As we start to gear up for the 2015-16 admissions cycle, our office thought it would be beneficial to provide some tips on writing a good personal statement. Each law school values personal statements differently; therefore, it is important to remember that these tips should be used as a general guideline.
What is the Role of the Personal Statement in the Admissions Process? At most schools, the personal statement is used as an interview opportunity with the Admissions Committee. This is especially important at schools without evaluative interviews. Moreover, it serves the dual purpose of providing a writing sample as well as additional information about your candidacy beyond the facts in your application.
How important is the personal statement in the admissions process? We all know that law school admissions is competitive. Law schools also realize that undergraduate transcripts and LSAT scores don’t tell a candidate’s whole story. Although scores are important, law schools are interested in applicants who are proficient test-takers AND (1) who have different backgrounds and experiences; (2) who are interesting, articulate, and distinctive; and (3) who will enrich the diversity of the student body. These reasons are why the personal statement is so important.
What are schools really looking for in the personal statement? In general, law schools are looking for some insight into your background apart from the facts and data in your file. We are interested in your strengths, inspirations, what motivations you, and what has influenced your decision to attend law school. The best essays create a mental image of the applicant’s personality and interests. Remember, use your personal statement to introduce yourself (in your own words) to the Admissions Committee.
Below are some helpful tips and pitfalls to avoid when writing your personal statement.
- Do use the personal statement as an opportunity to market yourself
- Do provide insight into what motivates you
- Do address the particular school’s unique features that make it an attractive choice
- Do focus on the affirmative (consider using an addendum to explain any deficiencies)
- Do let your personality shine through
- Do edit your personal statement and ask others to proofread it for errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, and style
- Do use readable typeface with conventional spacing and margins
Pitfalls to Avoid:
- Don’t simply restate your resume – avoid merely repeating information that you’ve provided elsewhere in your application
- Don’t write a “one size fills all” essay – follow individual school guidelines for topic and length
- Don’t try to be overly creative – innovation and out-of-the-box thinking is great, but just remember who your audience is
- Don’t overuse quotes or use words that don’t sound like your own voice – we want to get to know you, not your thesaurus
…and two more pitfalls that should go without saying:
- Don’t plagiarize or hire a ghost writer
- Don’t address your personal statement to the wrong school
When you are done writing your personal statement, consider having others review it. Some questions for peer reviewers include:
- Is the personal statement well-written and free of spelling and grammatical errors?
- Does the personal statement portray the writer’s personality and interests?
- Does the personal statement highlight the writer’s background, strengths, and expected contributions to law school?
- After reading the personal statement, did you learn something new about the writer?
I hope you found this information useful! Although, we can’t write your personal statement for you, we are always here to answer any questions.