This blog originally appeared on New England Law | Boston's website.
You are so much more than your LSAT score, undergraduate GPA, and extracurricular activities. That's why your personal statement is a critical part of your law school application: it's your chance to address the law school admission committee directly and show them your character, what’s important to you, and why you’re a great fit for the school. So don’t let it go to waste!
1. Focus on you
This may seem obvious, but law school applicants sometimes miss this important point: your personal statement needs to be about you. Not the people or work that influenced you. You. Think about your strengths, defining characteristics, and values—especially the ones that might come into play as a lawyer. Are you thoughtful, analytical, empathetic, service oriented? How do you spend your free time? What motivates you? Once you’ve zeroed in on some qualities you want to highlight, it's time to brainstorm anecdotes from your life that demonstrate those things.
2. Brainstorm broadly
The personal statement often gives you lots of freedom in what you write about, so feel free to brainstorm broadly about possible topics. Not sure what to write about? Good law school personal statement ideas often come from:
- Extracurricular activities
- Meaningful obstacles or challenges
- Professional activities
- Hobbies or other unique interests that are important to you
Handy tip: Update your résumé before you brainstorm personal statement topics. Even though you definitely don’t want to just repeat your résumé in your personal statement, you’ll be forced to remember all the things you’ve been involved in since you became an undergrad.
3. Be genuine
You don’t need to be a superhero to impress the law school admissions committee. You can show your passion, dedication, and law school readiness in lots of everyday anecdotes from your life. You can even write your personal statement about a mistake or a weakness—just make sure you turn it around to show how you ultimately overcame that mistake or weakness. Finally, this may go without saying, but don’t stretch the truth (ahem) in your personal statement. We can tell. And we will check
4. Just write
Once you have a personal statement topic in mind, set aside some time to write—and just let yourself go. Give yourself permission to bang out a crummy first draft. Don’t worry about making it sound good; just focus on getting your ideas on the page. This will make the process much easier when you go back to edit the application essay later.
5. Remember your “why”
You want to go to law school to work in the legal field. But why is law school a critical next step in your career path? While you don’t necessarily need to spell out why you want to be a lawyer, your underlying reasons for going to law school should be the foundation of your personal statement. For example, maybe you want to be a lawyer because you want to correct the injustices you see in the world around you. You might write your personal statement about a memorable protest you once participated in as an undergrad, and how it made you want to do even more to help people.
6. Be specific
Don’t try to fit your life story into your personal statement. Keep your essay focused on a particular theme, thesis, or even moment in time. Part of the challenge is that you’re limited in space, so you have to be both succinct and efficient with your writing. And whatever you do, don’t just rehash other information that’s elsewhere in your application. You’re only going to be able to highlight one or two things about yourself, so be thoughtful about what those things are.
7. Grab their attention
Unlike your undergraduate application essay, you may need to be more straightforward with your personal statement for law school. You still want to tell a story that allows the admission committee to get to know the real you and remember you in a sea of applicants. Start with an attention-grabbing anecdote, a surprising fact, or an intriguing line of dialogue. That being said, write like you normally would—don’t write in a style you haven’t mastered.
8. Know what makes the school tick
You probably already did lots of research to determine which law schools really fit you (you did, right? Right?!). So by the time you’re drafting the personal statement portion of your application, you should have a good sense of what your intended schools are all about. If you don’t, then you don’t know the law school well enough to write a great personal statement. So read the school's mission statement, news and blogs, and social media feeds. Get a sense of what’s important to the institution, and then try to weave those values in your personal statement.
9. Polish it up
Competition is tough, and you want your application to be as strong as it can be. Plus, there’s a lot of writing in law school, and you need to prove that your skills are up to snuff. Carefully proofread your personal statement—not to mention the rest of your law school application—before you send it in. Did you fully respond to any given prompt? Did you adhere to any special formatting or submission criteria? Have you have used the right law school name? Finally, ask others to review your personal statement too, like an undergrad professor, mentor, or that good college friend who aced English 101. You can also take your essay to the writing or career services office at your undergraduate school.
You don’t need to be the next George R.R. Martin to craft a great personal statement for your law school applications. Just follow these tips, and you’re sure to write an essay you can be proud of.