Lose the melodrama


—————Lose the melodrama——————

My name is Min- Jae but I go by MJ. I am not trying to Americanize my Korea~ roots with this nickname. In fact, I am’ deeply proud ‘of them. I was born in

I was born into a one-car family that didn’t use disposable diapers or paper towels, and that counted literal squares of toilet paper. My mother’s bent was toward making everything as difficult as possible to throwaway. I resented it, because the effort felt too tiny, too pockmarked by the indifference of the rest of the world. The fact that I didn’t use paper products meant nothing within the greater scope of existence. 165,000 new cars designed to use gas were still being produced everyday. By the time I left for college, the ideals of my parents had become deeply buried beneath the allure of ease and indulgence.

After I graduated from business school with an economics degree, I worked for three. years as a banker on Wall Street, as soulless and blood-suck­ing a profession as the cliche Hollywood and grassroots movements have con­trived. I made money hand-over-fist in my first year alone and bought new suits when I didn’t-have time to get the old ones-cleaned. I drank bourbon and snorted coke after work. I drank coke and snorted bourbon during work. The meaninglessness of every step I took stalked me like a shadow.

Then one night I woke up, twenty-four years old and already older than my grandfather. I stared into the vacuous holes in my head masquerading as eyes as sweat poured in rivulets around them. I picked up a pen, sat down and wrote out my manifesto. It was the beginning of something vast. By the time I had finished it, the day had slipped by. There were messages on my phone from my colleagues, my bosses and my mother. I didn’t call any of them back. I read and re-read my manifesto. I debated mailing it to the media, my sister, Cawker, or The Times. Then I went to sleep.

The manifesto proclaimed, in part:

It’s easy to get ensnared by the suggested importance of man-made constructs like wealth and pretty-things. But the truth is that the goal of all life is survival. And I see before us a violent and manu­factured death. There is no nature in death by fossil fuel. There is no nature in death by garbage heap. There is no nature in death by deoxygenating our planet. There is no nature in death by war.

Nature lives in the majesty of clean rivers, full trees, minimal waste, green fuels and the potential we each have to change our own fate. I hereby dedicate my life to changing the fate of the world. If I have to murder, decree or reconfigure the laws of the land, so be it. I owe it to myself, humanity and life itself, as each of us does. I move forward with a mind that fights, that has purpose. There is no passion in my thought or deed; but rather, a mission that is clear and principled. It begins today.

I slept for a while. When I finally awoke, I felt like something-akin to lifeblood was regenerating in a modest trickle through my veins. I quit my job. I moved back to my parents’ house, the one in which I had grown up. I went back into my childhood room where my brother’s Star Trek posters hung next to my Raider’s poster signed by Hall of Farmer, Marcus Allen. Ire-connected with a primal, formative part of myself that had been stripped over the years, layer by layer.

I began a deep and intoxicating study of the technologies already chang­ing the world and considered how to make them the only option. “Outlaw fossil fuels,” a voice whispered. The same way we protect the elephant by out­lawing the sale and manufacture of ivory, let’s protect the remaining stores of coal and oil.

The more I understood the rules of the world, the better I understood how to change them. I sought out legal counsel, intricately studied the path of our nation’s finest environmental lawyers. I studied thousands of drop movers, men and women grasping for buckets of water of change, and only getting a single drip across the finish line.

I began to assess the best way to make bold and blanketing moves. I did not intend to be a drop mover- I wanted to open the floodgates. I realized I would have to begin again. Although my intention to change things grows ever more urgent as glaciers break off into the oceans, it now has become morbidly clear that the change must take place within institutions that are already in place. I intend to be the kind of environmental lawyer that changes things by the ocean-full.

There is no time left. I am ready to turn my manifesto into action points.

I am ready to save the world. I hope when I get into law school, your halls are teeming with people just like me: filled with purpose, ready for change, and able to fulfill the manifold dreams of our planet.


Overall Lesson

Convey passion, but not at the expense of reason.

First Impression

The first paragraph could be a little confusing. My-initial impression from the list of behaviors presented in the first sentence (having just one car counting sheets of toilet paper, etc.) was that the candidate’s family was poor, not that it was environmentally conscious. However, he could easily clarify this point by saying that his family adopted these behaviors as part of its environmentally conscious lifestyle.


Parts of this essay contain some really nice phrasing. “The meaninglessness of every step I took stalked me like a shadow,” for example, struck me as a lovely articulation of the candidate’s feelings. It also provides a strong ending for that paragraph by striking the right tone, invoking a powerful visual image, and setting the stage for the candidate’s life-changing decision, revealed in the next section of his personal statement.

I also believe that the candidate sincerely wants to go to law school-and for the reasons he gives later in the essay.


The phrase “snorted bourbon” does not work for me. I know the candidate is trying to be clever with words, but the physical impossibility of what he is describing overshadows the wordplay. Consider also the sentence “Then one night I woke up, twenty-four-years old and already older than my grandfather,” which is unquestionably poetic. However, because this is a personal statement and the rest of the information the candidate is sharing is not hyperbolic (ex­cept the part about snorting bourbon), I think he needs to temper the metaphor with reality just a bit. He still can make the same suggestion-that he had aged dramatically’ for a 24-year-old – but he should adjust the metaphor to make it less literal. For example, he could say something like, “Then one night I woke up, 24 years old, with the resigned cloudiness of my grandfather.” Or he could use a phrase like “hard-won fatigue” or “stale weariness” instead of resigned cloudiness” -whatever the candidate prefers, but without jarring the reader with such a sudden stylistic shift.

Along similar lines, but for a different (and perhaps obvious) reason, he needs to cut the parts where he says he snorted coke and will commit murder. Do not casually allude to your criminal behavior, past or future, in your personal statement.

Final Assessment

In addition to making the edits I suggest in the Weaknesses section, I would advise this candidate to tone down his language in a few places. For example, he should probably reconsider the term “manifesto”-it just sounds a bit too Mein Kampf-y to me. I also think he should remove the phrase “save the world” from the last paragraph to avoid being overly dramatic. This candidate is great at conveying passion (ironically, and a bit confusedly, since he claims to lack it), but he also needs to impart that he is a reasoned individual.

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