For most people, the slap on the face that turns their life around is figurative. Mine was literal.
Actually, it was a punch delivered by a drill sergeant at Fort Dix, New Jersey, while I was in basic training. That day’s activity, just a few weeks into the program, included instruction in “low-crawling,” a sensible method of moving from one place to another on a battlefield. I felt rather clever for having discovered that, by looking right rather than down, I eliminated my helmet’s unfortunate tendency to dig into the ground and slow my progress. I could thus advance more easily, but I also exposed my unprotected face to hostile fire. Drill sergeants are typically very good at detecting this type of laziness, and mine was an excellent drill sergeant. So, after his repeated suggestions that I correct my performance went unheeded, he drove home his point with a fist to my face.
We were both stunned. This was, after all, the New Army, and striking a trainee was a career-ending move for a drill sergeant, as we were both aware. I could have reported him; arguably, I should have. I didn’t. It didn’t seem right for this good sergeant, who had not slept for almost four days, to lose his career for losing his temper with my laziness. Choosing not to report him was the first decision I remember making that made me proud.
I was not a perfect soldier the next day; neither was I the same unmotivated person who, for lack of effort, had failed at virtually everything I had previously attempted. I was determined (itself a novel experience) to apply myself to soldiering.
That was eight years ago. In the interim I have enjoyed a short but distinguished military career, married, fathered a child and resumed my college education. I am currently poised to graduate with honors from [State] University. Looking forward to law school, I can only trust that my distant mistakes are not too costly; I am certain, however, that the lessons I’ve learned will continue to assist me.
Kathy Uradnik, an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota and SCSU’s Pre-Law Advisor, provided this personal statement. She also provided the following comments: “This 345-word personal statement was part of a successful application to a top-25 law school. When the student arrived on campus with the law school’s new entering class, the Dean of Admissions not only remembered his application, but also told the student that his was “the best personal statement that [she] had ever seen.” Note that the stories told reveal a lot about the applicant and that despite its short length, this statement packs a lot of punch.”