Tips for Crafting a Standout Personal Statement
Personal statements play an integral role in the law school admissions process. For admissions officers, personal statements can add depth to an applicant’s application in ways that grades and test scores can’t.
“The personal statement is the quickest way to get an overview, not only of the applicant’s professional life and background, but in terms of what they emphasize, a clear indication of what the applicant themself, values,” Jillian Ivy, CEO and founder of Ivy College Essay, a company that provides guidance on admissions essays, tells US News.
Brandon Galarita, an education writer and contributor at Forbes, recently broke down the law school personal statement giving insight into how to best choose a topic, structure your essay, as well as what to avoid.
CHOOSING A TOPIC
When it comes to choosing a topic, Galarita suggests starting with a brainstorming session to get your ideas on paper. Here are a few starter categories that Galarita recommends exploring:
- Life events or experiences that motivated you or changed your perspective
- A meaningful personal achievement and what you learned from it
- How you became interested in the law
- Your passions and how they contributed to your individual goals
USE A NARRATIVE STRUCTURE
Your personal statement, at the end of the day, is a story. It’s a narrative that tells admissions officers about who you are and why they should consider you for law school.
“It might be tempting to follow a rigid formula and write a personal statement that methodically unpacks your reason for attending law school, your qualifications and the relevance of your extracurricular engagements,” Galarita says. “However, some of the most effective personal statements are crafted through a narrative approach.”
Galarita suggests a strong personal statement engages and illustrates why and how law school aligns with your career path.
“Your essay should exhibit your dedication and passion for the law and highlight the relationship between your values and your target law school,” Galarita says. “By creating a narrative with a common theme woven throughout, you can captivate your reader while also informing them of your qualifications and goals.”
WHAT TO AVOID
Many applicants make the mistake of only have one draft of their essay or skipping the proofreading and revisions step of the process.
“Admissions teams will quickly notice if you skip proofreads and revisions, even if the content of your essay is exceptional,” Galarita says. “This step entails much more than running a spelling and grammar check. You must ensure that the order of information is purposeful and logical. Each word you use should be intentional and add value to the story you are trying to tell. Revising an essay is not a one-person job. Have others provide feedback, too. Your peers and mentors are a great place to start, as long as they give objective feedback.”
Another common mistake to avoid? Trying to come off as “overly academic” or using “flowery” language.
“The voice and tone of your personal statement should flow naturally and reflect who you are. This doesn’t require flowery or overly academic language, which can make your essay sound more obtuse and less personal,” Galarita says. “Admissions reviewers are academics, so if you use a term improperly, they will catch it. Use language that you feel comfortable with, and allow your narrative to convey your intended themes and ideas.”
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