Amidst my preparations to start my 1L year in a little over a week, I keep reflecting back on the application process that I went through in the last year, and wondering how I made it through alive. Applying for law schools is no easy process, and one of the most daunting tasks one has to complete in order to apply is writing a personal statement. In theory, this seems easy enough. However, it proved to be the most challenging part of my application process.
A personal statement is essentially your one or two page chance to write down all the reasons you should be admitted to law school and basically beg for admission. No pressure. And to make this process even more difficult, each and every law school has different requirements for their personal statements. Some want a true personal statement, where you talk about yourself and why your unique qualities make you a good law school candidate. Other schools want an academic statement, where you talk about your schooling and experiences that led you to apply to law school. Occasionally, schools will give you specific essay questions, others will completely leave the statement up to you. I have even heard of a few schools letting you make a video essay instead of writing one. (Side note: if any of you apply to a school with a video essay and recreate Elle Woods' video from Legally Blonde, you are my hero)
So with all of these different options, how do you go about writing a personal statement? The truth is, you aren't going to write just one statement, you will write a few different versions of one. Here's a step-by-step guide to writing a personal statement:
Compile a list of requirements from schools you are applying to
Think about which schools you are likely going to complete applications to, and find all of their requirements. I found most of this information on each law school's website, but some also have this information hidden inside of their application on the LSAC website. To make it easier to keep all of this information straight, I copy and pasted all of the instructions into a Word document to keep it all together. That way, I basically had a master instruction sheet for writing my statements. And then I could see where the requirements were similar and differed. For the most part, schools wanted the statements to either up to 2, 3, or 4 pages and consist of the reasons why I would make a good law student.
Write your first draft
This draft is all about getting your ideas out, so don't worry about perfectly following instructions from each school. My first draft was poorly written and way too long, but it helped me figure out what I wanted to put in my statement. As far as the content of your statement goes, do not simply rewrite your resume. They will have a copy of that too. Tell a story, explain hardships, talk about your unique qualities, etc. Everybody that applies to law school is extremely smart and highly qualified, make your statement stand out.
After you've written your first draft, start your editing process. Cut out what you don't need, shorten some things for clarity, and see if you have any gaps in your information. Polish it up a little bit and get it ready to read.
Get advice from a professor or friend
The next thing you want to do, after editing, is have someone else look at your statement. For this, I enlisted the help of my honors adviser who is and English professor. I chose her because she frequently helps people with graduate school applications and is skilled in the writing field. This was the best thing I did when crafting my personal statement, but it was also the hardest. After my first meeting with my professor, I left crying because she basically read my statement out loud, and told me why I needed to completely rewrite the entire thing. This was awful because I had already spent hours working on it and to completely restart absolutely crushed me, but I set out to do it.
Write a new first draft
Alright, so some of you may not have to do this. But, because not many people have written these types of statements before, there is a strong possibility that you might. So start the process again with advice from whoever you sought out, and craft a new, better personal statement. And then start the editing process all over again.
Edit, clarify, edit, edit, edit.
That right, do a lot of editing. I think I wrote 7 or 8 drafts of my basic personal statement before I was done. I sent each and every draft to my professor that was helping me for proofreading and suggestions. Every time, I changed and clarified things throughout the entire paper. Slowly, you'll see each draft get better and better. My adviser told me that when you want to stop sending in the paper for editing because you love it as is, and eventually I got to that point and knew I was done.
Customize for each school
I had a basic draft that was around 2 page that contained the essential information. Then depending on the school, I expanded the draft where needed. There was a space at the end for me to type a tidbit about why I would be a good fit for the specific school I was sending the statement. If the school allowed the statement to be longer, I expanded on some of my experiences. If they asked specific questions, I made a paragraph or so to answer them. This way, each statement I sent in was unique, but contained the same, basic ideas.
Edit, just one more time
Remember, this is your one chance to beg for admission in your own words. Make it perfect. After I turned my statement in, I found one, small error. It was so embarrassing. Don't have that moment.
Send it in!
And the waiting process begins.
So that's the general process I used to craft my own personal statements. Overall, I feel like I became an expert on the process. It's not fun, but it is so necessary to take the proper amount of time and write a really great statement. If any of you are looking for an example, feel free to email me ( firstname.lastname@example.org ), and I will gladly send you a copy of the statement that I wrote.