Sample Law School Application Essay - After

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Edited Essay

I began hallucinating early Thursday morning. My team and I were halfway finished with what our instructors dubbed "The Long Paddle," and I could feel my sanity slowly slipping away. A combination of severe sleep deprivation and extreme physical exercise can do that to you. I had not had more than three hours of sleep since "Hellweek" began on Sunday afternoon. As I looked around, I contemplated the severity of my delirium. I was reasonably certain that the Statue of Liberty did not stand in San Diego and that the tigers racing along the riverbank did not exist. My ears picked up the sound of our boat's leader having a heated argument with Jenkins, but Jenkins had quit the team two weeks ago.

Glancing around me, I felt strangely reassured by the confused expressions on my teammates' faces. Even though I was stuck in a tiny inflatable boat with six potential lunatics, I at least felt reassured by the knowledge that I was not the only person being affected by the exercise. Hellweek. I had experienced various incarnations of this phenomenon each year of my life, ever since peewee football. Nonetheless, no previous "hell" could compare to the punishment that the United States Navy dishes out during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training (BUD/S). Hellweek marks the sixth week of BUD/S and is a six-day celebration of misery designed to eliminate weak candidates. Only the strong survive.

This year's week of torment was heightened by an untimely cold spell; more than two-thirds of our original class had already quit. Running on soft sand beaches in combat boots, swallowing a facemask of salt water while lugging twin steel scuba tanks on your back, and being soaked to the core and covered with sand were experiences that would make most sane people question their desire to finish the program. But it was the cold that claimed the most victims. We shivered through the nights and well into the mornings, the chill of the air seeping into our very bones. Visions of hot meals and warm beds haunted us; we knew that ending the suffering and the cold was as easy as quitting the program. And quitting was so very easy. Simply stand in front of your classmates and ring a silver ship's bell three times--the temptation was nearly irresistible. Nonetheless, I had set a goal for myself, and I knew, even in the midst of that Thursday morning delirium, that giving up was not an option.

The BUD/S program had already made a marked difference in my life. When I first decided to become a frogman, I was not a gifted swimmer or an accomplished distance runner, and I had a significant fear of heights. Over the course of my training, however, I routinely swam six miles into the open ocean and ran upwards of fifteen miles on land. I also jumped from 20,000 feet directly into the ocean. With each experience, I gained more confidence in my ability to set and attain ambitious goals.

For many months, I agonized over the decision to attend law school. At this point in my life, I seem to have all I need: a comfortable house in the suburbs, a happy marriage, and a beautiful daughter. My career as an accountant is pleasant, and it leaves me enough free time to pursue my hobbies. In short, I could have sailed happily through life until my eventual retirement party. But I realized that to do so would be to set a severe limit upon my potential. I require constant, arduous challenges that demand all of my resources, both physical and mental. I want to contribute more to the world than simply capitalizing on my current company's success.

I understand fully the rigors associated with studying law, and I am prepared to dedicate as much time as it takes to understand its theories and practices. I believe that certain qualities distinguish a superior law school graduate: dedication to the pursuit of knowledge; the ability to argue and defend an opinion; and the ability to plan, research, and present a watertight case. These qualities are vital to law and can also reap extensive rewards in many other areas of life. I am ready, willing, and able to accept the challenges that I will face during law school, and I look forward to forging a successful career, both as a student and as an attorney.

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Critique

Click Here for the Edited Version.

Dear John,

You have written a very engaging essay that illustrates your incredible drive and ability to overcome enormous challenges. You are clearly a strong writer, and you have done a tremendous job of highlighting the most impressive aspects of your military training.

The basic structure of your essay is effective, and the only paragraph-level changes I made were separating the introduction proper from the first paragraph and condensing the final two paragraphs into a single, concise conclusion.

Here are my specific comments on each individual paragraph of your essay:

Paragraph 1

Your opening sentence is wonderful--it immediately grabs the reader's attention and draws him into your piece. To improve syntax, however, I reversed the order of clauses in this sentence.

To craft a compelling introduction, I drew upon and expanded your discussion of the mounting delirium you suffered during Hellweek. Your essay had all the requisite details, so my job was to link them together with eloquent sentence-to-sentence transitions.

For instance, your sentence, "The statue of Liberty does not belong in San Diego, and I doubted those tigers racing along the shore were real," is ineffective if it is not preceded by an appropriate transition. I have written the following transition to prepare the reader for your observation: "As I looked around, I contemplated the severity of my delirium."

"I could hear the officer in charge of our boat team having a heated discussion with Jenkins, problem was, Jenkins had quit the program two weeks earlier."

Avoid colloquial expressions such as "problem was" in formal writing.

Paragraph 2

This paragraph provides ample opportunity to improve your narrative voice. With details as vibrant as those you provide, it makes sense to draw out and refine your various descriptions.

For instance, instead of stating, "Shivering all night and well into the morning for days on end is enough to make a strong man weak," you should instead provide a visual description that drives your point home. I suggest the following: "We shivered through the nights and well into the mornings, the chill of the air seeping into our very bones."

Similarly, it would make sense to place more emphasis on describing the intense temptation you overcame to stay in the program. By using phrases like, "Visions of hot meals and warm beds haunted us," you can add a dramatic, narrative style to your passage. See my additional suggestions in the revised essay.

Paragraph 3

This paragraph required a new transition sentence to illustrate the broader significance of your BUD/S training. The analogy you draw about overcoming fears and tackling obstacles is exactly that--an analogy. Consequently, it would make sense to expand upon your discussion of physical and mental training to show how this training assisted in more than just your military endeavors.

"By the time that my training had been completed, swimming six miles in the open ocean was commonplace, running upwards of fifteen miles was the norm, and well, no one had to pushme out of an airplane although it would be hard to consider that commonplace."

This is a run-on sentence. You should always vary your sentence structure to keep your writing fresh. I suggest the following: "Over the course of my training, however, I routinely swam six miles into the open ocean and ran upwards of fifteen miles on land. I also jumped from 20,000 feet directly into the ocean."

"I have learned that by clearly defining ones goals, understanding the qualities needed to achieve that objective..."

Be sure that your clauses agree. In this sentence, you initially use a plural noun as your subject ("one's goals") and then use a singular noun ("that objective"). This discrepancy has been corrected.

Paragraph 4

"My decision to attend law school was not one that came easily to me."

It is always better to illustrate your point rather than to state it explicitly. I propose the following: "For many months, I agonized over the decision to attend law school."

"I want to contribute more to the workforce than capitalizing my company's construction in progress."

The phrase "construction in progress" is awkward and too colloquial. (It should, in any event, be hyphenated.) See the alternative wording that I propose.

Paragraphs 5 and 6

These paragraphs were very similar, and it would make sense to roll both into a single, eloquent conclusion.

Avoid repetition in your writing. For instance, the phrases, "I understand the rigors associated with the study of law," and, "I understand the challenges associated with the study of law," are nearly identical.

"I am prepared to dedicate my time so that I may excel at understanding [the law's] theories and practices and in turn use that knowledge to better my professional career and my personal requirements to be the best at what I have set out to do."

This sentence is much more powerful if you eliminate the final, vague verbiage ("and in turn use that knowledge to better my professional career and my personal requirements to be the best at what I have set out to do"). See the revised essay.

With all the changes I have proposed, you will have to use your judgment and accept only those which you think are best.

Overall, your refined essay paints a wonderful picture of your ability to overcome enormous challenges. I wish you the best of luck in the admissions process.

Sincerely,
Your EssayEdge Editor

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