Harvard Law School

Application Essays – Anonymous Inspiration

What Worked for them can Help You Get into the Law School of Your Choice 

What is wrong with you!? These men are killers! They kill for a living, it’s only a matter of time before one of them snaps. You’ll be next.” This sentiment, echoed many times by loved ones, was not enough to dissuade me from doing the last thing anyone in my family could have predicted.

I have seen more tears since I began working on Fort Bragg six months ago than in the whole of my twenty-four years. I saw tears of joy as I handed over the keys to a newlywed couple’s first home. I saw tears of relief as I explained our insurance policy to a family who had lost everything in a fire. I saw tears of frustration as I prove for objectivity while investigating charges of spousal abuse. I saw tears of helplessness as I struggled to help a mother who could not afford to feed her children while supporting her drug habit. The most distressing are tears that I can do nothing to assuage, the tears of those who have just discovered the person they have been waiting for will not return from their last deployment. While my formal education gave me the framework to understand international conflict at an abstract level, my experiences since gradation have shown me the importance of that research.

My background is drastically different from that of my coworkers: I am neither a veteran, nor an army brat, nor an army wife. I accepted this position with the goal of working toward positive change, but with no idea how the experience would change me. To do my job I had to become fluent in the language of the military and overcome a culture shock greater than any I experience living abroad. I pass through two armed checkpoints on my daily commute, entering an environment completely alien to everything I knew before. Until a few years ago I had never met a soldier, had never held a gun, had never contemplated the questions that arise when a single decision literally determines life or death. Much had changed since then.

Growing up and attending college in the birthplace of the free speech movement, I was no stranger to alternative lifestyles and attitudes. After 9/11, when most of the country discovered its patriotism, the youth of Berkeley embraced a stark antiwar stance. NO BLOOD FOR OIL stickers plastered the hallways of my high school, as well as my own books. My interest in international conflict was born during rallies that drew me out of class to march down the streets, carried along in a surging mob. I found comfort in a collective naivete, invariably coupled with the heartfelt belief that we could change the world by protesting the epitome of evil: war. However, as I began to study politics I found the attitude of “us” versus “them” a gross oversimplification. I wanted to effect change, not simply voice my grievances. I spent my college career searching for clarification, but my research only exposed deeper questions. I had the intellectual framework to understand the reasons behind conflict, but found myself lost in applying this knowledge toward a palpable goal.

The basic difference between my own understanding of the world and that of my peers was exposed when my involvement with the military struck an ideological nerve. During my senior year, I met and formed close friendships with a platoon of airborne infantrymen returning from the front lines of Afghanistan. Witnessing firsthand the manifestations of post-traumatic stress disorder, listening to the ideological debates that raged among them, and watching personal camera clips that would never be aired to the public, I discovered the fundamental aspect of my studies. Directly confronted with their shared memories, I finally understood the human cost of war. The extreme difference between what they had lived through and my neat understanding of conflict put everything to serve in my own way. After graduation, in an effort to further understand the system I was intent on improving, I immersed myself in a military community.

Although I lost lifelong friendship for empathizing with “killers,” I moved to the largest military base in the conservative South with the aim of contributing in a concrete way. I was hired by the military housing office and have since been a counselor, advocate, and friend to countless people I would otherwise never have met. Every positive effect I have had on someone else’s life has inspired me to continue with the goal of eventually doing so on a larger scale. Be pursuing a legal career, I believe I can increase my contribution from the personal to the farther-reaching, tangible policy level. It only takes one victory to set a precedent.

Despite a pause in my formal education, I spent the last year learning some of life’s most important and profound lessons. I now know a deeper strength within myself I would never have discovered had I not thrust myself into a new environment, where the most life-changing events are daily occurrences. I am confident this strength will sustain me in my continued efforts to serve my community.

The author doesn’t simply offer an interesting experience. She explains how her experience is situated in the broader narrative of her own personal development. And she also does so in a way that fully engages the reader word by word.
One of the best assets of the essay is its ample supply of vivid, tangible imagery had examples. With every assertion that she makes, the author supports the claim with multiple experiences and interactions that she encountered during her time a Fort Bragg, a U.S. Army installation. From her high school years to the present, she details every feeling and every emotion so that the reader can step into her shoes and live the world through her eyes. Her prose flows to smoothly that it mimics the style of a vignette or a story, rather than that of an academic essay.
However, despite the unique and extremely intriguing nature of her writing style, the essay does fail to adequately connect the incredible stories and life experiences to the author’s own personal goals and values. In fact, the essay first mentions her desire to pursue a legal career only in the last sentences of the penultimate paragraph, leaving little space to actually address the prompt in comparison to the effort devoted to detailing her actual experiences. This structure may also prove to be difficult for the reader to understand, and it’s essay to get lost in the sea of memories and stories. As the goal of the essay is to most effectively reflect personal character and goals, the author could more effectively convey her message by leaving more room to ultimately relate her amazing stories and encounters to her present-day goal and perspective on life.
The essay’s strengths are considerable, tough. Some experiences help us learn by encountering and observing others. Other experiences challenge us, and we learn through adversity. The author’s story encompasses both. Her meshing of the people she has met with the person she has, in spite of challenges, become makes for a truly personal statement.

Rebecca Hu

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