Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

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Expand view Topic review: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

by Pickles312 » Mon Oct 26, 2020 6:36 pm

Thank you again for the help!

I fixed the stuff about my grandmother's house/my house. I meant to say my grandmothers house and confused things at some point. I also removed the grandfather part and integrated it into one statement - I agree it had really no place in my essay looking back on it. It only really shows how difficult his life was - which it was - but that isn't really relevant to the story of my grandmother's mindset or my own growth.

Here's my current rewrite of the second to last paragraph. Obviously still revising language/style.

"Throughout my undergraduate career, I have embraced my grandmother’s active approach in order to foster personal growth. I dig deeply into my readings and participate frequently in class because doing so makes those experiences more worthwhile. In the process, I discover things about both the material and myself. Over time, this mindset has shaped my actions outside of the classroom as well. After initially sitting quietly at HArCo meetings, I decided to start a column in our zine and began volunteering to run community events. When COVID-19 disrupted plans for my probate internship, I conceived new projects and methods to ensure it would still be a productive learning experience. Even my supermarket job, which I originally found stultifying, became enjoyable through this attitude. By truly investing in everyday conversations with customers, I started to learn about and contribute to my community. Hence, what was once monotonous became enjoyable and fulfilling."

Two problems are:
1.) "HArCo" is a club I'm in, but I don't have room to explain what it is in this paragraph (I do so on my resume). Can't decide if I should drop the name here or just say "club," which is less specific but perhaps less confusing.
2.) I feel like it might be a bad idea to mention Covid since everyone has had to deal with it, even if it is important to mentioning my internship.

Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

by pancakes3 » Mon Oct 26, 2020 9:24 am

You can take out some of the fluff in the 2-5th sentences of the penultimate paragraph and add in stuff about volunteering and throwing yourself into your internships.

Also it's not entirely clear that your "home" was also your grandmother's home in the 4th paragraph. I guess it's not since you said she lived 2 hrs away from you, so maybe calling it "her home felt like a relic of a distant past" would clarify things.

The story of your grandfather was a bit of a non sequitur because the focus is otherwise entirely about your grandmother.

Otherwise, a much more concise draft than your original.

I also caution against you going KJD. Take a year off to study for the LSAT and work in an office setting. It'd also give you the chance to experience life and add some more substance to your PS.

Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

by Pickles312 » Sun Oct 25, 2020 6:15 pm

Alright. One last draft post in case anyone's interested. After some time away with midterms and other application parts, I've got this.

"It was hardly surprising to get a call from my dad at the end of my first week at college. Like most new students, my week had been a whirlwind of meeting new people, acclimating to dorm life, and adjusting to college classes. With things starting to settle down, I was eager to relay my experiences back home. Instead, a grave voice came from the other end. “[Name], Grandma had a stroke.”

Growing up, my family life was characterized by hostility and unrest, with custody battles and schedules constantly distorting my view of “home.” In this hectic shuffle, my grandmother’s house was a place of welcoming stability, and her smile became my window to friendliness and calm. She always radiated sincere kindness and was genuinely invested in my emotional well-being. In a life where most people I knew focused on the negative, she always offered positivity. Unfortunately, the two-hour drive between us limited our time together as she aged. Nevertheless, she continued to be a guiding figure for me, whether she was acting as my confirmation sponsor, or walking with me along the East River.


On that Friday evening in early September, everything came crashing down. I had known such a day would eventually come, but I had never quite processed the reality of that. At first, we were told that her outlook was hopeful, and I was even able to speak to her briefly on the phone. However, her condition began to deteriorate over the next few days. For two weeks, I stayed on campus while the updates got progressively worse. With my father staying at the hospital in Brooklyn, I had no way home. Stranded alone in an unfamiliar environment, I felt both helpless and useless. I couldn’t be there for my grandmother in her final days, and I couldn’t be there for my father as he went through a devastating loss. Meanwhile, I started to fall behind at school with my mind elsewhere. While most students were socializing and forming routines, I spent my days crying in my room or praying in the campus church.

Two weeks to the day of her stroke, my grandma passed. The next day, my dad came to pick me up for the wake and funeral. After only a few weeks away, home felt like a relic of a distant past - frozen in time where I had left it, yet newly empty. Later, there was a sense of solemn finality as we left my grandma’s house for the last time. When I carried her casket down the church aisle with my cousins, it felt like I was burying the positivity she had bestowed on me with her.

In the period following my grandmother’s death, I spent a lot of time ruminating on how she had navigated life. She grew up in rural Ireland and immigrated to America as a young adult, building everything she had from the ground up. My grandfather had an even tougher childhood as an orphan with no education at all. He had worked 60-hour weeks as a doorman to support their family. Key to their success was their determination to invest passionate effort into every aspect of their lives, even in the most challenging and unpredictable circumstances. My grandmother saw even day to day tasks as chances for active engagement and growth. To her, a simple cup of tea could be a valuable bonding experience; a walk to the store could be an enlightening journey– but you had to decide to make it that way.

Yet, while I always admired this quality in my grandmother, I had never fully embraced it in my own life. I did what was expected of me as well as I could, but I never pushed forward and tested my boundaries like her. This was despite the fact that I had grown up with more privileges and opportunities than she could have dreamed of. Lying awake in my dorm room that October, I felt ashamed and almost guilty about this reality. My grandma always saw me as the ideal version of myself and showed immense pride in my accomplishments. I wanted to be better, for her memory, and for myself.

Throughout my undergraduate career, I have embraced my grandmother’s active approach in order to grow. School is no longer just a responsibility to fulfill. Rather, it is a chance to discover things about both the material and myself. I find myself digging deeper into my readings and participating more frequently in class because doing so makes the whole experience more worthwhile. It also enables me to explore my interests on a deeper level, which has steered me towards law. Naturally, this mindset has also changed how I approach life outside of academics. My supermarket job, which I originally found stultifying, became enjoyable. By truly investing in everyday conversations with customers, I started to learn about and contribute to my community, rather than just earn a paycheck. Hence, what was once monotonous became enjoyable and fulfilling.

That is the same attitude I will bring with me to law school. With my grandmother as my example, I have been able to develop into a student and person she would be proud of. I am fully ready to be an active and successful contributor to this academic and profession community."


I took all of the advice from here and also tried to clean up the phrasing and language a bit (though in some cases I might have made it worse). Only thing I had trouble figuring out was how to add a professional/volunteer experience into the penultimate paragraph. I don't know if I have anything significant that can fit unless I take out the supermarket stuff, but I feel like that's important to keep in for the message I'm trying to convey.

Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

by Pickles312 » Mon Sep 28, 2020 10:37 pm

Thank you both so much! I'm going to take your advice and make some more adjustments, but I'm feeling a lot more confident in what I have now. I really appreciate the help!

Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

by pancakes3 » Sun Sep 27, 2020 11:51 pm

and don't worry about bothering us w your drafts. we're reading it bc we want to. it's what this site is for.

Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

by pancakes3 » Sun Sep 27, 2020 11:50 pm

+1. I'd probably soften paragraph 7. saying "you embodied stagnancy" and how you saw academics as a chore, as... a high schooler? it's still melodramatic. And maybe add back into paragraph 6 about how proud your grandmother was of your accomplishments. that hits an emotional chord with ppl (me) who have a special bond with their grandmother.

Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

by RichardMilhousNixon » Sun Sep 27, 2020 11:33 pm

This is a *huge* improvement, imo. You are definitely on the right track.

A bit more feedback, if you want it:
- I would change "was genuinely invested in your emotional well-being" to "was genuinely invested in MY emotional well-being." The "your" wording there just sounds awkward.
- Second to last para starting "Throughout my undergraduate career" - This is a huge improvement and definitely the right approach. The only change I would make is bringing into this literally any professional or volunteer experiences you have - even if they're minor. Use this to highlight anything in your resume that a tired adcomm with three minutes to read through your app might have not noticed.
- Other than that, just cleaning it up a bit in terms of style and making sure it all reads as smoothly as it can.

I don't really have an opinion on the two alternatives for the ending except to say that if you are applying to a school that wants you to bring up "why their school specifically" or tends to YP, the second option might be preferable because it would allow you to easily slip in the name of the law school you're applying to.

Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

by Pickles312 » Sun Sep 27, 2020 12:30 pm

Alright, I came up with a second draft. It probably still doesn't quite get where I need it to be, but I'm hoping it's a start. Only the second half is noticeably changed. I tried to steer the thesis away from guilt and my high school actions. Instead, I tried to focus on how I've been able to grow over time by learning from how my grandmother lived. I'm still not sure it focuses on me enough, or the story is connected enough, or it says enough about me being prepared for law school. But I'm hoping I'm on the right track.

Obviously I don't want to keep asking people to read my drafts over and over like this is a workshop, so this is the last time I'll post one.

"It was hardly surprising to get a call from my dad at the end of my first week at college. Like most new students, my week had been a bit of whirlwind of meeting new people, acclimating to dorm life, and adjusting to college classes. I was eager to explain all of my experiences from the previous few days. Instead, a grave voice came from the other end. “[Name], Grandma had a stroke.”

Growing up, my family life was characterized by hostility and unrest, with custody battles and schedules constantly changing how I viewed “home.” In this hectic shuffle, my grandmother’s house became a place of welcoming stability, and her smile was my window to friendliness and calm. She always radiated sincere kindness, and was genuinely invested in your emotional well-being. In a life where most people I knew focused on the negative, she always offered positivity. Though the two-hour drive between us meant our visits grew more sporadic as she aged, she remained a key figure in my life, whether she was acting as my confirmation sponsor, or taking me for a walk by the East River.

But on that Friday evening in early September, everything came crashing down. I had known that day would eventually come, yet I had never quite processed the reality of it. At first, we were told that her outlook was hopeful, and I was even able to speak to her briefly on the phone. However, her condition began to deteriorate over the next few days. For two weeks, I stayed on campus while the updates got progressively worse. With my father staying at the hospital in Brooklyn, I had no way home. Stranded alone in an unfamiliar environment, I felt both helpless and useless. I couldn’t be there for my grandmother in her final days, and I couldn’t be there for my father as he went through a devastating loss. Meanwhile, I started to fall behind at school with my mind elsewhere. While most students were socializing and forming a routine, I spent days crying in my room or praying in the campus church.

Two weeks to the day of her stroke, my grandma passed. The next day, my dad came to pick me up for the wake and funeral. After only a few weeks away, home felt like a relic of a distant past - frozen in time where I had left it, yet newly empty. Later, there was a sense of solemn finality as we left my grandma’s house for the final time. When I carried her casket down the church aisle with my cousins, it felt like I was burying the positivity she had bestowed on me with her.

In the period following her death, I spent a lot of time ruminating on how my grandmother had navigated life. She grew up in rural Ireland and immigrated to America as a young adult, building everything she had from the ground up. My grandfather had an even tougher childhood as an orphan with no education at all. He had worked 60-hour weeks as a doorman to support their family. Key to their success was their determination to invest effort and passion in every aspect of their lives, even in the most challenging and unpredictable circumstances. My grandmother saw even day to day tasks as chances for active engagement and growth. To her, a simple cup of tea could be a valuable bonding experience; a walk to the store could be an enlightening journey– but you had to decide to make it that way.

I, on the contrary, had embodied stagnancy in how I approached life. I did what was expected of me as well as I could, but I never pushed forward and tested my boundaries like my grandmother. I saw my academics as a chore and my hobbies as a distraction. Lying awake in my dorm room that October, I felt ashamed and almost guilty about this reality. I had grown up with more privileges and opportunities than my grandmother could have dreamed of. I wanted to be better, for her memory, and for myself.

Throughout my undergraduate career, I have embraced this active approach in order to grow myself. My academics are no longer just a responsibility to fulfill. Rather, they are a chance to learn about both the material and myself. I dig deeper into my readings and participate more frequently in class not to gain a check mark, but because doing so makes those readings and classes more worthwhile. Becoming an active participant in my education allowed me to explore my interests on a deeper level, steering me towards law. Naturally, this mindset also began to change how I approached life outside of school. My supermarket job, which I originally found stultifying, became enjoyable. By truly investing in everyday conversations with customers, I started to learn about and contribute to my community, rather than just earn a paycheck. Hence, what was once monotonous became enjoyable and fulfilling.

My grandmother was a shining beacon for me during my toughest times as a child, and she remains so now. Losing her at the start of my college career was devastating, yet it made me realize the importance of embracing positivity and being an active participant in your own life. With her as my example, I have been able to develop into a student and person she would be proud of."

Edit: Thinking of replacing the final paragraph with this, so it steers more to my level of readiness rather than just being a generic conclusion:

"That is the same attitude I will bring with me as I enter law school. With my grandmother as my example, I have been able to develop into a student and person she would be proud of. I am fully ready to be an active and successful contributor to this academic and profession community."

Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

by RichardMilhousNixon » Wed Sep 23, 2020 1:11 am

Pickles312 wrote:
Tue Sep 22, 2020 6:45 pm
Thank you both for the advice! I agree on the thesis change pancakes. I think you're right that I need to frame it as less of a complete flip flop.

I will continue to brainstorm how to better alter my tone in the second half and focus on myself. You bring some good ideas Nixon, and they will be helpful to me. I just have to figure out if/how I can answer those questions in a cohesive way. Some of them - such as my relationship with her leading me specifically to law school - I just don't think I have anything for. And that was one of my reservations about the topic in the first place.

One thing I'm a bit confused on is how to show personal growth that is more recent than my freshman year attitude shift. Frankly, I'm not sure I've grown very dramatically at all since my freshman year of undergrad as a KJD. Sure, I've progressed a bit academically and am more used to certain academic rigors, but that first semester is really the last time I feel like my behavior and outlook changed in any significant way. I kind of feel like I was essentially the person I am now by the end of that semester/year. That's probably not a good thing, but I feel like it would be disingenuous to say otherwise.

I've had a busy couple of weeks and some writers block, so I hope to have this hammered out soon. Thanks again.
Re personal growth: I don't know you, but I'm almost convinced you've changed much more than you realize.
But also: it's really really important that you portray yourself as having evolved since first semester of undergrad and leave the reader with the impression of you as a 20-something adult ready to start professional school, *especially* as a KJD.

Something I found helpful in writing a PS: Try to forget that you're writing about yourself as you and view yourself as a character in a creative writing exercise to an audience of adcomms. I mean this in terms of mental state; I don't mean literally write something inauthentic and fictionalized. But also, in a two page "show, not tell" PS, you will inevitably be reduced to a character and what character you want to present to adcomms is ultimately up to you.

Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

by Pickles312 » Tue Sep 22, 2020 6:45 pm

Thank you both for the advice! I agree on the thesis change pancakes. I think you're right that I need to frame it as less of a complete flip flop.

I will continue to brainstorm how to better alter my tone in the second half and focus on myself. You bring some good ideas Nixon, and they will be helpful to me. I just have to figure out if/how I can answer those questions in a cohesive way. Some of them - such as my relationship with her leading me specifically to law school - I just don't think I have anything for. And that was one of my reservations about the topic in the first place.

One thing I'm a bit confused on is how to show personal growth that is more recent than my freshman year attitude shift. Frankly, I'm not sure I've grown very dramatically at all since my freshman year of undergrad as a KJD. Sure, I've progressed a bit academically and am more used to certain academic rigors, but that first semester is really the last time I feel like my behavior and outlook changed in any significant way. I kind of feel like I was essentially the person I am now by the end of that semester/year. That's probably not a good thing, but I feel like it would be disingenuous to say otherwise.

I've had a busy couple of weeks and some writers block, so I hope to have this hammered out soon. Thanks again.

Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

by pancakes3 » Thu Sep 17, 2020 9:41 am

+1 to Nixon.

I'd also move the first sentence of ¶ 6 to after the sentences describing your grandmother.

And you should change the thesis from "I was bad and now I'm good" to "I want to be the best I can be in memory of my grandmother" because in reality, you went from one degree of above-average to a higher degree of above-average.

Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

by RichardMilhousNixon » Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:09 pm

This is a really strong start. I really like your first four paragraphs especially - It reads very well.

But after that I think your instinct in #2 is correct - You need to dive into your own personal story. It focuses too much on your grandmother rather than you. But also, to the extent that it focuses on you, it focuses in you in your first semester of undergrad & your behavior in highschool - not you now. The "guilt at playing video games" (a thing many highschoolers do) and then "embracing her positive attitude" and "becoming the person she believed you were" isn't near as compelling as it could be and risks making you sound immature. I think you can tell that story in a different, more compelling, more mature, and more authentic-sounding way. You can do this while still keeping the focus on your grandmother / her death / your relationship.

Consider: How did her upbringing and her and your grandfather's life compare to your own? What did you and your grandmother have it common? How did you and your grandmother's cultural background influence your perspective? Did you and your grandmother share a personality trait that enabled you both to succeed at your very different challenges? Or perhaps you were very different and learned to embrace those differences? Did something in your grandmother's life or your relationship with her influence your path / path to law school in a specific and focused way? Etc.

I can't answer these questions for you or tell you what would be most compelling to write about. I know that you don't have space do dive into all of those - I would focus on one or two things that can effectively describe your personal growth and your personal story. I would focus on that rather than the discussion of guilt and changes in attitude. You might want to experiment a bit and see what angle seems most compelling.

Again, this is a strong start - I think you're getting close. I hope this helps!

Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

by Pickles312 » Sat Sep 12, 2020 9:45 am

I ended up writing drafts of each of the two personal statement topics I posted on here a couple of weeks ago. After review, the divorce one, while perhaps more interesting, felt a little too much like complaining and a little too distant and irrelevant. So I I've started to prioritize the second one. Here's my first draft:

" It was hardly a surprise to get a call from my dad at the end of my first week at college. Like most new students, my week had been a bit of whirlwind of meeting new people, acclimating to dorm life, and adjusting to college classes. I was eager to explain all of my experiences from the previous few days. Instead, a grave voice came from the other end. “[Name], Grandma had a stroke.”

Growing up, my family life was characterized by hostility and unrest, with custody battles and schedules constantly changing how I viewed “home.” In this hectic shuffle, my grandmother’s house became a place of welcoming stability, and her smile was my window to friendliness and calm. She always radiated sincere kindness, and was genuinely invested in your emotional wellbeing. In a life where most people I knew focused on the negative, she always offered positivity. Though the two-hour drive between us meant our visits grew more sporadic as she aged, she remained a key figure in my life, whether she was acting as my confirmation sponsor, or taking me for a walk by the East River.

But on that Friday evening in early September, everything came crashing down. I had known that day would eventually come, yet I had never quite processed the reality of it. At first, we were told that her outlook was hopeful, and I was even able to speak to her briefly on the phone. However, her condition began to deteriorate over the next few days. For two weeks, I stayed on campus while the updates got progressively worse. With my father staying at the hospital in Brooklyn, I had no way home. Stranded alone in an unfamiliar environment, I felt both helpless and useless. I couldn’t be there for my grandmother in her final days, and I couldn’t be there for my father as he went through a devastating loss. Meanwhile, I started to fall behind at school with my mind elsewhere. While most students were socializing and forming a routine, I spent days crying in my room or praying in the campus church.

Two weeks to the day of her stroke, my grandma passed. The next day, my dad came to pick me up for the wake and funeral. After only a few weeks away, home felt like a relic of a distant past - frozen in time where I had left it, yet newly empty. Later, there was a sense of solemn finality as we left my grandma’s house for the final time. When I carried her casket down the church aisle with my cousins, it felt like I was burying the positivity she had bestowed on me with her.

My grieving process was further complicated that night, when I learned that one of my best friends from high school was in a coma from a terrible car crash. Having just buried my grandma, I had no idea how to process it. My friend was fighting for his life, and I knew I had to be there for him, but I was still grieving. At the same time, I had no choice but to return to school and get back to work, or I’d be completely left behind academically and socially. My next few weeks would be characterized by more hospital updates. Thankfully, these ones were more positive, and after many surgeries and hours of rehab, my friend began to recover. For me, an overwhelming beginning to my college career was ending.
Still, for a while after my grandmother’s death, I was haunted by a sense of guilt. I could have visited her more. I could have called her more. I could have appreciated my time with her more. And to boot, I had moved on to another personal matter immediately after her funeral, which wasn’t fair to her.

This was amplified by the fact that my grandmother had always thought incredibly highly of me. To her, I was a compassionate, hard-working genius. She had grown up in rural Ireland and immigrated to America as a young adult, building everything she had from the ground up. My grandfather had an even tougher childhood as an orphan with no education at all. He had worked 60-hour weeks as a doorman to support their family. To her, it was unfathomable that her grandchild could be inducted into honor societies and take AP classes. Her eyes lit up with pride every time we talked. But I knew that her image of me wasn’t entirely accurate. I had spent high school procrastinating, playing video games, and doing my homework at half effort while talking to friends. Sometimes, I was doing those things when I could have been visiting her. While I did well in school, I was hardly the ideal student and person she saw me as. She died believing I was somebody that I wasn’t, and knowing that kept me awake at night.

Ultimately, I overcame that guilt by choosing to become the person my grandmother always believed I was. No longer would I coast by and view my education as a tedious chore. I had so many opportunities and privileges that she never had, and I owed it to her to make the most of them with my own abilities. I began to dig deeply into readings, participate frequently in class, and discover through my interests that a I wanted a pursue law. When I finally finished that first semester and saw what I had accomplished, I knew I had done it for her. By embracing her positive attitude in how I viewed my academic journey, I was able to unlock my potential and live up to her image of me.

My grandmother believed I could be that person even when I didn’t. And with her looking down on me, I’ve never looked back."

My currents thoughts:
1.) I need to shorten it a bit - I'm well over 900 words and onto the third page even with 11 point font.
2.) It might focus on my grandmother and her death too much compared to me. I don't want to repeat myself too much at the end though, and I'm not sure how much deeper I can go into takeaways without doing so.
3.) I still don't want it to seem like I'm just telling a sob story. I don't think it would be complaining or making excuses (since my academic performance ultimately wasn't hurt), but it still might seem a bit self centered and dramatic. Also maybe corny at times, especially the ending.

Do you guys still think I can work from this, or should I go back to the drawing board?

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