Leave no doubt about your candidacy


Leave no doubt about your candidacy

It all began in the bedroom of a fourteen –year old high school outcast. I had transferred from John Cortes High School, in a big urban center, to Sam Houstan High in a completely rural part of the state. There were 58 kids in my class, which felt big, especially when one considered how much space separated each of us in our blips of family farm houses surrounded as they were by eons of crop lines, quiet roads and stray grasses, ponds and trees.
The difference between those other 57 kids and I was simple: Their families were farmers and had been for years. Mine were actors who suddenly decided they wanted to own a farm. At first I felt like Leslie Burke in Bridge to Terabithia without my “Jesse Aarons” counterpart. I wore mismatched socks and bright t-shirts. Sometimes I wore two different –color converse sneakers. I thought it was cool. The kids in my class thought it was freakish. They hadn’t spent junior high with a Sarah Rapier who wore all black and drew raccoon eyes with her mother’s eyeliner and made all the other students call her “Roach,” or a Charlie Sugg who was blind and autistic and counted out loud when he didn’t mean to.

By the time freshman year ended, I came to associate expansive land with loneliness. So I’d find ways to fill the space. I started on my bedroom window—the one closet to my head as I lay on my bed. I painted straight lines and circles, eventually filling up my line of vision with colorful landscapes that did not include rows of corn. Eventually the entire sheet of glass had been transformed. I followed the first with another, and another until all four windows in my room glowed, colorful screens.

When I started painting the window at the top of the stairs, no one complained. But as it neared completion, my parents suggested I check out a nearby architectural salvage yard and take my work outside. I spent a lot of time at the salvage yard. I was drawn to the older, weathered wooden frames. I began to scrape the frames bare and painted them bright colors, then sell them (or more often, give them away), I wound up in art school.
Sometimes art school takes passion and turns it into something practical. For me, my studies became less “art school” and more liberal arts school. I took classes outside the art building at the university, ones that would prepare me for a career in law, something that I slowly took interest in after several history classes changed my perspective on the world.

I graduated with a dual major in Painting and American History. The next step for me is law school. Painting was a way out of my skin during a time when I felt isolated and alone. It was my salvation, allowing me to imagine worlds where I belonged. College brought me a profound sense of belonging, thanks in large part to my paintings, and let me discover myself. It set me on a path toward law school, and toward me.

Overall Lesson

If you went to a nontraditional college, you will need to do more to show that you are prepared to handle the rigors of law school.

First Impression

Meh. The writing is not great. For example, some sentences are unclear, such as this one: “There were fifty-eight kids in my class, which felt big, especially when one considered how much space separated each of us in our blips of family farm houses surrounded as they were by eons of crop lines, quiet roads and stray grasses, ponds and trees.” I also am expecting the candidate to start talking about being a loner at 14, which as far as personal statement topics go, is not especially interesting or insightful.


The essay does ultimately cover some interesting ground. I like that the candidate explains what inspired her to paint, and in turn, to attend art school. I also think she smoothly outlines the transition from art to law without sounding as though she is apologizing for not having gone to a liberal arts institution.


Off the bat, several minor issues need to be addressed:

  1. In the sentence “The difference between those other fifty-seven kids and I was simple,” the phase “the other kids and I” should instead read “the other kids and me” to be grammatically correct.
  2. The applicant should not assume that her reader is familiar with the movie Bridge to Terabithia and can therefore readily understand any references to its plot or main characters. The intended meaning of her allusion to the story is immediately lost on any reader who does not know the film.
  3. In general, speaking for others is a bad idea, so sentences like “The kids in my class thought it was freakish” should be avoided. If the other students actually called her a freak or said that how she dressed was freakish, she should say that. However, if she is merely interpreting their actions in this way, she should cushion her assumptions in more subjective language—such as, “Around the other kids, however, I felt like a freak.”

Still, the most important issue here is that in reviewing her application, the law school admissions committees will definitely question whether art school effectively prepared her for the challenges of law school. She needs to do more to convince the reader that she is equipped to handle a rigorous law school curriculum. Her passion for painting is lovely, and reading about it helps the reader develop a more complete image of her as a person, but the question remains: will she be able to work through hundreds of pages of dense reading each week, the conduct thorough, insightful legal analysis? The essay right now does not persuade me that she will.

Final Assessment

I want the candidate to work on the section in which she discusses her college coursework and what she learned. I particularly would like to hear more about her history classes and American history major. Did she write a thesis? What did she learn about research and writing? What in particular about American history captivated her?

The candidate would also benefit from adding at least a brief discussion of the law-related career she envisions for herself. How exactly does she plan to apply her degree after graduating? We need to know where she believes her “path” will take her next.

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