Top 5 Law School Personal Statement Mistakes
- Oct 12, 2011
- Admissions, Personal Statements
It’s crunch time, people. Many of you are awaiting patiently (drunkenly?) for your October LSAT results, and that’s put somewhat of a ticking clock on your law school personal statement.
You should all know by now that applying earlier means a better shot at the school of your choice. The Letters of Rec are out of your hands by now (at least, they should be). The applications take a few minutes each (thank you, CAS!). But the law school personal statement…now that can take a bit of time.
While you’re working on it, here are five common mistakes made on the law school personal statement that are easily avoidable.
Law School Personal Statement Mistake #1: Trying to do too much
I’ve been to many bars that have beer flights. You order one, excited at the prospect of drinking 4-8 different shots of beer. Invariably, you dislike 3 of them, there’s a light beer that’s tasteless, a few are OK, and you’re left wanting a lot more of one.
If you don’t pick a single topic for your law school personal statement, this is the feeling with which you’re going to leave the admissions committee.
Your law school personal statement should be like a laser beam. Pick a topic and focus on it. Give me a pint of malty goodness on that topic. If you try to do too much, you won’t get anything significant accomplished. You’ve got two pages, double-spaced for your law school personal statement; make it count.
Law School Personal Statement Mistake #2: Telling me what I already know
Your law school personal statement is one of the most important parts of your application package, but it’s still a part of your application package. As such, it will be viewed with the rest of the package.
Use your law school personal statement to tell me something I don’t already know about you. If you rehash your rèsumè, you’ve wasted an opportunity to show me who you are. I’ve got your rèsumè; I’m reading your law school personal statement to learn something beyond the rèsumè.
If you find that a lot of the information you speak of in your law school personal statement is brought up elsewhere, it’s time for a new topic.
Law School Personal Statement Mistake #3: Making it impersonal
Who do you think is easier to reject from your school: law school applicant #L546738208, or Matt, the Dostoevsky fan who enjoys a smoky Scotch and still cries at the beginning of Bambi?
Sure, that law school personal statement might be a little scattershot (see mistake #1), but it’s a lot harder to cut someone who you feel like you know on some level.
The law school personal statement is called the personal statement because it’s supposed to be personal (PERSONAL!). I should know more about you as a person afterward than I did before. If you don’t find that’s the case, it’s time to put more of yourself into it.
Law School Personal Statement Mistake #4: Telling someone else’s story
It’s amazing that your parents immigrated here with nothing. Your grandfather was an architect who built Philadelphia? Awesome.
But neither of those stories are your story.
If you can build a law school personal statement off of that seed, but still mostly talk about yourself, then that’s fine. However, if the core of your law school personal statement is someone else’s story, you’re doing it wrong.
Make sure that I learn something about you from the statement, not someone else. I’d be happy to admit your grandfather to my hypothetical law school based on the above. You? Not so much.
Law School Personal Statement Mistake #5: Not taking criticism to heart
I know, I know, the law school personal statement you’ve slaved over is your baby. You’ve spent a lot of time on it, and it shows.
So why waste all of that time by not listening to the feedback you receive from others?
If they say a sentence reads weird, change it. You’re reading your law school personal statement with the benefit of knowing exactly what you want it to say. If someone else doesn’t get the same thing out of it, you need to adapt.
If someone else thinks it’s a little too abstract, without enough “you” in it, add a little bit.
If someone else thinks there’s a grammatical error, well, look up the relevant rule first. (Better yet, have one of our professional editors give it a read.)
Good luck finishing up your law school personal statement!
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