Law School Personal Statement Blog

We are in the midst of the application season, and one of the most common questions we receive is about crafting personal statements. Over the years, we've assembled an impressive array of free resources for students, and if you are still struggling with finalizing your statement, you may find that one of the following tools helps you put everything in place. These tools cover everything from how to select a topic to avoiding common writing pitfalls. Let's take a look at what we have:

 

The PowerScore Law School Personal Statement Seminar

I've been working with students on personal statements for over 20 years, and I used that experience to talk about how the admissions committee views your personal statement, what they are looking for in your essay, and, perhaps most importantly, how to avoid the common mistakes that so many essays include. To help drive the ideas home, I pulled segments from essays I've seen in the past—some that were wildly successful and others that regrettably pushed the application onto the law school scrap heap. Watch the archived recording of this 1.5 hour seminar here.

Our video discussion of the law school essay

Over on the PowerScore YouTube and Vimeo channels, we serve up a 9-part series on the law school admissions process. Part 6 of that series details the personal statement, and it's a good introduction to where the statement fits inside your entire application. Written transcript here.

Our 10-Part Law School Personal Statement Blog Series

A few years ago, our former head of admissions put together a blog series on various aspects of creating a strong personal statement. Her advice is still spot on:

The PowerScore Law School Admissions Free Help Area

As part of our regular LSAT Free Help Area, we have a sub-section devoted to free law school Admissions resources. Our free LSAT and law school areas are the most comprehensive on the web, and there is a wealth of information to assist you with your application. Of particular note is our Law School Admissions Guide: Creating a Killer Application, which contains advice from selected admissions experts. There's no doubt that the advice in here can help you create a better essay and a better application. 

Law School Admissions Consulting Programs

Of course, sometimes even the best free resources and all the time you can muster won't quite turn your essay into a diamond. If you've tried everything and still feel dissatisfied, turn to one of our experts for professional help and consider one of our consulting programs. These programs allow you to work one-on-one with an admissions expert who can help you forge the best possible essay and application.

If you have a question about the personal statement, please feel free to ask me about it in the comments section below, or post it over on our Forum.

 

Image: "The key to success. Where is it?" courtesy of Urs Steiner.

The essay told an epic tale about a student who struggled to achieve passing grades – moving on and off of academic probation, and through a myriad of stops, shifts, and re-starts, from one college to another – for the better part of a decade following his graduation from high school. For a time, it appeared that he was destined to be a college drop-out. To make matters worse, as the student floundered academically, he bounced around from one retail job to another. Then, one day, he took a position as a grassroots worker on a local political campaign. He quickly realized that he had found something that he loved to do, but just as importantly, he was very good at it. His life soon changed in dramatic ways. He almost immediately became a star local operative for a major political party, and in a very short time period worked his way up and into state-wide and national campaigns. His confidence ultimately inspired his academic career. He transferred any grades that he could (i.e., not the bad ones) to a new university, changed his major to political science, and revamped his study habits. For his final two years of college credit (which were required to attain a degree from the institution to which he had transferred), he aced nearly every course that he took and set his sights on a career in law.

As compelling as the above storyline is, it is important to always keep in mind that an outstanding story counts for little without an effective organizational structure and proper literary execution. Toward that end, the applicant in this case sought to engage the reader by presenting a scene in the opening paragraph which depicted one of the happiest moments of his life – his triumphant college graduation. It was as he moved toward the end of the first paragraph and into the second that he added the engaging twist which showed that his academic success story was far from the norm: it had been ten years (and many failures) in the making. Most importantly, the applicant did not harp on the lengthy, negative period in his life that I described above. Rather, he took a straightforward and succinct approach in recounting the great challenges that had stymied him for so many years. From there, it was off to the heart of the essay – how the applicant overcame his struggle and succeeded, ultimately setting a clear and direct course for law school along the way.

Finally, in the concluding paragraph of the essay, the applicant brought the reader full circle – back to the opening story. There he was, still standing at graduation, but instead of thinking simply about his past and how he had made it to this point, he was now looking toward the future and thinking about how he was fully prepared to conquer the challenges that lay ahead in law school and beyond.

I will never forget the excitement that this applicant felt when he received three acceptance letters from top law schools over three consecutive days. One of these letters came with a handwritten note from a law school dean who praised him for doing such an outstanding job on the personal statement. I should mention that this applicant ultimately ended up declining each of those three offers in favor of an offer from one of the most renowned and oldest law schools in the United States. While these successful results certainly help to keep this applicant’s memory in my mind, it is the personal statement that he wrote which most stirs my recollection.

Like many of my colleagues, I’ve advised on thousands of application essays over the years and been a part of success stories that are far too numerous to mention, but this was one of my most special cases because it showed not only how an applicant can overcome years of struggle, but also how in two double-spaced pages, he can demonstrate his success in a powerful way.

Every once in a while, somewhere out there, a law school applicant does something in the application process that can be described as a real game changer. The personal statement that this particular applicant wrote would probably best be described as a life changer.

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