Law School Discussion

"personal experience"

Re: "personal experience"
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2004, 11:44:00 AM »
for what it's worth, kslaw, i wasn't responding to that thread; i hadn't read it.  your situation seems like a really appropriate situation to talk about (not that you need my approval).  i was actually responding to some posts on, which literally say things like
excellent personal essay about impovershed upbringing

or whatever. i know that site is not like the be all end all in terms of comprehensive analysis of admissions, but it just stopped me a little to see someone's personal pain lined up like an lsat score to help them get into stanford, you know?  it made me think about the whole topic. 


Re: "personal experience"
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2004, 11:46:26 AM »
Understood and i apologize for being defensive. I've been on the fence about the situation and probably reacted with sensitivity because I am afraid of sounding like I am trying to make excuses or evoke sympathy.

Re: "personal experience"
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2004, 11:55:23 AM »
Right on... you have every reason to be defensive -- i was offensive! I know I can be a little rough around the edges in challenging people.  Anyway the more I think about it, the more I think what offends me is the sense of personal lives being commodified and evaluated.  there is another thread like this that is interesting me... drewpac is asking his chances of getting into a list of schools.  he mentions his scores, his volunteer experiences, and the fact that he is a childhood cancer survivor.  again, i'm not criticizing his inclusion of that.  however, i definitely hesitated to consider that part of his "package." it didn't seem respectful to him and all the ways in which that experience must have touched his life to reduce it to an asset in law school admissions.  i'm probably sounding like a ridiculous idealist.  i'm just responding to an instinct, and kind of working through what's behind my reaction here.  Feel free to find all the holes in my understanding!


Re: "personal experience"
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2004, 12:26:04 PM »
Well, the rattling off of personal tragedies as if it is an expected part of the application rather than an extenuating circumstance, creates the feeling that it is mandatory. That those who have no personal tragedy are missing an aspect of their application.

Which, in turn, creates a dilemna for those people who have tragedies they feel are only indirectly relevant to the application, or are too sensitive to share with nameless, faceless admissions councils. Everyone else is sharing their tragedy, do I need to as well in order to compete? it is logical, then, that the reaction will be to wish everyone could just keep their tragedy to themselves and let the quantifiably measurable factors determine the outcome. Then, you don't have to envision that scenario of the admissions officer holding your application in one hand, and the impoverished candidate in the other and saying..."well...they both look pretty good, but this guy had a rough childhood, so let's take him instead."

But I really don't think that's the way they look at it. Everyone has a personal statement, and they use it to reveal what they can about their strengths and character. To some people, that comes from their darkest moments, from others, their highest achievements, some their average day. it could go on and on.

Anyone who can say that their greatest achievement came from overcoming their darkest hours...I say that belongs in the personal statement. When I read the post by the childhood cancer survivor, my immediate reaction was "childhood? how's that relevant?", but after some thought, i discarded the notion that he was going for the sympathy vote and realized that having battled cancer is likely to be someone's crowning achievement and even more likely to have changed their life, way of thinking, and ability to handle challenges. it tells you the person is a fighter and a survivor and thus, probably has the character necessary to handle law school (provided they have the aptitude).

Re: "personal experience"
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2004, 12:30:04 PM »
as a female coming from a middle-lower class background, i honestly find giving extra points to minority students quite discerning.

and im going to state right now that i will probably get a few negative responses for what im about to write.  so be it.

i have had my share of struggles, as have most people.  i was not born with darker skin, therefore i did not qualify for the 90 % of college scholarships that are specifically for minority students.  So i had to work harder, get excellent grades, and earn the scholarships that were extremely competitive.  i had to work during college jsut to make ends meet.  i couldnt even afford gas for my car.  I had a hard time getting jobs because of "affirmative action", and the jobs were automatically given first to the minorities who applied, despite their qualifications, and my qualifications being higher than theirs.

i totally understand struggling to overcome certain obstacles that society imposes on certain groups.  i totally have compassion and sypathy for those people.  And i hope they can rise above it.

but anyone can make it in this world if they try.  if you want to be a lawyer, you find a way to do it.  you study hard, you get 3 jobs if you have to, but you find a way to do it. 

i believe that people should be admitted into law school based upon what THEY achieved, not what their great great great great grandmother endured.  Yes, its horrible, and it was wrong what they had to go through, but should people of today be forced to pay for it?  Should someone with less qualifications get a seat in a law school or a position at a job because of what happened over a hundred years ago?  that had nothing to do with me, and it has nothing to do with them. 

maybe they had to work harder to achieve what they have now, but lower class white people have to work just as hard.

like i said, im probably going to get negative responses, and in no way do i mean to offend anyone.  but just because someone is white dosnt mean that they didnt work hard to get where they have gotten, and that they dont deserve that acceptance to a law school any more or less than a minority applicant. 


Re: "personal experience"
« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2004, 12:51:45 PM »
I would never give you a negative response for that. This is, after all, a board full of people who want a career that involves debating and arguing.

Actually, I'm torn on this subject. There are two ways of looking at it. what you have described is making an excellent case for the first perspective.

If we consider the direct effects on the individuals as first priority, we have to take into consideration that there are times when minority students have had less difficulty and fewer obstacles than the non-minority students over whom they are being selected. Those individual minority students are, in a sense, being unfairly rewarded while the non-minority students are being unfairly penalized. To consider race only, while ignoring all other socioeconomic factors, will have very 'unfair' and not easily comprehensible results.

the other side of the argument is that instead of looking at present direct effects on the individuals, we take as priority the long-term indirect effects on society as a whole. In this argument, we acknowledge that the plight of certain minority groups have led to a socioeconomic imbalance between those groups and the majority.That imbalance, if left unchecked, will grow and ultimately have disastrous and widespread results.

the solution, then, is thought to be to try to shorten the gap in socioeconomic factors. If more minority students attend college, receive high-paying jobs, etc, than that gap will be shortened and those generations will become future parents who will pass the benefit along to their children until eventually, society sees no gaps. in other words, implement strategies to alleviate the long-term problem, though the short-term effects may be unfair or unjust or even bordering on illegal (since we claim not to discriminate based on any race or ethnicity). here's where it gets really interesting. one perspective was simply to make standards lower for minority applicants than for non-minority. except that this is discrimination. different standards for different races. so the next solution: to put the race issue into that gray area...extenuating circumstances. how do we make it fit there? by assuming/accepting that by virtue of their race alone, all minority candidates have overcome adversity non-minority candidates have not.

which I consider to be a faulty assumption. If they want to give points out for adversity, they should do it on a case-by-case basis. except that would not show the general public that there are attempts being made to rectify the socioeconomic disparity between minority and non-minority groups.

So, there really isn't an easy solution. the long-term problem of economic disparity cannot be ignored. however, our laws clearly state that discrimination on the basis of race (any race) is not legal.

and..most 'solutions' that address the long-term problem facing society also have deterimental short-term effects on individual lives. so i guess in some ways it depends on which you value more...the future vs. the present, the individual vs. society.

Re: "personal experience"
« Reply #16 on: February 11, 2004, 01:29:12 PM »
isn't it true, though, that economic disparity can be overcome by the choices we make?  If we chose not to pick up that bottle of beer or that heroin needle when we're a teenager, and instead choose to study and get good grades to get those scholarships to get into a college, isnt that by choice?  if we work to get into college, and we work while we're in college, so we can get that better job, isn't that by choice? 

why is it the responsibilty of the government to make people overcome their personal economic disparities?  Why isnt it the responsibility of the individual to make their own decisions to decide what is going to become of their lives?

all to often do people depend on the government, and our taxes, to help them.  People stay on welfare and collect unemployment because they can, not because they need it.  They could have gone to school.  They could have studied, just like you or I.  Granted, it might have been tougher for them, they might not have had all the resources available to them that we had, but if they wanted it enough they have the choice to make it work and find a way. 

i do think the government has a responsibility to society, but i do not believe that they should fight discrimination by discriminating. 

i agree with you kslaw that if more minority students attend college, receive high-paying jobs, etc, than that socioeconomic gap will be shortened.  But who is responsible for that?  the tax payers?  the government? the majorities? or those individuals in the minority group? 


Re: "personal experience"
« Reply #17 on: February 11, 2004, 02:00:43 PM »
Responsibility for the plight of individuals rests with the individual. However, when trends emerge among specific populations in a society, it is the responsibility of that government to analyze the trends, identify the cause, and rectify the situation. In addition, because the plight of entire subgroups present potential problems for the society as a whole, then in an obligation to protect the society as a whole, that government must take preventative measures. so while the government should not necessarily be responsible for the lives of individuals, it is responsible for the future of the society.

giving points for "overcoming adversity" to members of minority groups is actually seen as just giving them a little boost. These are not individuals who have been picked up off the street with heroin needle in hand, given a textbook and a check, and sent to law school. These are individuals who have worked towards their goal, but are being given an extra hand up to reach their goal.

What is the justification for this when another individual has worked harder and doesn't get that same hand up? Well, the argument is out there that the non-minority individuals have already received an extra hand up just by being born into that race. Kind of...a minority was already born with one strike against them, likely two strikes against them because minorities are also more likely to be socially and economically disadvantaged. So...let's give them extra points to make up for those strikes. is that the government's responsibility? there are two perspectives to say it is. first, because analyzing history shows that the slavery this gov't imposed kept past generations of that race down, and so they had a different starting point than the non-minority group. while that happened many generations ago, it still goes that advantages (and disadvantages) are passed down from generation to generation. second, the government is making up for those two strikes the individual is born with because it is the solution to problems plaguing society, which are the responsibility of the government.

So...the other side of it...that there are major flaws in this so-called solution. first of all...we are looking at the strikes an individual was born with (minority status) but we are not adjusting for the inequalities experienced later in life. a minority individual in suburbia with wealthy parents is more likely to get the scholarship than the minority in the inner city who received subpar schooling and can't afford to go to college on their own. so this solution is actually not narrowing the gap. In fact, it's widening the gap.

it's also creating new gaps, because the lower middle class nonminorities are also missing out. pretty soon, instead of narrowing the gap between races, they'll be widening the gap between economic classes.

we can view it from the perspective of the individuals...that those individuals can reach their goals if they work hard enough, that it is not fair to other individuals who've worked harder, etc, but the government doesn't work in terms of individuals. They work in terms of populations and trends and statistics. What they need to see is that there are larger numbers of minorities attending college, that the charts and graphs do not show the disparities anymore. and if they can't change the disparities, they at least have to show numbers that say they're trying, and giving appropriate funding to the effort.

The truth is, trends that have emerged in the last few decades have shown that the plight of some minorities has actually grown worse. An underclass has emerged from all of this. whether it can be tied directly to these slightly misguided attempts to improve the situation...who knows. wouldn't surprise me.  the populations who could most benefit from the help aren't getting it. but...what will likely happen in the near future is the effort will likely shift....minority status will probably play a much less significant role than will low economic status. we'll see, i guess.


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Re: "personal experience"
« Reply #18 on: February 11, 2004, 04:53:54 PM »
I agree with you Melissa

Re: "personal experience"
« Reply #19 on: February 12, 2004, 03:10:40 PM »
I understand where the OP is coming from.  I have "overcome" adversity and initially I felt very uncomfortable writing about it in my personal statement.  I was afraid that admissions directors would think I was merely victimizing myself to gain sympathy(and admission). Here's my story: 
I was diagnosed with cancer at age nine and spent much of the next two years in the hospital.  Many of my friends with the same disease passed away during my time in treatment and I had a couple of very close calls as well.  My treatments have left me sterile, with a limp, a significantly shorter and atrophied leg, and a weakened heart(literally).  My experience strengthened me and motivated me to live my life with a sense of purpose.  Despite the aftereffects of my illness, I lettered in three varsity sports(high school), maintained solid grades, and showed my dedication to make a difference by taking an active role in various community service orgs.

Still, I wasn't going to include this in my personal statement until my fiance encouraged me to do so.  She told me "This is your story.  Your experience is the number one reason why you have become the person you are today."  And she was right.  I think that is why people should include these things.  It is part of who they are. 
I'm sure those who haven't "overcome adversity" have just as many compelling and interesting stories to tell as "survivors" do.  The key to the personal statement is to tell "your story", the one thing that you know makes you unique.