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What to Write About in Your Law School Personal Statement

Today on the LSAT blog: a guest post by Law School Expert Ann Levine, the former director of admissions for two ABA-approved law schools and the author of The Law School Admission Game: Play Like an Expert and The Law School Decision Game: A Playbook for Prospective Lawyers.

Your law school personal statement is your chance to be more than just your numbers, more than your transcripts. This is the substitute for meeting you face-to-face, this is your opportunity to share your best self, best experiences, and best stories. It’s your chance to be impressive. Feeling the pressure? You’re not alone. The most open ended part of your law school application presents the most questions:

What do law schools want to know? What are they looking for? Do I need to be clever? Creative? Dramatic? Intellectual? I haven’t overcome paralysis, created peace in the Middle East, or been homeless. What about my (boring) life would help me strengthen my chance of getting into law school?

Deciding what to write about in your law school personal statement can be stressful and overwhelming. Then, once you decide what to say, you have to decide how to say it.

Below are some basic tips for personal statement “do’s” and “don’ts”. First are some tips to help you get started and generate topic ideas. Second are tips on what you should avoid writing about – some common law school personal statement traps.

Law School Personal Statement Tips:

1. Make your essay personal.
It should be about you and your experiences and decisions that have led you to apply to law school and that show you will be a successful law student and attorney. If you talk about other people, talk about the influence that the relationship had on you.

2. Be likeable.
This is your only chance in the law school application process to show some personality. Write in a conversational tone and let your expression come through in your writing.

3. Choose your subject well.
You don’t want to sound arrogant or brag about accomplishments. Don’t repeat things on your résumé unless you’re adding context or adding a back story that makes those accomplishments especially meaningful or good experiences.

What NOT to Write About in Your Law School Personal Statement:

1. Studying abroad, unless it was really special.

2. That you’re an injured athlete who had to find your way without being able to play your sport.

3. Someone else’s hardship and how bad you felt for them.

4. Everything you have ever done and every decision you have ever made, unless you can really draw a clear theme between each thing.

5. How great and accomplished you were as an Eagle Scout with a 4.0 GPA in high school. It will only make everything you did after that lackluster.