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Author Topic: Help I need feedback on my PS  (Read 870 times)

jpalting

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Help I need feedback on my PS
« on: February 09, 2010, 05:28:15 PM »
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llsatt1

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Re: Help I need feedback on my PS
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2010, 07:13:47 PM »
Here is the first draft of my PS, all constructive criticism will be great appreciated. A little background on me...I am a nontrad URM applicant who is applying to tier 2 and tier 3 law schools.

I hate the principals office, always have, and at age 40 it's the last place I thought I would find myself. Unfortunately at 3:30 pm on September 14th of 2009 that is exactly where I was. Principal Richardís stern voice and disapproving looks brought a flood of childhood memories back, ones that I would sooner forget but fundamentally helped to shape the person I am today.

I looked over at my friend Marcus and caught him staring aimlessly at the ceiling as the litany of trumped up "charges" against him were read allowed for the benefit me and his foster mother. Throughout the process I could see in his eyes that Marcus was bored, running mental laps around Principal Richards, and a trying to figure out a way to extricate himself from this situation. We spent the next two hours recounting the minutiae of the incident that had brought us here. The reason Marcus felt compelled to bring, and brandish, a 3-inch broken jigsaw blade that he found on his way to school that day. This, in the eyes of Principal Richards, constituted bringing a weapon onto school grounds, and was cause for an expulsion hearing.       

My heart sank when I heard the words " because of the hysteria and concern that this incident has caused among the parents of the other 5th graders I have no choice but to put Marcus on immediate and indefinite suspension and to recommend his expulsion to the school board."     

20 minutes later Marcus, his foster mother, and I were standing on the sidewalk in front of Flowers Elementary School contemplating our short list of options. I explained the distinction between suspension and expulsion to 10-year-old Marcus, and it was then that the gravity of his situation took hold and he burst into tears. Marcus could see the disappointment in my eyes as I mustered up a few words of support, which I purposefully limited. I wanted this moment in to really take hold of him, for this new reality to be a catalyst in his young life, one that would deepen his resolve and show everyone around him the true limitlessness of his potential.     
   
I met my friend Marcus 3 years ago through the Big Brothers & Big Sisters of America organization. In many respects it was like looking at a mirror image of myself at age 10. We both come from multiracial backgrounds, we are both are exceptionally smart and have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and learning. We share a passion for the ocean, a love for skateboarding, and the enjoyment of bringing laughter and levity into our lives of those around us. Officially I am referred to as his Youth Mentor or "Big", neither of which are titles that I am comfortable with or that accurately describe our relationship. I know that Marcus looks up to me and respects me as an elder, sees me as a role model, and that we inspire each other to do our best in every situation.     

Marcus and I have both felt the sting of racism and the toll that it exacts on ones view of humanity, however our other life experiences have been quite different. I am thankful that I will never know what it is like to be born addicted to cocaine because my mother abused drugs during my gestation. Nor will I know what it would be like to be snatched from my parents within days of my birth and permanently thrown into the dehumanizing abyss of the foster care system. By contrast I am the son of highly educated academics whose never-ending unconditional love, loyalty and support have played a monumental role in helping me navigate the many barriers that I have faced in life.
     
Marcus has mentioned to me, and others, that in me he sees prestige, and success, a man who is married, has been a successful business owner, now works for a top investment firm, and will soon be thriving in law school. These are the superficial things that are visible on the surface. What is not apparent is the immense struggle that it has taken me to reach those levels of achievement, and that tenacity, sheer will, and familial support have gotten me to where I am today.

The more substantive things that I hope to impart on Marcus are the importance of building good character and citizenship. That loyalty and dedication to family, friends, and the global community are necessary. How driving meaningful social change is done not only through ones words but also their actions. And finally, that touching the life of even just one person in a positive way pays huge dividends.       

In the end we determined that Marcus had brought the broken saw blade to school because he had been receiving threats from a bully and he feared for his safety. I was then able to intervene not just as Marcus' friend but also as his advocate, and we drafted a compromise with Principal Richards. In the agreement Marcus was able to maintain his status in the GATE program (a California wide educational designation for academically gifted students), as well as spare the hardship of enduring a school board expulsion hearing if I found him a new school in another district. On the first day of his suspension I found a private day school in his area that was willing to admit him, and provide a needs based scholarship which would cover 50% of his tuition.     

Iím not worried about how Marcus will turn out because if there was one thing Principal Richards and I could agree on it's that he is destined for greatness if he chooses to share his gifts. Marcus is flourishing and for that the world is a better place.
     
Itís the many instances like this in my life that remind me of my strengths, the fact that I can analyze difficult situations and quickly devise creative strategies to address them. Or, that I have the ability to bring people together to find common ground. And lastly that I enjoy bringing a voice and protection to those who cannot defend themselves. These are the attributes that will serve me well as a law student, and ultimately make me a successful lawyer.




paragraphs and paragraphs of narrative. cut.

I like how you mentioned you are exceptionally smart. Not at all arrogant. ;)

gdeurance

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Re: Help I need feedback on my PS
« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2010, 09:44:16 PM »
As the first poster replied, the initial narrative is a bit lengthy. The length itself is not so much the problem, rather the fact it goes on for a while and never really ties into an overarching theme. It is fine to dedicate half a page or more to narrative as long as you analyze along the way. For example, you say Marcus reminded you of yourself at 10, in what ways? What lessons were you taught at age ten by a parent or another individual that propelled you to success and how did you utilize similar tools in advising Marcus. Then, when you get into the second half of your personal statement (the self reflection and what will make you stand out as an attorney part--note, do not actually say you will stand out as an attorney, simply allude to those characteristics you think attorneys embody), you can refer back to the way in which you handled Marcus situation as an example of your ability to apply lessons learned or knowledge gained. So, narrative-good, but narrative without reflection-bad.

I would advise against using any numericals (1, 2, 3 etc..) always spell the number. Forty, not 40. And just as a rule for all writing, you never begin a sentence with a numerical. "20 minutes later" and always spell numbers ten and below.

Establish more quickly that you are an adult in a principals office with your "little" or whatever name. I could not tell until well into the third or fourth paragraph what was actually going on. At first I thought this was a flashback to when you were ten and sitting in an office with you ten year old friend.

I wouldn't put a date "3:30 on September..." in the there, what does it actually add, visually? If you want to paint a picture, talk about the room. Marcus' nervous, labored breathing, the annoy secretary, whatever.

I would also advise against one and two sentence paragraphs.

You devote little time to racism, perfect opportunity to talk about something that packs a big punch, consider elaborating on that. The point here is you are using Marcus to talk about yourself. Keep the narrative on him, but the focus on you. Marcus experienced racism when a white bully from school etc. I was able to help him overcome his anger and embrace tolerance by (however you might have overcome racism).

Do not talk about the fact you grew up privileged with educated parents. I promise, no matter how you write it, unless your story is you lost all of your money and ended up homeless and then went on to make it all back and this time use it to open shelters, it will come across as snobby. On that note, like the last poster said, do not talk about how smart you are. Talk about the fact Marcus is bright, and like him, you found yourself not living up to your potential. Every time you address a problem or weakness, use it as an opportunity to demonstrate success.

Lastly, do not talk about what you can do, demonstrate how you do those things.

Hope that helps. (and to be fair, I give all of that advice knowing I turn around and make all of those same mistakes. so much easier to give honest critiques of another person's work, right?)  good luck, i look forward to seeing the revised draft.

llsatt1

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Re: Help I need feedback on my PS
« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2010, 09:59:56 PM »
As the first poster replied, the initial narrative is a bit lengthy. The length itself is not so much the problem, rather the fact it goes on for a while and never really ties into an overarching theme. It is fine to dedicate half a page or more to narrative as long as you analyze along the way. For example, you say Marcus reminded you of yourself at 10, in what ways? What lessons were you taught at age ten by a parent or another individual that propelled you to success and how did you utilize similar tools in advising Marcus. Then, when you get into the second half of your personal statement (the self reflection and what will make you stand out as an attorney part--note, do not actually say you will stand out as an attorney, simply allude to those characteristics you think attorneys embody), you can refer back to the way in which you handled Marcus situation as an example of your ability to apply lessons learned or knowledge gained. So, narrative-good, but narrative without reflection-bad.

I would advise against using any numericals (1, 2, 3 etc..) always spell the number. Forty, not 40. And just as a rule for all writing, you never begin a sentence with a numerical. "20 minutes later" and always spell numbers ten and below.

Establish more quickly that you are an adult in a principals office with your "little" or whatever name. I could not tell until well into the third or fourth paragraph what was actually going on. At first I thought this was a flashback to when you were ten and sitting in an office with you ten year old friend.

I wouldn't put a date "3:30 on September..." in the there, what does it actually add, visually? If you want to paint a picture, talk about the room. Marcus' nervous, labored breathing, the annoy secretary, whatever.

I would also advise against one and two sentence paragraphs.

You devote little time to racism, perfect opportunity to talk about something that packs a big punch, consider elaborating on that. The point here is you are using Marcus to talk about yourself. Keep the narrative on him, but the focus on you. Marcus experienced racism when a white bully from school etc. I was able to help him overcome his anger and embrace tolerance by (however you might have overcome racism).

Do not talk about the fact you grew up privileged with educated parents. I promise, no matter how you write it, unless your story is you lost all of your money and ended up homeless and then went on to make it all back and this time use it to open shelters, it will come across as snobby. On that note, like the last poster said, do not talk about how smart you are. Talk about the fact Marcus is bright, and like him, you found yourself not living up to your potential. Every time you address a problem or weakness, use it as an opportunity to demonstrate success.

Lastly, do not talk about what you can do, demonstrate how you do those things.

Hope that helps. (and to be fair, I give all of that advice knowing I turn around and make all of those same mistakes. so much easier to give honest critiques of another person's work, right?)  good luck, i look forward to seeing the revised draft.

excellent and thorough advice.  :)