Writing The Free-Form Personal Statement

As the soccer season drew to a close, our weekly games were soon replaced by fiestas each weekend at a different player’s home, and everyone was invited. To the sounds of vallenatos (traditional music of Colombia), we ate arepa de choclo (corn cakes), sopa de sancocho (chicken stew), and, our favorite, chocolate con pan (bread soaked in homemade chocolate). During these parties, the older teenagers, many of whom were ready for their first full-time job, would talk about their aspirations for the future. These conversations sometimes led to informal internships with my friends and acquaintances in New York City that I helped arrange. For example, one of the players went to work for a friend of mine from Brazil who had just started an event planning company in midtown Manhattan. Another came to work for my wife in her family’s restaurant so he could learn about restaurant management. These young people’s eyes were opened to the won- derfully vibrant city in their backyard as well as to the innumerable and exciting opportunities it offered. These kids’ fervor for soccer led them to embrace their hyphenated identities, to be proud U.S. citizens of Latin American descent. This in turn gave them the confidence to strive for more in their lives in this country and set the stage for future success. As any soccer player will attest, true magic can be found in the spin of a soccer ball.
Note that in this essay, no explicit connection is made between the life experi- ence the candidate describes and his desire or need to attend law school. In fact, the words “law school” do not appear even once in this essay. Why, then, is this an effective response to the law school’s essay question? In addition to being well written and engaging, it illustrates that the candidate has profound values—he is clearly committed to his countrymen, his heritage, and his new community. Moreover, he demonstrates that he is motivated and enterpris- ing in creating a stronger sense of community and generating opportunity for others. This indicates that he has strong leadership qualities and possibly even some entrepreneurial tendencies. The slow but steady revelation of the teenag- ers’ transformation holds the reader’s attention, which implies that this candi- date is interesting and has unique stories to tell. These are all appealing qualities to a law school admissions committee.

Jeremy Shinewald is the founder of jdMission, an admissions consulting firm that helps applicants get into law school. This article is excerpted from his book, The Complete Start-To-Finish Law School Admissions Guide.

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