Thanks for messaging me about this! I'm going to make a few general comments about the personal statement and writing drafts, and then I'll turn specifically to what you've posted. As an fyi, I usually am able to review only one or two essay drafts at most due to time constraints, so I always ask that students attempt to post something they feel is as close to final as they can get it on their own. That way I feel I can have maximum impact for the greatest number of students
Another thing I always suggest is that if you haven't yet checked it out, please review my free seminar on the Personal Statement. It's available instantly, and can be found at http://www.powerscore.com/lsat/help/#free-lessons
, as the sixth link under "Recorded/Archived Lessons." That seminar covers a number of important elements that everyone should consider when putting together a personal statement, as well as a number of tips I've collected over the years. I also use examples to support the advice I give in there, and viewing that seminar is often really helpful for applicants.
One other piece of advice I strongly promote is that when you write a new draft, it should be a process that takes at least 2-3 days. In my view, every single word
in your statement is critical, and you should be going over each draft with a fine-tooth comb. You should also take time to let the ideas percolate and then settle in, in order to make the final product as cohesive and fluent as possible. The process of writing a personal statement is optimized when you have a lot of time, and when you take a lot of time to gain perspective on what you are saying and how it will be received. This is good news for you, because we're still early in the admissions season and you have the time to do this right. You're already heading in the right direction
Last, a standard disclaimer I give before making any essay comments: my goal here is to give an honest assessment, which means that at times my comments can be blunt. It's not meant in any way to be negative, but sometimes in critical analysis there's no way to avoid saying that something has to be changed, or to avoid pointing out a weakness. The great thing about this process is that by putting yourself and your essay out there, you get a chance to make these corrections before any decision-makers read your statement. So, please take my comments for what they are: a sincere effort to help you produce the best essay possible!
Ok, let's get into some specifics about your latest draft. First, I think there's some really strong writing in here, and that is a great asset, and one that will serve you well regardless of the topic or message of your statement. Also, I really like certain parts of the story you tell, and think that it conveys some good messaging about who you are as a candidate. I do think that could be stronger, however, and so as you redraft this, please keep that in mind. I'll expand on that below.
I'm going to pull various parts of your draft out and quote them as a reference, and then I'll comment immediately below the quoted text. If I cut something out and don't comment, it means that I didn't have a specific issue with it.
kristinaroz93 wrote:This past summer I fell in love again. It was when my grandmother called me and told me about two tickets she purchased to a ballet show at the New York City Center, to which I eagerly agreed to attend with her.
Two things here: the first is that I like this opening line! It's an attention-getter, and it pulls you right in and makes the reader want to know what happened. So, great job there! Second, I added italics to highlight a problem. Technically, what you are saying is that you fell in love right when your grandmother called you. I know that's not what you mean, of course, but that's actually what's been said, and that threw me off immediately. That needs to be fixed.
kristinaroz93 wrote:The first act we saw night was called Zeitgeist, choreographed by the well-known, Alastair Marriott, performed to the music of Philip Glass.
Two things again: first, there shouldn't be a comma before "Alastair" and there probably should be an "and" before "performed." Second, the specificity of the details is distracting, I think (others may disagree). I want every detail to add to the story as a whole, and these didn't feel like they were doing that. Now, for example, if you had later worked with Marriott, I could see this connection more easily. Also, while I'm familiar with Philip Glass, I'm not familiar with Alastair Marriott, so calling him well-known puts me off slightly (and is it necessary anyway? The question to ask is what value do you derive from calling him well-known? This is an interesting question because every word in this essay has to benefit you
somehow. This is true even for small words such as "and" or "also"—maybe they benefit you by keeping things smooth and flowing, or by connecting ideas. But they have to add value in some way. Every word counts!).
kristinaroz93 wrote:It revealed four men dancing in unison with one another in tight, black leotards, each having very precise control over their bodily movements and gestures. They seemed as though they were effortlessly flying and gliding throughout the stage, doing something that so greatly surpassed the ability of any normal human body.
Here, I understand the details that you've added in, and they provide texture to the story. So, these didn't strike me as superfluous.
kristinaroz93 wrote:I found myself completely and utterly lost in the serene beauty of it all, almost having been moved to the verge of tears. The ballerina’s grand jeté , pirouettes, and high leg kicks, were nothing less than superb. She was constantly being lifted by all four male performers simultaneously, allowing her to hold a few exquisitely, elegant poses in the air. These dancers were able to make hard, strenuous leaps look easy and effortless, leaving not a single dry eye in the audience that night.
I've italicized two segments of the above text for easy reference. In the first segment, I think this text works, because it's personal and it underscores the emotion that the dance brought out in you. The second is more problematic for me. I'd be careful about twice referencing in the same paragraph that at a performance people were crying, and while I understand that you are taking a degree of artistic license here, it's a clearly false statement, and it causes the reader to stutter for a moment. Two personal statement rules I have are that you should never
force the reader to ask a question because you failed to include information, and you should never create a situation where the reader has to stop for even a microsecond to think about the validity of what you just said (unless it's done for some intended dramatic effect). The second problem is the one that occurs here, and that slowed me while reading and made me question what you were saying. In addition, some readers might look at the two italicized segments and think they have a mild incompatibility: you were only on the verge of tears but there wasn't a dry eye in the house? I personally don't think it's a contradiction, but I'm not the only reader. Someone else might see it differently, and good readers pick up on small stuff like this and it bothers them.
kristinaroz93 wrote:This performance made me reminisce back to the times I used to take contemporary dance classes near my house at the young age of twelve and wonder why I had ever chosen to stop. A few reasons came to mind. One, for instance, was the constant feeling of soreness the next day, making it seemingly impossible to walk. Then, there was the one incident with my dance teacher attempting to put me into a split, by pushing down on my back with the full extent of her weight. I left class that day fearing that I may have tore something, as I cannot express the excruciating pain that accompanied this experience. The other more subtle reasons, were the insecurities I felt as a dancer. I remember my teacher telling me that I was not expressing my movements with the fullest of emotions and exaggeration possible. However, I always thought that if I did, it would look silly and far from anything one would consider “artistic”.
I like the exploration here of why you quit something, especially because prior failure is often a compelling basis for explaining current success. But, my question as I was reading was, "Where is this going? And what am I learning about you that is compelling?" The "attempted split" story is, by itself, interesting, so that's a positive. But every preteen and teenager has insecurities, and I feel like just throwing this idea out there and never really resolving it later bothered me. I don't like seeming negatives being introduced unless they serve a purpose or get addressed later.
kristinaroz93 wrote:The dance classes themselves were also very demanding and challenging for other reasons, seeing as how they forced us to be in constant movement for about an hour straight. And when we were not dancing, we were intensely stretching out our bodies.
I think this is a given, of sorts. Dance, crossfit, running, you name it—they are all physically demanding in different ways. The question is, "How does saying this benefit you?" My reaction as a reader was, "Yeah, and so...?"
kristinaroz93 wrote:This feeling came once I had pushed past the pain and feathered on with my dancing.
Love the use of "feathered" here—very unique. That is all
kristinaroz93 wrote:And once I had, was when all the joy finally sunk in, and I simply wanted to go again and again...I eventually quit in high school, not so much due to daily soreness or the insecurities I felt as a dancer, but rather because of my overwhelming course load as a student.
I worry about this pair of statements, and I'm not sure this reflects well on you. You express a love for ballet, but then quit later due to...homework. Every high school kid has homework, but still many of them competed on school sports teams, played in band, worked on the yearbook, etc. I feel like this is a real letdown as far as a reason, especially when we are talking about the central example you are using to support your law school candidacy, and an example that you cite as indicative of your perseverance. I believe that this section, and the message in general, has to be very carefully considered and ultimately refined and changed.
kristinaroz93 wrote:I feel the same about these dance classes I took as a young girl, to the way that I am as a student.
This is a good example of a sentence that needs to be rewritten a few times, and that would benefit from extra time in the editing process. It's a bit wordy and slightly unclear.
kristinaroz93 wrote:I like to take on challenging courses like organic chemistry, and find a way to succeed at them. To push past my insecurities and occasionally mental fatigue, and tell myself that upon mastery, the material will become infinitely more enjoyable and rewarding.
I like this section. So many personal statements act like the candidate is a perfect academic god who will destroy law school with ease, and thus it's nice to see language such as "find a way" and "tell myself" that imply confidence without arrogance or certitude. Good job here!
kristinaroz93 wrote:It is a given that all courses we inevitably take as law students will be very challenging, and test not only our endurance, but ability to understand the theory, interpretation, and application behind various legal concepts. Moreover, we must be able to parse the dense language of long reading materials and find a way to make sense of it all.
One of the standard pieces of advice I give out is that you don't want to tell the admissions committee what law school is like. First, they already know what's its like, so you aren't enlightening them in any way. Second, it doesn't say anything about you, so it is a lost opportunity to use those words for something else that would benefit you. I get the transition here from the prior two sentences and how that applies to law school, but describing law school is, in my opinion, the wrong path. I'd instead say that you don't know what law school is like but that by reputation it's ominous, and that you welcome that challenge. Focus on the challenge itself, not the actual mechanics of why it is challenging.
kristinaroz93 wrote:In fact, I think that this perseverance is the chief reason why I will excel in law school and beyond.
There's a contradiction here that is problematic. At the end, you are saying that your perseverance is a strength, but just a few paragraphs prior, you talked about why you quit ballet. And the reasons you cited there weren't beyond your control. Meaning, it wasn't an injury that stopped you; you instead made that decision on your own, which means you didn't show perseverance there!
Ok, so that's a set of comments about specific pieces. And you can see in there that I made some references to the message as a whole. My concern is that the overall impact isn't as strong as it should be. I want more out of this dance story—I want it to make me feel like you really struggled and then didn't give up. I want that experience to serve as the basis for something greater that happened to you later on in life. What happens, though, is that you simply come back and decide—on the basis of a moving ballet you attended—to try it again.
You're a good writer, and that serves you well here and it will definitely be noticed. What I would suggest that you do is consider how this story tells me that you have the qualities needed to succeed. Because that's something they are looking for, and I think you are still in the process of bringing that portion of the message out. If you can do that successfully, it will put you in a great spot since you can tell that story well.
Whew, that was a lot! Please let me know if that helps—I hope so. Thanks!