If you haven’t done so yet, it’s time to tackle that law school personal statement. You’ve spent the last few years developing your GPA and you’ve given over months of your life to preparing for the LSAT. So how much does the essay part of your application matter?
Enough that we devoted an entire show to the topic! In “The Law School Personal Statement and Letters of Recommendation: Where To Begin?,” we run down what you should know about putting together a winning personal statement — where to begin, what to focus on and how law schools will use your essay to evaluate your overall application.
Aside from the hard numbers of your GPA and LSAT score, the personal statement and letters of recommendation really help admissions committees distinguish between applicants and it’s the single most important part of your entire application which you can control. Accepted.com’s Linda Abraham tells us “the personal statement is absolutely critical and letters of recommendations too, for that matter. It is absolutely critical when your numbers are competitive.”
Are you wondering just how much weight your personal statement has in the admissions decision? Probably more than you think. Dean of Admissions at UC Berkeley Law’s Boalt Hall, Edward Tom tells us “if I had to quantify the weight I would weight it about one-third of what we look at, the other two-thirds being respectively the LSAT and the academic record. So if you look at it that way, the personal statement is the same weight as the LSAT score.”
So, where to begin? Sounds obvious, but make sure you answer the question you are asked. Adam Hoff, Director of Admissions Consulting at Veritas Prepsays “most people who read applications will tell you the one thing they wish people did with their personal statements is just answer the question that they have. Every application begs a question and the most important thing that you can do in your law school personal statement is to answer that question.”
Accepted.com Senior Editor Paul Bodine authored the book Great Personal Statements for Law School and says “the first step in writing an essay is not really writing anything at all. It’s sort of asking yourself what is important to you, what experiences have influenced you most, what accomplishments you’re proudest of. Then the next step is developing stories that capture that self reflection.”
Emory University Pre-Law Advisor, Rodia Vance says that applicants should write about life experiences that reflect their interests, character traits and to find a way to connect those to going to law school. “You do want to be able to express to the committee why you feel that obtaining a JD is the right next step for you and one of the ways that you can do that is to think about those experiences that you’ve had that have been the most meaningful, what they have meant to you, what you have learned from them and then how those lessons connect to your interest in pursuing a legal education.”
So what is the admissions committee looking for when they read your personal statement? G. Todd Morton, Dean of Admissions at Vanderbilt Law says “a good personal statement really helps to demonstrate something about the individual as a prospective law student.” He wants to see an essay that not only demonstrates “effective communication skills” but one that also reveals “candor and self-reflection” and “earnest engagement with the prospect of entering law school.”
Tune into the full show to hear more. Also, learn how to prepare the people you chose to write your letters of recommendation so that your recommendations are consistent with your personal statement and help enhance the overall image you are building of yourself.