A Great Personal Statement Opening
It’s essential to begin your statement with a great opening. The University of Chicago Law School recommends against beginning with a quote, as many choose to do. Starting with a quote, mantra, or vague idea doesn’t immediately present you. This is, after all, a personal statement: lead with yourself.
The admissions officials are examining your personal application, not a general application to judge for adequacy. Begin honestly, and remember: The audience you’re writing for has read innumerable personal statements (likely even just this year) and they’ll smell falsities from a mile away.
Skip the gimmicks. Gimmicky personal statements scream 'I don’t have anything original to say' more than they amuse. If you can think of it, they’ve likely read it. What they haven’t read is a concise but thorough presentation of who you are and what you’ve accomplished.
Now, because you're presenting what you’ve accomplished. it doesn't mean you should spend the entirety of your personal statement regurgitating your resume and credentials; that's what the rest of your application is for. Instead, consider using your personal statement to invite the admissions officials to get to know you and see how you present yourself. Have a trusted friend, colleague, or individual read your essay and give constructive, blunt feedback.
Feedback and Proofreading The Statement
Furthermore, beyond simple feedback, have a fresh set of eyes proofread your essay. It can’t be said enough: proofread, proofread, proofread! Your personal statement is your introductory argument as to why you should be admitted to your choice law school. If your essay contains errors, it's less likely an admissions official will be inclined to believe you have the skills and attention to detail required for your legal studies.
What to Talk About in Your Statement
As for subject matter, we’ve established that your personal statement should be about you, of course, but what about you? The answer is to write about something personal, relevant, and as unique to you as possible. This could be a quality you possess, an experience that helped define you, or motivation that drives you. Whatever you choose, the key is—you guessed it—to make it personal. It doesn’t have to be an event that has likely never happened to anyone else, a feeling no other person has ever felt, or a trait no other person has possessed; but keeping authenticity and honesty in your essay will drive home the personal element. Consider your personal statement to be the creative part of your application. This is the element that goes beyond quantitative credentials and lets you win over the admissions officials on a personal level.
General Do’s and Don’ts
- Be concise, organized, and candid
- Proofread, proofread, and then proofread again
- Be yourself
- Keep your personal statement about you
- Be honest and authentic
- Regurgitate your resume and qualifications
- Overlook typos or submit anything but the final version
- Name drop (unless the individual has genuinely influenced you personally somehow)
- Attempt to use legal terms or phrases you may be using incorrectly
- Cover your entire life story
The perfect personal statement is the one which perfectly and truly states you. If you bring your personality, your voice, and your story with honesty and authenticity, you'll have the start of a winning essay. Again, we can't say this enough, but the perfect personal statement is just that: personal.