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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Trivial Pursuit

I'm having a really hard time getting started on my personal statements for my law school applications.

Funny that I should be tongue-tied in writing about myself. It's what I do on my blog everyday, after all. But Bunsnip is a really laid back environment. I'm able to be as honest as I want to be here. I can show the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of myself. And, you know, all the other parts that don't fall into any of those categories. Like, say, my teeth. They are neither good, bad, nor ugly. So anyway, there are no restrictions here. The least little thing can be written about.

But what to show the admissions committees? They don't care about my brilliantly straight although slightly yellowed teeth.

No.

No they don't care about that.

And really, I don't have anything spectacular to show for myself like the people in all the example essays I've read. I haven't interned for a senator, worked to save the baby seals, or opened a side business while making a 4.0 doing 20 semester hours at Yale. I haven't overcome a great obstacle in my life -- no economic burdens, no cerebral palsy, no racial minority heritage.

But truth be told when I read those types of essays I throw up a little in my mouth anyway. I'm not that person, and I don't want to be that person. I like who I am, even though who I am is rather par for the course.

So how do I take my grandiose mediocrity and make it look fabulous to the admissions committees? I want to catch their attention, give them some idea of what kind of person I am and why I would be suited to the study of law, and leave them feeling like I belong at their school.

Most of all I don't want to bore them.

I'm worried as hell about that.

These people are going to be reading 40-50 essays per day, written by essentially the same type of person with the same numbers and the same basic goals. I get sick to my stomach just thinking about being seen as a carbon copy of dozens of other applicants. I guess that is to say, I just want to be validated as a worthwhile candidate in my own right. I want who I am to be good enough for this pursuit.

This sounds like a big whine-fest, I know. It's just consuming my thoughts a lot right now, and I don't know where to begin.

So I'm going to pose a question for anyone who's still with me. Many of you don't know me outside of the words I've written here. So what stands out to you about me? What have you gleaned about my character from my writing? I feel like I need to get outside of myself in order to begin this task, so any outside perspective would be very welcome. If you know me outside of the blog world, feel free to jump in too.

I can use all the help I can get right now.



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13 comments:

Kirsten said...

You've actually got a lot to work with here. I'd be happy to help you when you get a draft if you like (as you know, I've been through this and you helped me).

You could frame the essay around your interest in language. Your linguistic talent is unique and would make you stand out as an applicant. So would your travel to Germany.
Write about how you experience the world through language/writing/reading. Then you can tie that in to how it makes you interested in working with the language of law and/or people in need of someone to help express or interpret the language of law. You can also talk about how the same skills you use in studying language/writing/reading will help you as a law student and professional.

Use the same kind of writing tools you do on your blog: imagery, concrete examples, and humor. I'm sure your essay will be fantastic.

sovknight said...

Am I disqualified because I know you in person?

Part of me wants to tell you that you're overthiking it somewhat, but then I also completely understand the need to stand out from the crowd of other applicants, so perhaps overthinking is the right course of action. Still, I think you might be generalizing the other applicants as well. I would assume that most of them are in the same sort of position that you are, and are likely thinking the same things about their essays.

I think this may be one of those situations where overthinking could make it worse though. What about the stream of consciousness idea I gave you? It's at least worth a try. If you try to hard to make it perfect, it could come off sounding forced. I think you need to first find the right state of mind. Go somewhere you wouldn't normally go to write, maybe do something beforehand to relax you and put you into an introspective state, like a massage or a sauna or some relaxing music or even a "herbal remedy." Or, write something in the third person about you, but not from your perspective. Like you were someone else who was asked to write a biography of this person (you.)

Hmm... I must think on this some more.

sovknight said...

Ugh... please ignore the atrocious grammar of the last post. It's an off-day I guess.

Sra said...

Thanks, Kirsten. That's a good angle. I'll see what I can come up with along those lines, and I'll happily take you up on your offer of going over a draft when it's ready.

Sov, I like your idea of writing about myself in the third person, just as a means of getting outside of myself. For the essay itself I'll write in the first person, as I've actually heard that a lot of people write about themselves in the third person and admissions people see that as annoying. I would find it annoying too. But I like it as an exercise. I like the idea of a massage too ;) I've been trying for years to get an excuse to get one.

And the only atrocious grammar thing that stuck out to me was your use of to instead of too. But nobody proofs their comments, and everybody makes awful mistakes in comments anyway, so you are off the hook this time :P

Travislpace(at)gmail(dot)com said...

I just started reading today as a link from www.sarahnielson.com ( so i read through the blogs on the page). I'm obviously not an expert on you or have any idea of who you are. I think it might be best to look at what or rather who the people reviewing your application are weeding out.

First there are a limited number of spots available. Their job as a money making business is to fill those jobs with reoccurring revenue. Basically they want people who will stick with it and who are able. If you have the academic credentials to even think of law school then I assume you are able. The question in their minds is if you will stick with it. That is the reason most people talk about trials in their life and how they still succeeded. How you can become different from those other applicants is pointing out the things that you have stuck through in your life because its something you are/were passionate about. For example, you blog nearly every day. No one forces you to do it, but you do it anyway. Its that type of dedication the reviewers are going to look at. Most of the other applicants will talk about diversity they overcame. The question is would they have overcome it had it not been forced on them? Probably not considering the the majority of Americans are too lazy to keep a journal, day planner, or even balance their check book. I would focus on those types of dedications that you have in your life. They may be small but its the small things in life, relationships, and many other aspects that count. Right?

Sra said...

That's some great insight, Travis. Thanks for checking out my blog and taking the time to write your thoughts. I really appreciate this perspective, and I'm going to do some thinking about it. It is important to stick out somehow, and this is good advice.

Brikena Ribaj said...

State your purpose/intent confidently, clearly, but most of all honestly and genuinely. You could never go wrong that way. You will be entering a profession that's not only important but also very [culturally] relevant. Mention why you want to be in it. What do you have to offer that will help it in the long run? What will it offer you?

Claire said...

"Write what you know," said some writing god of the distant past - correctly, I think. Obviously, one can't rely solely on style to carry the day (well, unless one is Mr. Blackwell or Jeff Koontz)...and you've got substance aplenty, sister. Others here have already stated most of what I would advise you to do, but remember that you'll most likely stick out for NOT having a gimmick as you would for including The Seven Songs of Respectful Request or some similar shite.

Were I you, I'd take the figurative aspect of Sov's idea (step outside yourself a bit) and apply it thusly: "Hi, I'm Sra, and I'm much more than the sum of my experiences." Tell your story to yourself first, and look at everything you've accomplished that may seem easy to YOU, but to others (the linguistically challenged, the dyslexic, the willfully obtuse) seems akin to scaling the very heights of Mt. Olympus. Travis is right - your solidity and consistency may seem like Moneypennies compared to the Bond Girls of seal rescue/senator interning/Yale-attending, but when it comes time to choose a lawyer, do you want Moneypenny, who can be counted on in a pinch, or some twit with a lame double-entendre for a name? Believe me, I'm normally the primary advocate for style over substance, but in your chosen field of endeavor, you've got what it takes to bring home the bacon, lady - as anyone who reads more than three words you've strung together will quickly realize.

One thing I've gleaned from reading your blog, Sra, is that you've been blessed (cursed?) with a remarkably minimal sense of self-importance (although it seems to have been leavened with a generous scoop of neuroses :) ), which is surprising in most people and downright astounding in a lawyer. Like I said - write what you know. Law is about the logical and persuasive presentation of facts, but it's also about the person practicing it and their ability to render effective said logical and persuasive arguments. As Aristotle said, "Whereas law is passionless, passion must ever sway the heart of man."

So, you know, be yourself. They'll be anything but bored.

sovknight said...

Damn Claire. Dennis Miller has nothing on you when it comes to referencing and sub-referencing. Gonna need a chart.

Oh, and we're climbing Mt. Olympus next month, hopefully.

Sra said...

Brikena: Thanks for the sound advice. Looks like I need to do some serious brainstorming.

Claire: I shall write what I know. Thanks for your ever metaphorical perspective.

Sov: Yes, Mt. Olympus shall be mounted in September. (P.S. Half the time I don't know what Claire's talking about, but she's damn funny anyway.)

Travislpace(at)gmail(dot)com said...

I just started reading today as a link from www.sarahnielson.com ( so i read through the blogs on the page). I'm obviously not an expert on you or have any idea of who you are. I think it might be best to look at what or rather who the people reviewing your application are weeding out.

First there are a limited number of spots available. Their job as a money making business is to fill those jobs with reoccurring revenue. Basically they want people who will stick with it and who are able. If you have the academic credentials to even think of law school then I assume you are able. The question in their minds is if you will stick with it. That is the reason most people talk about trials in their life and how they still succeeded. How you can become different from those other applicants is pointing out the things that you have stuck through in your life because its something you are/were passionate about. For example, you blog nearly every day. No one forces you to do it, but you do it anyway. Its that type of dedication the reviewers are going to look at. Most of the other applicants will talk about diversity they overcame. The question is would they have overcome it had it not been forced on them? Probably not considering the the majority of Americans are too lazy to keep a journal, day planner, or even balance their check book. I would focus on those types of dedications that you have in your life. They may be small but its the small things in life, relationships, and many other aspects that count. Right?

Sra said...

Thanks, Kirsten. That's a good angle. I'll see what I can come up with along those lines, and I'll happily take you up on your offer of going over a draft when it's ready.

Sov, I like your idea of writing about myself in the third person, just as a means of getting outside of myself. For the essay itself I'll write in the first person, as I've actually heard that a lot of people write about themselves in the third person and admissions people see that as annoying. I would find it annoying too. But I like it as an exercise. I like the idea of a massage too ;) I've been trying for years to get an excuse to get one.

And the only atrocious grammar thing that stuck out to me was your use of to instead of too. But nobody proofs their comments, and everybody makes awful mistakes in comments anyway, so you are off the hook this time :P

sovknight said...

Am I disqualified because I know you in person?

Part of me wants to tell you that you're overthiking it somewhat, but then I also completely understand the need to stand out from the crowd of other applicants, so perhaps overthinking is the right course of action. Still, I think you might be generalizing the other applicants as well. I would assume that most of them are in the same sort of position that you are, and are likely thinking the same things about their essays.

I think this may be one of those situations where overthinking could make it worse though. What about the stream of consciousness idea I gave you? It's at least worth a try. If you try to hard to make it perfect, it could come off sounding forced. I think you need to first find the right state of mind. Go somewhere you wouldn't normally go to write, maybe do something beforehand to relax you and put you into an introspective state, like a massage or a sauna or some relaxing music or even a "herbal remedy." Or, write something in the third person about you, but not from your perspective. Like you were someone else who was asked to write a biography of this person (you.)

Hmm... I must think on this some more.

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