Law School Discussion

Lost on my personal statement, need advice

Lost on my personal statement, need advice
« on: January 10, 2009, 10:00:54 PM »
I am planning on applying within the next 6 months or so, and trying to get a good head start on my personal statement. My initial intent was to approach it from a somewhat narrative perspective and intersperse some analysis of what I learned through my experiences and how the decisions I've made reflect positive characteristics about myself. Does this sound like a decent way of writing it, or would there be a better format? Also, please tell me if this is too much info to include: During my first 2 yrs of school, I lived at home, worked 2 jobs, did a work study assignment, served as treasurer of the english club/literary  magazine and volunteered as a Youth Leader at my church. I had a 3.7 GPA. I came out to my parents as a lesbian over winter break of my Sophomore year. They flipped, attacked me numerous times (verbally and physically), changed the locks, took my car, and decided not to help me pay for school after the upcoming semester (since they already paid for it)- I lived out of a motel for the majority of that semester, while working full time, and getting a loan to purchase my car back from my parents. Decided to transfer to a cheaper state school in a different area where I could afford to live- Came up to Buffalo with my girlfriend and only had $100, no jobs, no furniture... starting out with absolutely nothing. I tried going back to school the first semester up here to prove to my parents I could make it on my own and be fine, but without a stable job and having rushed into it, I ended up dropping 3 out of 5 classes, passing one with a B and failing the other because I couldn't afford the books. At that point, I decided that I needed to take time off from school to get my situation in order, and rather than proving anything to anyone else, I had to realize what was best for me and what I could handle. After a two year hiatus, during which I got a good paying and stable job at a large bank and purchased a home, I returned to school and graduated with a LSAC GPA of (according to my calculations and predictions for the next 2 semesters grades!) of approx 3.56.
I'm hoping that disclosing this info will do a number of things- 1. explain why I took time off from school 2. explain why my gpa is not as high as it could be 3. show that I was able to make the decisions necessary to succeed amidst very difficult circumstances, even if it meant doing something unconventional like taking time off from school half way through to get my life back in order.
I'm hoping to show that I am responsible, able to prioritize, determined to succeed even in very difficult circumstances...
Input? Advice? Feedback?
Any ideas on how to structure this?

Re: Lost on my personal statement, need advice
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2009, 11:38:28 PM »
I like it.  The troublesome "I didn't have it together" explanations are when it's an ongoing problem (learning disability, mental health issue, family drama) that would still impact your law school grades or when people who just graduated undergrad try to pull the "oh so long ago, in freshman and sophomore years, I decided to party instead of getting good grades. Then I decided to go to law school, realized I was screwed, and got better grades! But oh how I have matured!"  Yours was a temporary problem, you solved it, and got back on track.  The damage seems fairly minimal -- one bad semester, but still a decent GPA.  (Much harder to argue that you can succeed in law school with a 2.7.)

Re: Lost on my personal statement, need advice
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2009, 08:07:40 AM »
Thanks for your feedback! Do you think my personal statement would stand out at all, or do most people talk about a difficult situation they had that they overcame?

What I'm shooting for is to show that I'm mature, responsible, determined, and able to thrive in less than ideal circumstances- that things haven't been handed to me my whole life, I've had to bust my a$$ to get to where I am, and was able to do what was necessary to make it when things seemed impossible. And I want to simultaneously give an explanation for my GPA and my 2 yr break from school halfway through, without coming off as though I'm making excuses or trying to explain it away- just throw it in as part of the story of what I had to do to get my undergrad, and what it reveals about my character and work ethic-

Also, should I include detailed information about my work experiences in my personal statement? (For example, amidst all the craziness when I first came out to my family, I was working as a Head Trainer at my job, and was scheduled to go to Newfoundland and train outsourced employees with training materials I had developed... I still went, ended up leaving from and returning back to my room at the motel, because I still wasn't welcome to go back to my parents home).  I feel like things of this nature could clarify that I was able to carry on with my life and fulfill my responsibilities, even though my life was a chaotic mess at the time- but also wonder if it's going to end up being too much info- Should I put work info only in my resume and just hope they make the connection as to when things were taking place?

How long should a personal statement typically be? I don't want to over do it, and then end up with something so long and involved that it'll get passed over because it's too much of a hassle for them to get through the whole thing-

Re: Lost on my personal statement, need advice
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2009, 08:42:12 AM »
Drop the resume-boosting stuff.  It should already be on a resume, right?  The personal statement is the time to make them like you. Selectively include a few details that "fill out" the story, but I wouldn't choose ones that are too resume-ish.  It may seem out of place in context. I've read a lot of people's essays on here and they ranged from "Sports taught me leadership," to "I went through tough times," to the "When I studied abroad....", to the troublesome essays that I listed in my first post.  I think your "I went through tough times" essay helps make you a stronger candidate on a lot of issues, and you went through tough times because of a type of discrimination that seems acceptable in our society right now.  It's concrete rather than abstract, it explains away a grade dip, represents a type of diversity you bring to the school, and demonstrates characteristics that will make them like you.

Also, this could work as a diversity statement (since the obstacle you faced was being cut off for coming out), and you could write a separate personal statement.  If you are a good writer, you should use every opportunity to display that and tell them more information that makes them want to let you in. Because the essay doesn't focus on why you want to go to the law school (which is fine; it doesn't have to), I may also think about writing a "Why X?" essay. 

Re: Lost on my personal statement, need advice
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2009, 10:01:36 AM »
At risk of sounding like an idiot, I must ask... what do you mean by a "Why X" essay- do you mean a separate essay as to why I want to attend law school?

Also, is it a bad idea to include additional essays with an application if they are not required? For example, if a school only requests a personal statement, is it okay to include a diversity statement as well? Or should I try to combine my personal statement and diversity statement into one essay for those schools?

Re: Lost on my personal statement, need advice
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2009, 12:59:42 AM »
Ok, well, I've started working on it quite a bit- I'm know being really over-analytical of everything I write and reordering/restructuring/rewording things as I go, and getting really hung up on it. Would anyone be willing to read and critique what I have so far? I just need some honest feedback on if I'm on the right track or not-

If anyone is willing to look it over for me, please let me know. I can send it on Friday (it's saved to my work computer and I'm off on Thursdays...)-