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There is nothing more difficult in this world than writing about one’s self. Sure, some people might cure diseases or genetically engineer crops that can feed millions of starving people, but have they ever tried to write about themselves without sounding like an egotistical, self-obsessed freak?
“Yeah. I cured cancer. Now I’m going to cure law.”
It’s a catch-22. Write about yourself positively and you sound arrogant and immodest, while if you take the other path, and play down your greatness, your essay either makes them ask “Why do we want this guy?” or makes you appear to have serious self-confidence issues.
Yeah, personal statements suck. Too bad, however, as nearly all schools require them. Some actually even read them, especially if you didn’t beat the LSAT like a boss. Here are a few tips that might minimize your agony:
Start Generic, Then Tailor to Each School
Take a look at the essay prompts at the schools you are interested in. Chances are high that each school will want some generic ramblings on a personal experience that shaped you. Occasionally, a school will ask for something different, but generally, you can get by with one essay, slightly tailored for each prompt.
Avoid Clichéd Experiences and Writing Styles
Thinking of starting with a quote? Smack yourself. While it's fine to use quotes in your writing, how many personal statements start with some clever or "wise" quote? Schools want to read your words, not those of Benjamin Franklin or Tony Soprano.
Also, no one cares that you studied abroad or tore a knee ligament and "overcame" it to score the winning touchdown (in a preseason flag-football game).
I'm Going to Be Clarence Darrow
Yes, being a visionary is wonderful, but delusional thinking has no place in a personal statement. If you are dedicated to public service or some specific legal career-path before law school, you better have the experience to back the assertion. Bare assertions of "I want to change the world!" or "I want to serve the less fortunate." will not only cause the admissions representatives to throw up a little in their mouths, but will make you sound just like dozens of other hacks applying to the school.
Write it Yourself, Have it Proofread
There are probably people out there who will offer to write your statement for you (for a price). Or a well-meaning relative who will re-write your entire statement while "proofreading" it. Don't do it. Heck, chances are you won't be caught, unless, of course, they compare your mistake-ridden LSAT writing sample with your application essays.
That being said, proofreading and editing is a must. A second person can tell you if your message is coming across clearly, if Word missed a grammatical error, or if you sound like an arrogant jackass.
I am a sarcastic, overly-informal, self-deprecating fool. If I tried to write a personal statement like Elle Woods, it would be a blatantly obvious misrepresentation. Law schools want to know you, not the law student archetype.