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

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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:

" 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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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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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.

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