In the world of law school applications, the personal statement is a well-known part of the admissions process. Applicants may be less familiar, though, with a part of the application known as “optional essays,” where some schools invite applicants to submit additional information about themselves.
Sometimes these essays are required, sometimes they are truly optional. How does an applicant know when to submit an optional essay? What should these essays include? In our latest podcast, Law School Optional Essays & Addenda: What to Say & When To Say It, Law School Podcaster Host, Althea Legaspi, gets answers to these questions and guides you through this part of your application.
Admissions consultant, Paul Bodine lays the groundwork by explaining the basis for “optional essays.” “Optional essays, on the highest level, are opportunities for the applicant to tell the school more about themselves than they can’t fit into the main personal statement. And so in that sense they are opportunities to round out your application, as opposed to explain negatives in your application. So, optional essays are not the place for exculpatory, explanatory, defensive or negative material. That’s what the addenda are for.”
What’s the point of yet another essay?
Each school may have a different way of using ”optional essays” and the topics often vary from school to school. According to Bill Hoye, Associate Dean, Admissions & Student Affairs, Duke University School of Law, for example, ”the purpose is to gather more information about the candidate. And we’re interested both in the substantive information that the candidate would provide in the essay, but we’re also interested in whether the applicant is able to compile information, and present it in a clear, convincing, compelling way. Because the application process is actually an advocacy challenge on the part of the candidate and being able to make a case effectively is a skill that’s useful in law school, and probably in legal practice, as well. So, there are really two reasons: One, can you put the information together? And second, does the information that you provide for us help us understand why you would be an excellent student at the law school, and contribute in very significant ways.”
In this show, we delve into the topic and examine how optional essays differ from your personal statement, we take a look at the range of topics schools invite applicants to write about, and how an applicant can use this part of the application to their advantage. Other guests include:
- Faye Shealy, Associate Dean for Admissions, William & Mary Law School
- Jamie Thomas-Ward, Director of Pre-Law Advising Services, University of Illinois