Category Archive: Explanatory Essays

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Writing an Explanatory Essay That Passes the Eye Roll Test

You’ve taken the LSAT, crafted a killer personal statement, and secured your letters of recommendation. In theory, admissions committees have all the information they need to make a decision. But what if a first glance at that information would give them the wrong idea about your capabilities – say, if you had a mediocre GPA because of a really low GPA one semester, or if you had to take the LSAT multiple times?

Guess what, kids – you’re in luck, because rather than trying to weave in an explanation in your personal statement, you get a chance to put it all in the explanatory essay. An explanatory essay is like it sounds—you get a chance to provide an explanation for something problematic.

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Honestly, Don’t Lie in Your Law School Applications

The question of how much to disclose in law school applications is one that we’ve grappled with time and time again here on MSS. For more information on the topic, check out the posts “To Disclose or Not to Disclose?,” “Applying to Law School with a Record,” and “Explanatory Essays in the New Law School Admissions World” – but the general rule of thumb is that if you have any doubts about whether an issue is something that should be disclosed, you should err on the safe side and include it.

Well, at least one recent law student must not have been a MSS reader. A former Northwestern University School of Law student was expelled after it was discovered that he was a convicted felon, famous in Texas for posing as a lawyer. Whoops!

That former student sued Northwestern, claiming that he was never directly asked whether he was a convicted felon.

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Explanatory Essays in the New Law School Admissions World

No one wants to need an explanatory essay for their law school application. It’s never a positive to explain why you were placed on probation your freshman year of college. Or why you felt the need to relieve yourself in that public alley. Or how that cop was just asking for it.

However, law school applications are down. Schools are being a little more lenient with admissions numbers. LSAT scores are dropping, and GPAs aren’t what they used to be. So surely a misdemeanor here or there will slip through the cracks, right?

Let’s split these explanatory essays up into a few categories and discuss how each one will be affected by the change in law school application volume.

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To Disclose or Not to Disclose: a Pre-Law Conundrum

I hear some of you pre-law students out there have been having a good time. Too good of a time, if truth be told. And now you might be forced to check that “Yes” box next to one of the Character and Fitness questions on your applications. I’m sure all you pre-law trouble-makers have some questions, so here are some answers.

1) Do I have to disclose?

Your default answer to this is “Yes”. Without knowing anything else about your pre-law situation, I default to this answer. If you don’t disclose when you should, you’ll have issues sitting for the bar. If you disclose when you shouldn’t, you really won’t see much of a downside at all. So default to full disclosure.

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Applying to Law School with a Record

We’ve all been there. Dead prostitute in the trunk, 15 pounds of black tar heroin, and a busted tail light. When those sirens started blaring, you put the pedal to the metal and headed for the border. Unfortunately, you forgot you were in the Midwest and had only a few miles left in the tank. You were planning on trading some of that smack for gas, I guess.

In all seriousness, some of you out there will be applying with some type of record. Whether it’s for jaywalking pants-less or running a Ponzi scheme, you’ve got a few additional considerations during the application process.

Before I go into any details, I’m going to give you a rule of thumb.

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How to Write a Good Explanatory Essay

If you cast your memory all the way back to last week, I discussed the different situations that dictate whether to write an explanatory essay. Now that we know when to write an explanatory essay, it’s time to cover what a good one says.

1. Describe the problem

Don’t equivocate here – own the issue. If you try to hide it, or explain it away without admitting that it was your fault, you’ll come across as whiny and as someone who makes excuses.

Instead, in as straightforward a manner as possible, describe what happened. If you can gussy it up to make it an interesting tale, all the better. Just don’t glorify it – this isn’t an HBO series.

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When is an Explanatory Essay Necessary for Law School?

Last week, I promised a quick rundown on explanatory essays. This week, I make good on my promise. Because I’m a trustworthy guy.

No one wants to write an explanatory essay. You should have thought about that before you passed out drunk in front of your house at the ripe old age of 17. What, you were just a dumb kid back then? I know; that’s why you passed out drunk, right in front of your house!

As much as it might suck, this essay is another opportunity to show off your writing skills and give the admissions committee a little insight into who you are. Turn this problem into an opportunity with a well-written essay.

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My Freshman Year I Accidentally… The Explanatory Essay for Law School Applications

Random smattering of beliefs I held five years ago: minivans are chick magnets, laundry will take care of itself if you just close your eyes and wish hard enough, water is bad for you, beer is good for you, credit is free money, college GPAs don’t matter, and baseball is a better sport than basketball