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Writing a School-Specific Essay for Law School

Writing a School-Specific Essay for Law School
Article by Matt Shinners, Blueprint application consultant and instructor extraordinaire.
You’ve written a great Personal Statement. You’ve gotten the Foreign Minister of a now-defunct ex-Soviet Republic to write you a stirring letter of recommendation (“In Soviet Russia, law school attends YOU!”). And your addendum to explain the probation for public drunkenness recalls Notes from the Underground.

All that’s left is that pesky school-specific essay.

Whether you’re looking at 250 words for Yale or God-only-knows how long responding to Pepperdine’s mission statement, figuring out what to write for it can be as daunting as spelling ‘Dostoevsky’*.

So how do you go about picking the topic for these essays?

First, this essay is the perfect spot to highlight a facet of your life that you think is interesting but just wasn’t enough to carry a personal statement. These essays are invariably shorter than the personal statement, so you should be able to fill the space up with almost any topic (but you shouldn’t, because this is more important than my Evidence final). Go over your list of potential Personal Statement topics and pick whichever you thought was almost as interesting as your first choice. Start the essay much as you would your personal statement, drawing the reader in. Just make sure that you can later tie it into the overall theme that you developed in the rest of your application package.

Second, figure out a great lesson you could have learned from that experience (bonus points if you really did learn something!). Sure, it might feel a little dishonest ‘writing’ a lesson into your life, but I can’t think of a way to end this sentence to mitigate that feeling. Just suck it up and rewrite history; it’s what the victors have done throughout time.

Third, figure out on what the school prides itself. This is going to require a bit of research, but it’s time to start getting used to that. Now, tie your topic into whatever the school brags about the most. Are you applying to UCI? You learned much better during the event in your essay than you did in a classroom (UCI loves itself some experiential learning). Looking to go to Pepperdine? While you haven’t always lived up to it, the moral character that you developed informs your interactions with other people. Applying to Yale? You’re screwed, because even they don’t know what they’re looking for.

As a bonus, I’ve included a little outline in this post to help you out. Take each of my points, write a paragraph around it, and you’ve got yourself a school-specific essay.

*All Russian references come from our resident Commie, Misha.

When you finish with your essay and get done with the spell checking, do yourself a favor and hit ‘ctrl-f’. When the menu pops up, do a search for the following: then, than, your, you’re, there, their, they’re. Anytime one comes up, think long and hard about whether or not it’s the right homonym.