Writing Your Law School Personal Statement 101
Your personal statement and essay for your your law school application is your opportunity to show law school admissions who you are.
Your LSAT score and UGPA show your dedication as a student, and your letter of recommendation shows how you are evaluated by others, however, your essay/personal statement is your opportunity to fully choose how law school admissions will evaluate you as an applicant.
“The personal statement provides an opportunity for you to present yourself, your background, your ideas, and your qualifications to the Admissions Committee. Please limit your statement to two pages using a minimum of 11-point font, 1-inch margins, and double spacing.
The personal statement is intended as an opportunity to give the Admissions Committee a better sense of who you are as a person and as a potential student and graduate of Harvard Law School. In many instances, applicants have used the personal statement to provide more context on how their experiences and strengths could make them valuable contributors to the Harvard and legal communities, to illuminate their intellectual background and interests, or to clarify or elaborate on other information in their application. Because applicants and their experiences differ, you are the best person to determine the content of your statement.”
With few exceptions, all top law programs require a personal statement, and some don’t even allow as much as 2 pages. You have a limited number of words to demonstrate who you are to law school admissions, and a strong personal statement can make a big difference in whether or not you gain acceptance into the law school of your choice.
Showing The Real You Through Your Personal Statement
The purpose of your personal statement should be to paint a clear picture of who you are, but don’t feel you have to write out every little detail. It’s best to focus on 2 or 3 strong qualities rather than list off qualities and achievements like a checklist.
As we covered in demonstrating your characteristics through your credentials, it’s best to include stories that demonstrate both what you do and who you are, rather than just list off accomplishments and personality traits, as if an extension of your resume.
Choosing Your Law School Personal Statement Topic
As you can read from Harvard’s statement on their essay, there isn’t usually a clear topic for your law school application essay.
“In many instances, applicants have used the personal statement to provide more context on how their experiences and strengths could make them valuable contributors to the Harvard and legal communities, to illuminate their intellectual background and interests, or to clarify or elaborate on other information in their application”
The law schools keep this very open as a means to allow a certain degree of freedom in choice of topic, as well as seeing how you make good use of this freedom. If you follow our advice here at lawschoolguide101.com, this will be a much easier task.
As we’ve discussed in detail in previous articles, this is your opportunity to show your law school who you are, what you believe in, and how you can specifically contribute to the school, its community, and as alumni after graduation.
For those new to our site, make sure to take the time to read through these articles:
What’s most beneficial in you personal statement is to capitalize on 1 or 2 of your greatest strengths (3 at most). Demonstrate these qualities through a story that applies to an extracurricular, work experience, community service, or life changing event, and apply how these strengths will benefit both the law school and how it will allow you to excel in the program and as alumni.
Basically, it’s about showing who you are and how you will add value to the school.
The Typical Applicant Vs The Strong Applicant
The typical applicant will simply list accomplishments, strengths, weakness, or events without going into more detail. As we said previously, this makes your personal statement an extension of your resume, and does not provide any depth into who you really are as a person.
The stronger approach would be to go into more depth on your accomplishments and strengths. See prime examples of essays that worked here.
For example, if you discuss a previous job, don’t just list off your duties and accomplishments. Discuss challenges you faced and how you overcame them. Discuss specifically what you learned on the job, and how it will benefit both your future and the law schools’ community.
If your focused on writing about your accomplishments, it’s the same concept. Don’t just list your accomplishments. List the challenges you overcame to achieve your accomplishments, or a time when you worked incredibly hard to achieve a goal, and what characteristics and strengths this demonstrates and/or you developed in the process.
Writing about a story that demonstrates characteristics is far more memorable and effective than just stating them. Anyone can list achievements and accomplishments off their finger tips, but to go into detail shows insight, is far more interesting, and allows you to stand out amongst other law school applicants.
Other topic choices for your personal statement:
A time you have demonstrated strong leadership qualities
Don’t just write “I was a great leader.” Go into detail. Discuss how being a leader challenged you as an individual to grow and lead by example. Demonstrate how it allowed you to develop a stronger sense of maturity, empathy, and the ability to be a strong leader.
Discuss your specific strategy for effectively leading. Discuss a time when your group was losing motivation and you had to keep them motivated. The specific choice is yours, but make sure you focus on the depth and characteristics it shows, rather than just listing the quality. (Think of yourself as a CEO type of leader rather than the leader of a group of friends.)
A Time You Failed & How You Handled It/What You Learned
The ability to admit failure takes a certain amount of strength and maturity. It’s a fact of life, unless you never attempt to achieve anything, no matter who you are or what you do, you will face failure.
By discussing a time you failed, but were able to come back from the failure, as well as learn and grow from failure, you can demonstrate many strong qualities, especially since many applicants shy away from such a topic.
Discuss how you learned from your mistakes, and ideally how you used what you learned to have success in the future. *It is preferable to discuss a failure from a few years back rather than the day before you wrote the essay. This way you can write about the lesson learned and how it became a beneficial lesson in the future*
Just keep in mind when discussing failure, the important thing to focus on is what you learned, not the failure itself.
Finalizing Your Personal Statement For Law School
Keep in mind, the topic itself is not so much important as the ability to demonstrate who you are and what unique qualities you will bring to the school, as well as alumni.
Remember to focus on demonstrating qualities through your experiences, and law school admissions will take notice.
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