Personal Statement Do's and Don'ts

    Law School Admissions


    Today's guest post was provided by law school admissions expert, Dan Brooks. Dan is the founder of The Admissions Sherpa, and author of the admissions blog Reaching The Summit. Dan started The Admissions Sherpa to help applicants gain admission to top tier law schools through highly personalized consulting. Between the two of them, Dan and his co-founder received over $2.1 million in law school scholarship offers, and want all clients to realize the same success. The Admissions Sherpa provides unique value in the admissions space, believing that quality consulting can also be affordable. 

    The personal statement (PS) allows you to show the admissions committee something they might not garner from the rest of your application. Some call it an interview or an elevator pitch. Here are three dos and three don’ts to remember.


    1.  Be personal

    It’s called a PERSONAL statement for a reason. The admissions committee wants to know about you. If you talk about an experience, keep the focus on your involvement and the impact it had on you. If you talk about a meaningful relationship, make sure the committee wants to admit you and not your uncle.

    1. Be specific

    The more details you can include, the better. Committees read thousands of personal statements in a given cycle (not to mention other addenda). Sincerity is paramount, and small details connect the reader with your story.

    1. Be compelling

    Everyone has a compelling story to tell. Find yours and tell it to the committee. Most schools have a two-page limit on the PS, so each word matters. Make sure every word has a purpose and is used to draw the reader into your story. No need for gimmicks or over-the-top attention grabbers. There is no substitute for a sincere and well-developed PS.


    1. Aspire

    If nothing else in your application indicates a genuine interest towards a specific sector of law, now is not the time to aspire. Your prior coursework, internships, and hobbies likely paint a picture in one general direction. If there’s no clear connection, don’t claim to know you’re destined for family law because you really, really want to help people. Unless you have a truly convincing case, you run the risk of sounding disingenuous or naïve.

    1. Experiment

    It may be tempting to write your PS in iambic pentameter, shaped like the school’s mascot, or disguised as a cookie recipe. Now is not the time to try something wacky; these tricks simply don’t work. Your PS should reach outside the bounds of boring while remaining well developed, well written, and free of experiments.

    1. Repeat

    A common mistake is to rehash your entire resume into your PS. This is a waste of an opportunity. The PS gives you a unique space to tell the committee more about an aspect of your life not typically put on paper. What motivates you? What experiences have shaped your life? How have you overcome a particular obstacle? Don’t feel as though the PS needs to be a comprehensive summary of your life; the best ones aren’t.

    Bonus #4 Do:

    Do read each school’s PS instructions. While the vast majority of schools allow great liberty with the PS, some may provide a more specific prompt. Keep a keen eye for formatting instructions. For example, “your PS must be 2 pages or less, with 1” margins, in size 12 font.” Formatting restrictions often require unwelcomed edits to comply, but it’s better than being the applicant who cannot follow directions.

    Best of luck,

    Daniel Brooks

    Dan graduated cum laude from Northeastern University with a B.S. in Criminal Justice and a minor in Business Administration. In the years following undergrad, he went on to work in two completely different worlds: a non-profit organization providing services to children and families, and the compliance department at an investment bank. 

    These experiences compelled Dan to explore law school and the potential to help people through a legal career. After a long road from LSAT to admissions, Dan made the difficult decision to turn down multiple T14 acceptances and scholarships in favor of other career goals. All was not lost, however. 

    Dan gained meaningful insight into the finer subtleties of today's law school admissions process. He started The Admissions Sherpa to help guide others through this process and provide a distinct advantage to those seeking admission to top tier law schools.