around so much in my youth, I sought out an area of life I was always fascinated by. The state prison system. With my free spiritedness and my psychology background, I figured that if I could see what it would take for someone to find happiness even in the worst conditions, in a prison, that I could gain valuable insight into life."

Signal3

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Re: Personal Statement Critique

Post by Signal3 » Wed Sep 07, 2022 12:57 am

Thank you! I thought I already replied to this, but maybe mods need to approve it since it's a new account.
Anyway just in case, yes what you say makes a lot of sense much appreciated. The part I really benefited from, which I hadn't realized yet, was where you started skimming over.. because that sort of tells me which areas are less interesting, etc... I want to really suck the reader in and make them really enjoy reading it.

Anyway, thanks much!!!

barre777

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Re: Personal Statement Critique

Post by barre777 » Wed Sep 07, 2022 1:26 pm

Practically speaking, how relevant is the personal statement, considering its microscopic value compared to LSAT? Might it be better to take a year off and study for LSAT?

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Signal3

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Re: Personal Statement Critique

Post by Signal3 » Wed Sep 07, 2022 2:13 pm

barre777 wrote:
Wed Sep 07, 2022 1:26 pm
Practically speaking, how relevant is the personal statement, considering its microscopic value compared to LSAT? Might it be better to take a year off and study for LSAT?
It's very relevant in cases where there are so many negative addendums. Even if I boosted my LSAT 5 points to the 170's, that wouldn't erase many of the questions from my history without an excellent personal statement.

Access

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Re: Personal Statement Critique

Post by Access » Wed Sep 07, 2022 3:10 pm

You focus too much on the negatives and make yourself sound like a huge risk. Get rid of the red flags. If you have a criminal record or other things to disclose, figure out you're going to frame it in an addendum, not in personal statement. If you've never been formally caught doing drugs, don't volunteer that information.

In general I think you need a consultant to tell you these things and help you focus on your strengths.

barre777

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Re: Personal Statement Critique

Post by barre777 » Wed Sep 07, 2022 3:42 pm

yes, but consultants are a mine field

Signal3

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Re: Personal Statement Critique

Post by Signal3 » Wed Sep 07, 2022 4:10 pm

Access wrote:
Wed Sep 07, 2022 3:10 pm
You focus too much on the negatives and make yourself sound like a huge risk. Get rid of the red flags. If you have a criminal record or other things to disclose, figure out you're going to frame it in an addendum, not in personal statement. If you've never been formally caught doing drugs, don't volunteer that information.

In general I think you need a consultant to tell you these things and help you focus on your strengths.
Hmm. That makes sense. I was hoping the narrative led to an obvious lack of risk, and even a strength, but if that is what you see I need to change it. I guess it is possible that my time as a correctional officer, the LSAT, and the 5 years since any even small incident may not be enough still. I was hoping to frame how I've thrived in certain situations consistently, and show how my plan matches what I need to thrive perfectly.

But I suppose if someone was just weighing risk, and not necessarily adding much weight to "diversity of experience and life lessons" then they may just prefer someone who has had no issues at all. That being said, many applicants aren't sure what they want in their career or what makes them happy, so I guess in the end I'm really just trying to make a case of "wisdom vs. inexperience."

I'll keep working on it and try out your idea as well.

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Access

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Re: Personal Statement Critique

Post by Access » Wed Sep 07, 2022 5:14 pm

Signal3 wrote:
Wed Sep 07, 2022 4:10 pm
Access wrote:
Wed Sep 07, 2022 3:10 pm
You focus too much on the negatives and make yourself sound like a huge risk. Get rid of the red flags. If you have a criminal record or other things to disclose, figure out you're going to frame it in an addendum, not in personal statement. If you've never been formally caught doing drugs, don't volunteer that information.

In general I think you need a consultant to tell you these things and help you focus on your strengths.
Hmm. That makes sense. I was hoping the narrative led to an obvious lack of risk, and even a strength, but if that is what you see I need to change it. I guess it is possible that my time as a correctional officer, the LSAT, and the 5 years since any even small incident may not be enough still. I was hoping to frame how I've thrived in certain situations consistently, and show how my plan matches what I need to thrive perfectly.

But I suppose if someone was just weighing risk, and not necessarily adding much weight to "diversity of experience and life lessons" then they may just prefer someone who has had no issues at all. That being said, many applicants aren't sure what they want in their career or what makes them happy, so I guess in the end I'm really just trying to make a case of "wisdom vs. inexperience."

I'll keep working on it and try out your idea as well.
See the problem is that in your original draft you make it sound like a lot more than a small incident, which isn't a good idea. Your experience as a correctional officer is great! I'd focus more on that, with a brief mention of overcoming adversity (single mom, poverty, etc). Also add in your ethnicity if minority.

There's some other stuff I'd cut - eg don't mention your politician relatives, sounds like name dropping or nepotism. Don't claim you'll be top 10%. These types of missteps are why I think you would benefit from a consultant who can go over all your applications and help you avoid mistakes.

Signal3

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Re: Personal Statement Critique

Post by Signal3 » Thu Sep 08, 2022 12:38 am

Access wrote:
Wed Sep 07, 2022 5:14 pm
Signal3 wrote:
Wed Sep 07, 2022 4:10 pm
Access wrote:
Wed Sep 07, 2022 3:10 pm
You focus too much on the negatives and make yourself sound like a huge risk. Get rid of the red flags. If you have a criminal record or other things to disclose, figure out you're going to frame it in an addendum, not in personal statement. If you've never been formally caught doing drugs, don't volunteer that information.

In general I think you need a consultant to tell you these things and help you focus on your strengths.
Hmm. That makes sense. I was hoping the narrative led to an obvious lack of risk, and even a strength, but if that is what you see I need to change it. I guess it is possible that my time as a correctional officer, the LSAT, and the 5 years since any even small incident may not be enough still. I was hoping to frame how I've thrived in certain situations consistently, and show how my plan matches what I need to thrive perfectly.

But I suppose if someone was just weighing risk, and not necessarily adding much weight to "diversity of experience and life lessons" then they may just prefer someone who has had no issues at all. That being said, many applicants aren't sure what they want in their career or what makes them happy, so I guess in the end I'm really just trying to make a case of "wisdom vs. inexperience."

I'll keep working on it and try out your idea as well.
See the problem is that in your original draft you make it sound like a lot more than a small incident, which isn't a good idea. Your experience as a correctional officer is great! I'd focus more on that, with a brief mention of overcoming adversity (single mom, poverty, etc). Also add in your ethnicity if minority.

There's some other stuff I'd cut - eg don't mention your politician relatives, sounds like name dropping or nepotism. Don't claim you'll be top 10%. These types of missteps are why I think you would benefit from a consultant who can go over all your applications and help you avoid mistakes.
Thank you. Working on a very different draft now. Much appreciated for the suggestions. I very much agree with all of this. Consulting may not be an option with my levels of savings. I'll be back with a very different draft soon, nonetheless.

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