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Personal Statement Samples
Posted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 2:20 am
Note from Ken: The following thread has hundreds of law school personal statement samples in many different styles all contributed by TLS readers. For more personal statement samples and an analysis of those personal statements view Personal Statement Examples
. For an entire article on properly writing a law school personal statement view TLS Personal Statement Advice
. For more sample essays and writing advice from the best service for personal statement editing view essayedge.com
LSAT - 174
GPA - 4.0
Accepted: everywhere I applied
I peered over my toes at the water streaming fifty feet down to the muddy pool below me and felt a queer beat in my stomach. For half an hour I had hiked a steep incline up to the cliff in flip-flops. Clinging tenaciously to the footpads, I skipped across small creeks, pulled myself up with the aid of jutting rocks and tree roots, and swung across gaps in the path on branches. But as I stood on the cliff, barefoot now, I forgot my strenuous climb and remembered that every step was taken for one reason - to jump. So I stilled the fear bouncing in my stomach, counted to three, hurled my body into the air, and fell.
I have been climbing uphill in flip-flops all my life. While I am aware that everybody climbs hills and faces obstacles in their lives, I also believe that the success of those battles may well be based on the foundation upon which one walks - how firm and supportive it is. As I look back, I realize that the challenges I have faced have enabled me to find a strong footing within a situation that was not altogether stable.
As a ten year old I grappled with panic attacks and even ulcers, a physical manifestation of the fear, guilt, and anxiety I felt primarily as a result of my father, an alcoholic, manic depressive, and sexually abusive man. Though I do have a few positive childhood memories of our motorcycle rides and camping trips, they are unfortunately surrounded and superseded by the majority of my experiences with him. Before I attended therapy and biofeedback sessions in fifth grade, the best way I knew to cope with my intense and disturbing feelings was to imagine them away. Every night before falling asleep I would fold my body tightly together and construct a world in which my father did not exist. He disappeared in a variety of ways - a chance fire, a freak accident, an unexplainable vanishing. In his place would appear a new gentle and supportive father. With these images I wooed myself to sleep every night, but the following morning I would again awake to the reality of my life. Eventually my coping mechanism became insufficient, and I began seeing a counselor.
Quickly this woman taught me to transform my paralyzing fears into a determined drive for success. With this skill learned, my life and my feelings about it improved immeasurably. My relationship with my father changed dramatically resulting from both a change in his behaviors and a change in my responses. Now, my drive for success is no longer fueled by a need to transform my life into something more positive, but rather a desire to continue its trajectory. I am the first person in my immediate family to attend and graduate from college, which I was able to do with the assistance of various academic scholarships. Due to my 64 hour/week job working with developmentally disabled individuals, I have been financially independent from my mother since my first step onto campus. In addition I have been able to financially assist my younger sister who now attends college. Most importantly, I have developed into a woman I am proud of -thoughtful, determined, compassionate, and forgiving, even of my father. I know now that though he has left an indelibly negative imprint on my life, he has also prompted a positive one.
After so many struggles, I'm now emotionally and mentally ready for new hills to climb and new pools to jump into, one of which I hope will be law school. I believe that with my now developed determination I will be able to successfully complete law school and with my heightened sense of compassion I will be able to assist those who, like me, perhaps began life with a shoddy foundation. As for me, my footwear is finally more supportive and sturdy. I've transformed my flip-flops into hiking boots.
Posted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 10:42 am
Accepted at Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Chicago Kent
Rejected: DePaul, Ohio State, University of Chicago
Waitlisted: Wisconsin, Loyola Chicago
While attending the University of Illinois, I have enjoyed many opportunities to learn about the environment while developing an interest in the law. Hands-on experiences in the lab, field work across the state, and lectures from leading researchers engaged my mind and captured my interest. Studying ecology and the world’s environmental problems has instilled in me a deep appreciation for the environment as well as a desire to learn how attorneys utilize regulatory systems to protect it. Participating in an undergraduate research project on climate change, interning in a methylmercury lab, and taking an environmental law class have inspired me to attend law school to pursue my interest in learning how the law can address environmental problems.
During spring semester 2006, I began a research project on climate change under the direction of Dr. Tony Endress. We analyzed climate data from the past 100 years to investigate how the observed variations affected the phenology of Illinois flora. The engaging research revealed the extent to which climate change alters the function and timing of processes in ecosystems. I continued researching environmental problems last summer with the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center. As an intern in Dr. Robert Hudson’s lab at the University of Illinois, I conducted a research project on methylmercury in crayfish and odonates from the Piasa Creek Watershed in southeastern Illinois. Methylmercury, a widespread neurotoxin especially hazardous to developing organisms, is found throughout the world’s aquatic ecosystems and poses a threat to public and ecosystem health. Although I enjoyed contributing to the academic community with my research, I wanted to do something more tangible about the problems I studied. Applying the law to diminish threats to human and environmental well-being would simultaneously achieve social and environmental justice, benefiting both humans and nature.
Both research endeavors have been fascinating, rewarding projects, but research alone cannot satisfy me professionally. The legal system makes connections between science and regulatory policy, allowing the results of scientific research to engender change that benefits society. My research projects inspired me to learn how to use the law to improve ecosystem quality and to protect human well-being. I am interested in developing policies that protect species from hazardous exposure to methylmercury and other toxins by reducing their abundance in ecosystems. In law school, I hope to learn how to craft a practical regulatory system that mitigates the negative effects of climate change on society and the environment. As a lawyer, I want to apply science through the law to make a positive change in the world.
While my research projects directed me towards specific issues to examine in a legal context, studying the law as an undergraduate inspires me to explore deeper aspects of legal structures and how they affect environmental well-being in law school. Last semester in environmental law class, I found my niche. Reading and discussing cases in class captured my interest every day because I felt passionate about each issue and was fascinated by the legal arguments used in each situation. Although the course focused on many cases and a variety of legal issues, at the end of the class I wanted to know more. Continuing my legal studies in law school will provide the tools I need to achieve my goal of applying science through the law, thus improving human and environmental wellbeing. With my future aspirations in mind, I look forward to the rewarding challenges of law school.
Posted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 11:26 am
LSAT: 165 (highest-Dec 06), 157 (Sept 06)
Accepted: Emory ($), Alabama ($), Baylor, Pepperdine ($), Mizzou($), South Carolina ($), Temple ($), Creighton ($), Hofstra ($), Quinnipiac ($), Washburn ($), Ave Maria ($), FCSL ($), St. Thomas-MN ($), SLU ($), Case Western
Waitlisted: Fordham, WUSTL, Catholic, Loyola Chicago, Wisconsin
Withdrew before decision: UIUC, Arkansas LR, Campbell
Attending: Alabama on a full tuition scholarship
During a time in my life that should have been filled with Saturday morning cartoons and Barbie dolls, I was picking up the pieces of the emotional disaster that was my mother. When I was four years old, my father was killed in a horrific accident on the drive home from his night shift at the Kraft plant. To this day, my mom feels like the accident was her fault because my parents, typically on cloud nine, had gotten into a colossal fight the night before he died. She spent much of the time after his death trying to cope with this guilt and devastation. How was I supposed to know this day would change my family’s cheerful home into a place that I avoided at all costs?
I am only twenty-one years of age, but I feel about twenty years older. I essentially had to raise myself, because my mom was far too emotionally traumatized to nurture me. My mother consistently left for work before I went to school and did not return until after I was in bed, so I spent the majority of my childhood in my grandparents’ home, cooking with my grandmother and watching “Days of our Lives” with my grandfather. In addition to the normal forty-five hour weeks and countless hours of grading papers and planning lessons, my mom served three terms as president of the Alton Education Association as well as several terms on the Region Board. She was not throwing herself into her work because she loved it; she was doing it to avoid the one person who reminded her of the life she had lost—her daughter.
When I was a kid, I was involved in absolutely everything. I played the flute, the violin, the piano, and the bassoon. As an all-star athlete, I competed in softball, soccer, basketball, golf, dance, and gymnastics. Remember that little girl looking into the stands or the audience hoping to see someone there who loved her and was proud of her, who had to hold back the tears when the seat was empty? That was me. My loneliness gave rise to remarkable creativity, however, which took the form of charcoal drawings, oil paintings, and black-and-white photography. My isolation also provided me with maturity and compassion. Instead of becoming someone who resented love, I yearned for it. However, even after years of begging to be loved by my mother, she chose to love someone else.
On Thanksgiving of my sophomore year of high school, my mother asked me if it was okay for her to go on a date with Robert. It had been eleven years since my father had passed away, and I wanted my mother to be happy. Little did I know that Robert was only nineteen, a convicted felon, and her former student. Robert pulled a gun on me over Fall Break of my sophomore year of college, has sexually harassed me several times in front of my family, and conned my mother out of thousands of dollars for drugs and other terrible habits. Despite several attempts to leave him, my mother is still with Robert six years later, even after two severe beatings and several death threats. I left home in August of 2003 to attend Saint Louis University and to escape the detrimental environment my mother’s relationship had created.
Right before I left for college, my mother financially abandoned me and informed me that I was always a burden to her. This declaration devastated me and I found myself dealing with loneliness, hatred, and sadness. Each day brought with it reminders that I now had no one to run to or to confide in. My heart was broken and I had to pick up the pieces single-handedly. With this friction in mind, I redirected my energy toward helping others and improving myself.
I longed for a fresh start and an opportunity to provide others with the love, compassion, support, and protection that were absent in my life. I found success in my academics with time, once I discovered coursework that captured my interest and provided me with a newfound happiness. Several involvement opportunities arose all over campus, and I was quick to dedicate myself to numerous organizations. Through countless leadership positions within these organizations, I was able to help others immediately. As the Freshman Executive Delegate to the Honors Student Association, I organized a toy drive for 150 children in the Children’s Hospital who were unable to spend Christmas at home with their families. Perhaps one of my favorite activities involved providing golf lessons to local terminally ill children with SLU Women’s Golf and the DreamWorks Foundation. As the Internal Vice President of Pan-Hellenic Council, the governing body of the sororities, I worked diligently to improve the Greek community. This involved anything from instituting a campus-wide collection of Yoplait lids for breast cancer research to planning every detail of Greek Week to bridging the gap between the Greek community and the Administration. However, my biggest impact on the SLU community rested within my position as a Resident Advisor. I found the opportunity to assist incoming freshmen in their transition to college incredibly rewarding. Saint Louis University became the family that I never had, and I finally felt like I belonged. As I continued to grow, I decided that I was ready to readdress my tumultuous relationship with my mother.
On April 11, 2004, my mom broke the news to me that she had colon cancer over Easter lunch at the Olive Garden. Regardless of the anger I felt towards my mother for the disappointments during my childhood as well as her inability to leave the man who was completely ruining her life, I did not want the September morning in 1989 in which my father did not return to recur. I spent hours upon hours in the hospital during my mother’s chemotherapy and radiation treatments, as well as during two surgeries in which most of her colon and intestines were removed. The second surgery during January of my junior year resulted in my mother being placed into a drug-induced coma for a month to fight off the infection. Seeing my mother so vulnerable forced an awareness of the time I had wasted avoiding her. I once again sought after the ideal mother-daughter relationship, but I would have settled for her just to be conscious so I could have told her how much I loved her. Luckily, she was released from the hospital shortly after March began. Ever since, I have spent more and more time with my mother, learning whom she is, how she feels, what she wants, and most importantly, how much she really loves me.
Several people think my mother is a failure, and I used to be one of them. I never wanted to be like my mother; in fact, I wanted to be the complete opposite of her. There are many things I wish she had done differently, but I now realize that many of those lonely nights developed me into the person I am today. My mother lived for me, even though we both thought she was living to avoid me. She failed at many things so that I could have the life that she and my dad had always dreamed for me to have. My individuality, independence, strong motivation, desire for success, leadership ability, maturity, ability to love, and my efforts to help the less fortunate were all derived from my mother’s absence.
My life’s experiences have undoubtedly shaped me into a compassionate person who yearns to protect women and children from domestic violence by providing them with a voice to fight against those who control them. However, these experiences in no way limit me from achieving my personal and professional ambitions. The same resiliency that has helped me to attain my past goals will certainly assist me in my determination to practice law. I have already drastically impacted the Saint Louis University community, and I long to do the same at XXXXX Law School as a dedicated student and within the community as a proud lawyer. Even though I have had to take a few steps back along the way, no obstacle has ever prevented me from accomplishing my dreams. Although my experiences have not been entirely unique, my response to these challenges definitely sets me apart. I consider my past a means of shaping me into the individual I am today. I realize that attending XXXXX Law School will provide many more obstacles. Nevertheless, these barriers will help to mold me into the lawyer I will be tomorrow.
Posted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 1:21 pm
Accepted: at the only school to which I applied
(note: the school doesn't take CVs, and the application form is very basic, so the statement has to take on a bit of a CV role)
I hold a BA with Honours in International Relations from XXX University, and an MA in History from XXX University. Although I grew up in the small town of XXX, I have had the chance to live and study in several countries including Brazil, China, Tunisia, and, presently, Peru. My husband and I have been living in southern Peru with our two young sons for the past year, through his work as a mining engineer. Now that our children are getting older, I have decided to return to my studies and pursue my LLB. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you a few of the things I believe I will bring to UBC Law.
Academic Excellence and Diversity
I have excelled throughout my academic career. I received numerous academic scholarships including the XXX Scholarship, the XXX Summer Research Fellowship, the XXX Scholar Award, and a full, two-year XXX University Graduate Fellowship. Upon completing my Honours BA in International Relations at XXX University, I was awarded the XXX Prize for highest general average in the BA program, and the XXX Gold Medal for the highest record in all subjects contributing to a BA with Honours. I speak fluent Spanish and Portuguese, functional French, and basic Mandarin Chinese. I have pursued an interdisciplinary focus throughout my studies. My BA program included courses in Economics, Geography, History, Political Studies, and Religious Studies, and I minored in Hispanic Studies. During my MA, I lived at the interdisciplinary graduate residence of XXX, and my thesis on the Second World War in Macau was informed by varied political, cultural, and multilingual elements. I will be able to draw upon my strong foundation in a wide range of academic disciplines during my studies at UBC Law.
Commitment and Discipline
Six years of university, my varied work history and my experience as a mother have honed my sense of self-discipline. I undertake all endeavors fully and wholeheartedly. My decision to study law at UBC is not taken lightly and I believe I have the drive to succeed.
Member community involvement is of great importance to any institution not only in providing the foundation for long-term connections between its members and enhancing their experiences, but also to shape the institution's identity. Wherever I live or study, I make it a priority to be involved and active in the community. During my BA, I chaired the Spanish Club, worked as Head Copy Editor at the university newspaper, sang in university choirs, and hosted the Amnesty International radio show on campus radio. While working on my MA, I took part in [my college's] theatrical and musical groups, served on the College's Membership Committee, and sang with the XXX (professional) Women's Choir. Wherever we have lived recently, I have been steadily involved in mother's groups, playgroups, and at-home preschool. In Peru, I have led fundraising and volunteering initiatives to provide new beds to a local home for street children, new pumps for their well, and free English lessons with retired schoolteachers who currently live in the community.
A Unique Perspective
Throughout my adult life, I have had diverse experiences which have shaped my perspective toward relationships, work, academia, and the human condition. I traveled North America in a motor home for a year with my family, lived in Brazil for a one-year student exchange, worked as a truck-stop waitress in rural Manitoba, assisted with research on China's small-scale gold mining industry, and kept house for an archaeological excavation in Tunisia. Every experience I've had in Canada and abroad, in work and in study, has shown me a wide range of people, opinions, experiences, and realities. Becoming a mother, and spending time with other mothers young and old, wealthy and poor, working within and outside the home, has given me an enhanced understanding of the challenges, frustrations, expectations, and rewards of motherhood in our society. Having two children born with hearing loss has changed my perspective on communication and the public perception of disability, and has challenged my own preconceptions of human development, intelligence, and potential.
Through my experiences as a mother, an academic, and an expatriate, I have become intensely interested in public law, Asian legal studies, feminist legal studies, environmental and natural resource law, and virtually all aspects of international law. I cannot wait to apply my skills and dedication at UBC Law.
Posted: Wed Feb 21, 2007 8:14 pm
LSAT: 164; GPA: 3.12
I share this as a what not to do. Althought I did get into most places I applied, I do not think this was a good/appropriate law school ps. Not being modest- just truthful.
I took a deep breath. Trying not to cry, I said goodbye, and drove away from my childhood home in Utica, New York. Driving south on the interstate, I grew increasingly uneasy about the upcoming two months. Leaving for my initial year of college had been one of the happiest days of my life; the prospect of meeting new friends, acquiring an education, and “starting over” had excited me. Now, just one summer before my senior year of college, I found myself uneasy about my new position as legal intern for ARINC Incorporated in Annapolis, Maryland. Despite my initial misgivings, my summer away from home and school strengthened my character and deepened my confidence more than I could have expected.
I had never been in the Washington DC area, did not know anyone who lived there, and missed being near family and friends. Many regard leaving for college as leaving for the “real world,” however on campus I live in a suite with my closest friends and am in walking distance to a campus grocery store, dining centers, library, and bookstore — everything essential to my survival and security. In Annapolis, I was stripped of these comforts. Eventually I grew into this newfound independence and thrived. Managing my weekly expenses, such as gas and food, while planning for and coping with unexpected mishaps became my forte. I learned to love these challenges and quickly improvised when I found that it would be three weeks until I received my first paycheck. Finding strength in my abilities, I overcame obstacles and truly became more independent than in my three years away from home at college.
As an intern in the Business Operations department of ARINC, I participated in a group project to be presented to the Chief Financial Officer of the company. ARINC had a complex financial structure; our group, consisting of six new colleagues, was given the task of creating a web guide streamlining the training of a financial analyst at ARINC. This project forced me to utilize my previously developed skills as an officer and member of the judicial body of my sorority. I was well versed in negotiating, developing the consensus, and executing a plan in a group sorority dynamic. My ARINC group met with various financial analysts to discover the problems that they faced over the course of their employment. The group would analyze the issues and discuss our progress in achieving our ultimate goal of creating a guide worthy of presentation to the company CFO. Before I knew it, I found myself evolving as the leader of the group and often was the person to whom the group turned when confronting a challenge or resolving a difference in group opinion.
The eve of the presentation, we were satisfied with our product. Little did we know the potential for disaster was looming. Internet Technology sent an e-mail revealing that our website would not be posted on the company intranet in time for our presentation the next morning due to technical difficulties. Some in the group panicked but I remained confident in the rest of our group efforts. I suggested that we rework certain sections of our power point presentation using the development site only where necessary and began to delegate tasks to be completed before the next morning. After the presentation, the CFO was truly impressed, not only with our presentation, but also with our ability to improvise and find a viable solution for the last minute obstacle. The experience enhanced my ability and confidence to find solutions and negotiate within a group. In addition, it reinforced that in an office environment and the “real world,” things may not go as planned but that is what makes life ever so exciting.
In addition to working with the group, my job included attending meetings with my manager several times a week. During the first few weeks, it seemed my role was solely to observe and take notes. Eventually, I found myself reaching out for more substantive work, with an active attempt to further ignite my interest in legal studies. During my employment, a discrimination claim materialized and my manager assigned the research to me. I had but one week to research and was able to communicate my findings into a convincing argument that persuaded the attorney on the case. On another occasion, I presented my manager with research notes for a case and was rewarded with the opportunity to lead the meeting with the Director of Human Resources later that day. That meeting allowed me to confidently convey my factual findings and my recommendations to the legal department. The confidence that I gained from my successful debut as a group leader and team member were hallmarks of my summer in Annapolis.
I departed Annapolis with a sad heart, which is surprising considering my initial apprehensions about my new situation and myself. This summer taught me to assert my independence, to problem solve, and believe in my abilities. I found the voice necessary to be an effective leader in a stressful and challenging group environment. No longer fearing changes, challenges, or bumps in the road, I instead face them head on.
Posted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 11:50 am
“Narc! Narc!” The shouts rang out as dozens of tiny feet scampered off the jungle gym and out of sight. Two boys remained, the bravest of which stood resolutely beside the monkey bars, hurling stones at my car. The other, a thin, light-skinned boy held his place atop the slide and smiled shyly in my direction. His name was Dominic, and he was the reason I’d ventured to the Hardy Projects in the first place. When I introduced myself Dominic observed that, like him, I had dark, curly hair—a fact he seemed to enjoy. The stone-thrower, it turned out, was a tough, but surprisingly affectionate kid named Andre. We bonded briefly over the similarity of our first names, but he insisted I call him “Duke.” His older brother had recently been arrested for dealing drugs by one of the last white men who’d turned up in their neighborhood. “Y’all look just alike,” Duke would later say of white people, in joking half-apology.
Dominic’s story was typical of those enrolled in the Big Siblings Program. His father had abandoned him and his younger sister to their mother, and was inconsistent in his child support payments. The family was forced to relocate to subsidized housing. Dominic was a bright and creative nine-year-old. He excelled at checkers and enjoyed making up stories and illustrating them. While his drawings were impressive for his age, his language and writing skills were not. Despite being in the fourth grade, Dominic was barely reading at a first grade level. That’s where I came in.
That first day, I let Dominic parade me around the neighborhood. He proudly showed off the playground, the basketball courts, the rec center. Right before I left, we clambered up a steep hillside to his secret spot where we could see the October sun setting beyond the train tracks. His secret spot wasn’t much of a secret, however. I recognized about a half dozen kids from the playground with their fingers laced through the chain-link fence, doing exactly the same thing. They glanced over at me suspiciously. But this time, they didn’t run.
As weeks went by, Dominic and I established a routine. I would come to visit every Thursday from 3 to 6. I bought him some flashcards and a hefty workbook filled with reading exercises.
We would study for an hour and then, as long as it wasn’t raining, play outside until his mother called him in for dinner. Dominic was generally receptive to instruction. He was a little embarrassed when he realized that the initial exercises were meant for first grade students, but he didn’t make a fuss. Sometimes his attention would wander and I’d let him draw a comic strip—five illustrated panels with at least two five-word sentences written beneath each panel. They most often revolved around the adventures of a super hero, “The Green Genie.” When we’d accumulated a few, I stapled them together into a booklet. His mother hung it on the refrigerator.
Dominic’s progress wasn’t always steady. When reviewing old material, he would occasionally misspell words he had learned just the previous week. Frustrated, he’d cross his arms and stare at the blank screen of the TV, which his mother didn’t permit him to watch while I was there. He fought me from time to time, stubbornly ignoring instructions like “circle the verb.” “The sentence only has three words in it,” he would protest, “and I already underlined the noun.” When I insisted, however, he invariably uncrossed his arms and relented. On the best days, I could convince him to delay our trip to the playground to have him read aloud from his language arts textbook—but those days were rare.
I probably enjoyed the tutoring sessions even less than Dominic. The stories in his textbook were boring and predictable. Honestly, could there be a less compelling fictional premise than an anthropomorphic crocodile’s trip to the dentist? It’s pretty obvious what would happen if someone ate only candy and refused to brush his teeth. No, I much preferred rolling a kickball or racing Dominic and his friends across the monkey bars, or climbing the hill to look at the train tracks. I think Dominic realized this, too—and I appreciate his efforts to learn all the more because of it. I also appreciate the extent to which he chose to include me in his world. One day in the spring, we were picking teams for kickball when an unfamiliar boy asked to join. I told him we needed one more on our side.
“Who are you?” he asked me.
“That’s my big brother,” Dominic piped up before I could answer.
“Are you really his brother?” The boy scrutinized me a moment. “Huh…you got the same hair,” he finally assented. “Y’all look just alike.”
Posted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 10:13 pm
LSAT: 169, 159
Accepted (in order): Georgetown, Cornell, Vanderbilt ($), WUSTL ($), Michigan
Waitlisted: UVa, Penn
Rejected: NYU, Boalt, Harvard
Chesterfield, Missouri is a suburb of St. Louis populated by middle to upper middle class families where the people work hard, send their children to elite schools, and enjoy a life sheltered from urban realities. In this sense, my own adolescence there was not unique. However, my perspective on this privileged upbringing was different from that of my peers. While I have taken advantage of the variety of opportunities afforded to me, I have not taken them for granted. To me, life in Chesterfield was the result of incredible sacrifice and a lifetime of hard work by my parents. Today, while I struggle to comprehend their selflessness, I look back on the journey of my own becoming.
When I was six years old, my father quit smoking. He didn’t have a patch, or gum (not that he could have afforded either). After our arrival to the United States following a long immigration process, my father found out that he had a kidney disorder which was exacerbated by the cigarettes. He knew that if his health declined and he was unable to work, our family’s prospects for financial stability would be crippled. It took him one day to quit. I look at that experience in my father’s life as a source of personal strength and as a microcosm of a more significant choice my parents made sometime prior to November 24th, 1989. That was the day my mother, father, sister and myself boarded a plane for Vienna, Austria to begin a four month process that would eventually get us to St. Louis, Missouri by way of New York in March of 1990.
I cannot begin to understand how my parents came to such a life-altering decision without first considering their circumstances. Living in the Soviet Union would have been difficult enough without the stigma of being Jewish in a society laced with anti-Semitism. My parents did not have this luxury. In their youth, religion kept them out of many of Leningrad’s top academies. It was an obstacle they overcame in applying to the city’s universities and, subsequently, when applying for certain jobs. My mother and father did not want to pass on these glass ceilings to their children. Shortly after my fifth birthday they recognized that a choice had to be made between the easy course of action and the right one. They left everything they knew as home to build a new life out of what little they could afford to bring into an alien culture within a foreign land. With their struggle through this process in mind, I can say with confidence that you will seldom find anyone as motivated as the child of immigrants.
While my parents worked and studied English, I attended a private Hebrew school on financial aid. By the time I was eight, my parents had saved enough money to move our family to Chesterfield. There I enrolled into Henry Elementary, a public school in the Parkway school district, which would eventually get me to Parkway West High School. After going to school with other Russian children and almost exclusively Jewish students, I found myself different from everyone else in seemingly every possible way. Despite difficulties in the social arena, I excelled in academics. Upon entering high school, I had tested into all of the honors classes and developed enough confidence to win leading roles in several school plays.
Though I took many honors courses, my grades were seldom my focus in high school. Rather, I embraced a holistic approach and devoted myself to as many extracurricular activities as possible. While this attitude no doubt cost me opportunities for scholarships in applying to college, it enabled me to develop socially and build invaluable friendships with some amazing people. Participating in service organizations, theatre and sports all helped me appreciate my own uniqueness and realize my potential for contribution.
Surprisingly, the activity that shaped me the most was the result of a chance scheduling error which placed me in a debate class during sophomore year of high school. Speech and debate suited me well, as I was opinionated and competitive. I started debating in tournaments and was moderately successful during my sophomore and junior years. The guidance of my debate teacher helped me mature greatly; I began to see the importance of debating outside the context of competition. I started to appreciate the intellectual value of objectivity and the ability to research and convincingly argue any issue from either side. This new approach yielded a very successful senior year of competition.
Meanwhile, the English proficiency of a native speaker has continually allowed me to help my parents deal with various legal and professional documents. The combination of these experiences led me to the conclusion that my abilities would best be utilized as an advocate for others.
Consequently, my approach to college has been different from that of high school. I decided to attend the University of Missouri with the understanding that it would be a stepping stone to future opportunity, not the pinnacle of my academic pursuits. Advanced placement credits from high school afforded me the ability to forgo a number of entry level classes and pursue more stimulating academic endeavors. My success here is not only a testament to intellectual ability, but also the strength of my resolve.
A class in political theory introduced me to a term which is uniquely applicable to my reason for studying law. Praxis was a word used by the ancient Greeks to describe the responsibility of each citizen to serve justice and contribute to society. I do not know what type of law I want to practice, but I wish to pursue a career that affords me the greatest means of impact and contribution.
While I marvel at the circumstances that have gotten me this far, I appreciate the variety of choices available to me. I am more fortunate than most to have learned and experienced the values of hard work, the fruits of perseverance and the faith in oneself required to endure and succeed. Anti-Semitism persists, but my parents have ensured that my awareness of it, and similar injustices, is not a result of experience. I am forever grateful to them for this and for instilling in me a sense of moral responsibility which rejects apathy and ambivalence as a means of perceiving the world. Though justice is not an ideal easily served, I intend to make my mark.
Posted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 11:23 pm
Accepted- American University, Depaul $, Loyola-Chicago $, U of Illinois-Urbana $, U of Wisconsin, USF $$, Willamette $$, U of Az $, U of Indiana
Still waiting (sigh)- Notre Dame, Duke, Columbia
As a little girl, I spent my summers at the muumuu (Hawaiian dress) factory. The rusted metal fan mesmerized me as it blew hot air around the factory, stirring up the scraps of bright fabric and bits of thread that littered each sewing machine station. The constant whirring of a dozen machines spitting out ruffles and dresses often lulled me to sleep, and I dozed off instead of keeping to my task of sewing tiny fabric triangles to form a quilt. My mother rarely looked up at me from her machine, though every once in a while she would undo a portion of my stitches and admonish me to be neater. The 10-hour days would drag by in a blur of vibrant floral prints and dust that gathered on everything in the factory, including me. By the end of every summer, I produced a queen-size quilt.
After fleeing Vietnam and two abusive marriages, my mother found work at a garment factory making upscale muumuus that retailed for over $100, earning her $3.35 an hour to support three daughters. Growing up poor was not so bad, and being young, I did not realize we were poor. I simply thought the food was bad and the hours at the factory were long. As I grew older though, the hardship of our social position set in, and I came to know the palpable fear of poverty. This vulnerability ingrained in me the importance of social equality. Later, this translated into my purpose: to study law and serve as a voice for the most vulnerable members of society.
I worked my way through school and will earn a bachelor’s degree in political science. It has been a long, but rewarding process. College opened my eyes to a world beyond my personal experience. It exposed me to the politics of economics, it forced me to wrestle with the lack of equality and efficiency in social policies, and it helped to shape my vision and philosophy. I encountered views that I sometimes found troubling. Once a macroeconomics professor lectured that since capital is free to roam, so are jobs. She said no one should think they have a guaranteed job or living conditions. While I agree in no free rides, I strongly believe that people should be afforded with some protection from exploitation, both locally and globally.
Every economic theory is based on a set of assumptions. Outside of the classroom, there are many more variables, and these variables are very real to me. At one point, my mother earned $3 per dress, allowing her and the other women to earn a more livable wage of $9 per hour. That, however, came to an end when the factory enacted a new policy under the guise of equity. Since some women may not be able to sew more than one dress an hour, the owner claimed it fairer to pay the hourly minimum wage. Even at a young age, I realized that was a lie. In reality, sewing as little as one dress an hour was never an option for these women. Yet the workers had no voice or recourse, and so the owner could exploit them. Unfortunately, this story is not unique.
While exploring social and economic factors in my college coursework, working at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Hawaii gave me an education in how these theories actually function in a corporate organization. I discovered how hard it is to reconcile social consciousness with corporate bottom lines, but I did not waver in my personal commitment to those who need the most protection. Working closely with the medical management department, legal services, and claims department, I created plans that met the corporate requirements and also integrated state and federal guidelines that expanded the benefits that health insurance companies are mandated to cover, such as diabetic drugs and childhood immunizations. As a contract benefit analyst, whether I was supporting additions of health benefits to medical plans or raising objections to cuts in benefits, I always kept in mind that we were affecting people not just changing policies.
Of course, idealism does not always work in the corporate world. But often through research and analysis, I was able to present more equitable alternatives such as streamlining benefits instead of cutting them outright. However, there were occasions when maneuvering to quash unconscionable proposals was necessary. For instance, a plan proposal called for changing the drug benefits from a three-tier system to a confusing six-tier system. This would have drastically cut the drug reimbursement rate for senior plans, disproportionately impacting our elderly members. In actuality, it was a ploy to define benefits that would never qualify for reimbursement. Fortunately, after I involved the legal department, the proposal was stopped. Though I never planned to pursue a career in health insurance, working in that field brought me closer to my goal of pursuing law, without compromising my values.
Until a year ago, I could proudly say that each of my decisions was a stepping-stone toward my goal. Unfortunately, last year I stumbled and fell. I got married, gave up my career, and put my education on hold to help my husband run his business. Given these sacrifices, it was quite an awakening when I realized that just like my mother before me, I too had entered into an abusive marriage. Ironically now, every morning I wake up in my mom’s sewing room. As I rummage through my suitcases, I often find myself staring at her sewing machine. Instead of picking up scraps to quilt, I am reclaiming pieces of my identity and putting them back together. When I told the attorney I needed to file for a divorce, he looked me in the eye and said, “It’s okay. You made a mistake.” Facing this truth has given me the opportunity to undo some of my stitching and make it stronger. Having been strengthened by these events, I can truly empathize with those who have been victimized. I know the shame and engulfing feeling of helplessness that keeps them quiet. I am reminded of how lawyers can protect and be a voice for those who are not being heard.
Reflecting on my past, social welfare is not just public and international policy-making, strengthening workplace and labor rights is not just a call for solidarity, civil rights are not just a way to prevent exploitation, and gender equality is not just an ideal. For the disenfranchised, this is reality, their way of life. Strengthened by my experiences, I bring with me a steadfast dedication to justice and the humility needed to affect social change.
Posted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 4:57 pm
Accepted: DePaul (20k/year), Iowa, Colorado, Santa Clara (3k/year), Loyola (16k/year), Chicago-Kent (20k/year), Minnesota (deferred first)
Rejected: Ohio State, George Washington
Deferred: Illinois (later rejected), Wash U
I believe that my experiences as an undergraduate at the University of Colorado are what have most prepared me to become a successful law student.
As I adjusted to life at the University of Colorado, I quickly became a leader within my fraternity. Shortly after initiation, I held two elected offices, Marshal and Social Director, positions that allowed me to serve on the fraternity’s Executive Board. Holding offices within the fraternity helped me to develop as a leader and taught me how important it is to recognize both my strengths and weaknesses when working within a large group. Although I made the Dean’s List, I realized at the end of my first two years in college that I was not performing up to my true academic potential. Consequently, I returned to Boulder at the beginning of my junior year with a new, energetic focus toward my studies. This change in perspective was minor, however, in comparison with the impact of what happened next. During the first month of my junior year, a freshman in my fraternity died of acute alcohol poisoning after a night of heavy drinking.
Waking up to firefighters banging on my door, I was shocked to find out that my friend was dead. The days that followed were filled with events and feelings that I will never forget. In the early morning hours, my friends and I faced questioning from the local authorities, witnessed our home become a police scene, and had to deal with the media bombarding us with questions about him. Grief and helplessness overwhelmed me. I could do nothing to bring my friend back. This was the worst day of my life. Although the situation was surreal to me, I knew that I had to deal with his death with strength, compassion, and accountability. So two friends and I organized a candlelight vigil for that Sunday night. It was heartbreaking to say goodbye to a friend who had died so young, but having my closest friends by my side gave me the strength and support I needed. On the following Tuesday, I traveled to Texas to attend a memorial service organized by my friend's family. Meeting the family and friends was extremely emotional, but in the end I knew that I had done the right thing by making the trip.
After many tears were shed and hugs exchanged, things settled down on campus, but I still felt that there was more to be done. In response, a small group of friends and I began an alcohol education campaign that we named G.O.R.D. (Guidelines and Objectives of Responsible Drinking). The effort was a memorial to remember our friend by helping prevent future tragedies through peer-to-peer education. Within a short time, we had the support of the entire CU Greek community, as well as the blessing of the fraternity’s national office and his family. I held several leadership positions within G.O.R.D. and traveled to my fraternity’s national convention to discuss the lessons that I had learned through the death of my friend. G.O.R.D. reached out to students as friends and through this approach was able to make a positive impact on the culture of the University of Colorado. A year after my friend’s death, when several young women became physically sick at a social event, the leaders of their sororities responded with maturity. Keeping him in mind, the student leaders drove the heavily intoxicated women to Boulder Community Hospital, where they were treated for alcohol poisoning. When the president of one organization was interviewed about that night’s events, she recalled “Responsible Drinking Day,” which had been sponsored by G.O.R.D. the week before to commemorate the one-year anniversary of our friend's death. “Responsible Drinking Day” obviously made an important and lasting impression on the minds of CU’s student body because student leaders responded properly when they were faced with their own crisis. To date, G.O.R.D. has delivered presentations to approximately 10,000 people and continues to be an important force in alcohol education nationwide through its outreach to numerous national universities and high schools. The development of G.O.R.D. was the best thing that came out of such a tragedy and my part in its establishment is what I believe to be my most significant accomplishment.
Although my friend's death is not the only event that changed me for the better during my time at the University of Colorado, it is definitely the most important. It served as a wake-up call for me and it helps explain the dramatic improvement in my academic performance during my final years as an undergraduate. His death solidified my motivation to better myself both intellectually and personally. I resolved to make personal changes, academic changes, and to become more involved in the Boulder community. My friend’s death drastically changed my perspective on alcohol consumption and excessive drinking. Before my friend’s death, I would sometimes drink far too much, which resulted in my getting into trouble with the law (this sentence was added to refer to my criminal and disciplinary addendum). In light of his death, I knew that I had to change. In the semesters that followed my friend’s death, I became extremely interested and heavily involved in sociology, especially my criminology course work. This specific curiosity resulted in a research project dealing with America’s “drug war,” which included writing a proposition that incorporated my academic research with field interviews that I conducted with the Commander of the Boulder County Drug Task Force and a DEA agent. Also, I became an initiated member of an international sociology honor society and made the Dean’s List during my final semesters at CU. I worked with another student alcohol education group on campus, Student Emergency Medical Services, as well as with the CU administration and the Greek community to help build a stronger and more accountable community at the university. In addition to all of this, for one year I served as the property manager of a boarding house and was responsible for its maintenance and operations.
There are several reasons why I wish to study law and become an attorney. I have a fundamental belief in the legal system and its ability to produce justice within our society. I believe that good lawyers enhance the judicial system’s ability to be fair, compassionate, and accountable to the people it serves. Several court decisions have inspired me to become a lawyer: Brown v. Board of Education, Gideon v. Wainwright, Loving v. Virginia, Roe v. Wade, and Atkins v. Virginia. I don’t know if I will ever be involved in a case that has such a profound effect on our society as any of these cases, but I hope that I will always bring the same passion for doing the right thing to my work as an attorney. No matter what type of law I ultimately choose to practice, I am guided by the values that these decisions represent. Another reason that I wish to study law is for the academic challenge. I love the intellectual engagement of learning and exploring different perspectives. I know that law school will be challenging and I hope to excel as a law student. The final reason that I wish to study law is that I aspire to work in the music industry as an intellectual property lawyer. Pursuing a career that combines both the law and music is one of my dreams. I cannot imagine another career in which I would rather grow, using my skills, interests, and experiences.
Originally, I was attracted to XYZ Law School because it is close to my hometown of Chicago and because of its reputation. After more thorough research, I have found that many of the law school’s programs, professors, journals, and student organizations are what I am looking for in a law school. I am especially interested in the Innovation, Business, and Law Program and learning from leading scholars in the field of intellectual property law. I was enthusiastic to learn that XYZ law school has journals, student organizations, and study abroad programs focusing on intellectual property law. If enrolled at XYZ, I would be interested in pursuing either the London Law Consortium program or an intellectual property externship in Australia. Further, as a student at XYZ, one of my goals is to be on the Law Review and to be published in the Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems journal. I believe that I can contribute to each of these publications. I am interested to find out more about the student organizations that make the institution a unique place–American Constitution Society, Amnesty International, the Equal Justice Foundation, the Intellectual Property Society, XYZ Campaign for Human Rights, the Pro Bono Society, and the National Lawyers Guild.
I expect to be a valuable addition to the XYZ's College of Law and I hope to be involved in the xyz community. During my time as an undergraduate at the University of Colorado, I distinguished myself as a capable leader, excellent student, and involved member of the Boulder community. As a student at XYZ, I plan to take advantage of the opportunities that the College of Law offers and know that my commitment to academic excellence will only become more pronounced as a law student. I am excited to begin the next phase of my life and feel that XYZ is what I am looking for in a law school. As a result of my experiences at the University of Colorado, I am well prepared to be an involved and committed student, a strong and sensitive leader, and an individual with a great desire to have a positive impact on society. I know that my drive to achieve distinction inside and outside the classroom will continue as a law student and, along with my life experiences, will prepare me to be a successful attorney.
*I edited this statement and substituted "my friend" and "his" in place of my friend's actual name out of respect for the family.
Posted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 4:59 pm
3.98 / 178
In at HYS.
"As I was driving to my shitty job this morning, I realized I drive a really shitty car. This is why I want to go to your law school. I don't want to drive a shitty car anymore. See you this fall."
Posted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 5:31 pm
IN: Northwestern ($), UMN ($$), GW ($$$), Wisconsin, DePaul($$), Marquette, Temple, IU-B ($$), W&M ($$), Lewis and Clarke, Chicago-Kent
WL: Penn, GULC
I've been out of school for a few years, which is a big part of my application. I didn't really want to focus on school anyhow (with a GPA like mine, that's what addenda are for).
T. is a developmentally disabled man with mental and behavioral difficulties whom, among many other disabled individuals, I have had the pleasure to work with closely. T. has staff in his home assisting him around the clock, and upon a new staff member's arrival will immediately show off his new lamp, complete with its 40 watt, rubber coated safety bulb.
Light bulbs are important to T., as he loves to see them lit and, at times, in shards on the carpet. These conflicting wants necessitate multiple trips each month to purchase new bulbs; having a supply of bulbs in the house would likely be seen as an invitation to increase the rate at which they are broken. Immediately after the purchase or receipt of a new bulb, T. rushes to remove its packaging and screw it into place in whatever socket he's made available.
It was at such a moment that he and I came to an impasse. After removing the packaging and inspecting his latest bulb, T. informed me that it was the wrong kind. I examined the package, bulb, and lamp and assured him that it was the correct type. Growing impatient with me, T. repeated his claim and pointed at the bulb and then to the illustration on its cardboard sleeve. T. told me in no uncertain terms that the bulb was wrong, and that it needed to go back. I looked again and still saw no difference between the two. T. sighed and pointed out that the bulb in his hand had writing printed on its top while the one in the illustration was unadorned. Due to this discrepancy, the bulb was unacceptable. I tried to tell T. that the bulb would work just as well with the writing as without, but he insisted that the two had to match.
For several minutes we went back and forth, unable to compromise, and T. was becoming increasingly unhappy with my insistence that the bulb was appropriate. In a last ditch effort, I grabbed a nearby pen and hastily scribbled the text from the bulb onto the carton and asked him if it was any better. “Yep,” was his quiet reply.
The divergent worlds in which he and I inhabited had never been so clear to me. For me, the bulb had been close enough to the image on the carton, the text serving only to confirm its wattage and brand; but to T. it was a grievous error. For me, altering the illustration was an exercise in exasperation, but for T. it brought into line his expectations and his reality. The carton in his right hand needed to match the bulb in his left, regardless of why or how.
To a large degree, the differences in perception between myself and the disabled individuals I work with have as much to do with experience as disability. Even among my coworkers and friends, each of us has a unique world view – our views are simply not as clearly delineated as the views held by my disabled clients. Working with the disabled has taught me the importance of recognizing this divergence and attempting to bridge this gap in all my interactions with others. This has been one of the most valuable lessons I've learned in the past few years, one I will never cease to put into practice, regardless of my profession.
While I've always had an interest in the study and practice of law, during college I formed relationships working with the disabled that I believed were important enough to defer further schooling and devote myself to pursuing this work full time. I've spent the past several years expanding upon these relationships and building new ones, and I feel as though it's now time for me to move on. I am excited to pursue my interest in law, a field of study that I believe will intrigue and challenge me throughout my career.
I find the law fascinating, a complex web of rules with which I and everyone around me interact every day, usually oblivious to its presence. I sign off on half-a-dozen forms of documentation of care every day, and while I understand their importance, I ultimately don't know the law behind them. I work and am paid, but I don't have more than a cursory understanding of the labor laws governing my activities. I purchase and use products regularly, yet have no idea what my legal recourse would be if they failed to live up to the descriptions given to me in advertisements or on packaging.
In a very real sense, I inhabit a world of my own experience just like any of my clients. I don't know much about or properly understand many aspects of the world with which I interact daily, and were I to find my own conceptions in conflict with the law I would be just as lost as T. - needing assistance to reconcile my perceived reality with the one imposing itself upon me. The study of law, for me, is more than just a stepping stone to a career I'm certain I'll enjoy – it's an opportunity to better understand my environment, and help others do the same.
Posted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 6:20 pm
Out: NYU (GRR)
Waiting: Columbia, UPenn, UVA, Duke, Northwestern, Cornell, Georgetown, Vanderbilt, George Washington, Boston College, William and Mary, Fordham
Waiting Aimlessly: Harvard
As the clock struck seven on the evening of April 8, 2005, it was, for most people in Manhattan’s financial district, a typical Friday. Senior and junior employees had already gone home for the weekend and office traffic had slowed to a crawl. As I sat in my cubicle on the 19th floor of Goldman Sachs’ headquarters at 85 Broad Street, however, I had no intention of going anywhere. At two o’clock in the afternoon, I had gone out for a quick lunch with two of my co-workers and a flash of total clairvoyance had overtaken me. I was an analyst in Goldman Sachs’ healthcare banking group, and my area of expertise was the managed care sector. On most days, my responsibilities focused on offering acquisition and financing advice to the world’s largest healthcare providers. Today, however, I wanted to help autoworkers.
Earlier in the morning, I had read an article in the New York Times about the plight of General Motors employees in trying to keep their jobs and their benefits packages. General Motors’ pension obligations, negotiated decades before the era of spiraling healthcare expenses, had soared in current and projected cost. Consulting sharks advised General Motors that slashing costs, employees and benefits was the only way to solve problems. I thought it unconscionable that innocent workers would lose their jobs, insurance and pensions and that their families might also suffer. I vowed to come up with a better solution to the problem and thought about nothing but General Motors during the day’s remaining free time.
Finally, at lunch, a potential solution arrived. Why not create a synthetic investment security that mirrored, in its performance, increases in healthcare costs? This synthetic security could be used as an investment hedge against the pensions of General Motors, reducing increases in pensions to zero for the foreseeable future. Goldman would sell the security to General Motors, and then hedge its exposure to the security by taking a buy position in the same security so that its risk would also be zero. I madly grabbed a cocktail napkin and wrote down a cursory sketch of the entire idea so that it would be fresh in my mind when I returned to my desk. I spent the rest of the weekend converting the idea from a chicken-scratch sketch to a two-page, concise explanation of the idea that senior bankers could understand. I was sure that they, too, would love the idea and quickly take the pages to General Motors for consideration. The senior bankers, however, had far less initial enthusiasm for the pages than I had imagined.
Some bankers rejected my idea on the grounds that a true zero-risk scenario could not be achieved for all parties involved. All of them agreed that the idea was too complicated and would not be widely understood by necessary parties. I was a little disheartened, but did not give up. I arranged for meetings with all eight of the vice-presidents and partners at Goldman Sachs who covered General Motors and I sat with each of them, sometimes individually and sometimes in groups, until every single banker understood the idea and appreciated its value. Eventually my idea received the attention of the chairman of investment banking and the head of the financing group at our firm. They were astounded that a junior analyst had done work of the type usually produced by bankers with ten years greater seniority. I was called into a meeting with both of them and received the news that my idea had been approved for presentation to the client. It had taken me three months to educate the General Motors team about my idea and gain their approval.
Our meeting took place three weeks later at the General Motors building on Fifth Avenue. Eventually, General Motors rejected the idea, saying that while it was correct in calculation and valuable in ideological worth, adopting an investment concept that bypassed the unions in favor of solving a problem through Wall Street would cost inestimable political capital. And, unsurprisingly, like most to whom I have briefly explained the idea, they also thought it was too complicated. On that day, however, I was nonetheless in my glory. Not only did the idea that I had sketched on a cocktail napkin receive consideration from one of the world’s largest corporations, but we had just concluded a meeting where the participants included John Devine, CFO of General Motors, and three senior vice-presidents of General Motors. They listened intently for 45 minutes to an idea designed to save their company from pension problems, imagined and developed not by a partner at Goldman Sachs, but by an investment banking analyst who had received his bachelor’s degree twelve months earlier.
My idea for bringing about a direct solution to the problems at General Motors did not succeed, but the effort was not in vain. Several weeks after our meeting with John Devine, General Motors used the hedging idea as a major bargaining chip and convinced the United Auto Workers to take a fair deal, giving workers reasonable protection of their health benefits and pensions. Of greater personal importance, I realized that my ideas, even as an analyst in a 20,000 employee corporation, could reach some of the most important decision makers in our nation and effect great change. The General Motors experience reenergized my desire to help fix our national problems with healthcare quality and availability. In reflecting on the entire process, what I found most surprising and new was the deep impact that my idea had produced. What my co-workers were surprised to discover was that my interest in our broken healthcare system and finding methods for fixing it traced back to my childhood.
I have always viewed our nation’s healthcare crisis as an out of control epidemic watched with great pain, especially for someone who, like me, is born into a family of professionals predominantly in the medical field. I watched a healthcare system rich in mutual comfort for doctors and patients turn into a disaster of mismanaged costs and power struggles. How are over 40 million Americans uninsured, with many others receiving only partial coverage as premiums also continue to rise? How can the healthcare providers in our nation improve, providing reasonable coverage to more of our citizens without a meaningful sacrifice in service quality? I did not have sufficient answers to these questions, and I realized that working towards their solutions on Wall Street was an inefficient path marked by great resistance. I left banking because I wanted to do more in acting on the behalf of others and because the time for further education and training to achieve my goal had arrived.
I come to the Northwestern University Law School with an application and a desire to continue the journey I started as a teenager distressed with our crumbling system of healthcare management and delivery. I apply to the Northwestern University Law School as my logical choice, a long-formulated decision made similarly to my lone health policy application to New York University’s Wagner School. Just as my research several years ago revealed that The Wagner School was regarded by most as the strongest program nationally in health policy, Northwestern University proves to be strong in its education of tax law, fortified by excellent coursework in constitutional and healthcare law. I want to strengthen my knowledge in these areas because they are vital tools in understanding the management, regulation, taxation, pensions and reserves within corporations and healthcare organizations. I can take these skills back into the worlds of public service and business, the environments in which much of the substantial change in the healthcare industry takes place.
A potential cure for our deteriorating healthcare system is practitioners with experience from the business, public sector and legal worlds, armed with the knowledge, the education and the heart to bring inspiration and solutions back to the medical community. I could help fashion these solutions as the manager of a healthcare providing agency and through a commitment to changing national healthcare policy. My aim is to focus on fixing the operation of managed care organizations, drug providers and government participation in healthcare through more informed leadership of, and guidance to, lawmakers, doctors, academics and citizens. There is no better tool to arm me in this challenge than combining my acceptance at New York University’s Wagner School for an M.P.A. in Health Policy and Management, which I am starting in September of 2006, with an understanding of the law at Northwestern University. From grasping the workings of the core legal system and tax law to coursework in insurance and other healthcare law, I want to have the ability to often turn to myself when a complicated legal question arises rather than immediately calling a specialist. An education at Northwestern University Law School, along with my MPA at New York University’s Wagner School, can allow me to take not just one, but two steps closer to my aim of improving the healthcare system, fueling the optimism I have always held that we can make medicine a more effective, efficient and equal institution for our shared society.
Posted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 11:58 pm
GPA (lsac adjusted): 3.98
accepted (still in the process): Georgetown, Cornell, UCLA, U. of Iowa ($$), U. of Illinois ($$), U. of Minnesota ($), U. of Nebraska ($), Boston U.
Home for me is a small, sturdy town in West River South Dakota—whose conflation with the comparatively gentrified farmland east of the Missouri River is to be made at the risk of rough correction by residents of both banks. My mother, however, draws her roots from Omaha, Nebraska, a city that earned its mark on my personal map as the site of my school holidays. Although separated by a length of exactly six hours seated in the right-hand backseat of the family car, it is in the overlap of these two places that I have found two of my most important resources, curiosity and determination, with which I confront both obstacles and opportunities.
When in Omaha, I would often explore the childhood bedrooms of my mother’s eight siblings. These old rooms with their shelves and closets filled by books became for me miniature, delightfully idiosyncratic libraries. Tucked away from the cheerful din of the waves of kith and kin washing through my grandmother’s doorway, I pilfered these goldmines and in doing so discovered the vista of my mind’s eye—a landscape that would powerfully influence my intellectual world to come. Through the course of countless Thanksgivings and winter breaks, I gobbled down stretches of Nancy Drew adventures (every mystery solved by that titian-haired sleuth before 1979). Eventually I passed from Nancy Drew to de Quincy and Dickens
I brought my fascination with literature home to ***, where people are most seriously interested in reclaiming that 1996 state football championship and by whether it would rain enough for the sunflowers to get ahead of the weeds. Although I never did manage a tight grasp on football’s finer points, the capacity for persistence that I gained while growing up in *** became the foundation on which I later laid my academic pursuits. The bulk of my academic personality may be defined by “try”—the word people in rodeo stands use when they refer to the rider who is jumping over the arena fence, trampled hat in hand, after a particularly valiant if unsuccessful ride. The word is, of course, just another way (ungrammatical at that) to refer to passion and hardihood. Still, the noun form of “try” has been in my lexicon since childhood, and it is thanks to the special circumstances of my modern-day rural upbringing in the Midwest that I developed my sense of steady perseverance. The many ranching and farming friends and family who confront daily both natural obstacles and, increasingly, upheavals in the very structure of the agricultural way of life have shown me the worth in working, and in working hard.
Shortly after my eighteenth birthday, another signal six-hour drive brought me to Nebraska’s small capital city, where I enrolled in the state’s flagship university. A short distance from the scene of my childhood holidays, I now had at hand the resources of the region’s largest educational institution. One history professor in particular influenced my academic perspective. With predictable regularity each morning, he would arrive thirty seconds late to class, park a bicycle in the corner of the room, and, still lightly perspiring at the temples, launch into his lecture. The professor assigned his students no textbooks but rather first-hand accounts and contemporary interpretations. Later, he encouraged me to delve further into the nexus between literature and society. Through the succeeding years my conception of literature transformed from escapism to vital experience as I became acquainted with thinkers like Homi Bhabha and Walter Benjamin. Rather than slavishly follow titian-haired sleuths across multiple authors and decades, I have learned to pursue rational trains of inquiry, and I anticipate with pleasure the further development of my intellectual capabilities that the study of law will bring.
Posted: Sat Feb 24, 2007 2:58 pm
Hey y'all. I posted this a while back on my blog, but I'll put it here for the benefit of new TLSers or anyone who missed it.
In: Georgetown, Boalt, George Washington, USD($), Cardozo($), Colorado-Boulder, UC Davis, U of Washington
Waitlist: Northwestern, UCLA
Still waiting on: USC, NYU, UVA
People of faith are often told to “be in the world, but not of the world.” Unfortunately, no one ever specifies which world. For me, there have always been two. The Mormon world and the world outside seem ever in conflict, and I’ve lived caught between them. My fight to inhabit both worlds without being defined by either has made me who I am today and set me on the path to law school.
My struggle with the Mormon world began on my first Friday in kindergarten with five words from a particularly reverent six-year-old named Matt Hansen. My dad was finally taking me to the zoo’s new shark exhibit that weekend, and I just couldn’t hold in the news. “I’m going to the see the sharks,” I practically shouted as my class gathered in a circle for large group. My teacher asked when I’d be going, and I enthusiastically replied, “The day after tomorrow!” Enter Matt Hansen, sitting cross-legged at the opposite end of a circle that included nearly every acquaintance I’d made in my short life. As a now familiar look of dismay played slowly across his face, he offered his five-word condemnation: “But Daniel, that’s a Sunday.”
So began my alienation from and struggle with the Mormon world. I was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in name but not necessarily in spirit. My mother raised me in the church, while my agnostic but supportive father encouraged me to form my own beliefs. My beliefs did not prohibit me from visiting the zoo with him on the Sabbath, while my classmates’ fathers--both heavenly and earthly--forbade it.
My actions clashed with those of more devout Utahns many more times in my childhood. Sometimes these clashes were humorous, as when I found myself defending Darwin’s theory of evolution against widespread ridicule from a lunch table full of high school classmates who subscribed only to the six-day theory. More often, they were tragic.
The most harrowing experience I’ve ever endured was explaining to my ecclesiastical leader who was also my Grandfather that I would not be serving a mission for his church (as all 19 year-old Mormon males are expected to do), but would instead be continuing my education at the University of Virginia. After years of struggling against a culture that desperately wanted me to share its beliefs, I had finally decided to take my father’s advice and seek out my own. Knowing I couldn’t do this in Bountiful (yes, it’s really called “Bountiful”) under constant pressure to fully convert, I disappointed my friends, my congregation, my grandfather/bishop, and half of my family by forgoing a mission and leaving Utah in search of what we used to call the “real” world.
I came face to face with that world on my first Friday of college as I watched my particularly irreverent roommate named Robert Gregory Kingston III pour three beers down his throat through a funnel. An impressive feat, to be sure, but not one I hoped to emulate. I had left Utah in search of a place where one’s faith need not define him and where differences are embraced. As I became ever more immersed in college’s culture of celebrated cretinism, I realized that such places don’t really exist.
I was as much at odds with the “real world” as I had been with the Mormon world. I didn’t drink or smoke, I thought it was a good idea to stave off sex until marriage, and my idea of a “party” was viewing all three Back to the Future movies in a row while a rousing game of Scrabble raged on in another room. Though the University preached a message of understanding and acceptance, my personal mores were as much under fire there as my doctrinal edicts had been in Bountiful. Making the difficult daily decisions to forgo alcohol and resist the hook-up culture, I once again found myself estranged from the world I inhabited.
This Friday, as I sit in my Charlottesville law office, overlooking the colonial outpost’s historic downtown, I realize that it’s only thanks to my struggles against those two worlds that I am now able to live in my own. The obviousness of my differing values forced me to maintain them without apology. Others eventually came to respect that, and, while I never truly felt a part of either culture, I learned to thrive in both. I graduated Bountiful High School as a popular student body vice president with good friends who had stopped trying to convert me. I finished college (after just three years of identity crises!) with good grades, a strong sense of self, and a core group of friends who understand and respect my beliefs. Though difficult at times, my perpetual isolation from a cultural identity forced me to form my own and taught me to stay true to it.
It also made me fall in love with law for the most visceral of reasons. In law, my problems do not exist. There are no Mormons and no agnostics in law. There is no culture and no doctrine. Law concerns itself only with blind justice and the maintenance of a fair system. As someone who had always been defined by his faith or lack thereof, I’ve longed to work in a field where it is not an issue. More importantly, my social alienation has taught me what it’s like to be the one against many. I know how it feels to defend a harmless zoo trip to a room full of hostile kindergartners, to espouse Darwin against fundamentalist teenagers, and to be the only guy holding a root beer at a frat party. I know what it’s like to stand alone against an unfriendly system, and I find it truly inspiring that Americans are never forced to do so. Instead, the accused faces the system with an advocate legally bound to be as infinitely trustworthy as he is loyal. I can think of nothing nobler or for which my life has better prepared me than to spend my career as that advocate, against whatever world my client and I face next.
Posted: Sun Feb 25, 2007 9:15 pm
Non-traditional - 6 Years out of undergrad
In: Harvard, Columbia, NYU, UVA, Northwestern, Georgetown, GW, George Mason
They were the model Catholic family; out to protect God’s will at all costs. He was the adulterer; fathering two children by another woman.
They were the image of the grieving family; tears, hugs, and sorrow at each negative turn. His image was more fitting of a used car salesman; flowered shirts, thin, receding hair, and a look of pain that seemed to appear only at the most opportune times.
They were the Schindler family, Robert, Mary, Bobby and Suzanne. He was Michael Schiavo. I was a television news producer covering this landmark right-to-die case.
With the crowd of protestors growing larger by the day, Congress passed a law granting federal jurisdiction over the legal and medical questions surrounding Terri Schiavo’s life. It was a significant turning point. Family impressions, protests, and television interviews no longer determined Terri’s fate. Now it was about attorneys, judges, and most importantly, the law.
There were no cameras in Judge James Whittemore’s courtroom. Everything the public would know about these critical arguments would come from the recollections of the 20 journalists witnessing the proceedings. As I watched, listened, and took notes about every detail I could capture in my reporter’s notebook, I became intrigued not only by the specific arguments and reactions, but by the broader strategies employed by the various attorneys. I found myself analyzing their tactics and thinking about how I would have argued the case if I were representing the parties.
With Terri’s parents out of legal options, I returned home to find a buzz swirling through my condominium about a builder’s plans to redevelop the property adjacent to ours. It was a proposal fraught with problems: unsafe traffic patterns, excessive density, and property rights violations. The developer sought to use our land to meet its landscaping obligations for the new project. We hatched a strategy to convince the county board to address our traffic and density concerns while not compromising our ability to address property rights through the legal system. I was the designated “closer” at the public hearings, speaking last and utilizing my debate background to rebut any damaging comments from previous speakers. We succeeded in garnering county support for several important safety changes. However, the fight over property rights continues and I’ve taken a leadership role in our efforts, first as chairman of our “congestion committee” and most recently as a member of the Board of Directors.
The condominium issue could hardly be more different from the Terri Schiavo saga. One was literally a life or death situation which attracted the attention of the world; the other merely dealt with property rights, finances, and construction issues. However, the passion displayed by the participants in both cases taught me an important lesson about the necessity of law. Disagreements are an element of human nature and even seemingly minor disputes can erupt into major conflicts. The law helps prevent hostilities in the first place by setting a standard for various behaviors. When those standards are breached, the law provides recourse and resolution.
So why would I want to disrupt a prospering career in journalism for the opportunity to study law? It comes down to whether I want to be the person covering difference makers or the person making a difference. In five years as a journalist I’ve been fortunate to have had a front row seat to history, coordinating interviews with the likes of Former President Bill Clinton, First Lady Laura Bush, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, while covering an inauguration, several hurricanes, and social chasms such as the Schiavo case. These unique experiences helped me realize that I want to be on the other side of the fence, in a position to exert influence as an advocate rather than a neutral observer. I envision myself taking the passion I have seen in both the courtroom and the county board room and helping channel it into resolutions that can only come through knowledge and appreciation for the prevailing law. With this application to __________ I am taking the first step toward realizing my calling as an advocate, a difference maker, an attorney.
Posted: Sun Feb 25, 2007 9:21 pm
helluva PS to go with some great numbers and acceptances. Congrats on your hard work paying off. good luck to you in your career.
Posted: Sun Mar 04, 2007 6:07 pm
Non-Traditional Student - 8 years out of undergrad
Accepted - Duke$
Waitlisted - Penn, UChicago (withdrew)
Reserve Group - Columbia (withdrew)
Rejected - Boalt, Stanford, Yale
Withdrew Before Receiving Response - UCLA
I have always sought to surround myself with people from whose passion I can learn and whose interests will test and fuel my own passions. Though we may all be inclined to look for our greatest lessons from the great leaders of our day, I have learned one of the most profound lessons of human belief and conflict through a conversation I have come to know as the eternal light saber debate.
A light saber, as the reader may already know, is the key weapon of the Star Wars Trilogy, a series of films released in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Powered by the mental and emotional strength of the user, the light saber is a formidable tool that matches opponents on a plane more complex than that of mere physical skill. Many a young girl or boy watching the Star Wars movies imagined that they could change the world, if only they had a light saber.
I first encountered the eternal light saber debate as the director of the radio play of Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” As I walked with my new cast toward the Chicago Red Line stop that would carry us home from our first rehearsal, I was treated to the following dialogue between two of my actors, Jason and Dan:
“Let’s say,” Jason began carefully, “that you are walking down the street in a city, just like this. The street is empty except for you. All around you, on the rooftops and in the alleys, Storm Troopers are watching.”
Dan and the others looked around, visualizing the scene that Jason was setting.
“Their blasters,” Jason continued, “are trained on you as you walk. They could vaporize you before you even heard the click of the trigger. They have been instructed to kill only the Jedi knight. The only way they can identify you as that knight,” Jason paused for emphasis and continued slowly, “is because you have a light saber.”
Dan looked at Jason, threw up his hands in an incredulous gesture, and without hesitation responded, “But I have a light saber!”
The debate continued through the entire journey home. Jason wove dozens of complex scenarios, all of which were dismissed by Dan with the same response. Other cast members joined in the attempt to craft a better trap, but Dan’s faith could not be shaken. He answered each challenger with the same six words, “But I have a light saber!”
The aim of the eternal light saber debate is for the Star Wars skeptic to prove to the Star Wars faithful that there could ever be a situation in which it would be detrimental to possess a light saber. For the skeptic the pleasure of the debate is to create the most dire set of circumstances possible for the potential saber bearer, knowing that the opposing party will inevitably send himself to his death by refusing to relinquish the light saber.
The true devotee, possessing an unshakable faith in the mythology of the Star Wars trilogy, will answer any scenario given by the skeptic with the firm rebuttal, “But I have a light saber!” Conventional logic may require that a situation proposed by the skeptic end in the saber bearer’s death; nevertheless, the devotee believes that the mere possession of a light saber provides the bearer with a tool of such power that the logic of the situation is changed. Though logic demands that the possession of a light saber is bad, the possession of a light saber demands that logic is irrelevant.
On the surface, the eternal light saber debate is an amusing diversion for fans of a certain science fiction trilogy. As director of the radio play, I learned more than I expected about the fine points of the Star Wars mythology and would now embarrass my cast with how much I have forgotten. However, the deeper lessons of the light saber debate have remained with me. The light saber debate is a model of all human debate that places skepticism against faith. As in most debates of logic and belief, neither party in the eternal light saber debate can ever be proven right or wrong. I have learned to appreciate and understand both the determination of the skeptic and the faith of the believer. This understanding has helped me to identify which role I am taking when such a debate arises and, thereby, further understand the perspective of my opponent.
If forced to participate again in the eternal light saber debate, I would take the side of the skeptic, certain that I could create a scenario creative and calamitous enough that my opponent would be forced to relinquish his hold on the light saber and its power. I do, however, have sympathy for the conviction of the loyalist. I have always held a deep belief in the strength of knowledge and curiosity. Even when the path of knowledge is not the one I choose, I value it as the strongest path. If I were forced to play an altered game in which the inquiry became “is there a scenario in which it would be bad to question and search to gain knowledge,” my answer would be Faustian and repetitive: “But you have gained knowledge.”
In the years since I first witnessed it, the eternal light saber debate has served me as a reliably entertaining anecdote, but each time I tell it I gain more understanding of the roles played in the conflict between logic and belief. In my pursuit of a legal education, I look to learn great lessons from great leaders, but I also look to learn small and lasting lessons from my colleagues and surroundings. I know that the best of these lessons, like the ones I learned from my actors’ conversation, will grow stronger with time and experience. I hope that my peers and classmates will be able to learn from my experiences as much as I anticipate learning from theirs. If all else fails, I can always teach them about the eternal light saber debate.
Posted: Tue Mar 13, 2007 6:25 pm
Posted: Tue Mar 20, 2007 3:22 am
Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, “I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten path for ourselves.” It seems a lifetime since I finished college. My work experience since then has changed me profoundly, instilling in me leadership and discipline built on a solid foundation of insight, resolution, and perseverance. I‘ve tasted success, but at the age of 36 it seems to me that I have more lives to live. I am eager and prepared to explore a new path.
In 1995, after earning a B.A. in Anthropology from the State University of New York College at Potsdam, I was hired as the General Manager of New York City Operations for Red Jacket Orchards, Inc., a 500-acre family-owned fruit farm in upstate New York. At the time, the farm’s operations in New York City were limited to setting up a farmer’s market stand every Monday at Union Square Park and running the odd truckload of juice apples to the Hunt’s Point Terminal market. I was determined to expand the business. By working with the New York City Council on the Environment’s Greenmarket system, I was able to increase the number of market stands to fifteen a week. Once I instituted a system to set up and staff the stands I began to pursue wholesale accounts, targeting gourmet food stores, grocery stores, and restaurants throughout the city. By the end of 1996, these initiatives contributed to Red Jacket’s increase in its annual sales in the New York Metro area to over $2 million.
My experience with Red Jacket was invaluable. There was no office in New York City - the business was run out of an18-foot box truck and my apartment. I was in the truck by five o’clock every morning, setting up two or three stands in Manhattan and Brooklyn, servicing my wholesale accounts, and running in and out of the city to pick up and drop off product. At night, after breaking down the stands, I would go home and work on the administrative end: reconciling the cash receipts from the farmer’s markets, writing spreadsheets to track inventory, labor, and revenue, and strategizing further expansion opportunities. I learned to hire, train, and manage talented employees and eventually had a staff of 25 reporting to me. On a daily basis, the job forced me to analyze situations, problem-solve, make decisions on the fly, and improvise. I honed my communication skills, whether by providing customer service at the stands and to my accounts, dealing with the Council on the Environment, or soliciting new business.
One night in 1997 on the way home from work I stopped by the restaurant where my brother-in-law was the chef. I arrived around dinnertime and the kitchen was in full swing, a seemingly chaotic whirlwind of adrenaline and energy, and I knew at that moment that I wanted to be a part of this - that I wanted to be a chef. I took to the task wholeheartedly, working two or three jobs at a time, sometimes 90 or 100 hours a week. I studied The Professional Chef, the textbook from the Culinary Institute of America, and the writings of Julia Child, James Beard, and Auguste Escoffier.
In September of 2001, my hard work paid off when I was promoted to Executive Chef of XXXXXXX, a 200-seat independently owned restaurant in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. At this point in my career, the focus of my training shifted from the nuts and bolts of kitchen line work to management. While I was still cooking each night, I was now responsible for staffing, menu planning, and above all, cost control. It was an exciting time - the restaurant was being favorably reviewed, profits were up, and I was receiving positive feedback for my efforts. In 2004, in a city awash in Irish restaurants, XXXXXXX was awarded “Best Irish Restaurant” by The Improper Bostonian magazine.
I took great pride in being a chef. I could handle long hours under awful conditions and tolerate stress levels that would make a lesser person cry and throw in the towel. I could flambé, cook a perfect omelet, and break down a side of veal, all while negotiating prices with purveyors, writing a new menu, and firing the sauté man for being drunk on the job. It was all very rough and tumble and storybook and exactly what I had envisioned that night in my brother-in-law’s kitchen. I had arrived - and yet was unsatisfied. I felt an intellectual yearning that would not be quelled by masochistic bravado.
In 2004, I was hired by XXXXXXX, LLC as General Manager of XXXXXXXXX Restaurant in Chicago’s South Loop. I threw myself into my new job, determined to glean every bit of operational knowledge possible from this established company. I learned to write an operating budget, read a profit and loss statement, and deal with a staff much larger than that with which I was accustomed. In a cost-cutting measure, I eliminated the chef’s position and assumed his responsibilities as well. The restaurant prospered and profitability soared.
In September of 2005, on the verge of burnout after months of double duty, I took a job as chef at XXXXXXX, a fifty-seat restaurant on Chicago’s North side where I would have freedom with the menu and time to figure out what I needed to do to attain a satisfying, intellectually-stimulating life. As usual, the restaurant received acclaim for the quality of food and service, and profitability increased greatly. More importantly, I used my newly found free time to research the law school admission process. The pursuit of a law degree has been an interest of mine for years. Influenced by numerous friends and family members in the profession who have consistently stated that I have a mind for law, I took the LSAT in September of this year.
I am confident, dedicated, and capable of undertaking any task and following it through to the end. I am prepared to study, to apply myself fully to the pursuit of a law degree, with discipline that has been fostered through years of hard work and positive results. I have an intellect that must be fed, that must be challenged, that will not let me rest until I have met this new objective headlong and with the passion that I have shown throughout my career. I am committed and ready for this new adventure.
Comments on two personal statements
Posted: Sun Apr 08, 2007 2:43 am
Dear TLS Readers,
I hope this site has been helpful to you when applying to law schools. While I wrote an informative article on writing a personal statement, what would really benefit future site readers would be several examples of personal statements that readers submitted.
While this post has several sample personal statements posted below, for those seeking advice on how to write an excellent law school personal statement please view my article at:
Would you kindly consider providing your personal statement in the thread below so that future readers could benefit from your kindness and you would complete the circle of knowledge. For the goal in life is to first learn and then convey that knowledge.
While not required, it would be beneficial if you would consider putting down your GPA/LSAT score and where you were accepted. This would provide insight into the role the personal statement played in your acceptances. However, just providing your personal statement would be excellent.
Thanks for your contribution to the site!
Posted: Sun Apr 08, 2007 3:50 pm
GPA: 3.92 overall
Accepted: Yale, Harvard, Chicago ($$$), Columbia, NYU, Virginia ($$$), Northwestern, Vanderbilt ($$$, withdrawn), Notre Dame ($$$), UIUC ($$$), UNC Chapel Hill ($$$), Cardozo ($$$, applied when I was going to apply to every fee waiver school and wasn't thinking about those LSAC $12 adding up).
I'm not really proud of the first statement; HLS had a two-page limit, and since I recycled it for everywhere except UNC (for which I combined information from my NU DS and some UG admission essays) and Yale (for which I added information about my interest in academia), I didn't really get to incorporate all the information that I wanted. Please forgive any overlooked typos.
For as long as I can remember, I have desired to understand the world around me. When I was younger, an interest of mine was language. At about six years of age, I attempted to teach myself various languages, from Italian to Japanese, and although I did not have much success, this interest remained with me. Upon entering high school I studied Spanish and later French, which exposed me to the cultures in which they are used. This exposure has given me a greater appreciation of the world’s cultural diversity.
During my senior year of high school, I participated in the dual enrollment program, taking classes at a college near my home. One of my favorite classes was Intermediate Spanish, since the topics discussed therein often required a great deal of critical thinking. One unit discussed religion, which tends to be a rather controversial topic, due to the intimate nature of religious belief and the almost universal conviction that one’s own beliefs are correct. Nevertheless, I found class discussions interesting because they helped me to see the connection between culture, language, and religion. Adherents of the same faith often differ significantly in their religious expression based on their respective cultures; in class, we saw this in the syncretism of Roman Catholicism with the religions of the Caribbean and South American peoples conquered by the Spanish and with the religions of the imported African Slaves. Moreover, I saw how culture and religion frequently interact with language. These discussions created an interest in the study of religion. Thus, upon matriculating at Florida A&M University, I continued my studies in religion, which have caused me to better appreciate those who do not share my beliefs.
In December 2003, as a freshman at Florida A&M University, I celebrated my eighteenth birthday. As presidential campaigning during the primaries began, I took great interest in the candidates, since the 2004 elections were my first opportunity to exercise the right to vote. This right, however, came with a responsibility: I had to study the issues and to make an informed decision. As I studied candidates and ideologies, I developed an interest in political philosophy. Like religion and language, my interest lay in my desire to understand the world around me; the various political philosophies and legal systems have a pervasive effect on the societies in which they are practiced, and therefore understanding the law is integral to understanding the world.
As important as understanding and learning about the world around me is applying the knowledge acquired to help others. One value instilled in my childhood was the importance of giving back to the community. Growing up in Minnesota, I attended a summer program at a park near my home and eventually volunteered and worked with this same program, which helped to provide a safe environment for children in the area to play and develop their creativity through arts, crafts, reading, field trips, and other activities. Additionally, upon developing a degree of proficiency in Spanish and French, I have used my abilities to assist others by tutoring throughout high school and college. Seeing the impact of such activities has only further reinforced my awareness of the need to use one’s abilities to the betterment of others, which I intend to do through the pursuit of a legal education.
Growing up, I did a lot of moving around. I was born in Chicago, and before moving to Minnesota, my family moved between Illinois and Iowa. In Minnesota, I lived in a neighborhood that was rather diverse: although many individuals think of Minnesota as being a “lily white” state, the area that I lived in, the south side of Brooklyn Park, near Minneapolis, was very ethnically diverse, particularly because of the large number of immigrants from Asian countries, Africa, and to a lesser extent, Latin America. Growing up in such an environment gave me an appreciation that I would probably not otherwise have for people of other backgrounds and worldviews.
After my sophomore year of high school, my family moved to Fayetteville, Georgia. Living in the South further broadened my perspective and shattered my perception of white Southerners as racists and “rednecks.” Upon graduating in 2003, I matriculated at Florida A&M University. Although born in Chicago and raised in a neighborhood with more African-Americans than is typical of Minnesota, I had never been in a situation in which we black people were the majority, and this experience has been fulfilling as I have seen students from all parts of the country and who represent the plethora of black cultures. I therefore believe that having found myself in so many different social atmospheres has provided me with an outlook open to different perspectives, which will be useful as I embark upon studies in law that require one to think critically and examine information from a variety of viewpoints.
While in Georgia, one of the more rewarding experiences that I had was the Governor’s Honors Program (GHP). In my freshman year of high school, I was able to fulfill my lifelong dream of learning a foreign language by taking Spanish classes. After a rough start, I began to excel in the Spanish, and the next year I skipped from Spanish II to Spanish III. After moving from to Georgia for my junior year, my Spanish IV teacher nominated me for GHP. I put a lot of effort into trying to make it into the program, and it was wonderful to know that my efforts had paid off when I was accepted for the summer 2002 session of the program in Valdosta, Georgia.
As a Spanish student, I met other young people who had the same interests that I have. In the class, I was able to take me [sic, should clearly be "my"] studies further than I could in school. In class, we produced several of our own songs and a lot of artwork. Additionally, my Spanish class, along with the other four classes (Latin, French, German, and another Spanish class), performed a cabaret for all the other students. (Many students commented that they thought it was better than the “improv” performances of the theater majors!) For my final project in Spanish, I wrote a song in Spanish, about the court painter Diego Velázquez.
In my “minor” field, I was a Science student. In Science, the students had weekly competitions. Thus, every week, I (as well at the other students) had to perform creatively, whether it was to create the farthest traveling rubber band car (with limited resources) or to created, with a few pieces of paper and some straws, a structure with the longest free-fall. These activities allowed me to meet many different individuals from around the state, and to appreciate the different perspectives that each brought.
Outside of our studies, the other students and I had many opportunities to participate in activities and have experiences that we probably would have had at home. There were concerts every week in different genres of music: jazz, woodwinds, strings, percussion, dance, and various other forms. The art students had an exhibition in which they presented their paintings, sculptures, drawings, and other works to both the program participants and the public. The Communicative Arts (English) students had two “coffee houses” in which they presented poetry, songs, and other forms of verbal entertainment. The Dance major performed two nights, showing a mastery of many types of dance, from ballet to African dance. The Theater majors performed two “improv” sessions, and had a major production which they performed late in the program.
The Business students (who consisted of Technology and Executive Management majors) had a fair at which the technology students presented a computer animation cartoon that they had spent the summer preparing and the executive management students presented their own work. The students of Mathematics and Science had similar fairs; the Science majors presented us their research (of everything from mosquito repellents to black holes). The Mathematics students presented their own projects as well, which demonstrated the importance of mathematics in every aspect of life, from card games to computers. Social Studies students also gave a presentation of their studies, which concentrated primarily on wars. Some of the students even presented a documentary that they produced in which they interviewed veterans of several wars.
The “GHP experience” changed my life in many ways. Despite the number of years that have passed, I continue to keep in contact with several of the friends that I made five summers ago. Meeting all the other “brilliant” students through the program also humbled me; in my experience, it had been rare that a peer of mine knew more than I did. The program also helped me to appreciate the cultures of not only the Spanish and Latinos, but also of people worldwide. The lessons that I learned and the memories that I acquired in the Governor’s Honors Program will remain with me for life.
not the best statement
Posted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 1:46 am
accepted, with scholarships: alabama, pacific, oregon, lewis & clark
I should mention that I applied late in the game to everywhere except Alabama. These applications went out in the middle of January (unlike my Alabama application, which went out at the end of November). I've accepted the generous offer from Alabama, and will be singing a famous Skynyrd tune this fall.
I sat at a work table with strangers surrounding me. A blindfold covered my eyes. I, like the others around me, attempted to manipulate the small earthen clump in front of me into a bowl. This strange beginning marked my initiation into one of the greatest pursuits of my life, the study of creating ceramic art. This pursuit, I have come to realize in recent months, also serves as a microcosm for my overall life.
As a sophomore at Cortland State, I took an introductory class in the ceramic arts. Before beginning this class, I had not previously worked with pottery (beyond, perhaps, a first grade art project). The first classes were awkward, and left me more than slightly intimidated. My first and, to date, only blindfolded ceramics experience took place on the first of these classes. At that work table sat two dozen students, each eager but nervous, each blindfolded. The professor directed us to transform the lumps of clay in front of each of us into bowls. The task sounded simple, but reality proved this to be anything but an easy act. After several awkward minutes, the professor allowed us to remove our blindfolds. I looked first at my clump of clay and then at what the students around me had produced. Although many of them had created fine-looking bowls, I was not so successful. Despite this, a passion sparked within me.
Imagine a ceramic vase, six inches tall and blossoming out to four inches across at the top. When formed by someone with even limited skill in throwing pottery, a pot of this type looks marvelous. These marvelous looks may deceive the viewer. Only through carefully dividing the vessel can one analyze it fully. The walls might lack uniform thickness, the bottom of the vessel might have been carved too thin, or the base might have been formed unsuitably–each of these problems may be diagnosed only through the destruction of what, from the outside, looks like a fine piece of pottery. After throwing several pots, I use a long, thin wire to evenly slice apart some of the newly created pieces. Although this seems strange to many of those unfamiliar with the art, I view such destruction as integral to the development of my skills in pottery. Using occasional destruction in order to construct and refine is one of the ways that the creation of pottery is analogous to my life.
I utilize similar purposeful destruction in my life. No matter how perfectly things seem to be going, I occasionally force myself to break things down in order to examine the whole picture from an intimate level. Usually, this careful introspection calms any concerns that I might have and allows me to realize that all is well. Upon occasion, however, this has resulted in me drastically changing a particular plan. For example, I moved to Oregon in March of 2006. I had lived my entire life in Central New York. Upon carefully splitting apart and analyzing my life to that point, I realized that, like a poorly thrown pot, my foundation there was constructed poorly. I realized that I would need to transplant myself somewhere else in order to make things work.
The analogy between my life and pottery continues in that, with pottery, I rapidly gained mastery in a skill in which I had no previous experience. Within a few months, I quickly became one of the top pottery students at my college. In other facets of life, I have also rapidly developed skills. My current job, with the Tribune Company, is in advertising sales consultation. The position requires constantly motivating newspaper sales representatives to bring me to their clients, and then, when in front of a client, to make a sale. Before starting this position, I had neither experience in sales nor training in staff motivation. Despite this lack of background, I have already become a top performer in my division after just four months in the position.
Pottery is all about resourcefulness; this is yet another way in which the ceramic world is like my world in general. I often marvel at the resourcefulness demonstrated in the potter’s ability to transform a misfitted group of items, such as clay, a potter’s wheel, and perhaps some powdered copper, into something both artistically and functionally magnificent. In life outside of ceramics, I have done this as well. This resourcefulness allowed me to quickly set roots in Portland. It has also allowed me to work successfully in my current position with the Tribune Company. In this job, I spend an average of 12 calendar days in a market before leaving for a different newspaper. To date, I have yet to work in a city that I had previously visited. The people with whom I work in these new surroundings are always new to me as well. Wherever I am, I must quickly discover who and what can aid me in my mission of leading newspaper sales representatives to make sales. I pick up guidebooks, other newspapers, and whatever free publications fill the racks. I talk with nearly everyone I meet. Without this resourcefulness, I’d fail miserably at this job. Utilizing these resources, however, has allowed me to excel in this position.
Success in the ceramic arts requires the ability to take break things down analytically, to pick up new abilities and ideas with relative deftness, and to effectively utilize resources. In all of these ways, my major passion in life, pottery, is like my life in general. Further, from what I have learned through numerous conversations with current and former students of the law, these same skills are integral to success in a Juris Doctor program.
Posted: Mon Apr 09, 2007 9:08 pm
In: GW, WUSL, WF, GM, Cardozo, DePaul
Out: Yale, Stanford, NYU, Chicago, Berkeley, Michigan, GULC, Texas, UWash
WL/Hold: Columbia, Duke, UVa, NU, UCLA, W&M, Pitt
Haven't Heard: Harvard, Penn, Cornell, UNC
The personal statement isn't so hot...but I was trying to address my most obvious deficit without needing an addendum. Names (YourU, TPS) changed to protect everyone).
2.89. There it is in all of its ignominy. To that, add 7 years away and an unrelated degree. My layover from higher education, lackluster undergraduate performance, and physics background may not seem like ideal qualities for an aspiring YourU law student. But my transcript does not tell the whole story. As a student, I did not take college seriously, but as a teacher I have learned discipline, the value of education, and essential tools for communicating. Though law and science are different worlds, they are worlds that are increasingly colliding. The fusion of technology and law requires practitioners who speak both languages and can translate between them. My academic training and professional experience give me a head start to bridging the divide. Finally, I am old enough to realize age is not a disadvantage. I am not going into this venture scared, starry-eyed, or naïve, but with the maturity to know what I want to do and to take advantage of every opportunity YourU has to offer.
Hiding in my undergraduate work is a student who lacked motivation. Amidst the mediocre expectations of a rural, public high school, I showed the natural ability to excel. I had a GPA over 4.0 and I won the state championship in policy debate, eventually getting to the round of 32 at the national tournament. But because it was relatively effortless, what I developed was apathy rather than ambition. In college, I displayed the kind of intellectual schizophrenia that infuriates me most now as an educator. I typically left professors struggling to weigh my outstanding test scores against my atrocious attendance and deficient homework. But, I maintained a sense of intellectual curiosity, which led me to change from petroleum engineering to physics in my junior year. It was a start, but I did not learn to respect education until I became a part of the institution.
I decided to teach because I was torn between divergent interests: science and policy debate. I was too social to face life in a laboratory; too interested in math and physics to leave it behind. In school I could go from discussing current events and the implications of policy actions one hour to finding solutions to differential equations the next. But I had to conquer my old demons quickly. Skipping class was not an option, and the students’ work now relied on me completing mine. I came in with no teaching experience and a poor work ethic. I learned more about myself and my subjects in my first year of teaching than in the 16 years of schooling that preceded it. The experience has made me the ultimate student and given me the opportunity to take on a variety of subjects ranging from physics and math to debate and lacrosse. As an added bonus, it has given me the ability to switch seamlessly between those subjects and to communicate them to a wide variety of audiences.
As audiences go, debate students are not the most receptive. Half are merely fulfilling an arts credit with a class that does not demand singing or dancing; the other half are 24-hour cable news junkies who are possessed by such arrogance they consider themselves above teaching. With these students, I discovered the utility of the bridge between scientific knowledge and real world policy. When discussing renewable energy, for instance, my students did not understand why using satellites to gather solar energy might not be feasible. The literature on the subject generally disregards the science, focusing instead on economic analysis. I explained to them that we cannot just beam the energy down. Using my expertise, I described energy density limitations and that such a policy could either cook the atmosphere or damage local ecosystems. With this kind of insight, my students are able to converse more meaningfully than their peers about real solutions to our nation’s problems.
In the last seven years, I have evolved from a student who loathed being in class into a teacher who is always staying after class, tutoring, coaching, sponsoring activities, and acting as the technology coordinator. Juggling these obligations has taught me a level of time management I only wish I possessed as a student. It also inspired me to tackle a new challenge, starting a small business. While teaching a web design class, a colleague and I decided we should practice what we preach; 6 Foot Design was born. To serve our clients’ needs, I have had to learn or relearn several programming languages. But the crucial thing I bring to the business is an ability to communicate technical concepts to our clients. Our clients get a product they appreciate and understand.
That is the kind of understanding I believe I can bring to clients as a lawyer. My passion for science and law, two generally disparate fields, has a common source: a thirst to understand the fundamental rules that shape our lives and a desire to work within those rules to make socially significant contributions. They share other similarities as well. Theoreticians craft elegant descriptions of the cosmos and send them off to experimentalists to uncover the flaws and discrepancies. Legislators fashion well-meaning codes to govern civilized interaction and send them off to judges and lawyers to uncover the loopholes and contradictions. Both specializations require years of intensive study just to reach entry level. Both have precise languages, built on relatively simple rules, that are generally considered dense and unintelligible to the uninitiated. Both are fields in need of the other, and so in need of interpreters.
In my search for an institution where I can continue to indulge my love of science with my interest in law, YourU stood out. As one of the nation’s top schools for law in general and IP specifically, YourU will allow me to maximize my abilities. I have a unique combination of talents that can be an asset to YourU as well as the legal profession. I have demonstrated an ability to teach myself, assimilate information quickly and balance my time among several competing interests to get the most out of opportunities. The composite score on my folder may not be prototypically YourU Law, but I believe that I have what it takes to succeed.
I am a 29 year old, white, male high school teacher with a degree in physics. My parents divorced when I was a child and I am in an interracial relationship. I have done laboratory research, started a small business, and coached championship lacrosse teams while living in Oklahoma and Texas. Many of these characteristics may contribute to the diversity of YourU; but none of them, in and of themselves, truly benefits diversity. Diversity must be more than the number of pieces on a pie chart or boxes checked on a form. In my experience, for diversity to be valuable, it must be dynamic: a process of actively encouraging the exchange of cultures, beliefs, ideas, and experiences. I believe I can help diversify YourU not just because of my aforementioned traits, but because I have learned to engage others of various backgrounds and to mobilize “differences” to further the academic and social education of myself, peers, and students.
Diversity became more than a catch phrase to me the day I walked into the Petroleum Engineering department at the University of Tulsa. I was suddenly the minority: a white male surrounded by shades of brown, set apart not only by race, but culture. But merely sitting next to Middle Eastern, African, and South American students, alone did not enhance my education (or theirs). It was interacting with those students inside and outside of the classroom that enabled me to grow personally and academically. Discussing Argentinean politics with a native gave new depth to my understanding of the nuances of the oil industry. Even just relaxing with a student from the United Arab Emirates gave me new insight into Muslim culture that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I have carried what I learned through that experience with me throughout my career.
Soon after graduation, I was hired by the Texas Private School (TPS). One of the city’s most privileged schools, TPS was an institution that, when I first arrived, was beginning to deal with its history of homogeneity. It was one of the central concerns in student recruitment. Unfortunately, because the school’s diversity drive was in its infancy, their goal was quantity rather than quality. This myopic focus played directly into the problems—including ignorance, bigotry, and fear—the school faced in generating diversity where there was little. I found that the school’s exclusive focus on numbers and failure to internally promote the benefits of diversity exploited and tokenized students of color. This made attrition a formidable foe.
To alleviate these kinds of problems, I co-sponsored the Diversity Club at TPS, as well as aided in the creation of an intermural group called the Crazy Acronym Diversity Organization (CADO). Both exist, among other things, as a way for students to explore their differences and share their experiences. Through these organizations I was able to nurture student awareness of the importance of diversity. I found having these kinds of organizations in place absolutely essential to the health of our student community, particularly following September 11th. Students were forced to look at the ugly intersection of race, culture, religion, nationalism, and hatred. Because these forums existed, students felt comfortable asking significant and honest questions about themselves and others. More importantly, they were able to discover the answers to these vital questions together. They were then able to take that knowledge to their peers outside of the club who were often less tolerant.
Diversity is vitally important to academia because diversity brings a wide range of perspectives to the classroom. A diverse educational community encourages students to search for new ways to solve problems as well as to have the courage to express those solutions. But this only works if the community is actively diverse. It is not enough merely to have different groups passively present; variety is necessary but not sufficient. It is imperative to engage diversity. My experience with and dedication to doing just that will benefit the diversity of the student body at the YourU School of Law.
Posted: Tue Apr 10, 2007 11:43 pm
Major: Computer Science
In: USD, UCLA, UT
The drummer is banging out a primal samba groove on his tom-toms. My eyes meet his, and I lay down the pulsing bass line. I nod my head, and we stop suddenly. Before the crowd has a chance to catch its breath, the horns blare out the opening triplets, and the rest of the rhythm section joins in. "Taken" is the name of the tune we are playing, and I am responsible for every note.
I began playing music when I was very young, and ever since, music has been an anchor in my life, a way to improve myself, and a way to interact with the people around me. Through my extensive experience with music, I have gained skills that apply to anything I choose to do in the future, including the study of law. My parents taught my brothers and me guitar all at the same time. We started playing in a band together, and soon we were performing at schools, parties, and even some local bars. I was in several different bands throughout high school, but I always had some gig with my brothers. One of the hardest things about moving to college at the end of high school was leaving behind my main creative outlet and a major link to my family. I remember my father consoling my brother, "You'll find another bass player," to which my brother answered, "For us, he's not just a bass player."
When I first came to college I felt like I did not have time for music. However, that first year was particularly tough emotionally, and I realized I needed music in my life to stay sane. I started taking music theory classes, and it had a profound effect on me, not just improving my musicianship, but also refining my critical thinking skills in the way a liberal arts education should. Music became a part of my required schedule, so I could not push it into the background anymore. The courses themselves forced me to do the analytic writing I was not being exposed to in my science classes, and in taking the upper division courses I found myself analyzing music at a depth I had not imagined possible. Moreover, I came to realize that the analysis of previous works opens the door to a whole new set of creative possibilities. My real love is for the creative process, and an understanding of the body of work in a field is essential for the creation of new ideas. This principle applies more generally than to just music; creativity is as necessary in computer science as it is in the arts, and I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to apply my creative instincts to the study of law.
As I acquired a richer theoretical background, I also got back into writing and performing music in my spare time, which helped me form connections with the local music community. I found myself as a leader for several groups of musicians. I organized concerts working with promoters at local venues, I wrote and arranged music for several ensembles, and I took on the task of organizing practices and motivating my fellow musicians. This last duty was quite important and rewarding for me. For a school that prides itself on a humanistic approach to higher education in science, (undergrad school) does not always sufficiently motivate students to pursue their non-science passions. First year students can easily adopt the attitude I had when I started college: there remains no time for artistic pursuits enjoyed in high school. Although never organized in a club that fits nicely on a resume, I made it a priority to seek out and give opportunities to non-practicing musicians. I have played with a diverse set of musicians at (undergrad school), and those moments will be some of the fondest memories of my college years.
As I write so enthusiastically about my experience with music, it may seem that focusing on computer science and law in my higher education is a mistake. On the contrary, I am confident in the decisions I made in the past and the decisions I am making for the future. In fact, my love for music is matched by my love for computer science, and I feel a strong interest in the law that I plan to explore in the upcoming years. Most (undergrad school) students will agree that being truly well-rounded means having much more than a passing interest in several areas and that throwing all of one's energy into a single area is a recipe for destruction. I do not want to make music for a living—there are other fields that I enjoy in which I can succeed—but I do want to make music for the rest of my life. Songs like "Taken" are just the beginning.
Posted: Thu Apr 12, 2007 12:57 am
I had been waiting to post my personal statement until I heard back from every school, but I'll go ahead and do it now I guess.
GPA: 4.10 (Columbia)
LSATs: 171, 178
Major: Economics-Philosophy (Not a double major, a single dual major)
In: Yale, Stanford, Columbia, NYU ($25k, $25k, $12.5k), Virginia ($23k per year), Boalt, Georgetown, UCLA, BU ($40k per year), USC
Still Waiting: Harvard
I am a thinker, but not one to think out loud. I love myself, but am not in love with the sound of my own voice. I want to be loved, but not at the cost of not loving myself. I want to know everything, but realize that nothing can ever be known for sure. I believe that nothing is absolute, but I can absolutely defend my beliefs. I understand that chance is prevalent in all aspects of life, but never leave anything important to chance. I am skeptical about everything, but realistic in the face of my skepticism. I base everything on probability, but so does nature...probably.
I believe that all our actions are determined, but feel completely free to do as I choose. I do not believe in anything resembling a God, but would never profess omniscience with regard to such issues. I have faith in nothing, but trust that my family and friends will always be faithful. I feel that religion is among the greatest problems in the world, but also understand that it is perhaps the ultimate solution. I recognize that many people derive their morals from religion, but I insist that religion is not the only fountainhead of morality. I respect the intimate connection between morality and law, but do not believe that either should unquestioningly respect the other.
I want to study the law and become a lawyer, but I do not want to study the law just because I want to become a lawyer. I am aware that the law and economics cannot always be studied in conjunction, but I do not feel that either one can be properly studied without an awareness of the other. I recognize there is more to the law than efficiency, but believe the law should recognize the importance of efficiency more than it does. I love reading about law and philosophy, but not nearly as much as I love having a good conversation about the two. I know that logic makes an argument sound, but also know that passion makes an argument sound logical. I have philosophical beliefs informed by economics and economic beliefs informed by philosophy, but I have lost track of which beliefs came first. I know it was the egg though.
I always think very practically, but do not always like to think about the practical. I have wanted to be a scientist for a while now, but it took me two undergraduate years to figure out that being a scientist does not necessarily entail working in a laboratory. I play the saxophone almost every day, but feel most like an artist when deduction is my instrument. I spent one year at a college where I did not belong and two years taking classes irrelevant for my major, but I have no regrets about my undergraduate experience. I am incredibly passionate about my interests, but cannot imagine being interested in only one passion for an entire lifetime.
I love the Yankees, but do not hate the Red Sox. I love sports, but hate the accompanying anti-intellectual culture. I may read the newspaper starting from the back, but I always make my way to the front eventually. I am liberal on some issues and conservative on others, but reasonable about all of them. I will always be politically active, but will never be a political activist. I think everything through completely, but I am never through thinking about anything.
I can get along with almost anyone, but there are very few people without whom I could not get along. I am giving of my time, but not to the point of forgetting its value. I live for each moment, but not as much as I worry about the next. I consider ambition to be of the utmost importance, but realize that it is useless without the support of hard work. I am a very competitive person, but only when competing with myself. I have a million dreams, but I am more than just a dreamer. I am usually content, but never satisfied.
I am a study in contradiction, but there is not an inconsistency to be found.