The law school application process may seem like it’s only a numbers game, but the personal statement is your chance to share your voice, experiences, and writing skills. Not only is this the portion of your application that should humanize you, the personal statement must also reflect your abilities as a potential law school student. This may sound very daunting, but keep reading for LSAT Engine’s crash course on the Personal Statement.
- The personal statement is your chance to tell the admissions committee about yourself.
- Check the requirements for each school that you’re applying to. Every school’s length and prompt may vary.
PLANNING YOUR PERSONAL STATEMENT
- Compile a list of the law schools to which you are applying along with each school’s personal statement requirements.
- Be prepared to write two versions of your statement:
- We recommend starting out with a three page essay and paring that into two versions: a two page version and a three + page version.
- This way, you with a few alterations, you can use the longer version as a template for schools with longer personal statements and the shorter version for schools with shorter personal statements.
- Start brainstorming topics you can write about:
- Think back to college admissions essays--what were some topics you talked about?
- Try to find topics that are not apparent on other aspects of your application.
- Write down possible ideas and jot down notes about how they could pertain to reflecting your abilities as a potential law school student.
- Here are some possible ideas from the University of Washington to get the ball rolling:
- Describe a personal challenge you faced and/ or a hardship you overcame.
- Discuss your proudest personal achievement or a unique hobby that reveals who you are.
- Tell about how becoming consciously aware of a personal value or characteristic has changed the way you view yourself.
- Describe your passions and involvement in a project or pursuit and the ways in which it has contributed to your personal growth and goals. Do not rehash what is already on your resume.
- Note that describing the event should at MOST take up ⅓ of your actual essay. As compelling as the story may be, you need to be able to tie the event back to who you are as a person and the effect it has on you.
- Choose a narrow topic. Generalities do not perform as well as concrete experiences. Use your limited words wisely!
- Be yourself. Cliche, but do not pretend to be someone you are not. These advisors have read through enough of these essays to discern what is genuine and what is not.
- Be straightforward.
- You want your essay to be easy to read and understand, not bogged down by unnecessary dramatics and big words.
- There should be absolutely no grammatical errors or spelling errors.
- Focus the essay on you. It may be easy to drift off, writing about an event or another person, but in the end this is your personal statement, and the committee wants to learn about you.
- Make sure the opening paragraph is both interesting and reflective of the rest of your essay...
- A past admissions committee member from Berkeley Law warns against an excessively dramatic opening sentence that bears no relevance to the rest of the essay.
- Restate your resume.
- The committee will read your resume in detail, and this is your chance to share something new.
- Use legal concepts and jargon.
- These are misused too often, and it may make you seem pompous to the committee.
- Name drop.
- Include a lengthy discussion of the law and attorneys.
- These essays usually do not give committees a deep look into the individual, and it is not necessary to demonstrate knowledge of the law in your personal statement.
- Fit in too much information.
- These essays come off as unfocused and fail to make an impact on the reader.
- Use the personal statement to explain weaknesses or discrepancies in your application.
- That is what the addendum is for.
- Become a cliche or use cliches.
- A common trope used is how “I love to argue” translates into being a good lawyer.
- Use a TV show or parents as the reason you want to go to law school.
- Focus on achievements before college.
- References to high school achievements are less effective because they are less relevant to who you are now. If it is relevant to your discussion, be brief.
ONES THAT WORKED:
If you are curious to see some personal statements that worked, linked below are a few essays. Don’t copy any of these ideas, but use them to get an idea of how these students were able to structure and frame a compelling personal statement.
UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO