Three Tips to Make a Great Personal Statement
I know, I know. It’s the middle of summer. Depending on where you live, it might be perfect weather for suntanning, hiking, and drinking sangria on a patio (all things that I did this past weekend in beautiful Victoria – ahh, West Coast living!). The last thing you want to be thinking about right now, even if you’re a wannabe law student, is putting your law school applications together. That can wait until later, right?
If you’re planning to apply for law schools in this year’s admission cycle (so that you start school in the fall), then you better have started working on your personal statement like, yesterday. And if you haven’t begun yet, then it’s time to start cracking on it right about… Now.
Why? Because the personal statement (or statement of interest) can actually make a difference to your chances of getting into a law program. Because the admissions departments want real evidence that you can write in a competent manner before you enter law school. Because the law schools don’t want to admit lazy people who can’t even submit a half-decent two-page document even while they claim that they’ve “always wanted to be a lawyer” (a cliche you should avoid, by the way).
So here are three quick tips on how to prepare a glowing personal statement. And at the end of the article you’ll find a downloadable workbook that I’ve put together to try to help you out in planning out and writing your statement.
(1) Read Top-Law-Schools.com’s Guide to Personal Statements
This is an amazingly informative and comprehensive resource that will help you understand what the admissions departments are looking for in a personal statement, and how to structure your statement in the way that’s the best fit for the type of story or message that you’re trying to tell. Furthermore, you can read through 33 sample (American) statements to get some idea of how they can be written (and click here for a nice Canadian example from a current Ottawa law student). And the best part about this resource? It’s free!
(2) Complete a good draft at least two weeks before you apply
I recommend that after you’ve written your draft, and revised it a few times, you should set your PS aside for a few weeks and put it out of mind. Then, once you’re closer to the application date, you should review your personal statement with fresh eyes to catch any organizational issues, content problems, grammar and spelling errors, etc. The point is that if you wait until the last minute to write your PS, you are not giving yourself the chance to end up with a perfectly polished product.
Speaking of deadlines, you should note that some law schools begin accepting applications as early as August. So get ready, because if you’re serious about being a serious candidate for admission in September 2013, then you are going to apply as soon as the applications open.
(3) Don’t underestimate how challenging it is to write a personal statement
If you think that you can bang out a perfect statement in just a few hours, then you’re either a very very good writer, or delusional. My bet is on the latter.
Keep in mind that you will need to devote considerable time to planning and organizing your essay, writing out a first draft, editing that draft, and revising it again and again. Moreover, if you’re planning to apply for multiple schools, then you need to create multiple statements (although they will likely overlap significantly in content), customized for each university.
I hope I’ve scared you enough to get you started on your statement ASAP. And to help you begin, click below for the workbook I promised that lays out the expectations of each Canadian law school, and suggests some questions to get your gears turning as to what to include in your statement: The Law School 101 Personal Statement Workbook
Good luck, kids, and get rolling!