Most applicants list the LSAT as the single most stressful part of applying to law school. But the item coming in at a close second is the personal statement. Why? Because people find it very difficult to write about themselves. Applicants have to navigate the fine line of showing the admissions folks that they are qualified without appearing to be on a turbo-charged brag session.
So — what is it? The personal statement is a 2- to 3-page essay that, when done well, introduces who you are and tells the reader the unique qualities you bring to the institution while also highlighting your strengths and demonstrating strong writing skills.
Naturally, opinions vary on what makes a great personal statement. Approach the personal statement from the perspective of the admissions committee. They may have 8 applicants or more for every available seat in their class and must now choose among a sea of highly competitive candidates. Give them a reason to choose you.
Here are a few Dos and Don’ts to keep in mind:
DO sign up for one of our PLAS “Perfecting Your Personal Statement and Resume” workshops. We still have space in this week’s session, set for tomorrow, October 8, 12:30-1:30pm, 514 IUB. To attend this or another session, please register here.
DO read each personal statement prompt from each school and respond to the question asked.
DO begin working as soon as possible if you haven’t started already.
DO make an appointment with a pre-law advisor to review your personal statement. If you’d like us to review your personal statement, we ask that you make an appointment and then email your statement to the advisor with whom you are meeting at least 2 days prior to it so that he or she is prepared to discuss it with you. After the appointment, we can offer feedback on revisions once more via email or in person.
DO check and re-check for typos and grammatical errors. The law school admissions deans expect your personal statement to be ERROR FREE!
DON’T write this the night before you plan to submit your application. The best essays take time and involve considerable revision from first draft to final submission.
DON’T treat this as another résumé. There is no need to summarize your work or academic history by writing something like, “First I had this job, and then I got hired at this company.” You have the opportunity to do that in your résumé. Write with more detail about highlights and experiences at your jobs instead.
For more tips and suggestions about the personal statement, check out the PLAS website and our Compass page. For an admissions perspective on the personal statement, you might want to take a look at this interesting and short video by Asha Rangappa, Dean of Admissions for Yale Law School. Chicago-Kent College of Law also recently posted a “Writing a Winning Personal Statement” tip sheet on its admissions blog that has some other good suggestions. Good luck and start writing!