PS 2nd Draft Seeking Harsh Critiques

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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PS 2nd Draft Seeking Harsh Critiques

Postby BoilerByBirth » Fri Aug 11, 2017 3:28 pm

The image is simple; black and white. At a glance, the viewer identifies its subject as a white vase against a black background. Ordinary, straightforward. Or is it? A second viewer interprets the picture’s meandering contours differently. This viewer is certain the image depicts the shadowed profiles of two faces in front of a bright window. So, who's correct? The intrigue of this exercise is that the answer is, "they both are."  The image, known as Rubin's Vase, is a classic example of an ‘Ambiguous Image.’  

At the beginning of my senior year of high school I, like most of my peers, found myself in the throes of a college-applications-induced existential crisis. In a frenzy of quintessentially teenage soul-searching, I sat down to make a list of my interests and strengths. I reflected on the excitement I had always found in problem solving and math, my hunger for tackling new, unfamiliar subjects, and the deep personal satisfaction I felt seeing my work affect people in tangible, positive ways. Gradually, I distilled my entire psyche down to three bullet points that I inked into the back of my AP Government notebook: analytical thinking, learning agility, personal impact.

When we are presented with a set of visual cues, our brain processes the information in stages. In the earliest stage, we determine the basic features of the object.  In the middle and higher-level stages, visual processing becomes more subjective, as our brain works to combine the features it has identified into distinct, familiar object groups.  The subjectivity of this process, namely the tendency of the brain to identify object groups with which it has familiarity, is what allows two people to view the same image and come away with vastly different, yet equally valid, interpretations of what it depicts.

I grew up in a college town that boasts one of the strongest engineering universities in the world.  I was surrounded by friends whose parents were engineers or engineering professors and I attended a high school where the brightest students went on to study engineering. Unsurprisingly, when I began the process of interpreting the basic features that comprised “me,” my brain pieced together a familiar picture. My Rubin’s Vase looked unmistakably like an engineer, so I became an engineer.

I chose biomedical engineering because I was enticed by its multidisciplinary nature and saw potential in the field to make the world better. I got to learn about cutting-edge medical breakthroughs and take classes in everything from biomechanics and circuit design to medical ethics and economics.  At school, I was never bored. However, when it came to real life application, the passion I hoped I would feel simply wasn’t there. Throughout undergrad, I spent six months working in a lab researching nanoparticles for treating atherosclerosis and eighteen months “on co-op” working in industry full-time developing drug delivery devices and glucometers.  Conceptually, these experiences were stimulating, and they really did have profound high-level implications for improving – even saving – lives. But the day-to-day was unchallenging, repetitive, and slow, and I felt a frustrating sense of distance between my work and the people it might actually benefit several years down the road, or maybe not at all.

While on co-op, I lived alone in a large capital city for the first time, which presented a wealth of novel experiences and opportunities. To fill my evenings and weekends, I started volunteering in the community and attending talks and panels on public interest topics. I became increasingly aware of and intrigued by the complex relationships between the various levels of government, the private sector and the public. I have always had an intellectual interest in systemic social issues, but as I started to engage with my city and connect names and faces to these issues, my interest evolved from clinical to personal. I grew to understand that, while I have an appreciation for technological innovation and design, my true passion lies in leveraging expertise and critical thinking to solve social and interpersonal problems rather than technical ones.

I am extremely grateful for my engineering education because it challenged, strengthened, and ultimately restructured my skillset into something I was not able to recognize as a seventeen-year-old. When I look at my Rubin’s Vase now, I see the contours of a person excited and equipped to embrace a career in law. Over the course of my co-op, I established a great relationship with a fantastic company that could offer me a comfortable salary and plenty of work-life balance right out of undergrad. Naturally, deciding to turn all of that security down in favor of law school was difficult and scary. But I am confident I am making the right decision. Engineering simply is not where my passion, nor my potential, reside. The appeal of dedicating my talents to tackling societal challenges on a personal, local level, where impact can really be felt, is something I can no longer resist. I am eager and ready to pursue a legal education and career that will empower me to realize my passion for working alongside and helping people directly. The image is still simple; black and white. But it is no longer ambiguous.

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Re: PS 2nd Draft Seeking Harsh Critiques

Postby cavalier1138 » Sat Aug 12, 2017 7:39 pm

This doesn't work for me on a few levels.

-Drop the Rubin's Vase through-line. It just doesn't work.

-Even though you spend a good deal of time talking about your personal history, I don't get any sense of you from the essay. It's hard to put my finger on why this is, but to take a specific example: you talk about "societal issues" a lot, but you never actually name what it is that you're interested in dealing with. Having a broad interest in fixing problems isn't really compelling.

-If you don't like repetitive or slow work, a legal career may not be a good fit. At the very least, I'd tone down that part of the essay, because the people reading these have often spent at least a little time in the law.

-Try to get the general point of why you're switching paths (if you want to go that way) across through a more focused story. I don't need to read about each step of your process, and it makes me care much less about the destination. An anecdote about a specific time at your job that touches on these issues would be much more effective. That said, it sounds like you've been out of school for a very short period of time, so I'm not sure that you need to convince anyone that you're making a career change.

So in general, you need to make the statement more focused and drop the cutesy metaphors.

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Re: PS 2nd Draft Seeking Harsh Critiques

Postby mjb447 » Sat Aug 12, 2017 8:37 pm

Yeah, you go into lots of detail about your work as an engineer and why it was unsatisfying, but when you talk about why you want to go to law school it's very, very general - as far as I can tell, volunteering for an unspecified cause and attending "talks and panels." Given your history with engineering, your vaguely stated interest in the law, and the fact that lots of legal work is "unchallenging, repetitive, and slow" on a day-to-day basis, it could look like you're in a "grass is always greener" situation and haven't thought much about what being a lawyer involves, at least for most grads. (As a person with some legal experience and zero engineering experience, developing potentially lifesaving treatments or devices sounds like something that it'd be much easier to be passionate about than legal work; if you're going to continue with this PS I think you should do more to convince otherwise.)

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