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Please review personal statement and recommendation letter
« on: January 31, 2012, 11:26:09 AM »
I want to get an honest opinion about my application to DePaul University. I have a 3.95 GPA and 156 LSAT score. I've attached my personal statement along with a recommendation letter (not the one sent to law school, but for a teaching position in Chile) from one of my recommenders, Dr. Espinoza. He also wrote me a recommendation letter for law school and I assumed it would be similar to the one attached.

Personal Statement:
Growing up in a politically active family in Iran was crucial in laying the foundation for my strong interest in human rights and social justice. I spent much of my preadolescent years surrounded by political dissidents and self-proclaimed revolutionaries, ranging from conservative advocates of theocracy to liberal proponents of democracy, and everything in between. Despite my parents’ incessant commitment to remaining politically independent and maintaining their ideologically vague perspectives, they were equally committed to fostering a more just society in Iran. I cherished their weekly gatherings, where they discussed the political and social issues of the day while reflecting on The Revolution of 1979 with regretful nostalgia.
I became immersed in their stories of civil disobedience, political activism, and surviving torture while in Iran’s infamous Evin prison. I was not only inspired by their bravery, but their narratives came to define me. I began contemplating my own responsibilities as an Iranian citizen and came to see myself as somewhat of an heir to their struggle. Taking my self-appointed role seriously, I chose to engage in my own minor acts of civil disobedience: taking off my hijab when my teachers were not looking and smuggling snacks to school for my non-Muslim friends during the month of Ramadan (mandatory fasting for Ramadan was strictly enforced at our elementary school). Although my efforts were less than productive, bringing no substantial institutional change whatsoever, my secret protests against school rules that I saw as unjust gave me a sense of purpose.
However, those feelings of elation and sense of purpose that I felt while in Iran were replaced by feelings of displacement in the US.  Removed from my niche among those political activists and revolutionaries, I was determined to find a new mechanism by which to nurture my interest in politics. I decided to fully dedicate myself to academia, writing proposals and conducting research on issues pertaining to human rights and social justice. While enrolled in a history course on Latin America, I became familiar with the 2006 teachers’ strike in Oaxaca, Mexico through one of my peers.
Starting out as a movement for workers’ rights, the teachers’ strike had led to the establishment of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), the self-proclaimed de facto governing body of the state. Intrigued by the APPO’s struggle for social justice and workers’ rights in Oaxaca, I spent well over a year conducting research and applying for grants, determined to learn more about the grassroots movement taking place there. My hard work would eventually pay off as I was accepted to present my research at the 4th Annual Wilder School Student Research Conference in 2010. While I was preoccupied with my research on the grassroots movement in Oaxaca, the beginnings of a social revolution were taking place in Iran.
A wave of protests had erupted in Iran in response to the alleged fraud in the 2009 election.  American news agencies and several Iranian activists flooded the airwaves with reports of human rights abuses committed against protestors by the Iranian regime. Among those detained would be my dearest friend Hamid. Members of the paramilitary force, known as the Basij, had arrested my friend when he had tried to stop them from raiding his university. His action was deemed as treason for which he faced time in prison and a public flogging of up to eighty lashes. Fortunately, thanks to Hamid’s lawyer, Mr. Youssef Shariffi, he would be acquitted of all charges and released a few months later. Impressed by Mr. Shariffi’s successful defense, I decided to contact him in hopes of learning more about the involvement of lawyers in the movement.
Luckily, I managed to gain an internship position at Mr. Shariffi’s law firm the following summer. As an intern, I became familiar with the application of Sharia Law in Iran and the role of lawyers in protecting human rights activists. Among the various clients that came through Mr. Shariffi’s office were the family members of detained protestors. While most were fighting for the release of their loved ones from prison, others were simply trying to obtain visitation rights. Despite my lack of direct involvement in these cases, my internship gave me a greater sense of influence and involvement in human rights advocacy than any of my previous works in research. Whereas my research on the APPO in Oaxaca simply provided me with an abstract conception of social justice, my internship gave me something more tangible: a chance to experience first hand the feel of being an advocate of social justice and human rights; a path that is immensely rewarding by virtue of its challenges and reliance on self-sacrifice.
Similar to my parents’ activist friends and my childhood idols, the lawyers I came to know as an intern inspired me with their stories. Hearing them recall cases of assassination and arrest carried out against human rights lawyers reignited in me that same sense of duty that I once had as a kid. Having witnessed the work of human rights lawyers in Iran, and their ability to make a noticeable difference in spite of government threats, I was motivated to pursue my longstanding interest in human rights as a lawyer. With my goal in sight, I am confident that DePaul University, with its certificate program in International and Comparative Law, would provide me with a solid foundation for a successful career in international and human rights law.

Recommendation for Chile:

1. For how long and in what capacity have you known the applicant?
I know Ms. Manjili since the spring of 2010. She took the courses titled “Survey of Latin American History 2” and “Latin America and the US from a Historical Perspective” with me during the spring 2010 and spring 2011 respectively. Ms. Manjili received well-deserved “A” grades in both classes.

I also advised her on her research on the Oaxaca Popular Assembly, a grassroots political organization in southern Mexico. The outcome of this endeavor was a presentation that Ms. Manjili delivered at the 4th Annual L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs Student Research Conference.

2.   What, in your opinion, are the applicant’s major strengths and weaknesses?

As a student, Ms. Manjili impressed me as a talented, motivated, and dedicated student. In her attendance, assignments and participation in class, Ms. Manjili demonstrated punctuality, attentiveness, meticulousness, and creativity.

As a researcher, Ms. Manjili displayed keen intellectual curiosity, superior capacity for critical reading, great dexterity in constructing arguments, and excellent ability to express her ideas in a coherent manner.

I cannot think of any weaknesses that would hinder Ms. Manjili’s learning achievements or performance as a participant in the English Open Doors Program.

 2.   Please provide a general evaluation of the applicant’s abilities and personality. In your opinion, is the candidate suited to the difficult task of living and teaching in a developing nation? Will they be both content and effective in such a situation?

I think Ms. Manjili is very well suited to living and teaching in a developing nation, and she will be very content and effective doing so. Ms. Manjili is a personable individual with an open and sensitive attitude toward other peoples and cultures. She has demonstrated a strong vocation for community-engagement and positive activism by establishing the VCU branch of Circle of Women, and by volunteering at organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Richmond and Refugee and Immigration Services. As a Farsi instructor for the Central Virginia Iranian American Society and a tutor for VCU’s Campus Learning Center, Ms. Manjili has achieved valuable familiarity with teaching. As a volunteer assistant to Professor Farzaneh Milani (University of Virginia) and an intern at Mobin Law Firm, Ms. Manjili has acquired unique research experience.


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Re: Please review personal statement and recommendation letter
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2012, 01:18:16 PM »
Hi fmanjili,

I'm only going to comment on your PS, but first off I want to caution you in regards to the open nature of your post.  You may notice, on most other posts, most people do not use their real names and blank out the names of schools/organizations/persons.  The reasons for this are to 1) protect their privacy and 2) protect against potential schools/employers, etc searching out this information in the future.  When I was applying to law school (I'm an alum now), we didn't even post our PS online--it was all done through PM!  It's up to you, but that is my opinion.

On to your PS...I'm going to make a couple of English grammar/vocab points as I understand from your PS that you are not a native English speaker.  1) Try to avoid the passive voice as much as possible--it makes your sentences longer, slows down your narrative, and weakens the phrasing; 2) Your PS is probably too long in its current format for most PS requirements (I'm not sure of course, but this is my suspicion).  One way to make your language more concise is to remove a lot of the "ambiguous" words such as "somewhat of an heir" and "chose to engage" (change to just "engaged").  You will also find that this will speed your narrative along; 3) In some cases, I would reconsider your word choice.  You are praising your parents' independent stance, but "incessant" has a negative connotation (read: annoying) and "vague" does as well.  Also further on you use the word "kid," which is too informal here.  Use "child."

Structurally, I think your PS makes sense.  You add on each new stage clearly and tie the story together well.  I also think your story is interesting and compelling.  If I were you, I would just make sure to trim as much as I can to keep the thread of your narrative moving along.   


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Re: Please review personal statement and recommendation letter
« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2012, 04:33:36 PM »
Your statement, above all, had exceptional content.  You have an excellent story to tell, but the tone and style of the statement is not as provocative or as colorful as your content.  It can be considerably enhanced, and you have the numbers to indeed merit admission to DePaul, if not consideration to higher ranked schools (with an addendum for your LSAT score).

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Re: Please review personal statement and recommendation letter
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2012, 05:44:10 PM »
I like your personal statement overall.  I can definitely ascertain exactly why you want to be a lawyer.  It does seem to be a bit long though.  If there is a way that you can shorten it, you might want to consider this option.  I had a few content questions for you.  Towards the end of your essay, you discuss your law firm internship with rather short detail.  What was your title?  Was this a law clerk/paralegal internship?  Is there something that you learned in this internship that you can tie into your essay in terms of the competencies that will be expected of first year law students?  Lastly, in my mind, in order to seal the deal a little harder, is there any other correlation you can make in your essay about why you specically chose DePaul as opposed to another law school, and what specific components of this program interest you as you prepare for a career in international and human rights law.  Examples that come to mind might be study abroad opportunities, clinical programs, etc. I think law schools like to know what exactly is attracting the students who apply to their school.  Just my thoughts.


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Re: Please review personal statement and recommendation letter
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2012, 01:49:54 AM »
With all due respect, (sarcastic of course), posting a personal law school admission essay on a public website is not a wise decision- esp on the day before the majority of respectable law school applications are due. You are clearly seeking advice from the wrong place. Your chosen audience is your competition for admission and future success. Rather than rely on instant and uninformed validation/critque from those in a similar place as you- trust your judgement.