Law School Discussion

Applying to Law School => Personal Statements, Resumes, and Letters of Recommendation => Topic started by: sisyphus99 on July 22, 2015, 07:19:33 PM

Title: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: sisyphus99 on July 22, 2015, 07:19:33 PM
Thanks!
Title: Re: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: Groundhog on July 22, 2015, 09:05:08 PM
Hmm, in my opinion, the problem with personal statements like this is that although they highlight your service, they don't tell me much about you. They tell me a lot about the training you completed but it applies equally to everyone who has. It also repeats your resume.

I am not sure this is a good topic, at least addressed this way. Is your SERE training the most interesting that happened to you? I doubt that. Intense I do not doubt, although it probably pales in comparison to your real life combat tours.

What is it about yourself that you want to communicate to the admissions committees? The ones that stood out were often not because of the topic but because of how they were written to explain something about the author. It's really your one chance to be creative in the law school admissions process.
Title: Re: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: loki13 on July 23, 2015, 12:29:47 PM
A few thoughts-

First, don't sweat the personal statement too much. I agonized over mine, and it was only later that I realized just how little (for the most part) the personal statement matters in the applications process.

Next, I agree with groundhog. Your personal statement doesn't really say anything about *you*. Instead, you set a scene, describe it (over-describe it, in fact), and then perfunctorily write at the end, "Yep, I learned a lot!" Note- you don't actually tie in what you learned, how it impacted you, how it changed you, and how what you learned or experienced in SERE really changed who you are as a person. All I know after reading this is that you were in the military and went through SERE training, which is likely indicated elsewhere in your application materials.

Take an example- your last line states that you have learned from past mistakes. What past mistakes? You didn't state that you made any mistakes. So what did you learn? What type of a person are you?

This is an interesting approach, but
Title: Re: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: 🍟💵🌲🍥 on July 23, 2015, 03:58:03 PM
As odd as this sounds...............I agree with Loki (shivers)
but he is right. Don't over think this. You should be fine.
Title: Re: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: sisyphus99 on July 24, 2015, 07:03:47 AM
Thank you for your feedback. I'll abbreviate the description of my experiences at SERE, instead describing how it made me a better person and I'll repost.
Title: Re: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: 🍟💵🌲🍥 on July 24, 2015, 09:17:56 PM
You can repost if you like, but odds are its fine at that point.

Title: Re: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: Groundhog on July 25, 2015, 09:32:14 AM
Fine? Maybe. It wouldn't raise any red flags, sure. As it is if I were writing up OP's application I would write "somewhat generic PS about his military training." OP has a shot to turn that into "somewhat interesting PS about what app learned from military." It may not be determinative of admission but it matters most on reaches/borderline accepts, which presumably OP cares about.
Title: Re: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: 🍟💵🌲🍥 on July 25, 2015, 04:12:36 PM
Call me a cynic but I don't think anyone even reads those unless you are an URM or a felon  or were academically dismissed from your last school or something else that puts a spot light on it.

Military is run of the mill. It will just blend in like everyone else. I never even mentioned my service my entire time in law school. Why would I? No one cares. (nor should they really IMHO)
Title: Re: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: Groundhog on July 25, 2015, 04:46:00 PM
At least when and where I worked in admissions, we read every single personal statement and summarized it for the entirety of the adcomm to review. URM, felony conviction and academic dismissal letters are separate from the personal statement.

The one thing I do agree with you about though is that it will blend in. Other than separating OP from the K-JD applicants, which OP's military service already does, it will by itself not affect the personal statement. Whether OP can write well and tell a good story that allows the reader to know OP is what does.
Title: Re: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: sisyphus99 on August 03, 2015, 01:52:59 PM
.
Title: Re: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: loki13 on August 03, 2015, 02:13:19 PM
No!

I'm saying that nicely, and hoping that you remember that the personal statement isn't that important.

But here's the issue- it really looks like what you've done is just append a few buzzwords to the end, and a bit of a mea culpa (and here's why you should discount my undergraduate GPA). More bluntly- this isn't a creative writing contest. Your second, third, and fourth paragraphs don't tell me anything. I don't need you to set a scene. I am completely indifferent to who got punched in the face. I don't know how being punched in the face made you a better person, and what those nebulous "past mistakes" were. Was it lack of ability? Lack of concentration? What stressors?

The soul of narrative of specificity. Again, you're very specific about the SERE training, but I have learned nothing about you. How did SERE training, which you just devoted the majority of your personal statement to, help you with classroom work? What failure in undergrad was rectified?
Title: Re: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: loki13 on August 03, 2015, 03:35:52 PM
SO let me try and be more helpful. Here's would be a better structure, if a little generic.

-Start with the problem. "I used to be this way, because of X, Y, and Z."

-Then talk about the formative experience. "One day, at band camp / SERE training, I got punched in the face!"

-Explain how it changed you. "I realized that X, Y, and Z was a lot like getting punched in the face, but this time ..."

-Then show it in application. "So a few years later, when X, Y  and Z happened to me, I remembered how I got punched in the face, and it was no big deal."

It's a simple, banal, and effective structure.
Title: Re: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: 🍟💵🌲🍥 on August 05, 2015, 05:14:00 PM
Honestly, just make sure spell check is on and then scan to make sure that there isn't anything politically sensitive in it
then submit


its a personal statement, I think mine said "I like pie" in it.
Title: Re: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: Groundhog on August 05, 2015, 06:02:56 PM
its a personal statement, I think mine said "I like pie" in it.
I'm glad you can bottom line it, but if I saw that in a PS I would write a special email to the director and/or dean of admissions urging you to not be accepted.
Title: Re: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: 🍟💵🌲🍥 on August 05, 2015, 06:42:06 PM
its a personal statement, I think mine said "I like pie" in it.
I'm glad you can bottom line it, but if I saw that in a PS I would write a special email to the director and/or dean of admissions urging you to not be accepted.
some discretion may be advised, but I honest think if it was just a single paragraph it would have 99% the same value and actually MORE value than a longer one that might accidentally polarize someone somehow.
Title: Re: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: Burhop on August 16, 2015, 12:13:11 PM
Hi Sisyphus99 - It also depends where you are applying. Top law schools look at writing quality, character, and thought processes - they're after soft factors because the students they are accepting already have the highest GPA and LSAT, so they can spend time building a class out of people who excel personally and professionally, and who can pen a good story. The personal statement matters in this sense: someone who is truly an excellent writer does have a shot at talking their way into a spot at a top school, as long as their numbers aren't too far from the mean. Good writing = good thinking, and can later translate to professorships, judicial clerkships, etc.

Because you allude to an undergrad GPA that may not be as stellar, I'm not sure what tier of law schools you are looking at. This is important, because some mid-tier schools specifically ask candidates to discuss "why law" in their personal statements, and they mean it. It's not enough to tell them a story, or be a good person. If they know that many of their graduates go on to handle DUIs and represent the wrong side of asbestos claims, they are hoping to see that you have a real sense of what your career might look like. Particularly in these economic times, where many lawyer can't find positions, they are quite literally looking for candidates who can say "My dad does X law, which I find interesting, and I've worked in his office and will be joining him." Or, "I want to be a public defender, and I really mean it." Or, "I plan to be a JAG." That way they don't end up in the NYT as a "bad actor" school who accepted 90% students who claimed in their application that they would go into public service but now have $200k of debt and no viable job options.

If you are applying to a mix of schools, some which request a personal statement that is meant to encapsulate your character, and some which want more of a "statement of purpose" re: your future career plans, you're going to need at least two different essays to send out.

This essay partly fills the first requirement, as it is more of a character essay. You do cut away before the essay gets truly personal, however. It jumps from probable torture to 5 years later. It's remarkably unemotional for what must have been a traumatic experience.

Sometimes a topic is "too big" for the personal statement structure. It's just too much to unpack - too much of an emotional wallop for both the writer and reader. You're sometimes better off with a smaller story - helping a kid while you were in another country; bonding with a fellow soldier who was from an entirely different walk of life; flying some totally bonkers plane in formation for the first time. The personal statement is enough room for a quality photograph; there isn't enough room for the whole album.

Best, Dani

Title: Re: Personal Statement - Please Critique!
Post by: sisyphus99 on August 17, 2015, 10:14:06 PM
Hi Sisyphus99 - It also depends where you are applying. Top law schools look at writing quality, character, and thought processes - they're after soft factors because the students they are accepting already have the highest GPA and LSAT, so they can spend time building a class out of people who excel personally and professionally, and who can pen a good story. The personal statement matters in this sense: someone who is truly an excellent writer does have a shot at talking their way into a spot at a top school, as long as their numbers aren't too far from the mean. Good writing = good thinking, and can later translate to professorships, judicial clerkships, etc.

Because you allude to an undergrad GPA that may not be as stellar, I'm not sure what tier of law schools you are looking at. This is important, because some mid-tier schools specifically ask candidates to discuss "why law" in their personal statements, and they mean it. It's not enough to tell them a story, or be a good person. If they know that many of their graduates go on to handle DUIs and represent the wrong side of asbestos claims, they are hoping to see that you have a real sense of what your career might look like. Particularly in these economic times, where many lawyer can't find positions, they are quite literally looking for candidates who can say "My dad does X law, which I find interesting, and I've worked in his office and will be joining him." Or, "I want to be a public defender, and I really mean it." Or, "I plan to be a JAG." That way they don't end up in the NYT as a "bad actor" school who accepted 90% students who claimed in their application that they would go into public service but now have $200k of debt and no viable job options.

If you are applying to a mix of schools, some which request a personal statement that is meant to encapsulate your character, and some which want more of a "statement of purpose" re: your future career plans, you're going to need at least two different essays to send out.

This essay partly fills the first requirement, as it is more of a character essay. You do cut away before the essay gets truly personal, however. It jumps from probable torture to 5 years later. It's remarkably unemotional for what must have been a traumatic experience.

Sometimes a topic is "too big" for the personal statement structure. It's just too much to unpack - too much of an emotional wallop for both the writer and reader. You're sometimes better off with a smaller story - helping a kid while you were in another country; bonding with a fellow soldier who was from an entirely different walk of life; flying some totally bonkers plane in formation for the first time. The personal statement is enough room for a quality photograph; there isn't enough room for the whole album.

Best, Dani

Thanks, Dani. That was great advice.