By Tristin Brown • June 09, 2016•Law School, Pre-Law
Now before I start talking about the ins and outs of law school applications, let me preface the title of this series. When I say get in where you fit in, please don’t take offense. By no means should you associate the common catchphrase with a negative connotation. In this particular context, it simply means that YOU possess the power and the prowess to get yourself into whatever school you desire to attend. So, instead of crafting your application to tailor yourself to be the typical cookie cutter applicant, design an outline that will leave an admissions committee (ad com) with both a lasting impression and no other choice but to accept you.
Putting a law school application packet together should be both strategic and methodical. There are many components that need to be weaved together to ultimately form the finished product. And, today we are going to delve into everyone’s favorite <facetious font> segment of the application: THE PERSONAL STATEMENT.
The operative word in “the personal statement” is personal. This section of your application is namely the only way that an admissions committee is able to get to know you in a sense outside of your numbers. Keep in mind that the people reading and reviewing your application are just that: PEOPLE. I promise they are. Just like you and I, the people who sit on an admissions committee have feelings, experiences, and regrets. Knowing that, you have to realize and understand that this is the perfect, the greatest, and quite possibly the only opportunity to connect with at least one person on the committee on a personal level.
Now some schools will designate a particular topic for personal statements (which I think is pretty restrictive), but I implore you to stay on topic. Even if it is about something that you have below zero passion for, write about it as if you’ve been having a love affair with “Why do you want to go to law school” for the past million years.
Most schools, however, give you the liberty of choosing your own topic to author a personal statement with. And, that freedom brings many options and ideas, but in the same breath you’re not given the authority to cultivate a novel.
• Focus on a specific experience you’ve had and how you were impacted by it. Good examples of this include prior volunteer experiences, overcoming great adversity, or any other thing that highlights your uniqueness. Please don’t use this forum to outline your resume or any other information the committee is already privy to. Even if your numbers are below the median, law schools are genuinely interested in how students can bring different perspectives into a class setting. Through your personal statement, you are granted the chance to exemplify just how you are able to do that.
• Don’t spend your whole word count kissing the ass of the respective law school you’re applying to. They know all the facts and statistics that attribute to their awesomeness. Now, why are you just as, if not more awesome?
• From the first sentence, make someone want to continue reading. These schools have thousands on top of thousands of essays to read, so time is definitely not on their side. However, if from the introduction to the conclusion of your statement you are able to capture the minds and hearts of an ad com, you have won in a major way. Below is the introduction of the personal statement I used for my very own law school applications.
And there they stood before me; 10 young ladies grappling with the concept of success. 10 little women stuck in neutral with the idea of ascending to higher heights. 10 human beings unsure of what the future may hold. Although all of their faces were aesthetically different, they all seemed to wear the same mask of fear and hopelessness. And there I stood thinking to myself, “What have I signed up for?” Finding myself in a fight or flight situation, I just couldn’t stop the thoughts in my mind from racing a million miles per second. In my heart of hearts, I knew I couldn’t walk away from these girls like so many others had already done. So, I inhaled deeply and while trying to conceal the anxiety and uncertainty on my face said, “Hey, I’m Tristin and I’m going to be your peer counselor.
• Have others look over your personal statement as if you’re an aspiring author looking to get your novel published with Simon & Schuster. A lot of times, we write things that we are rightfully proud of. But, never be so proud of something that you’re unwilling to ask the opinion of others or take constructive criticism. After all, you’re ultimately writing this so people can read and look it over.
• Big words do not equate to big thinking. Please don’t oversaturate your statement with words that resemble Mary Poppin’s “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” term in an effort to impress the ad com. In fact, the over usage of these kinds of terms will sometimes annoy people on a committee because it can give off an heir of “look at me, I’ve read the dictionary” or “look at me, I’m great with thesaurus.com.” Furthermore, you want to try to stay away from using a whole bunch of legal jargon. You’re writing a personal statement, not a Supreme Court appellate brief. You’re not a lawyer yet, and you’re not expected to know things that you haven’t leaned yet.
• BE YOURSELF. Let who you truly are shine through your personal statement. The personal statement is arguably the most important component of your application because it gives readers a chance to assess your writing skills, your personality, and your way of thinking. Believe it or not, these schools actually care about the kind of students they’re admitting and the experience that they’ve had. High numbers aren’t indicative of your potential to be a successful attorney and low numbers don’t mean that that your career trajectory is gloomy. If that was the case, there would be no such thing as a personal statement. Period.