Today on the LSAT blog: a guest post by Law School Expert Ann Levine, the former director of admissions for two ABA-approved law schools and the author of The Law School Admission Game: Play Like an Expert and The Law School Decision Game: A Playbook for Prospective Lawyers.
With the October LSAT soon to be a thing of the past, it’s almost time (and time if you took the June LSAT) to get your law school personal statement in tip-top shape. Here are some of my best tips for crafting a personal statement you can really be proud of.
I know you’re sitting down right now, trying to write the most brilliant, persuasive, powerful law school personal statement ever written, but your fingers are paralyzed on the keys. “I hate to write about myself,” some tell me. Others say, “My life has been pretty boring/sheltered/standard/privileged.” Still others say, “I went through hard times but I don’t want to write a sob story.” How do you hit the perfect compromise and create a law school personal statement you can be proud of?
I dedicate a lot of space to this in my book, but here are a few ideas to get you started on brainstorming topics to address:
1. It’s very hard to go back to the drawing board after writing an intro and conclusion, so just start writing your ideas down and sharing your stories and experiences. Start writing like you would a journal or blog, using a conversational tone. Write how you speak. You can fix the grammar and spelling later. Fine-tune conclusions and themes later. Right now, get your stories on paper and see what themes naturally emerge.
2. Yes, your final personal statement will be between 500 words and four pages for each law school. Most law schools want 2-3 pages (double-spaced). But don’t think about that. When you first get started you should write at least four pages so you have room to cut.
3. Don’t try to weave together everything you’ve ever done. Find things that are similar, either in subject matter or in exhibiting a trait you’re trying to demonstrate, and only weave them together if it really works.
4. Don’t reiterate everything from your résumé. Leave job descriptions to the résumé, and if you discuss résumé items in your law school personal statement be sure to take a more anecdotal and lessons-learned approach rather than describing your duties and accomplishments.
5. Going in chronological order can be a trap. There is no reason to start with the day you were born, no matter how dramatic the birth might have been. Start with the most interesting thing about you. Get the reader’s interest by sharing information about you that will be likable and interesting and as captivating as possible. Don’t try to “warm up” to your story with childhood memories, no matter how cute. You can always reflect back on those memories later in the essay if they were essential in formulating your goals and ideals and if they provide real context for your later achievements.
6. The goal is not to be “unique.” That’s a very high bar to set. Don’t apologize for being privileged if you were fortunate enough to fall into this category. Just tell your story, whatever it might be, and tell it in an authentic and sincere voice.
7. If you did face a lot of obstacles in your life (family issues, poverty, discrimination, immigration, etc.) you face an entirely different set of problems because you may have to pick and choose among them. Sharing all of your trauma (parents’ divorce, food stamps, education not stressed, poor grades, working through school, dealing with depression and ADD, etc.) can be overwhelming and cause concern that you don’t really have your life together. But sharing a few of these things can make for a powerful essay. The key is sharing information that shows you’ve prepared yourself for the challenges ahead and you’ve demonstrated that you truly overcame these issues.
This post originally appeared on Law School Expert.