A personal statement is really no more than telling a story—one that illuminates the “you” a law school would be lucky to have in its student body. In this series, “Telling Your Story,” jdMission Senior Consultant Mary Adkins discusses how elements of storytelling can—and should—be applied to your personal statement.
Here is a tip that I give myself all the time: Avoid using two sentences that essentially say the same thing.
Here is the reason I have to remind myself of this tip all the time: I do it often, particularly in first drafts.
Take this paragraph:
When I was a kid, my family went to the circus every year. It was a family tradition for us to go see the animals, clowns and trapeze artists, and to eat cotton candy and popcorn until we felt sick yet still incredibly happy. I hated the clowns almost as much as I loved the beautiful trapeze artists. The clowns scared me, but the trapeze artists were enchanting. I used to wish that I could replace every clown with a trapeze artist—then the circus would have truly been perfect.
Suppose this were an opening paragraph to a personal statement. What is wrong with it? You could probably make many criticisms of it, but the issue I want to highlight in particular is that the last three sentences all more or less say the same thing: I did not like the clowns, but I did like the trapeze artists.
When you are revising your personal statements, always take time to look specifically for duplicative sentences—sentences that more or less just restate something you have already expressed. Elaborating on what you have just written is different and completely acceptable, if not encouraged, but reiterating is much less effective. So be thoughtful when making that judgment call. My bet is that you will typically find at least a few sentences that are purely duplicative. Eliminating them will make your essay tighter and stronger.
This is a guest post by jdMission, a professional law school admissions consulting firm, specializing in helping law school applicants identify and showcase the strongest aspects of their candidacy in their application.
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