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Messages - Burhop

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I love the Yale 250. Folks get really anxious about writing this particular essay; I find it's a good exercise to write a couple parody Yale 250s. Getting creative with that format can seriously free up some brain space.

The basic idea is to choose the world's most absurd topic--a topic that would be unbelievably ridiculous to send to Yale--and write a parody "250" on it. I don't know if I've got any fellow Creatives in the house here, but I hope so, because I want to see this thread get redonk.

Two entries from me:

Yale 250: My Boyfriend's Microwave is Better than Mine

I frequently make oatmeal in the morning, from those little pre-packeted flavored pouches; I favor maple undertones, with the occasional cinnamon kicker. Sometimes I'll go for freeze-dried cranberry bits in with the oats--the tartness is a welcome wake-me-up.

I mention this because my microwave has only two options for oatmeal texture: soup or glue. I have been unable to find the sweet spot on the timer for the proper consistency.

It is possible I could boil water on the stove instead; I have heard the factoids about microwaves destroying all nutrients in everything they zap. I've tried to picture this phenomenon: beautifully-wrought double helices dissolving into a softly bubbling pool of watery muck, like the Wicked Witch of the West. Where do the nutrients go? Are the B vitamins really that delicate? Maybe they're hardy. Maybe they've evolved, and now thwart the evil zapping powers of microwaves everywhere. Of course, that makes no sense--where's the selective advantage? I don't think B vitamins mate, for instance. In any case, I eat oatmeal for fiber, which might gremlinify into six grams of radioactive evil, but should still scrape my insides clean.

Iconic movie references aside, I must admit: My boyfriend's microwave nukes more superbly than my own. (This is not meant to be a metaphor.) Oatmeal that spends two minutes in his white box emerges in the proper creamy-fluffy texture that oatmeal eaters everywhere pine for. I can guess blindly at the amount of water I ought to add, and it's like his microwave can appreciate this and adapt to my capriciousness. It's lovely.

Yale 250: On Cartoon Eyeballs

Open your newspaper to the funny pages. See all of the cartoon eyeballs? Nota Bene: They are all some form of sphere, with some sort of dot within. Let's say 90% of cartoon eyeballs get no more complex than that.

The artist can nudge the eyeball a millimeter and suddenly the wee cartoon man is angry; another nudge sends him into sadville; the next nudge might make him appear maniacal. Moving the "pupil" a smidge can take a cartoon face from genius to drooling. Sure, sure, sometimes it's the eyebrows doing the work, raised so far up they are no longer even attached to the cartoon head they are meant to modify, but instead are hanging like two lazy commas surfing the updraft of a heat register in December. But eyebrows are all hyperbole; eyeballs, subtlety and finesse. The noisy already get plenty of attention in this world. It's the eyeball's turn to shine.

To eyelid or not to eyelid?, that is the question. For here's the rub: in cartoons, we can simply bend the outer rim of the eyeball until it creates a recognizable facsimile of a human emotion. Eyelids are great for alluding to sleepiness, but otherwise can be discarded. Cartoons, after all, do not need to blink.

Eyeballs in actual human heads are sometimes pretty, sometimes alarming, sometimes mundane. But eyeballs in cartoon heads meet the sonic standard set by the word itself--eyeball, after all, is a hilarious word. Like monkey. Or: Underpants. Bubble. Wattle. Banana. Forty-two. Pickle. Llama. Well, you get the idea.


These types of essays are prevalent. I think the reason is because a lot of the most powerful moments in our lives--the defining moments--are related to something that would generally be perceived as negative. The things is, I've found lots of applicants really need to write these essays. It's like exercising a demon or something. What a clever applicant does is write the essay--write it well, even--and then have the presence of mind not to send it to the admissions committees. "Pity" essays are funadementally written for the author, not the audience, and particularly not an audience one really, truly wants to impress.

I'd argue the main goals of the personal statement are to be remarkable, together, sound of mind, and most of all, likeable. You want the adcomms to *like* you, right? Who wants to toss away the app of someone they like? Likeability is surely hard to achieve in a couple pages, but if a clever applicant keeps "likeability" in the back of their mind, I think they are more likely to pick a topic that will show them in a better light. (It's really amazing how much your present mood affects the writing you produce! There's a good tip--don't try and write your personal statement when you're in a funk.)

So--if you have a horrid story that you need to get out of your system, I say, write it! Just make sure that you write a couple different essays that aren't depressing, and then think hard about which essay will impress the adcomms the most.

I thought of two more 'common' essays that make my eyes roll:

1. The 'I will survive' essay - While I think it's perfectly acceptable to talk about circumstances that tested your perseverance and will to succeed, I find that most writers who choose this topic spend SO much time focusing solely on the negativity of their experiences that I only feel pity for them.  They usually end the essay by saying that they're not a quitter or some other trite ending.   

2. The 'Pity' essay - If the above topic generated self-pity, this essay generates pity for someone else.  Whether it's a small impoverished boy, Brazilian prostitute, imprisoned orphan or whatever, these essays focus so much on the negativity (and usual recovery) of the subject that focus shifts drastically away from the writer.  Essentially, it suffers the same problems as #1.

13 is pretty great, but feel free to send some business my way as well!

Glad to see this thread is alive and kickin'. ;-)


my impression is that schools with part time programs often have a higher average age. There has been a movement towards older students having an admissions edge--I just read a curious article that insinuated that MBAs & Law schools are often fighting over the same students, so there's a weird flip-flop going on right now, because MBAs are trying to "steal" younger students straight out of undergrad even though they traditionally prefer work experience, and law schools are gravitating towards students who've been out in the world doing stuff for a couple years (a la Northwestern.)

a quick scan through some school's numbers shows 'average ages' of 24-26. Dunno if there's any aggregate data out there to be had.


I've always been interested in the law, but it took some time away from academia to make me realize that it was really what I wanted to do.  And there are certain similarities between my job and the law that I was planning to address... I like what I do now, but I want to use the skills I've learned on a larger scale.  The decision was definitely a gradual realization -- no lightning bolts here.

My problem is that tricky "why entertainment?" side of things, because to be honest, it was kind of a whim, and I'm not sure if that's a positive answer for adcomms.  I don't want them to think I'm not serious about going to law school.

you're in great shape because you are starting so early! You've got plenty of time to brainstorm.

I recommend you start a number of introductions. Just write, don't even think about it. After writing 3-5 intros about wildly different things/topics/stories/themes, step away for a bit and come back. Which are you most excited to continue with? You could also post them on here to get reactions--which intro would another reader be the most intrigued by?

Use the time cushion you've given yourself by starting early and really make it work for you. Feel free to drop me a line if you'd like me to look at stuff.

Oh, the non-trad thing--if you graduated in '02 at 21 and worked for a few years, you aren't a non-trad. A non-trad either  A) graduated university much later in life or B) is applying something like a decade + after graduating.

Tho, others on the board can correct me if I'm wrong about that. ;-)



*bump* for those looking for patterns to avoid


well, you make one of the standard mistakes--you cram a whole autobiography in there. There's also a lot in here that involves things happening to you, as opposed to you actively doing things. You also open with the childhood memoir--a prominent theme this cycle.

On the plus side, you write well, and your prose is clear and not too flowery. You come across as honest and forthright. This PS, as-is, would probably not really count against you at any school your numbers make you a decent fit for, but it is unlikely to make you stand out from the crowd, and wouldn't give any 'reaches' a good reason to take you on. There is no image in here of you that is memorable for the reader, and if I were asked what this PS was about, I'd say "some childhood stuff in Europe and a very ill brother." Ideally, when someone is done with the PS and is summarizing salient points, those points read something like "he did this and this supremely well, and is very interested in this school of thought/field/bucket o' notions"--what have you.

In sum: decently written, but not yet working nearly hard enough for you. I would recommend (if there is a full overhaul possibility) that you focus in on things you accomplished recently and very well. And then, only 1-3 things; adcomms read these quickly, so you can't expect them to pick up all of your life details. You need to find the right story, commit to it, and tell it very well. IMHO.

best of luck!


I honestly am trying to think of something I have done and done well.  That is sad isn't it?  I can't think of anything that I think would be worth writing about.  Probably the most enjoyable thing I ever did was holding the position of Director of Performing Arts on our Student Activities Board.  I was in charge of organizing larger scale events for the University and Community which were all very successful events. 
I am not sure if this would even be worth writing about though.  I only did it for a year and was reelected to the position but I resigned because my father was very ill and died three months later.  I don't really want to go into that in the statement (my father's passing).  I am not sure.

in charge of large scale events? Were you enthusiastic about this role? If so, write about it. It sounds like you had a good amount of responsibility.


man, I can't believe how many posts this thread suddenly has!

I think, as a general rule:

1) avoid blanket statements against anyone/thing; instead, speak of what you believe in/stand up for.

2) If your interest in law is due to being troubled by something, be specific: Say, the wiretapping scandal; more subpoenas of the media; parts of the Patriot Act; funding abstinence; the vetting process of supreme court justices. Make it clear for the reader what you're concerned about--make it concrete.



well, for jollies, I'll tell you how I approached that topic, and maybe some others will as well. That might help you free up the block.

My interests are in international law, environmental law, and human rights. I especially like the nexus of these disciplines, and find that cases that combine elements of each are really up my alley (see: Sheila Watt-Cloutier and the Inuit trying to sue the US for Global Warming via the Inter-American Court of Human Rights; The Marsh Arabs of Iraq trying to reclaim their decimated wetlands and re-think the lifestyle of their land to include things like eco-tourism, even though the Greenies would probably prefer they stay an idyllic indigenous tribe; Brazil's difficulty in implementing environmental protections for their precious ecosystems (that the world might use for, say new fancy cancer drugs), especially in the face of serious poverty and some of the world's worst income inequities--how do you tell a poor farmer who needs to feed his family not to cut down trees?). I also really love good legal writing, and how even though lawyers are known for speaking latinate gibberish most of the time, a Supreme Court Justice will sometimes craft an opinion so compelling that it just sings right off the page. Finally, I just like the discipline that comes with  the law; the ability to suss out precedent, cobble together framing mechanisms, and debate folks on a whole new level is vastly appealing to me.

That's not really what I wrote in my essay, but it's why I'm down with law school. I'd actually be curious to hear how other folks on the board felt drawn to the law.



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