Law School Discussion

PS rough draft for some rough critique

PS rough draft for some rough critique
« on: August 16, 2010, 11:13:37 AM »
Here is my first draft for my personal statement. I have been struggling with topics, and think that focusing on my international experience is best. For background, I've been living and studying in Romania for 4 years, 2 doing language study and the next two doing a masters in American Studies. I've also been teaching English at a University. I left this at less than 2 pages as I would like to include some school specific information about how this experience applies to programs and courses that each school offers.

Please tear this apart:

I stepped into my new home, taking in the decades old, faded wallpaper that clung to the crumbling wall. I had just moved to Romania for what would turn into four years of study and already the fact that my life would be changed greatly had made itself central in my thinking. My “roommate” was not to be a fellow student, but rather a 84 year old woman who had lived through war, revolution and a half decade of communism and spoke not one word of English. I was there to learn to speak, live and thrive away from home, but what had seemed so bold previously seemed now daunting.  I didn’t know a single person in the entire country, didn’t know where my school was or how to carry on a conversation with anyone else. After 21 years of comfortable life, I’d cast myself down the rabbit hole.
   My first months abroad were filled with frustration and confusion as I attempted to integrate myself in another culture.  I was forced to give up my assumptions of what is the norm and how things should be done, and to teach myself a new way of operating. I learned how to work through bureaucracy, while making connections that allowed for me to get ahead in a system built upon who you know. The situation made me understand the importance of viewing the world through others eyes, and being able to show my opinions in such a way that others could understand me. Learning Romanian became a priority, and I was able to experience the difficulty but also the joy in learning another language. In time, I became at home in my new surroundings, as comfortable among the communist-era apartment blocks as any suburban American neighborhood.  The contrasts in cultures and lifestyle became something that gave me joy. I realized that the struggle to integrate has brought with it an immense change in me. I had been given the gift of understanding the world that only a removal from ones comfortable home can force.
My abilities as a student have been similarly enhanced by my international experience as I became more able to analyze information from multiple perspectives. The manner of thinking taught in American schools have been blended with the very different Eastern European system to allow me to become a more flexible, creative and analytical student. The determination and mental flexibility required to learn another language effectively have made me more effective in all aspects of learning. Being the only American in my classes has taught me the importance of a vocal minority, and being able to stick with and support ones opinions and convictions when I might be the only one behind them.
I feel that my international experience has put me in an excellent position to excel at X Law School and my future legal career.  My ability to analyze from a diversity of opinions will translate into a greater understanding of my work, while my ability to communicate through barriers of culture will prove to be an asset in my career. The patience and value of a dedicated approach to a task that I’ve learned through my language studies make me into a superior scholar, and will be invaluable in the legal field. I’ve learned to stick to my guns, while never disregarding the opinions and critique of others. Most importantly, it’s taught me the value of being a well-rounded, vocal and dedicated individual that is willing to contribute to a situation while knowing the importance of learning from those around me.

Re: PS rough draft for some rough critique
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2010, 10:01:26 AM »
This is an excellent first start.  The strength of this essay is the first paragraph - its gripping and, on the whole, very well-written.  I especially like that paragraph's final sentence - it ties the intro together with an impact.  That said, there are a few issues with this essay.  I don't want to edit your post line-by-line in a post but I will let you know that you have a few grammatical errors and you make some diction choices you may want to reconsider.   One way to fix those issues is to read your PS out loud, and rewrite  those spots that don't sound "natural." 

I think the part of your essay that could be improved most are the final paragraphs.  Be careful about using experiences to make broad bold statements about your skills or abilities - whether it may be true or not.  Instead use examples. 

For instance take this sentence: "The patience and value of a dedicated approach to a task that I’ve learned through my language studies make me into a superior scholar, and will be invaluable in the legal field."

There’s a major grammatical problem in the sentence but grammar issues are easy to fix.  I want to focus on the larger problem, which is its tone.  I would never refer to yourself as a "superior scholar" in a PS.  That's extremely risky even if you have a 4.0/180.  Similarly, I wouldn't refer to any specific skill-set you carry as "invaluable."  We all have strengths and weaknesses, but that's a probably too bold of a statement from someone who has not yet even stepped into a law school classroom.  A better way to make this same point might be:  "The time I have put into studying and learning a new language has helped me appreciate the value of a patient and dedicated approach when working on projects of intimidating scale, which should help me overcome the challenges I will face as a law student and lawyer.”   Now, that sentence isn’t perfect either obviously because I just threw it together, but see how it puts the focus on what you’ve learned and HOW it can help you, rather than declaring that it WILL help you and thus you will be a “superior scholar” with an “invaluable” skill.  It makes the same basic points, but in a less brash manner that makes it easier to agree with.  Make sense?

A corollary to this point is that you want to try avoid anything that makes you seem egotistical or over-confident.  Law schools are already too full of those types, and most people generally agree that they detract from the community and collegiality of a class.  So don’t give an admissions officer even a CHANCE to make that judgment about you.  I don’t think you are that type of person because overall your PS is very reflective, but you trend more and more into that type of writing as your PS progresses beyond the first paragraph.  A good rule of thumb is to stay away from broad proclamations of your skills or abilities.  The admissions officers can see how smart you are from your GPA/LSAT.  Use the PS to tell them ABOUT you.  Focus on examples, anecdotes, and details – making conclusions about how they have affected your abilities and outlook only where appropriate, and never in a way that could be perceived as egotistical. 

That in mind, there’s several other sentences you are probably going to want to edit as well, but I’m running out of time and have an appointment coming up so I’ll let you or someone else catch those spots since I have to wrap this up.

One last point: you refer to the difference between the American/Eastern European system but never really explain what that difference is.   Both defining that difference and using an anecdote to illustrate it in a colorful way could be extremely beneficial to your essay. 

Ok I gotta run.  Sorry I couldn’t finish but I hope what I did have time to write helps!  Altogether you have a great first start here!  You mainly just need to get the flow and tone right and you will be in a good position.  Good luck!   :)


Re: PS rough draft for some rough critique
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2010, 07:47:12 PM »
Watch the grammar, punctuation, and contractions. Also, you say why you'd be such a great law student, but why do you want to study law?


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Re: PS rough draft for some rough critique
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2010, 10:49:28 AM »

The statement topic is compelling, indeed, and it is a solid draft and start.  However, the story can be told far more effectively, and more critically, more tightly linked to your interest in the law.

Second, you have a number of structural essay flaws that compromise the strength of the story, and can make it a more effective read if it is better organized.  Sentences tend to be disjointed, and you can enhance this by adding stronger transitions between ideas to make for a better flow.

These are among my most notable critiques.  If you require a closer, professional assessment of your personal statement, please contact me directly at




Re: PS rough draft for some rough critique
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2010, 07:02:12 PM »
I wasn't the original poster. I merely responded to the original poster's post. So, you should be addressing him about the writing tips.