Telling Your Story: Don’t Skip Brainstorming

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 will discuss how elements of storytelling can—and should—be applied to your personal statement.


About a year ago, my sister called and asked what I was doing.

“I’m brainstorming ideas for my book,” I told her.
“With who?” she asked. I was alone.
“I’m pretty sure if you’re by yourself, it’s just called thinking,” she said. Ah. Indeed.

Brainstorming, as we all know, is a term commonly (over-)used today in business, education, and pretty much any organization to describe how a group generates as many ideas as possible. Apparently, some of us use it for individuals, as well.

Here’s why I think I did: the activity felt more brainstorm-y than think-y. To me, “thinking” implies assessing or evaluating, whereas brainstorming is, by definition, not assessing. It’s scribbling without reflection or critique every full thought, half thought, and almost thought onto the page. If it has some stupid parts when you’re done, that’s a good thing. You’ve done it right.

The reason groups brainstorm, and the reason you should before you start writing your personal statement, is because it’s the best way to get every idea out there instead of just going with the first thing that comes to mind. Why?

Believe it or not, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t necessarily your best idea.

Before you pick up a laptop or pen and begin drafting, spend fifteen minutes filling two to three pages with possible topics. Don’t cross anything out. Don’t erase. Don’t delete. The point of the exercise is to come up with as much as possible—however wacky, silly, or strange it seems.

When you finish, you’ll probably be surprised how freeing it feels. Now, you have a whole list of potential directions for your essay and are not locked down to any one or two.

Then you can start the thinking.

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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