Apart from your LSAT and undergraduate GPA, the personal statement is certainly the most important aspect of your law school application. It is the one part of your file that is solely you--your voice, your experiences, your story, told in your words. Every day, as we help students put together exceptional applications as part of our law school admissions counseling programs, my counselors and I dispense tidbits of personal statement wisdom that we hope help students craft a top-notch, unforgettable, impactful essay.
Without further ado, here are some of what I believe to be some of the most salient morsels of advise I've seen this admissions cycle--right from the mouths of PowerScore's law school admissions counselors.
ON THE ESSAY: ADVICE FROM POWERSCORE’S ADMISSIONS COUNSELORS
- Applicants in the “mushy middle” [those whose numbers fall between the 25th and 75th percentiles for a school] can basically write their way into law school—or out of it. Take the time to brainstorm, think, and polish your essay, or the only thing you’ll be writing is your own rejection letter.
- There is no good writing—there is only good rewriting. Re-reading and editing what you’ve written are the most important parts of the personal statement.
- Don’t write your essay in a vacuum—after you’re done, give it to someone else to critique, and then ask them to describe the person the essay talks about back to you. You’d be amazed at what your essay may convey about you.
- Length does not necessarily equal quality. Don’t use 1,500 words where 800 would do.
- Each sentence has to tell something about you. Ask yourself, at the end of every paragraph, “What part of myself have I just revealed to my readers?”
- Prepare the reader for your epiphanies. Don’t let your essay come out of nowhere.
- A common mistake applicants make is writing about their past experiences with the law, regardless of whether or not those experiences were personally significant. The admissions committee members, however, do not want to learn about the law from your essay; they want to learn about you.
- Details make your essay interesting. However, make sure that those details, especially those that are easily verifiable, are 100% correct.
- Don’t try to make your essay sound like legal writing; instead, keep your language clear and concise.
- The personal statement does not need to show the admissions committee that you already have the skills necessary to be a great lawyer—law school will teach you those skills.
- When you write your personal statement, one of your guiding questions should be, “What do I want the committee to remember about me?”
- It’s important to focus your essay on why the committee should want you, rather than why you want to go to law school (although having a good reason to go to law school can make you more desirable to a committee).
- For overly long essays: It can be helpful to make a brief list of the characteristics you would like your reader to remember about you thirty minutes after reading your essay. Then, go through each sentence of the essay and remove it unless it connects to at least one item from your list.
- As a general rule, anything that stops or slows down a reader is a problem. You want to make sure the narrative is linear, makes sense, and does not leave the reader waiting or asking for an integral piece of information.
- In a space as short as a law school admissions essay, your goal is to do three major things. First, provide a compelling hook that lets the reader know that something interesting is coming. Second, guide them through a narrative that gives intriguing and personal reasons for your decision to come to law school. Third, leave them with the unmistakable impression that this story provides a strong basis for you to not only become a law student, but to become an excellent one.
Want more personal statement tips? Check out these other great Admissions Tips of the Week:
And don't forget to check out chapter 6 ("The Personal Statement") of our Guide to Law School Admissions on our YouTube Channel:
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