Many prospective law students can feel overwhelmed when faced with the task of writing the law school personal statement, one of the most subjective pieces of your law school application. It is easy to feel torn between what you think law school admissions officers want to read, how to make yourself sound confident without coming across as arrogant, and making a great case for yourself.
Your first task in learning how to write a law school personal statement that is a strong effective part of your law school application is to figure out what your actual task is. Remember to carefully read the question on each school’s application; they are sometimes subtly different. Here are some helpful tips, steps, and frequently asked questions to guide your writing process.
Personal Statement FAQs
The personal statement is an integral part of the law school application, and it is important that you not only take it seriously but also try your best to have fun with it. While working on their statements for law school admissions, applicants often feel lost. So many questions may be circulating in your head that you feel like you need to have answered before you really start to write your personal statement. Let’s look at three of the most frequently asked questions applicants have about writing their personal statement.
What can I expect from the personal statement prompt?
The first question that pops into many applicants’ minds is: How in the world am I even supposed to know what to write for this prompt?
Most law school personal statement prompts are pretty vague and give the applicant a lot of room to interpret it as they see fit. Try to get an early start on your personal statement. This will give you time to look at the prompt and think hard about it before you even type a sentence. This will also give you time to plan and outline what you want to include. Having a solid plan for tackling the prompt can add structure to your personal statement and keep yourself on track.
How should I respond to the prompt?
Your personal statement can be about anything as long as it is about you and pertains to why you want to go to law school. Everyone’s experiences are different, so it’s really important to dig deep and first consider why you want to go to law school. If you can’t find a good reason, it’s maybe time to really consider if law school is ultimately the path you want to take.
If you have a long list of reasons for why you aspire to go to law school, try to narrow it down to three at the most. These three should be compelling reasons—a little more profound than simply saying you want to become a lawyer to make money. After you come up with solid reasons for why you want to go to law school, try drafting out some ideas that can connect those reasons to the prompt. Once you have that down, it’ll be much easier to form that into a concrete essay.
Don’t write the personal statement you think a law school admissions office wants to see.
The other direction the “competition panic” can push applicants on the personal statement is toward blandness… or B.S. In other words, students start to write what they think a law school admissions office will want to hear; either a personality-free, “why I want to go to law school”-themed essay, or a manufactured set of passions or opinions that are not necessarily your own. In the first case, remember the old maxim from creative writing class: “show, don’t tell.”
A story illustrating the reasons you want to go to law school is always going to be more effective than a generic essay that anyone could have written; remember the point of the law school personal statement is to show a law school something unique about yourself. In the second instance, it is not necessary to mention specifics about a school or faculty to make your case– although if it really is your dream school, go for it!
There’s a third kind of overambitious personal statement: making up big goals or interests that you don’t actually have because they seem in line with the school’s. The law school personal statement really is all about being yourself.
When you are trying to be yourself in your personal statement, it often leads to another question: how emotional I should be in my writing. Incorporating emotion into your personal statement could make it more interesting and easier to read, but if you overdo it you can sound like you’re whining, begging, or trying to write a sob story—which can in turn be perceived as disingenuous.
Admissions committees want to see passion, but they also want to see who you really are. It is extremely important to be honest. Law schools can see right through feigned emotions. Remember, they’ve probably read hundreds of thousands of these, and it’s very easy for them to detect when people aren’t being authentic. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, open, and clear—but make sure it comes from the heart.
A law school personal statement does not mean a mandatory hardship story. While getting through a rough life situation can definitely be a great place from which to pull material for your personal statement, it is not even close to the only way to write a stellar piece, especially if it means overstating reality or making up emotional lessons that weren’t really present.
The biggest key to the law school personal statement is to be honest; the story you want to tell about how you’ve gotten where you are today doesn’t have to be exciting or on a grand scale or heartbreaking, it just needs to show something important about you.