The most notoriously difficult part of completing your law school application is writing your personal statement. How do you make yourself stand out? What are admissions committees looking for? What is the best one you have ever read? These are questions that I get asked all the time. The problem with trying to answer these questions is that, well, it is personal! It is individual to you – what is your background? What can you contribute to the Law School? What is interesting or unique about you? What drives you? No, you don’t have to write about why you want to go to law school or what type of practice you want to go into afterward. In fact, most applicants don’t know what type of practice they will go into after law school and even if you do, I am willing to bet you will change your mind before graduation.
The personal statement is your chance to go above and beyond the numbers. Your LSAT and GPA are pretty concrete by the time you apply to law school. The personal statement is an element of the application where you can still make a difference. Since you cannot request an interview with the admissions committee, you can think of the personal statement as your chance to say what you would have wanted to highlight in an interview.
While it is very hard to describe what you should do in a personal statement, it is much easier to give a few pointers on what you shouldn’t do. First of all proofread, proofread, and proofread again. Have someone else proofread your statement for you. As silly as it may seem, I say this because every year we receive personal statements with typos or misspellings. Or, a word that spell check didn’t catch because it is in fact a word – just not the right one! Also, make sure you have uploaded the right personal statement into LSDAS for the right school. We don’t want to receive your essay that talks about why you want to go to school X when we are school Y. Be careful of “track changes” in Microsoft Word, too. Seeing comments and corrections in the margins won’t earn you brownie points.
Remember that above all, the admissions committee is reading thousands of applications each year. You want to keep them interested, not bored. You shouldn’t be trying so hard to impress the committee by using “big words” that your reader gets lost or doesn’t understand what you are talking about. A similar sentiment goes for discussing the law – keep in mind that each member of the admissions committee is a lawyer and has already gone to law school! You don’t want to get caught with an inaccurate or overly naïve statement in front of people who are knowledgeable about the topic.
Finally, be very careful if you are going to submit something unconventional such as a poem, haiku, DVD, monologue, or creative writing piece. We’ve seen it all. It rarely impresses. We are not hiding the ball; we simply want an essay (written on paper, not on a random object that you think will make you stand out). Be careful when using quotes in your statement. Applicants who use quotes in their essays tend to pick the same ones and we have seen it before.
We may read thousands of personal statements each year, but we will be reading this year’s essays with fresh eyes and a renewed sense of excitement for molding the incoming class. We really do want to read about you. We really do want to admit students who are interesting and ambitious and will contribute something unique to UofC. We just need you to show us you are that person.