Many prospective law students can feel overwhelmed when faced with the task of writing the law school personal statement. one of the most subjective pieces of your law school application. It is easy to feel torn between what you think law school admissions officers want to read, how to make yourself sound confident without coming across as arrogant, and making a great case for yourself.
Your first task in learning how to write a law school personal statement that is a strong effective part of your law school application is to figure out what your actual task is. Remember to carefully read the question on each school’s application; they are sometimes subtly different. In general, we can caution you against committing three common law school personal statement errors .
- A law school personal statement does not mean a mandatory hardship story.
A lot of students think the most effective personal statement has to include some kind of “tough times”; some hardship the student has had to endure, survive, or learn from to get to where they are today. While getting through a rough life situation can definitely be a great place from which to pull material for your personal statement, it is not even close to the only way to write a stellar piece, especially if it means overstating reality or making up emotional lessons that weren’t really present.
The biggest key to the law school personal statement is to be honest ; the story you want to tell about how you’ve gotten where you are today doesn’t have to be exciting or on a grand scale or heartbreaking, it just needs to show something important about you.
- Your entire resume or law school application does not need to make it into your law school personal statement.
One of the most common mistakes everyone involved in admissions has seen is the “everything but the kitchen sink” personal statement; since I work with students on a regular basis, I know that this error usually springs from a kind of low-boil panic. Students start wondering if their personal statement topic is “big enough”. or if there are additional items on the resume that could use some highlighting; the “all in!” personal statement is a function
of the competitiveness of the admissions process.
Unfortunately, it also almost always leads to a weaker personal statement. First of all, rest assured that law school admissions offices will be looking at every single aspect of your application, including your resume; the law school personal statement has a different function, and does not need to re-state something already included elsewhere in your application. That’s the appropriate area to show off your versatility; the personal statement is all about going deep and getting specific !
- You should not just write the personal statement you think a law school admissions office wants to see.
The other direction the “competition panic” can push applicants on the personal statement is toward blandness… or B.S. In other words, students start to write what they think a law school admissions office will want to hear ; either a personality-free, “why I want to go to law school”-themed essay, or a manufactured set of passions or opinions that are not necessarily your own. In the first case, remember the old maxim from creative writing class: “show, don’t tell.”
A story illustrating the reasons you want to go to law school is always going to be more effective than a generic essay that anyone could have written; remember the point of the law school personal statement is to show a law school something unique about yourself. In the second instance, it is not necessary to mention specifics about a school or faculty to make your case– although if it really is your dream school, go for it!
There’s a third kind of overambitious personal statement. making up big goals or interests that you don’t actually have because they seem in line with the school’s. The law school personal statement really is all about being yourself.
Finally, check out this video clip from our admissions episode of the 180 live, featuring admissions deans from Harvard Law, UVA Law, NYU Law, and UPenn Law discussing the law school personal statement:
If you are interested in hearing exactly what law school admissions officers are looking for from you, join us on Tuesday, October 28 at 8:00 p.m. EST for our live monthly talk show, the 180 live, featuring results from our huge law school admissions survey !