Law School Discussion

start with a hook?

start with a hook?
« on: November 14, 2013, 11:08:32 AM »
does anyone have any insight or comments about starting the personal statement with a "hook" ie, a story or description? Do you think it is better to do that and follow it with a topic sentence or keep the statement more organized by starting with your main point and then going into stories and description?

The section I am thinking about placing at the beginning as a hook is only 4 lines, and followed immediately by the main point of my statement, then I back track a little to give more contaxt, then continue off of the hook by discussing what happened after that and how I grew from it.

Re: start with a hook?
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2013, 03:49:09 PM »
So long as done tactfully and deliberately, you could make almost anything work. You don't, however, want to startle the reader just to startle them. Your first sentence/sentences should drop the reader into the middle of your story. If this requires you telling them an anecdote, short story, etc, so be it.

Re: start with a hook?
« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2013, 06:26:44 PM »
Agreed remember the admissions committee will be reading thousands of personal statements and eventually they all blend together. Remember admissions officers are people and how exciting does sitting in a room reading   4,000 personal statements sound?  Bottom line do something to catch their attention up front there, but there is no exact formula.

Also remember your LSAT/GPA are really going to be the deciding factor in the admissions decision so do not stress out about the personal statement to much. .

Re: start with a hook?
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2013, 06:24:05 AM »
 Thanks for the input, my statment is below to give you more contaext, let me know what you think!

The first meeting I held at 2425 Nostrand Avenue in Flatbush Brooklyn was the second tenant meeting I ever led. “Look!” a thin, graying man shouted after I delivered my introduction. “I was the president of the old tenant association, we’ve already tried it. Why should we even listen to you?” I was sure that every person in the crowded lobby could feel the sensation of sweat accumulating on the inside of my shirt. “Okay,” I stammered. “It sounds like you all aren’t interested in organizing another tenant association.” After mumbling something about my contact information, I rushed out of the building. I had never been so blatantly called out by anyone who I had tried to help; I felt so lost.

While working in marginalized neighborhoods of New York City, I learned to face my own inadequacies to better understand myself and successfully interact with people from diverse backgrounds. My experience as a tenant organizer in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps helped me develop a concrete sense of how I can best give myself to others by translating my commitment to service into the practice of law.

In high school and college, I did service work on my own terms. I only rarely and briefly ventured outside of my comfort zone, and just scratched the surface of the communities I reached out to. As a Jesuit Volunteer, that all changed. I lived with seven other volunteers in an old convent in an almost exclusively African American community of Central Harlem. Everything I did, from waiting for the bus to running at the local YMCA, caused people to stare and call me names. I worked throughout majority minority neighborhoods of the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens in rent-stabilized apartment buildings where landlords neglected conditions and exploited tenants. I was immersed way over my head in an alien environment plagued by injustices that I had no idea how to solve. I felt like a strange intruder in other people’s lives, and acutely aware of my appearance and actions. For the first time, I was uncomfortable with myself.

Not knowing what else to do, I moved forward as if I were still inside my bubble. I did research, made brochures, and went out to tell tenants why and how they should organize a tenant association. But my words were aimless. I had created invisible boundaries around the tenants that I thought I could not cross. My apprehension prevented me from really knowing their lives and responding to their ideas. But the tenants at 2425 Nostrand Avenue, a building primarily occupied by Trinidadian immigrants, challenged me to overcome my fear and preconceptions.

After the first meeting, I wanted to forget about the tenants on Nostrand Avenue. Then Marie called. She said she was done putting up with broken stoves and illegal eviction notices. She asked me to come back. This time instead of asking tenants to listen to me, I decided to listen to her. A week later at Marie’s kitchen table, she told me they wanted to file a Housing Part petition against their landlord for failure to meet conditions requirements, and they needed assistance. I did not know anything about housing court, but her desperate eyes pulled me in.

Working with the tenants of 2425 Nostrand Avenue was physically and emotionally exhausting. I traveled almost two hours to the building countless times. I spent evenings knocking on apartment doors to collect intake forms and evidence and talked with tenant leaders for hours. I sat with a crying mother in her mold-infested apartment, stood with tenants in the broken elevator multiple times, and listened to intimidating voicemails from the landlord on tenants’ phones. I experienced suffering and injustice in the most raw and personal way. At the same time, I learned to listen, teach, and collaborate with the people I served. As I grew more invested in the lives of the tenants, I overcame my fear of being different. I broke down the barriers I had constructed and built effective relationships with those around me. I embraced unfamiliarity and invested the time to appreciate peoples’ obstacles, ideas, and potential, separate from my own opinions and ego. I helped people succeed on their own terms, and it was the most powerful and fulfilling work I had ever done.

My work as a Jesuit Volunteer pulled me away from the narrow lens through which I viewed the world and I gained a new perspective from within the communities I came to love. The experience was defining because it helped me make sense of my passion for helping others. I realized how I to intertwine direct service with broader system change as I developed my role as an advocate who walks beside the marginalized to help them build change one step at a time. As a tenant organizer, I was able to help tenants build community awareness and long-term campaigns and issue complaints with various agencies. But I was frustrated with my inability to help them achieve specific results. It was only through my work in housing court with residents of 2425 Nostrand Avenue and other tenant groups that had the representation of an attorney that I was able to assist people to achieve real improvements and control over the issues they faced. I am dedicated to studying law because it will allow me to pursue a career in which I use my education, experience, and skills to be an agent of positive change in individual lives and communities.

Re: start with a hook?
« Reply #4 on: November 16, 2013, 07:45:14 AM »
The Good...

1) You have a nice, well thought-out voice. It does not read as a checklist of facts but rather as a story you would tell someone face to face.

2) You have a strong, intriguing narrative. I find myself interested in you.

3) It is apparent that you think about things in a deeper way. i.e. you can connect ideas and lessons learned from different parts of your life at will. you probably have a decent sense of wit.

The hard part...

1) Delete the first sentence. a) it is awkward to read as is and b) your story has much more punch starting with your second line (it drops me, the reader, into the middle of your story - as I mentioned earlier)

2) Consolidate and Condense. Self explanatory. You can tell me the same things in far less words, which leads me to...

3) Show more, tell less. If you need to make a topic sentence explicit to drive home a point, ok, but if it isn't a topic sentence, show me - don't just tell me. For example, " I learned to face my own inadequacies to better understand myself and successfully interact with people from diverse backgrounds." is almost a throw away line. It would have much stronger impact if you show me this through your story. If, at the end of the story, you want to reiterate this point in a shorter, condensed way, ok. But as is, lines like these don't do a whole lot for your paper and just bog down the reader with more words to read.

Good luck!

Re: start with a hook?
« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2013, 11:14:32 PM »
Overall, I like the feel.

1.) Maybe change the intro slightly. I wouldn't start with "The." You might consider “Look!” a thin, graying man shouted after I delivered my introduction at .....etc.

2.) Maybe refer to it as Nostrand Ave after initially using the full street address.

3.) "I am dedicated to studying law because it will allow me to pursue a career in which I use my education, experience, and skills to be an agent of positive change in individual lives and communities." This is a great sentence. I think could be made stronger if you work in the idea that you will not only pull from your education, professional and personal experience, but also the fact that you work within the context/venue in which you're approached from. 

Just my two cents.

*We have a similar "mission" in regards to our statements. Care to look at mine?