Confusing advice -- help?

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
hermanberk
Posts: 11
Joined: Sat Sep 09, 2017 3:08 am

Confusing advice -- help?

Postby hermanberk » Sat Sep 09, 2017 3:46 am

I'm struggling to finish writing my personal statement, and am confused by a piece of advice I just came across online. Was wondering what other people think of it?

The advice I just came across, from a Berkeley Law faculty member who served on the admissions committee:
https://www.law.berkeley.edu/admissions ... nd-resume/

Points of confusion:
— This faculty member seems generally opposed to anecdotal leads, advising the following: "Except for the occasional novelist we admit, none of our students or graduates is going to write in this style again; none, thank goodness, is going to begin a brief with, “He stood frozen in fear as the gunman appeared out of the darkness.”"

This worries me because many of the personal statement examples I've been referencing lead with dramatized anecdotes, which I thought was a fine way to start? For example, these UChicago essays https://www.law.uchicago.edu/news/their ... ays-worked

— I am also puzzled by this statement, because I thought a PS was *supposed* to be autobiographical:

"If [the personal statement] is going to be autobiographical, I for one would prefer it to generalize a bit; that is, instead of, ‘How I changed as a result of this experience and now am so special,’ it should talk about how and why such experiences can affect people."

Is anyone else confused by this (or am I being dense)? Would love to hear your thoughts!

hangingtree
Posts: 72
Joined: Wed Nov 18, 2015 4:39 am

Re: Confusing advice -- help?

Postby hangingtree » Sat Sep 09, 2017 6:30 pm

hermanberk wrote:I'm struggling to finish writing my personal statement, and am confused by a piece of advice I just came across online. Was wondering what other people think of it?

The advice I just came across, from a Berkeley Law faculty member who served on the admissions committee:
https://www.law.berkeley.edu/admissions ... nd-resume/

Points of confusion:
— This faculty member seems generally opposed to anecdotal leads, advising the following: "Except for the occasional novelist we admit, none of our students or graduates is going to write in this style again; none, thank goodness, is going to begin a brief with, “He stood frozen in fear as the gunman appeared out of the darkness.”"

This worries me because many of the personal statement examples I've been referencing lead with dramatized anecdotes, which I thought was a fine way to start? For example, these UChicago essays https://www.law.uchicago.edu/news/their ... ays-worked

— I am also puzzled by this statement, because I thought a PS was *supposed* to be autobiographical:

"If [the personal statement] is going to be autobiographical, I for one would prefer it to generalize a bit; that is, instead of, ‘How I changed as a result of this experience and now am so special,’ it should talk about how and why such experiences can affect people."

Is anyone else confused by this (or am I being dense)? Would love to hear your thoughts!


Think about when/under what circumstances your PS is actually going to be read, then it will make sense. Think about a law professor reading a bunch of super-hard-to-read PSs. They're just looking for people who are smart and has a good head on his/her shoulders.

The goal is just to convey who you are. This is best done without a whole lot of effort, because the more effort you put into it the less it reads like it's coming from you. You want to sound smart and thoughtful, but you can convey this with simple words and sentence structures.

Here are some anecdotes from my admissions cycle a couple years ago relating to Yale, who I think we can agree is the school who factors in the PS the most:
-the Yale admissions dean commented that people should probably have better things to do than read TLS all the time. I think she would have probably also said that people shouldn't spend 35 hours on a personal statement
-my buddy got into YLS after being rejected the previous year and he cites spending a little more time on his PS as a key factor. That is to say, instead of writing it in 2 hours, he wrote it in 4. He explained that he simply made his schtick sound a little less cliche
-Think about whether the YLS grads you know of are the type of folks who would spend 35 hours crafting a PS
-The Yale 250. Brevity. You don't need a whole lot of words to write something meaningful

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ivankasta
Posts: 131
Joined: Tue Sep 20, 2016 8:22 am

Re: Confusing advice -- help?

Postby ivankasta » Sun Sep 10, 2017 6:30 am

hangingtree wrote:.
The goal is just to convey who you are. This is best done without a whole lot of effort, because the more effort you put into it the less it reads like it's coming from you. You want to sound smart and thoughtful, but you can convey this with simple words and sentence structures.


I disagree very strongly with this. Unless you're someone with tons of creative writing experience, a good PS will take a lot of time. I agree that the things you want to convey in a PS can be conveyed in simple words and sentence structure, but I've found coherent simplicity to be one of the most challenging goals in writing.

If you're like me and you weren't a journalism or English major, then simple, coherent, creative writing likely does not just flow from your fingertips. It takes time.

dabigchina
Posts: 1181
Joined: Mon Jan 13, 2014 2:22 am

Re: Confusing advice -- help?

Postby dabigchina » Sun Sep 10, 2017 3:21 pm

Unless you have some seriously interesting life experience, what gets you into law school are:

1. Your GPA
2. Your LSAT

The PS is there to make sure you aren't some kind of psychopath. Admins are reading hundreds of these things. Get to the point. Don't get too cute and piss them off.

That's it.

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appind
Posts: 2208
Joined: Mon Nov 12, 2012 3:07 am

Re: Confusing advice -- help?

Postby appind » Sat Sep 16, 2017 6:02 pm

dabigchina wrote:Unless you have some seriously interesting life experience, what gets you into law school are:

1. Your GPA
2. Your LSAT

The PS is there to make sure you aren't some kind of psychopath. Admins are reading hundreds of these things. Get to the point. Don't get too cute and piss them off.

That's it.


+1

it seems to be a numbers game for the most part.

sillymints7962
Posts: 36
Joined: Thu Oct 20, 2016 7:33 am

Re: Confusing advice -- help?

Postby sillymints7962 » Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:00 pm

Just read that Berkeley advice site, and man. hahahahahahaha they're not gonna have fun with mine nope

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Delano
Posts: 73
Joined: Fri Jun 09, 2017 10:27 pm

Re: Confusing advice -- help?

Postby Delano » Tue Sep 19, 2017 11:01 pm

ivankasta wrote:
hangingtree wrote:.
The goal is just to convey who you are. This is best done without a whole lot of effort, because the more effort you put into it the less it reads like it's coming from you. You want to sound smart and thoughtful, but you can convey this with simple words and sentence structures.


I disagree very strongly with this. Unless you're someone with tons of creative writing experience, a good PS will take a lot of time. I agree that the things you want to convey in a PS can be conveyed in simple words and sentence structure, but I've found coherent simplicity to be one of the most challenging goals in writing.

If you're like me and you weren't a journalism or English major, then simple, coherent, creative writing likely does not just flow from your fingertips. It takes time.

+1000

I was at an info session a few weeks ago where a t14 adcomm specifically said her #1 piece of advice wrt personal statements was to make sure you spend considerable time on it, and that many people don't and their PS's are nowhere near as strong as they could have been as a result.

Also fwiw, GPA and LSAT are by far the most important factors, but PS's do matter. There's still considerable variability between outcomes in given number ranges - you'll see a certain % getting full-rides and the rest not, if you have an 85% chance of acceptance, one is seven is not getting in, etc. This is where PS and other soft factors is going to be partly determinate. It would be a mistake to disregard it because "everything is based off of numbers anyways."

I would interpret the Berk advice as being careful not to go overboard with the dramatized starting anecdotes. Enough people use them for whatever reason that it can't be an application killer.

AJordan
Posts: 367
Joined: Wed Oct 05, 2016 3:48 am

Re: Confusing advice -- help?

Postby AJordan » Wed Sep 20, 2017 3:51 am

I think it's just a reflection of the available material online. Whereas applicants all used to sound the same in a braggadocious manner, now applicants have found "PS topics that WORK!" articles on the internet and they're all mimicking those. This sounds like an office that's still of the same mindset, sick of reading the same stuff over and over, just shifted to a different style of "the same stuff". The bottom line still stands, whatever you write needs to be done well. If it's a carbon copy of something an office hates, they're probably going to cringe reading it, but you're probably not getting rejected if it's well written and has a point.

I think it was Ann Levine who I heard say, "If you don't quite have the numbers, you need to give them a reason to accept you. If you have the numbers, you just need to avoid giving them a reason to reject you." I think that applies here. If you're reaching, aside from making sure your PS is well-written, there's probably little downside to trying it your own way. If you're at or above the numbers, something safer is likely the way to go. Just make sure it's done well.




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