It’s early November, September LSAT scores have arrived, and if you plan to matriculate in the fall of 2017, you are probably deep in the work of law school applications. If you’re like many students, the part of the application you dread most, and may even be avoiding, is the personal statement. This blog offers some guidance to help you through that process.
Last week, admissions representatives from Berkeley Law, Northwestern Law, USC Gould School of Law, and Texas Law were on campus speaking with AU students about the admissions process, and turned to the topic of Personal Statements. If you weren’t able to join them, here is a taste of what they shared.
First, the basics. Follow the directions. This includes responding to the exact prompt posed, the page limits, the specific information requested, and any other guidance. Don’t cheat with tiny fonts – admissions committees are wise to that trick. They will use your personal statement to judge your writing skills, for sure. They will also use it to assess your judgment, decision-making, and ability to read and follow specific instructions.
Now that you have the formatting down, consider the statement itself – what you will share, how you will share it, and what it will tell admissions committees about you. Use this moment to be genuinely introspective and tell a story – your story, in your own words. Think of your life as a path. You don’t want to write about where you are now on the path, or where you plan to go next. Instead, consider your backstory. How did you get where you are now? Avoid starting your statement with a quote – the best stories are in your own words and voice, not someone else’s.
Give the admissions committee the opportunity to get to know you beyond your LSAT score. Don’t repeat your transcript or your resume in narrative format. Instead, share how you got here from there. Write in more depth about that experience from your resume and why it matters. Explain how it has become part of your story.
Treat your personal statement as if it is an admission interview. Answer the questions you wish they would ask. Share something new that the admissions committee can’t learn elsewhere in your application. This is your chance to make your case for admission and to communicate what law schools should know about you, but otherwise won’t.
Avoid answering questions asked elsewhere – for example, if there’s a supplemental question that asks Why Our Law School? don’t use two paragraphs of your personal statement to explain that. Use the optional questions as clues to what is best covered elsewhere. Each part of the application is a chance to enhance the committee’s sense of who you are, and how you will fit into their community of scholars. Use each and every piece you can to your best advantage. And when you have done that, hit Save, and walk away.