Building Your Law School Application: The Personal Statement

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This summer, we’ll be taking you through each aspect of building your law school application. Today, we’re continuing this series with personal statements.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post about the first step in the law school application process – collecting letters of recommendation. If you thought that sounded terrible (and believe me, you’re not alone in thinking that), then you’re in for a rude awakening. This post is about a far worse part of the application process – the personal statement. As if writing a personal statement for undergrad wasn’t bad enough, you have to write another, more heavily scrutinized personal statement for your law school applications ( “hello darkness my old friend…”).

An apt way of thinking about the personal statement is to approach like a profile for a dating site or app. For those of you who have never had to fill out such a profile, I hope you’re happy with your stable relationship, charisma and good looks, or autonomy and self-reliance. Yay for you. The goal of a dating app profile is to package yourself in a unique and interesting way while also giving a nod to your accomplishments. From the perspective of someone perusing your profile, you’re just another non-descript collection of personal data and a picture. You have a limited amount of space to capture that person’s attention and get them interested in spending more time with you.

The personal statement isn’t very different. To an admission officer, you’re just another non-descript amalgam of GPA, LSAT, and resume accomplishments. They’ll see hundreds of applications more or less just like yours. Sure, just like the 6’5″ guy with a six-pack and great head of hair, you might immediately stand out based on your 180 LSAT score and 4.0 GPA, but I certainly was not in that boat (on dating apps or in my law school apps, womp womp). If you’re like me, you’ll have to find another way to capture admission officers’ attention and get them interested in spending three years with you.

People choose to fill out their dating profiles in a variety of ways. Some tell jokes, some describe themselves and what they’re looking for in a significant other, and some share something unique about themselves. You have similar freedom when designing your personal statement. Some people choose to tell a story of a formative experience that drove their decision to apply to law school. Others choose to zoom out and discuss the features of their education and upbringing that made them desire to go to law school and believe they can succeed. Your job in choosing an approach is to make sure that it is interesting, that it speaks to who you are personally, and that it avoids merely becoming a rundown of your resume.

When you’re approaching your topic, think about what makes you unique as a person, or what unique experiences you’ve had that made you believe law school was the right path. Personalizing your statement is quite literally the name of the game. This is not an easy process and it takes a lot of thought and self-reflection to decide on the right topic. I would recommend spending a lot of time forming a topic before you start writing. And once you do start writing, don’t be shy about seeking outside help (kind of like asking for a second opinion before you post a picture of yourself in a fedora to a dating site).

If you follow that approach, you’ll have more success gaining an offer of admission to the school of your dreams (or an offer of admission into the pants of…you know what, let’s just stop the analogy there).

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