When you apply to law school, you may begin to feel like you boil down to your undergraduate grades, LSAT scores, and extracurricular activities. However, you are much more than these few data points.
As the law school application process unfortunately does not include interviews, it can be difficult to convey more about yourself beyond these data points. The primary tool applicants have to show this depth is the personal statement. You should look at the personal statement as a surrogate interview and your chance to show the admissions committee exactly what you stand for and why. Your personal statement can show schools exactly why you want to go to law school and what you hope to do with that education. Read on for six tips for writing a great personal statement.
1. Address something specific
Too often, applicants try to fit their entire life story into a short personal statement. While a person’s whole life may speak to why they want to go to law school, broad strokes do not make a lasting impression. Instead, keep the essay specific by addressing a particular theme, idea, or moment in time.
Space is very limited, so you should think about what information would round out or complement the application. The personal statement is not a forum for repeating information—it should instead enhance it with a personal voice. Ideally, you should choose one or two points to explore in depth and think carefully about how these specific topics reflect your career goals and motivation.
2. Tell an interesting story.
A personal statement needs to grab readers’ attention. One of the best ways to do this is to start with an interesting and personal story. By telling a story, you can show a new side of yourself while also standing out among a sea of other applicants.
To that end, you should think about a unique story you alone can tell. Also, it is important to remember that all good stories have an ending. Often, applicants start with an interesting anecdote and use that to launch into a larger discussion of career aspirations. Be sure that you circle back to the story at the end and provide a proper conclusion that does not leave readers wondering.
3. Research the specific program.
Before applying, you should research the various law schools to figure out which programs are a good fit for you. Each law school has a different culture, as well as different strengths in terms of education. You can then customize your personal statement to show why you are a great fit for the school and vice versa.
If you cannot identify the defining characteristics and values of the school, you need to do more research before writing a personal statement. Spend some time reading blogs, press releases, and other information until you have a good sense of the institution. Then, highlight attributes of yours that will complement that program.
4. Address the why.
Law school admissions committees ultimately want to know why you have chosen the legal field, so this is the most essential point to address in your personal statement. While you do not need to have your entire future planned out, you need to show why law school is the logical next step and speak about what you hope to get out of the program.
People have a range of different reasons for attending law school, from policy work and political aspirations to social justice and public defense. Anyone who reads your personal statement should be able to articulate exactly why you think a legal education is necessary and what you hope to do with the degree. Importantly, the answer is not always becoming a lawyer, and essays that address other goals can be just as engaging provided they have an appealing story.
5. Free write when stuck.
One of the most difficult parts of writing a personal statement is simply starting. If you feel stuck, you should free write until you start to hit your stride. You may not have a particular feature to focus on, but that’s not a problem. Free write about your experiences, including extracurricular activities, professional pursuits, accomplishments, and hobbies. You may also want to write about the challenges and obstacles you’ve overcome. By writing about these various things, you will eventually hit upon inspiration. Then, you can take that inspiration and run.
Free writing will help you explore the experience so you can define the exact points you wish to touch upon. You may end up editing the free-write or starting from scratch, but either way, free writing is a great way to get past writer’s block.
6. Polish the final essay.
Great writing comes from a lot of revisions. Before sending in the personal statement, let several people read it. Professors, advisors, and professional contacts can all give input on the impact of the statement. Friends and family members can help verify that the personal statement accurately reflects you and your life. However, it is also useful to have someone read the statement for grammar and spelling. Continue to proofread and change the statement according to the feedback that you get. Also, it is advisable to refer back to application instructions to ensure that you followed any specific guidelines or requests. Programs may differ in their expectations for the personal statement.