While it is no secret that your entry to your desired law school depends heavily on hard numbers such as your LSAT score and GPA, your personal statement also carries some serious weight—not everyone with the right numbers gets accepted to a given school, and the personal statement is a primary deciding factor; it gives you a chance to show admissions officers who you are as a person and why you think you are a good fit for their school. This element of your application can be the type of thing that can tilt the scales in your favor if you quite do not quite make the cut officially, or give you an edge over another applicants who fares just as well as you academically. Here are some important considerations when crafting this all important piece of your application.
What are the Components of a Great Personal Statement?
When reading a personal statement, admissions officers are looking for very specific elements that can help evaluate whether you are right not only for their school, but for the profession as a whole. Even though you are young, they want to know you are mature; many aspiring lawyers may not have a specific career goal in mind, and that is okay, but schools want to know that despite this, you have a deep commitment to the study of law.
They want to see someone who can think independently and be able to handle the rigors of law
school. It is also important to show that your desire to study law is not only about your own self-
interest, but something larger than yourself.
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Tone and Structure
While it should be intelligently written, your personal statement should not be a formal piece of writing; rather, it should be of a more conversational tone. It is not the time to show off your big vocabulary or how smart you are. Write like a real person. You should tell your story—do not worry about coming up with some sort of theme or message you want to convey and writing around that. Your personal statement is about marketing yourself, not some theme running through your life, like overcoming adversity or persistence.
Considerations for Low LSAT Scores and Grades
If your grades or LSAT scores are not as good as you hoped they would be, your personal statement is not the time to address this. The schools have your test results and your transcripts, so they are well aware of where you stand there. Telling them you did poorly on your LSATS because you are not good with tests may not fare well for admissions into law school, where most instances, one single exam at the end of the term accounts for 100 percent of your grade. Some schools may allow for a supplemental essay to address these two issues if there are mitigating circumstances that you feel impacted your ability, like illness or a death in the family close to the time of the exam.
What Not to Include in Your Statement
Besides addressing grades and test scores, there are also some other things you may want to avoid placing in your essay. Even if you are pretty certain about how a school may lean politically overall, your personal statement is not the place to take stands on controversial political issues like war or abortion. Of course, if you have extensive experience working on a particular issue, and this shaped your desire to become a lawyer, you should talk about that; but make sure it is about you and not the political issue. If something in your childhood shaped your desire to practice law, this can be a great opening to your statement, but avoid peppering your essay with random childhood stories that really do not add anything. A list of awards and achievements does not have a place here—it is already in your application. Go light on giving a’’ voice to the voiceless ‘’ diatribe, especially if there is little in your background to suggest that you took an active interest in the disenfranchised and underprivileged.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who covers all things education; if you are currently scouting schools in the New England area, she recommends checking out the programs at Vermont Law.