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Author Topic: Patterns I've seen  (Read 33362 times)

Burhop

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Patterns I've seen
« on: December 31, 2005, 02:46:52 PM »
...for those of you who've read a lot of personal statements for others, what themes/rhetorical devices/strategies have you seen used over and over? I'm starting to notice patterns, and it made me reflect: I wonder if adcomms want to shoot themselves when they see ______ for the umpteenth time. Maybe by listing some of the most common stuff, folks writing their PS's right now can use the info to their advantage.

1) This is a big numero uno--I'd say 3/4 of the PS's I've read over the last two years have an opening paragraph that starts in childhood--from between ages 5-10. This pattern was so startling in the last batch I read, I wondered if I'd missed the memo to bring up my own childhood (!!).

2) Complaining about parental influence. What's this about? I mean, I feel for anyone whose parents aren't supporting their educational decisions/helping pay--that sucks--but why belittle them directly in the statement? "My parents suck, see?" seems like a weird PS strategy to me.

3)Talking about GPA/LSAT for 2+ paragraphs. This just drags the emphasis away from the author and onto one's beef with "the man" or whatever. Soooo many people do this, I think this might be the one strategy that makes adcomms want to jump off a bridge."The LSAT isn't indicative of my true abilities, so I'm going to complain about it for awhile." Why not spend the precious PS writing space to convince the school you're awesome? Write a short addendum if ya gotta.

I'm sure I'll think of other examples throughout the day. I'd love to hear what patterns others have picked up on--

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Dani
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redemption

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Re: Patterns I've seen
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2005, 03:08:26 PM »
I've read maybe 30 or so in the last couple of weeks. I have seen all three items on your list occur very frequently, and usually they have weakened the PS. It is hard to write about one's own life, though, and people feel pressure to start at the beginning, sprinkle in some hardship, and explain away a bad number or two.

Of the thirty or so, I have read only one PS that I thought was spectacular. I suppose that it's true what they say - the PS is the hardest part of the app.

Groundhog

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Re: Patterns I've seen
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2005, 03:15:15 PM »
Ack, miny starts in childhood. Neither of the others though. But mine represents a recurring theme throughout my life of diversity...?

Burhop

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Re: Patterns I've seen
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2005, 04:53:27 PM »
well, the childhood intro is convenient--it sets up an organic timeline for the whole essay. So I can see why people use it so often. But when it takes over the essay, and suddenly the whole essay is about you when you were five, well...what does that say to the adcomms? "I was a cool five-year-old" seems like a small selling point, unless you were doing something crazy-cool.

I guess the childhood starting point might be a good place for some to start writing--but in the revision process, one ought to check to ensure that it strengthens the piece in a very concrete way. Too fluffy--axe it, I say! ;-)

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dani
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Groundhog

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Re: Patterns I've seen
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2005, 05:28:35 PM »
I've used an amusing anecdote to begin and a throwaway comment to end which I think are funny without being ridiculous, but my essay begins by discussing the first time my 'diverse' experience begins. I'll finish writing it by Spring and then you all can help me edit or come up with a new one. :)

numbercruncher

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Re: Patterns I've seen
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2005, 06:49:36 PM »
I started with childhood, however at five I was on Broadway and this intro opened up into the sordid tales of my childhood. Using that in a PS can be a bit cliche, but if used effectively can make for an well written PS.

Burhop

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Re: Patterns I've seen
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2005, 09:33:13 PM »
a childhood anecdote into a tragic story, eh? I guess I'd just advise that you make sure it doesn't just end up reading like a really long venting session.

Here's a fourth one I've seen pretty frequently:

4) The Overshare--telling the audience waaaay more than they needed to know to "get the idea." If some extraneous detail falls to the right of 3 on the 1-10 Jerry Springer Scale (JSS), really think about whether the anecdote will help get you into law school. The adcomms don't know anyone's backstory, so any plays for sympathy could easily fall flat--what you share might be true to you, but in 1000 words to a stranger on paper, will just make you sound...well...crazy. ;-)

You know how easy it is to mis-interpret tone and intent of emails? Personal Statements are the same way. Don't give adcomms any reason to think you're a nutjob.

dani
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wowand135

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Re: Patterns I've seen
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2005, 09:36:42 PM »
 i started mine with a one paragraph story from childhood. its purpose was to introduce my relationship with my disabled brother, whom i talk about in my PS. It wasn't like a timeline or anyting. still think that's too comon-like?

Burhop

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Re: Patterns I've seen
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2005, 09:43:20 PM »
well, you are using it like a timeline for you essay--that means to me that you're probably organizing your essay chronologically. This is opposed to, say, starting your essay discussing the rights of the disabled, and then mentioning later in the essay that you have some first hand-experience with folks that you'd like to represent in the future.

...that's why I think the childhood thing has cropped up so much--because everyone is using this organizational structure:

1) Important/colorful childhood anecdote
2) maybe something about the parents
3) how this "changed me"
4) How I made life decisions from that point on
5) where I'm at today--lemme in law school!

...which is not to say that it's a bad structure--I'm just saying it has been astonishingly common. Setting up essays in chronological order is very natural and easy to do, but it may not be the only, or even the best way to intro a subject. Just sayin'--I could see how it would get monotonous for adcomms.

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dani
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Mr. Balsenschaft

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Re: Patterns I've seen
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2006, 11:05:43 AM »
How did you organize your essay?