As promised this begins a series entitled, "Tips & Tricks," that is designed to help you with the some of the more difficult aspects of completing your law school applications. Future posts will cover topics such as the importance placed upon GPA, questions about majors and suggestions for obtaining the best letters of recommendation. We thought we would start with the personal statement as it is one of the most difficult and time-consuming parts of the application. Making this the first post in the series is also a reminder that you should set aside enough time to write a compelling personal statement. And so now, here are our words of wisdom about that infamous personal statement...
The personal statement is the aspect of the application that we hear the most about when recruiting or talking to prospective students (except perhaps general fear of the LSAT!). "What should I write my personal statement about" is a critical question for the applicant, but one that is hard to answer. Here is a summary of do's and don'ts taken from several members of our admissions committee:
· A personal statement is supposed to be PERSONAL! We want to hear about you, what makes you tick, what motivates you, and what inspires you. We are trying to make up a class of interesting, dynamic people, and this is the place to show us that you will add something vital to our school. Whether your statement is light-hearted and comical or more serious, a statement that will stand out in our minds is one that is not only personal and interesting, but sincere.
· A good personal statement will give a sense of who you are as a person after reading it and there are hundreds of ways to accomplish this.
· Remember, this is your writing sample as well as a personal statement so make sure that it is a flawless piece of writing. No typos, nice paragraphs, and something that flows well is highly desirable. One good way to catch typos is to read your statement aloud. You often will catch missed words and awkward phrasing that you don't when silently reading it. One of the most important things you can do to make your statement its best is to have someone whose writing you respect read it and offer comments.
· Make your personal statement interesting, tell a captivating story, or inject some humor into the essay. We read a lot of these, so something fun can help you stand out in the crowd.
· Try to focus on something unique about you, something that is not going to be repeated in other people's essays. One essay topic we see a lot is the pre-med student who has an epiphany in a Political Science class and decides to change her major (but not until after getting a C- in Organic Chemistry!). Nonetheless if your motivation to study law does originate with such an experience do not let that deter you from telling us so.
· If you are sending out individualized personal statements, make sure that you send the correct personal statement with your application. I have read hundreds of personal statements talking about how the applicant really wants to go to a school other than Chicago. Needless to say, this can ruin an otherwise wonderful personal statement.
· Don't rewrite your resume in your personal statement, writing chronologically about all the things you have accomplished in your life. That is the purpose of a resume this kind of personal statement tells us nothing new and tends not to be very interesting.
· Be very careful when talking about the law. Remember, our committee is made up of lawyers, so if you are going to argue a legal issue, be aware that a lawyer will be reviewing your arguments very carefully.
· Don't be weird or quirky, just to be weird or quirky. Although we encourage creativity, anything too strange (past examples included rhymes, videotapes, and CDs) will be memorable, but not in the good way.
· Don't talk about our law school instead of yourself. It's great that you think we have a wonderful law school, and even better that you learned a lot on our website, but we already know that!
· Don't feel like you have to write an essay about saving the world. If saving the world is your passion, then feel free to write about it. Something personal and introspective that fails to mention global warming, international terrorism or the sub-Saharan AIDS epidemic can still be a great personal statement.
With that we wish you luck composing and we look forward to reading what will undoubtedly be a compelling, interesting and personal statement about you!