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Messages - Burhop

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41
Personal Statement / Re: Patterns I've seen
« on: January 11, 2006, 03:32:43 PM »
hmmmm...my impression has been that folks are assuming that they have written something unique & that will stand out, & are shocked to realize their uniqueness isn't so much so. Thus, I don't think it's hesitancy most of the time--I think it's a knowledge deficit. Hence, this thread!

best,

dani

42
Personal Statement / Re: Closing sentence
« on: January 11, 2006, 01:11:02 PM »
I want my last sentence to be powerful and to convey
that I have never or will never back down fom challenges because if I had I wouldn't have made it this far

Does what I have work, is it grammatically correct, any suggestions on new sentences, keeping it as is, or revisions

After all, I am not someone who succumbs to challenges, with a heartfelt commitment of never becoming.

It seems like the with is throwing it off to me.

I'm not sure that it says what you mean it to say... "succumb" doesn't just mean 'give in'--it usually indicates giving into a desire--like succumbing to passion, or buying an ipod. Hmmmm...So someone who *does* succumb to challenges might be someone who can't help but take them on, and someone who does *not* succumb to challenges never takes challenges on?

Holla if my reading of this sentence is baffling anyone.

dani

43
Personal Statement / Re: Patterns I've seen
« on: January 11, 2006, 01:03:15 PM »
I think there is another reason why these things tend to be formulaic --

It's such an important piece of writing for most people, as it affects LS admission, and probably most people don't want to branch out and get "too cute" with it.  Which isn't to say that more people couldn't write more gracefully, but that a majority of people who could be more adventurous probably play it safe.

Plus, law students come from all academic and professional backgrounds.  Some are English, Poli Sci, and Journalism majors who can write, sure.  Others are engineers, bio majors, professional economists, and for lots of people in this category, they have maybe only written 2-3 pieces of this nature in their whole life to this point -- they may not be capable of anything much more complex than something like the "hamburger" style essay.

Chuckle--that's a pretty big safety zone, then, eh? I'd argue it's not that people are playing it safe--I think people are writing about the very first thing that comes to mind instead of doing a brainstorm in earnest and a few hearty drafts. It ain't cuteness, in other words--it's effort! Writing in the same pattern as everyone else shows a lower level of effort than someone who takes the time to figure out the whole PS thing and craft something more memorable than the typical ABC.

Some of the most inspired PS's I've read have been from non-humanities writers, actually--they tend to have not been overexposed to common writing patterns, and thus are less susceptible to them.

best,

Dani

44
Personal Statement / Re: Personal Statement Ideas
« on: January 11, 2006, 03:23:36 AM »
Hey! Well, I'd recommend you choose a topic that will focus mainly on you--anything that focuses too much on "they said this to me," or "They think this about me" will move the focus away from you. Think of it this way--the best PS's are about things a person has done, done well, and can write enthusiastically about. Often, the most...misguided...statements are about something that happened *to you.* This means you won't be active in the PS--you'll be passive, just observing and recording whatever craziness is affecting you. PS's that essentially sum up as "look at how crazy/annoying/weird/sad my world is!" won't work all that hard at selling you as a law-ready candidate.

The PS is your opportunity to show what you do when you're in charge, how you make decisions, lead, etc. Anytime you consider writing about something someone has done/said to you, it had better be a whopper--and I mean the size of "my dad turned out to be a woman" or "I grew up in the circus."

IMHO. ;-)

best,

dani

45
Personal Statement / Re: Patterns I've seen
« on: January 11, 2006, 03:08:38 AM »
I think what we've got here is a formulaic vs organic dichotomy--does the initial idea naturally come full circle, or does the writer cram it back in there because "that's how it's supposed to be?" It's like the 5th grade 'hamburger essay'--you remember--bun, lettuce, tomato, beef, bun--this simple structure can be used beautifully, but it can also serve as a crutch to poor writing--as if connecting these basic dots is *all* it takes to create an essay. One doesn't have to write a three-sectioned iambic tetrameter montage in second-person to stand out, but it would behoove a candidate to do a little strength-searching & acknowledge the most common essay patterns before committing to a PS wholly.

We're not all brilliant writers, but I'd argue we all have our moments of brilliance. It's the right energy, the right tone, the right story--all those intangibles. I'd rather help writers find their own moments of brilliance than say to everyone "well, you'll never be all that brilliant, so just do the basic essay tango and call it a day." We know we're not Ken Keseys and Toni Morrisons. But you don't have to be, to be fairly interesting and engaging for two pages.

I'm so pleased there's so much input in this thread! Y'all are gonna be some kickass lawyers.

best,
~Dani

46
Personal Statement / Re: Patterns I've seen
« on: January 10, 2006, 04:08:47 PM »
Did it ever occur to any of you that the reason everyone's PS's sound the same and are so 'mediocre' is because at the end of the day, most people simply do not stand out in many ways?

I started my PS in my childhood, because we had no money and lived in a poor area surrounded by drug addicts.  I now close loans for people in poor areas, surrounded by drug addicts.  My parents worked hard and are no longer poor, in large part by removing themselves from their then-peers (directionless, under/un-employed drug/booze people).  I want to advocate to build better communities now and work on affordable housing issues because I think that's what made the difference in my family -- living in better communities led us to a better life.

This does not make me unique, but it makes me someone who has use for going to law school.  Of course that's what I wrote about.

Most people don't have great stories.  The PS is not about making yourself out to be Indiana Jones -- it's about making sure you are a competent writer (being a lawyer involves copious reading and writing), and making sure you've got some logical reason for wanting to pursue a ~$100k undertaking for the next 3 years.

Distinguishing yourself as something truly great/special is only important when applying to a school your numbers don't line up for.

I somewhat agree with your last sentence - if your numbers are at the high end of the index for a particular school, then the job of your PS is not to screw up: not to write so badly that they are appalled & not to write something so inane/offensive that they just can't bear the idea of inflicting you on their student body.

I disagree, though, and in a way, about the idea that "most people don't have interesting stories". You don't have to have had a life that approximates Indiana Jones' to have a great story, and I can very well imagine Indiana writing a PS that would bore me to tears, and perhaps appall me, too .

From my experience in reading several statements, the problem is not so much that people don't have the raw material, but that they leech what is interesting about themselves, about their lives, and about their perspectives out of the piece. And they do this by using an ingenious array of poor writing techniques. In the end, it is not the story (there are only 7 stories in the world), but how it is told. Who you are comes out not so much in the narrative as in the writing style.

If your numbers are dodgy, the PS could be important and would presumably have to be somewhat above average. Dani says that they've "got to want your ass", and I agree.

Everyone stands out. Not every PS does.

I'm with my pal redemption--kevdog, no one in here has advocated for having the world's most amazing anecdote--we're just pointing out common patterns one can choose to avoid if they know *everyone* is using the same essay pattern. A good story can have the crap beat out of it by poor/uninspired writing technique.

I'm not a believer in "good enough"--never have been--and most aspiring law students seem to fall in that category. Writing can be revised, stories can be told with more verve. One just has to commit to the process.

~Dani

47
Personal Statement / Re: Patterns I've seen
« on: January 09, 2006, 05:56:02 PM »
I'll toss in a few more names--Bill Bryson always kills me--also:

Amy Fusselman--The Pharmacist's Mate
Lenny Bruce--How to Talk Dirty and Influence People

...I suppose one could read books on 'how to write' as well--couldn't hurt--but my argument is that reading a good memoir might get one in the mood to write about their own lives with flair & joie de vivre. A How-to book can give a skill set, but not a mindframe, I'd say. And it seems like a lot of us need our mindframes rattled a bit to shake out our latent individualism.

~Dani

48
Personal Statement / Re: Patterns I've seen
« on: January 09, 2006, 03:01:56 AM »
no problem! And a *bump* for those currently working on their PS's, who might benefit from the notes herein.

I had another thought--this one might be nutty--but to get in the right mindframe to share life stories, would reading some quick passages out of a good memoir get one in the mood? As students, we spend a lot of time with dry subject matter--that dull tone might leak its academese into our pens and the joy out of our stories. Reading some funny/touching memoirs might amp up the writer in our heads, and get the right 'tone' in place.

I'd recommend these memoirs, should this idea strike anyone as clever. At the very least, I could see this helping those who are blocked when it comes to writing about themselves (I know I was!)

Mary Karr--The Liar's Club
Richard Feynman--Surely You're Joking, Mr Feynman! (This one is my fave)
Danny Wallace--Join Me!
Dave Eggers--A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (AHWOSG, ya know.)

best,

dani

49
Personal Statement / Re: Is my PS just lame? Looking for feedback...
« on: January 09, 2006, 02:54:15 AM »
you can always send stuff my way!

dani

50
Personal Statement / Re: Good Writers Wanted. Whose good at transitions
« on: January 09, 2006, 02:53:02 AM »
I am almost done with my cultural diversity and overcome essay, but I am having trouble with a transition between 2 abstract subjects.  If your brain can draw connections between odd things could I use it to help me. Just need 1-2 good sentences
won't take long.   Thanks so much.  ANybody?

Do you need a transition? Would it work to just put *** and jump into another subject? Not that this would be typical, but it could probably be done.

If that seems too risque, the best way to create a transition between two disparate subjects is to set the reader up for it from the get-go. In your introduction, you say something like: "There are two experiences that really exemplify..." Then in the following paragraphs, you say: "The first is..." "Finally, the second is..." as you introduce each topic. Simple, but it's easy for adcomms to follow the breadcrumbs that way.

...if this is completely out in left field, PM me and I'll take a look!

best,

Dani

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