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

Get advice and feedback on your personal statement.
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Pickles312
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Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

Post 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:

[Removed]

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?
Last edited by Pickles312 on Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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

Post 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!

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pancakes3
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Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

Post 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.

Pickles312
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Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

Post 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.

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

Post 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.

Pickles312
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Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

Post 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.

[Removed for Privacy]

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."
Last edited by Pickles312 on Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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

Post 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.

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pancakes3
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Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

Post 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.

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pancakes3
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Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

Post 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.

Pickles312
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Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

Post 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!

Pickles312
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Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

Post 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.

[Removed for Privacy]


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.
Last edited by Pickles312 on Sun Nov 22, 2020 9:03 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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pancakes3
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Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

Post 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.

Pickles312
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Re: Alright, is this a decent start for a personal statement? [Update]

Post 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.

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