Real Law School Personal Statements Reviewed: Curse Only Sparingly

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Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog - Real Law School Personal Statements Reviewed: Curse Only Sparingly by jdMission

In this series, a jdMission Senior Consultant reviews real law school personal statements. What’s working well? What’s not? If it were his/her essay, what would be changed? Find out!


Note: To maintain the integrity and authenticity of this project, we have not edited the personal statements, though any identifying names and details have been changed or removed. Any grammatical errors that appear in the essays belong to the candidates and illustrate the importance of having someone (or multiple someones) proofread your work.

Personal Statement

Lately I’ve begun figuring out that the time in history during which I have lived has to be the very best one. I think, for example how fabulous it feels to have been born still during the time of the typewriter and in the days when people still dressed to fly, if only just barely. I have begun thinking about the moments between moments—moments without greatness or genius, moments free of heavy boredom, unsurprising, just-people-moments. With no great love, or even great desire. But there is no absence of them either, just not enough to warrant commentary or narrative. I am alone, but also, hardly alone. I notice myself only insomuch as I relate to my compromised history.

The relationship with my last boyfriend virtually began with a break up. Several weeks in it had the appearance of a mediocre firefly with its light only ever half-on. It had become my very own ongoing monologue, an attempt to dictate my way into love. I pointed out everything; what I liked, what I didn’t like. I asked him for his approval, disapproval, I asked, How are you feeling? What do you think about this? How do you feel about god, love, sex, cinema, soup and the paranormal?

I may not have snuffed out any possibility of love, but I certainly made it very difficult. I greased up the windows. I took out the sparkle, smothered the mystery. I even began to sound to myself like a goddamned Edward Albee play.

But it was true. Before he had time to think, “She sure does make a great roast chicken,” I would be all over him asking aloud, “Do you like it?” “Isn’t it good?” “What does it taste like to you?” Until the thing became so up-close and deconstructed, it didn’t taste like anything at all…

He dumped me by way of a phone call. He used a line about his ex-girlfriend, explaining that she was thinking of moving to town and that she’d been thinking about him. He presented the situation as if somehow I was the one coming between them, as if he and I hadn’t been together every day for the last eight months.

He said something along the lines of, “I really think I owe it to her to try.”

I was walking…In fact, I remember I walked by a bookstore and it seemed so mundane, a window full of cookbooks! There was one book with a picture of a man holding a cartoon chicken and I remember I laughed at it out loud, so he said, “She and I had a very important thing!” very serious, as if to imply I was making fun of his great love. After eight months! Months. And all along he’d been thinking of her, considering her.

Three weeks later he reversed his message. He began calling and apologizing and telling me he did it “wrong,” meaning he should have probably gone home to see her without having told me, left me on deck, like a pitcher, like a lounge chair. It was on another call during which I was asking for my red shirt and some music he had borrowed when we’d first started dating. And my dignity, I asked him to look around for it because I couldn’t seem to find it and just maybe I’d left it at his place.

He told me how it had gone with his ex and how she’d filled the room with her moans of dissatisfaction and cigarette smoke. He said he missed what was so clean and contained about me. I made sure to tell him about the two dates I had set up for next week.

And then I became the girl in his bed in the desperate invention of an opposite of loneliness. I no longer expected love. I no longer needed to coax it verbally out of its favorite darkened hole. In exchange for the silence, came the festering understanding that suddenly there were blizzards of disrespectful fucks painting piss stained snowdrifts on all the fire hydrants of my life, and how that came to be, I would never understand. Where had I gone wrong?

After another three months, I finally ended it. But there was something about this loss that made a final break in my cynical heart. One thing I know for sure, I am bold when I stop believing: Like the cigarettes and alcohol of those lady’s with the saddest eyes, like the man who double checks his suicide with an overdose and a noose.

Finally I left it all behind completely, which is the simple way to say that I severed myself into two distinct people, the one who was, and the one who is. Mindfully, I made a decision to become a hand held out to people in the clutches of relationships from which they cannot let go. There are no more lessons within a tragedy you choose than there are truths in someone else’s living lie. I began my life positioned to understand the law behind love, relationship comings and goings and changings.

Of course there has always been my limitless future. It has become clear that, for example, I don’t believe in great art. I think it strives to perfect upon nature, but in the end becomes a bad imitation of its impreciseness. Music, for example mimicking the inevitable beauty of the sound of traffic patterns in the rain. The copycatting of accidental side-effects, well, frankly it just makes me sad for all of us. But when it comes to art and love and beauty, the only container, the only boundary and weight is the law. So I will use it and therefore build the verbal container for which I have been and always will be searching.

jdMission Review

Overall Lesson: Curse only sparingly, disparage your present-day self even more sparingly, and in general, avoid dramatic tales of romance.

First Impression: When I am reading this kind of essay, I have to stop at a certain point and ask myself, “Is what I am reading brilliant or incoherent?” Often, the line between the two is a very fine one. Unfortunately, my impression at the end of the first paragraph of this essay is incoherent. I am not saying that the candidate’s thinking is incoherent—her thoughts may be beautiful and full of insight, and some of her phrasing suggests as much. But my initial assessment is that her thoughts sound like gobbledygook, and I find myself hoping for her sake (and mine) that the essay will improve as I continue reading.

Strengths and Weaknesses: This essay’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. So for this review, I have combined these two categories.

On the one hand, I find myself so enraptured by her writing that I forget I am reading a personal statement. I feel as though I have just stumbled across someone’s diary at a flea market and am discovering her secrets—and I do not want to stop reading.

On the other hand, because I feel as though I have just stumbled across someone’s diary at a flea market and am discovering her secrets, I pause and ask myself, “Wait…does this person belong in [this] law school?”

Take, for example, these lines:

I may not have snuffed out any possibility of love, but I certainly made it very difficult. I greased up the windows. I took out the sparkle, smothered the mystery. I even began to sound to myself like a goddamned Edward Albee play.

These sentences read like a confessional in the New York Times’ Modern Love column, not like part of a law school application, in which, generally speaking, you should refrain from cursing, berating yourself, and sharing the details of your messy past relationships. (Note that an exception could be made for cases in which romantic drama is unquestionably relevant to the applicant’s theme and that theme is relevant to his/her law school candidacy—but this is not one of those cases.)

And finally, this application of her thought process to the law is confusing:

But when it comes to art and love and beauty, the only container, the only boundary and weight is the law. So I will use it and therefore build the verbal container for which I have been and always will be searching.

Huh?

In some places in this essay, the candidate writes abstractly very well. However, this particular instance is not one of them, nor do I think abstraction is necessarily appropriate when she finally shifts her discussion to the topic of law. She should remind herself of the question that should guide all of us when writing, editing, and evaluating personal statements: Why does the candidate want to go to law school?

Final Assessment

I am going to repeat my advice from earlier in this review, because it captures the essence of what is wrong with this essay and highlights where the candidate should start her revisions: “Curse only sparingly, disparage your present-day self even more sparingly, and in general, avoid dramatic tales of romance.” After a solid rewrite based on this guidance, the candidate could turn her attention to more specific matters—such as some of the overly abstract phrasings and the clarification of her interest in the law—but not until then. 📝


Read more real law school personal statement reviews, or sign up for your Free Personal Statement Review by a jdMission Senior Consultant.


jdMission is a leading law school admissions consulting firm with a team of dedicated consultants who have not only been through the law school application process themselves, but also possess elite communications skills and can help you navigate this crucial—and often perplexing—process. Your consultant will serve as your coach and partner every step of the way, advising you on school selection, helping you brainstorm personal statement topics, editing your essays and resume, helping you manage your recommenders, advising on any addenda, and more! Sign up for a free 30-minute consultation or a free personal statement review with a jdMission Senior Consultant.

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