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Sample Essay Evaluation

Note: This Essay Evaluation combines a Full Edit and Second Review.

INITIAL COMMENTS: This marks a good beginning. Your draft contains detailed descriptions of factors which led to your decision to study law. Your descriptions give a good sense of who you are as a person. You've made it seem logical that you chose the path you're on and that you understand what your interests are and how you acquired them. Still, there are some mechanical errors to correct as well as general weaknesses in structure, organization, and logic which should be remedied. We've addressed these problems in our comments below. We also strived to point out specific areas of strength.

"My objective is to graduate from X University college of law. I know I will be able to maximize my contribution to society as a lawyer." COMMENTS:

  1. The phrase "college of law" should be capitalized (i.e., "College of Law") since it is part of a formal title for the school.
  2. Consider making distinctions between short-term, intermediate-term, and long-term goals or objectives. For example, your short-term goal is to gain entry to a good-quality law school. Your intermediate-term goal is to graduate. Your long-term goals are your career and/or ultimate life goals.
  3. The first paragraph actually contains more than one paragraph. First paragraphs should clearly announce the thesis of an essay with subsequent paragraphs providing support and evidence for the thesis. Your first paragraph does contain a clear thesis (i.e., that you decided to study law to make maximal contributions to society), but it also contains supporting evidence for that thesis (i.e., you cite two factors which helped form this desire in you as a child). It should be broken up into two or three paragraphs, as we will show more below.
  4. Consider putting the thesis at the end of the first paragraph versus the beginning. This technique will draw or funnel your readers' attention toward your main point, which may help to engage their attention more. Your approach of stating the thesis at the outset certainly works to get your point across right away and gives the reader an immediate and direct answer to the question asked, but it has less "hook" than the approach of revealing it at the end.

"As a young boy, I dreamed of becoming a policeman and a fireman." COMMENTS:

  1. You've switched from a general discussion of your interest in law to a specific discussion of the first factor which led to this interest. This could be the start of your second paragraph (the first supporting evidence paragraph). Alternatively, along the lines of the last suggestion above, you could open with this sentence in the first paragraph and work towards the statement that you decided to study law to maximize contributions to society at end of that paragraph, forging logical links between.
  2. Did you really desire to become both a policeman and fireman?

"That may sound not unlike many other young children with the same aspirations." The wording is awkward as it contains a double negative ("not unlike"). Reword the sentence in a positive way. Examples: "Of course, many young boys harbor similar ambitions"; "Of course, such dreams are common for many young children."

"However, I was not attracted to these professions for their obvious action and bravado. What made these people special to me is that they stood up for others. They protected those who could not help themselves. For me, they represented justice." You could shorten and clarify the passage by dropping the part about "they stood up for others" (which is vague). Make the two sentences one: "What made these people special to me is how they protected others who could not help themselves."

"I know that these early admirations laid the foundation for my future interest law." COMMENTS:

  1. Law is your future interest. It must be presented, set apart, as such. Either use a colon (which means "that is" or "namely")--or insert the word "in." For example: "future interest: law" or "future interest in law."
  2. "Admirations" is vague. "Early career interests" maybe?

"As I got older I became intrigued with the work of my father." COMMENTS:

  1. You're now listing a second strong influence on your decision to study law. Start a new paragraph to mark the new topic and introduce the paragraph with a topic sentence such as, "A second factor which strongly influenced my decision to study law was my father's work," or "A second strong influence on my interest in law was...." etc. This will harken back to the introductory paragraph and funnel the reader into learning about another specific influence.
  2. "As I got older" is a modifying clause or phrase that precedes the main clause in this sentence. It can be set off by a comma to make it more grammatically distinct, although it can also be left as is since the modifying clause is brief and already conceptually distinct. I'd advise supplying the comma rather than omitting it, but it is acceptable either way.

"He was heavily involved in transit labor negotiations. He was a business agent for the Teamsters and went on to be the president of the Transitworkers Union Local 100. These were prominent positions." COMMENTS:

  1. Maybe state his positions first, then describe his specific duties; eg., "As a business agent for the Teamsters (Union?) and then later as President of the Transitworkers Union Local 100, he was heavily involved in labor negotations."
  2. That "these were prominent positions" is self-evident, so the sentence is unnecessary.

"My father advocated and garnered better wages, benefits, and working conditions for his fellow public employees. The livelihood of thousands of workers was dependent upon his negotiating savvy." It is an overstatement to say that the workers' livelihood "depended" completely on your father's negotiating savvy, as their livelihood preusmably depended on other factors as well, such as showing up to work each day. Moderate the sentence to make it more true; eg., "His negotiating savvy helped improve the lives of... " or "The livelihood of thousands of workers was strongly influenced by..."

"I knew that my father was working toward something that would help hard-working people who deserved a better lifestyle." COMMENTS:

  1. This is personal opinion rendered as fact (knowns). The sentence could be reworded to express more clearly that the ideas contained herein are opinions rather than facts. Thus, it seemed to you that your father was working toward the end you described; it seemed to you that the workers were "hard-working people" who "deserved" a better lifestyle.
  2. In addition, perhaps you could reword the sentence to focus more on your own impressions of your father's work--which are, after all, more important in shaping your decision to study law than what he actually did. You seem to have thought he performed a valuable, necessary, even noble, service in helping workers to gain a better livelihood. Try to bring this out more.
  3. You could start another paragraph here, as you've switched from describing your father's job to describing your impressions of his work and how they influenced your thinking. It would also be fine, though, to put all the discussion about your father's work in a single paragraph.

"What was hard for me to understand though, was that he had to fight for this." You need to insert a comma before "though" as well as after it, as it is a parenthetical element which connects the two parts of the sentence, is not integral only to the first part of it. Alternatively, you could eliminate "though" and the commas altogether.

"I asked him why the union always was at odds with the city." This is overstated. The conflict likely wasn't constant but intermittent. Suggested rewording: replace "always was" with "was often," "was sometimes," "was intermittently," etc.

"He explained that the city government had a responsibility workers, to the taxpayers, and to the bottom line." COMMENTS:

  1. Insert "to" between "responsibility" and "workers."
  2. The logic isn't clear here. Do you mean that the city government had multiple responsibilities that sometimes came into conflict (i.e., competing responsibilities)? Another way to put it: "Sometimes city governments operate under conflicting constraints...."

"They had to make the transit system run efficiently. That could not always coexist with an opulent lifestyle for all of the bus drivers. The point he was trying to make is that there are two sides to every conflict and usually neither side is either totally right or totally wrong." COMMENTS:

  1. The word "they" does not have a clear referent. "They" are city government officials, I presume.
  2. The phrase "opulent lifestyle" overstates the workers' goals, no? Did workers really try to achieve opulence (wealth to point of ostentation)? I'd suggest using a different modifier to describe the lifestyle workers realistically would hope to achieve.
  3. The main point you seem to be making is that city officials couldn't always give the workers as much money as they (the workers) may have wanted because they (the government officials) had also to think about keeping the costs of running the transit system down. You're giving an example of a conflict here. This should be made clearer.
  4. Keep the focus on how your father's work and perspectives influenced you. Instead of saying "The point he was trying to make," say something like "My father helped me to see that," or "From my father, I learned that there are many sides" to conflicts.
  5. Actually, you've noted at least three (multiple) "sides" or perspectives here, not just two.

"This is a principle that I still hold in deference today." COMMENTS:

  1. It's not a "principle" (belief or assumption) to see that there are usually two, perhaps multiple, sides to any conflict. Rather, this is an observation of fact, a truism even, although perhaps it was a revelation to you at the time.
  2. Also, "in deference" is awkward. You don't submit to a fact of life so much as respect it, or reckon with it. I'm not sure how I'd reword this exactly but perhaps you could say something like you "respect this fact of life" or "place high esteem on this observation"?

"It can be equated to everything from labor relations, to a murder trial, and even to something as relatively trivial as chronic squabbling among neighbors." COMMENTS:

  1. Principles, or observations, are "applied" to situations, not "equated" to them.
  2. Try to replace the vague words "everything" and "something." Perhaps use "situations" instead?

"By the time I had reached high school, I was fascinated with the social sciences." You should start another paragraph here, as you've switched now to describing another (third) influence on your decision to study law: your exposure to the social sciences. Or you could put it that your interests described thus far had developed to the point that you were drawn to the study of social sciences by the time you reached high school. Somehow show a progression and/or connection between the events or influences you describe.

"I relished my classes in government, civics, and history." COMMENTS:

  1. In line with above comments, you might note that you continued taking classes in these subjects in college. In other words, you might say that your academic pursuits in both high school and college flowed from the interests you'd developed earlier in life (i.e., in people who protected others in their careers, in your father's work in bargaining and improving social relations, etc.)
  2. Another approach: try to explain why you were interested in the social sciences. Tie the interest in social sciences back to the earlier influences.

"Wanting to learn more, I took all of the classes in politics I could." Wanting to learn more about what? Be more specific.

"It was then that I knew I would be a lawyer. It was the perfect nexus of my intrigue with public policy and justice, and my desire to help others. " It's good how you tie your past interests to the decision to be a lawyer but was it really a certainty for you that you wanted to be lawyer way back in high school? If so, why didn't you pursue law school right out of college? The way you've phrased it here (which suggests you had absolute conviction) begs that question, which is one that will likely be on the minds of people reviewing your application and should probably be addressed. Think hard about how you want to address the question. Was it that, rather than having gained absolute certainty that you wanted to be a lawyer as a teenager, you began to get an inkling that you wanted to study law in high school and then subsequent (college and post-college) experiences confirmed this decision for you? Or was it that you purposely delayed going to law school right away even though you knew you would be headed there when you were much younger? If the latter is true, then why the delay?

"I went through college knowing what my profession would be but did not have very specific professional interests." COMMENTS:

  1. This is confusing, seems contradictory. How could you have known you wanted to be a lawyer yet also not have had very specific professional interests? Do you mean that you were unsure of what specific sub-field within the legal field you wanted to study? Or do you mean that you really weren't so sure of anything beyond your desire to be in a profession where you could help others? As you rewrite the essay, try to clarify. Again, one of the two approaches suggested above would work. You could say simply that as time went on you became increasingly certain that you wanted to be a lawyer but you remained unsure of what sub-field to pursue. You don't need to pinpoint a specific time of decision but rather could talk of the decision evolving over time. Alternatively, if you truly knew you wanted to become a lawyer at such a young age, explain why you delayed acting on your certainty.
  2. It's good that you started another paragraph here, as you've switched from discussing high school interests to discussing college interests. But, as noted above, you might try to distinguish the two rather than to make it sound like your mind was made up in high school and then you went through college without further developing your career plans much.

"That all changed during my senior year." COMMENTS:

  1. Tack on mention of which undergraduate college you attended. ("That all changed during my senior year at ....")
  2. Again (or still), there are problems with the timing question. First, if "everything changed" in your senior year (presumably so that you gained the clarity you'd been lacking thereto), why didn't you go to law school right after your senior year? You haven't addressed this yet--nor do you address it later on. Also, was it really the case that your decision suddenly snapped into place, or was it that your plans were gradually changing, being incrementally reshaped by all the influences you mentioned? Try to answer these important questions in your revision.

"As an intern at Community Mediation and Dispute Resolution Services of X County (CMDRS), I was priveleged to see negotiating and justice melded in a very intimate, grass-roots setting." COMMENTS:

  1. You could tie this sentence to the previous one as such: "That all changed during my senior year at X University when I got the opportunity to work as an intern at ...."
  2. "Priveleged" is spelled "privileged."
  3. Is "privileged" the word you want to use though? If you want to convey that you had a special opportunity, then yes. But if you meant to say that you were able to see proceedings that were held in a secret-like setting (which is what your words suggest), then you might've meant to say that you were 'privy to' seeing what you saw.

"CMDRS was a non-profit agency offering court-ordered and voluntary mediation services for a nominal fee. It was staffed by trained volunteers from the community including local attorneys." COMMENTS:

  1. This is useful information about your background. Try to give some more information about CMDRS. For instance, you speak about it in the past tense, but does it still exist? Were mediation services offered to all citizens, or just convicted criminals and their victims? Was the agency unique to X County or did it resemble others elsewhere?
  2. The phrase "including local attorneys" modifies the main sentence clause and should be set off (preceded) by a comma.

"They handled such mundane cases as parent-child and neighborhood disputes. However, the court-ordered mediations had the most profound effect on me." You hint that there was a range of types of disputes handled by CMDRS, but don't say this directly. Maybe reword this to make it clearer. For example, "They handled a range of cases, from such mundane disputes as .... to the more complicated court-ordered mediation cases, such as.... It was the latter type cases that most profoundly interested me."

"X County would refer juvenile offenders to meet face-to-face with their victims." COMMENTS:

  1. You've reified X County here (i.e., treated it like a person when it is a thing). Reword, such as: "X County officials" or "X County justice officials."
  2. You might say whether this practice was a routine one, one used just sometimes, one used only in special cases, etc. For example: "X County officials routinely would refer juvenile offenders to meet face-to-face with their victims."
  3. Make mention that this is an example of the court-ordered mediation cases which interested you. "For example, X County officials would...." This is using more funneling technique--helping to draw the reader down a path toward your specific subject and making explicit how everything you're discussing is connected. This helps to strengthen the essay's organization.
  4. Your use of the word "would" (conditional past tense) is confusing, makes it seem like you're talking about a hypothetical past situation that would've occurred under certain conditions rather than a real situation that did occur. Why not use simple past tense: "For example, X County officials sometimes referred juvenile offenders to meet face-to-face with their victims"? This problem recurs throughout. See more comments on tense below.

"As an intern I was able to witness restorative justice at work." Again, you need to connect this to previous statements and keep funneling the reader to your main point. One easy way to do this: "As an intern I was able to witness such encounters and see restorative justice at work."

"A man whose car was broken into and stereo stolen would meet with the offender and the mediators." COMMENTS:

  1. As written, this statement seems abstract, isolated, unconnected to what came before. Again, you need to tie this sentence to the previous statements and keep funneling the reader. "For example, I witnessed a case where a man was able to meet with the offenders who broke into his car and stole his stereo."
  2. You've used conditional past tense again when simple past tense (such as reworded sentence in item above) would be more straightforward and true.

"The victims would have the chance to ask questions. They could tell how the crime affected them financially and emotionally. The offender would then explain their side and give insight into their motive and state of mind at the time of the incident. The mediators would then aid in reaching a mutually agreeable solution to the conflict." COMMENTS:

  1. The tense problems noted earlier are rife here. Again, rather than make this encounter sound like a hypothetical situation, give your story life by rendering it as it was: a real situation that you witnessed. See suggested rewording (which addresses another problem noted below as well) in next item below.
  2. You need to clarify and separate the actions of the single victim ("he" not "they") from those of the juveniles who commited the crime ("they" or "perpetrators" or "offenders," etc.). It's confusing as you've written it, not always clear who you're talking about. Suggested rewording: "He got to ask the offenders questions about their motivations. He explained to them how their crime affected him financially and emotionally. The offenders then gave an account of their side of the story, which lent some insight into their motives and state of mind at the time of the incident. The mediators then aided in reaching a mutually agreeable solution to the conflict."

"This would normally be financial restitution and/or community service hours. I sat in on over a dozen of these sessions. They invariably ended with both parties feeling better about each other and about what happened. More than once I saw victim and offender embrace." COMMENTS:

  1. This is a good place to remind the reader that the specific case you've just described is an example of many other cases like it. For example: "In this case, as in many others like it, the solution was financial restitution and/or community service hours."
  2. Your ending is powerful, evokes an emotional scene. The comment that each party "felt better" in the end, however, is vague. Can you give more detail about the end results of the sessions?

"After seeing the benefits that mediation and alternative dispute resolution had to offer I knew that it was something that I wanted to be a part of in a much larger capacity. The ramifications of alternative dispute resolution reach far beyond the small setting in which I experienced it. It has tremendous potential for improving community relations by aiding in justice. It will provide much needed relief to a strained legal system, saving countless dollars by avoiding costly and lengthy litigation." COMMENTS:

  1. This is good. But perhaps you could be more consistent in describing the benefits as potential rather than assured ones. For example: "The ramifications of alternative dispute resolution can reach far beyond the small setting in which I experienced it. It has tremendous potential for improving community relations by aiding in justice. It can provide much needed relief to a strained legal system, saving countless dollars by avoiding costly and lengthy litigation."
  2. Perhaps emphasize the potential benefit of improving community relations more than the potential cost-saving benefit. Suggested rewording: "It can also provide much needed relief...."
  3. Hyphenate "much-needed," as it is a compound modifier preceding the noun, or change to "It can provide relief to a strained legal system that is much needed...."
  4. Start a new paragraph here, as you've switched from describing the mediation you witnessed to giving your assessment of the possible wider ramifications of it and how it impacted you personally.

"I envision mediation as being the way of the future in not only the public sector, but the private sector as well." COMMENTS:

  1. This is good too, but can you give any further examples?
  2. The wording "being the way of the future" sounds awkward, as does "in not only." Maybe reword, such as: "I envision mediation being more widely used in the future, not only in the public sector, but in the private sector as well."

GENERAL COMMENTS ON THE SECTION ABOVE: The above is good to show your specific experience and how it ties into your decision to study law, but you need to straighten out tenses, make use of verbs consistent and active. You also need to separate more clearly your specific experiences from what you see to be the general uses/benefits of this type of conflict resolution process. Thus, your narrative would proceed roughly as follows: "In my experience, I saw (past tense) this and that. In the specific community setting, this process had these benefits. The process also has general applicability in that...."

"In my upcoming career I intend to make my mark on the legal community by using my negotiating skills." COMMENTS:

  1. Start a new paragraph here as you're on to a new topic: your future career.
  2. This is an abrupt shift from the above discussion of your experience in alternative dispute resolution. Why not seque into a discussion of your future career by touching back to the past first? For example, you could highlight that your past experience ties into a general interest in "creative justice approaches" (as you say below). Or you could say simply that you hope to pursue alternative dispute resolution more as well as explore other areas of law. For example, "In my career as legal professional, I hope to be able to explore more deeply this interest in alternative dispute resolution as well as many other aspects of the legal profession. I am eager to put my sharp negotiating skills and critical thinking abilities to work in any number of areas within the profession. I can see myself...."

"I must admit I am not precisely certain what area of the law I would like to practice. I can see myself as a prosecutor while endorsing the further use of community mediation programs like the one I experienced in X County. Another exciting possibility for me would be practicing labor law. This would allow me to have a tremendous positive impact on the lives of those I advocated." Rather than highlighting your uncertainty, keep to idea that you have multiple interests, can see many prospects for yourself in law.

"X University is the perfect choice for me in my quest to become a lawyer. I plan to practice in X State and I am glad the best school is in my own backyard. X University consistently boasts a very high bar passage rate, which proves that its graduates are well prepared to begin their careers upon graduation. What is most impressive to me though, is that X University is nationally recognized as a leader in dispute resolution education in the United States. That is no small factor in my desire to attend X University. With the expertise that I will gain in dispute resolution against the backdrop of a sound overall legal education, I will be able to forge ahead with the confidence that I will achieve what I have set out to do...utilize a creative approach to justice that benefits the legal system and society at large." COMMENTS:

  1. Start another new paragraph here, as you've changed topics again. Your focus here is on how a particular school fits your interests.
  2. You repeat an error here with the word "though." It should be enclosed by commas on both sides, as in: "What is most impressive to me, though, is that...."
  3. Rather than the ellipses used in the final sentence, use a full colon. "... I will be able to achieve what I have set out to do: utilize...."
  4. This is good overall because you show you've done your homework on University X. You give specific examples of how this particular school fits your interests. You show knowledge of areas of specialization within the College of Law and its overall performance record. Moreover, the tone of your comments is appropriately laudatory without being coy or feigning.

FINAL COMMENTS: With further revision along the lines suggested, we believe that this essay will be a strong one. To revisit one important point touched on above, however, we strongly suggest that you consider directly addressing the time gap between the end of undergraduate college and now. As noted above, reviewers will likely wonder why you delayed entry into law school, especially when you claim to have known from an early date that you wanted to go this route. You should be truthful in your explanation and also supply logic for it. Again, depending on the truth of it, you could simply soften your claim of being certain that you wanted to become a lawyer at such early age if that fits. You could say that, while you see in retrospect that you were headed toward law school for a long time, it took years for the decision to gel/cumulate. This makes sense and may have really been closer to the truth. Many people graduate from undergraduate college with a strong inkling of wanting to go law school, and then their post-graduate experiences help to solidify their decision. If this was the case for you too, just add a paragraph explaining how specific experiences you had after graduating from college helped to cinch your decision. If this logic does not apply, however--if you really did know where you were headed at such a young age--perhaps you could say you purposely delayed entry into law school for specific reasons, such as financial. This also makes sense, rings true, and will easily help explain to a review committee how you ended up delaying entry. Best of luck to you!

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