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What should you write your personal statement about?

LSE_Logo_Text_largeToday’s post comes from Ann Levine, president and chief consultant at Law School Expert. Ann is the former director of law school admissions at two ABA-approved law schools and the nation’s leading law school admission consultant. Law School Expert offers hourly and beginning-to-end consulting, and Ann has personally guided over 2,000 law school applicants through the law school admission process. Ann is also the author of the bestselling law school admission guidebook The Law School Admission Game: Play Like an Expert.

  Law School Personal Statement Advice

None of this “no-typos” advice here. I’m going to tell you what you actually want to know. What should you write your personal statement about?

 First, you need to understand the difference between these two directions:

  1. Writing what you want the law schools to know about you;
  2. Writing what you THINK the law schools want to know about you.

Sometimes these can be very different, and it’s a huge trap for people. I’ve read way too many essays from people who say they want to practice health care law because they are applying to a school that is known for their health care law program, even though they have nothing in their background to support this position, and even though they actually have quite an interesting personal story lurking in the background. Don’t write a personal statement to tell someone what you think they want to hear. Tell them what they should want to know about you. This is what will make the reader like you, want you, and pick you.

Here are some key things that law schools like:

  • Maturity (especially if you are a younger applicant, for example one who graduated from college in three years and is applying right out of school)
  • Financial responsibility
  • A sense of how the real world works (personally or professionally, or both)
  • Demonstrated dedication to something meaningful to you (whether it’s athletic, academic, entrepreneurial, or extra-curricular)
  • A clear direction for your career (IF you have it, NOT if you are manufacturing it)
  • Overcoming adversity (the key here is showing actual adversity (not mononucleosis during your sophomore year of college) combined with facts that demonstrate the OVERCOMING ingredient)
  • An international perspective, language, and cultural skills (beyond studying abroad in Great Britain or Australia)

And for those of you whining, “But I don’t have any of those things….I’m a pretty typical college student from an upper-middle class family… my parents are still married, everyone is healthy, and my only campus involvement is my fraternity….”  Then it’s time to really brainstorm. Start by answering these questions:

  1. What is the hardest thing you have ever done?
  2. What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment? (It doesn’t have to be resume worthy – it could be losing weight, helping a friend get the help she needed, etc.)
  3. What experiences (personal, academic, or otherwise) bring you to apply to law school?

These should get your juices flowing. And if you need help, reach out. We’re here.
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