How important are Personal Statements?

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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Cpwilson
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How important are Personal Statements?

Postby Cpwilson » Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:52 pm

Seriously, how important are they REALLY?

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patrickd139
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby patrickd139 » Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:53 pm

They will almost assuredly not push you over the hump, but they can definitely result in a quick rejection.

phannahan44
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby phannahan44 » Thu Jan 13, 2011 11:46 am

patrickd139 wrote:They will almost assuredly not push you over the hump, but they can definitely result in a quick rejection.


I love how people on this board say everything with such finality and total assurance. "PatrickD," have you served on an admissions committee!? What on earth makes you entitled to make such a statement? How do you know so POSITIVELY that a personal statement can't, indeed, "push you over the hump?"

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YankeesFan
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby YankeesFan » Thu Jan 13, 2011 11:48 am

I have been offered several large scholarships from schools that were either supposed to give me much less or none at all. I sincerely believe that my personal statement had a lot to do with it.

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hokie
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby hokie » Thu Jan 13, 2011 11:52 am

Your PS can obviously help you, but the potential to hurt you is larger than it is to help you (does that make sense?). If your numbers aren't there, then 99 times out a 100 it will result in a ding, no matter what your PS/DS is. However, if you present a sloppy PS, then despite having competitive numbers, you may get dinged strictly just for the PS.

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patrickd139
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby patrickd139 » Thu Jan 13, 2011 12:20 pm

phannahan44 wrote:
patrickd139 wrote:They will almost assuredly not push you over the hump, but they can definitely result in a quick rejection.


I love how people on this board say everything with such finality and total assurance. "PatrickD," have you served on an admissions committee!? What on earth makes you entitled to make such a statement? How do you know so POSITIVELY that a personal statement can't, indeed, "push you over the hump?"

I love how people (in general, but you're not special in this regard) love to question things that other people say, just because they can. To answer your first question/exclamatory statement: no, I have not served on an admissions committee. Unfortunately for you, that's hardly the only thing which could qualify me to relay such information. For instance, I am friends with more than one adcomm, all of whom universally agree with that claim. Not to mention anecdotal advice assembled on this board and elsewhere that backs it up. Do you plan on going post by post across the entire internet calling out people who (probably) know what they're talking about, are in no way making absurd claims, but can be questioned from the anonymity of your basement? Are the only people qualified to speak about admissions in general, hedging terms the adcomms of the 188 law schools? Didn't think so.

Further, if you'll read really, really closely, you'll see the word "almost" appear in that sentence. (It's the third word. You should check it out! I even quoted it above for your convenience.) Finally, it's a fucking internet forum. Anyone who take the word of a single poster with any definitive finality deserves to be misled if it's wrong. That said, I still stand by my statement. Numbers and (to a limited extent) soft factors get you into law school. There are almost always outliers, hence my selective use of the word "almost."

Look, I'm sorry that your numbers may not have worked out, and that you may or may not have been banking on your personal statement to "push you over the hump." But if you want to be a picky asshole, attack the non-hedging, definitive second sentence that makes a claim authoritatively.

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patrickd139
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby patrickd139 » Thu Jan 13, 2011 12:21 pm

YankeesFan wrote:I have been offered several large scholarships from schools that were either supposed to give me much less or none at all. I sincerely believe that my personal statement had a lot to do with it.

Unless your personal statement was fictional, I sincerely believe the events that underly your personal statement had a lot to do with it.

WayBryson
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby WayBryson » Thu Jan 13, 2011 9:53 pm

patrickd139 wrote:
phannahan44 wrote:
patrickd139 wrote:They will almost assuredly not push you over the hump, but they can definitely result in a quick rejection.


I love how people on this board say everything with such finality and total assurance. "PatrickD," have you served on an admissions committee!? What on earth makes you entitled to make such a statement? How do you know so POSITIVELY that a personal statement can't, indeed, "push you over the hump?"

I love how people (in general, but you're not special in this regard) love to question things that other people say, just because they can. To answer your first question/exclamatory statement: no, I have not served on an admissions committee. Unfortunately for you, that's hardly the only thing which could qualify me to relay such information. For instance, I am friends with more than one adcomm, all of whom universally agree with that claim. Not to mention anecdotal advice assembled on this board and elsewhere that backs it up. Do you plan on going post by post across the entire internet calling out people who (probably) know what they're talking about, are in no way making absurd claims, but can be questioned from the anonymity of your basement? Are the only people qualified to speak about admissions in general, hedging terms the adcomms of the 188 law schools? Didn't think so.

Further, if you'll read really, really closely, you'll see the word "almost" appear in that sentence. (It's the third word. You should check it out! I even quoted it above for your convenience.) Finally, it's a fucking internet forum. Anyone who take the word of a single poster with any definitive finality deserves to be misled if it's wrong. That said, I still stand by my statement. Numbers and (to a limited extent) soft factors get you into law school. There are almost always outliers, hence my selective use of the word "almost."

Look, I'm sorry that your numbers may not have worked out, and that you may or may not have been banking on your personal statement to "push you over the hump." But if you want to be a picky asshole, attack the non-hedging, definitive second sentence that makes a claim authoritatively.


I can't tell whether or not I would enjoy your company, but this makes me want to buy you a beer to find out.

Regarding that “almost” and “pushing over the hump,” it seems from my reading that the personal statement’s importance rises in proportion to one’s numbers, e.g. when your numbers put you in the middle of the pack at a competitive school, or in the case of those rare, exceptional cases, e.g. your high 160 scores at Harvard. And I whole-heartedly agree with your suspicion that it is what underlies the personal statement in those exceptional cases that is more important than the statement itself, though there does seem to be some tension between that claim and your claim about the extent to which softs matter ;-)

Thanks for the good posts. They made for a good break from the final touches on what I hope will make me one of those exceptions. Love the avatar by the way.
EDITED: Because “contention” and “tension" are not the same word.

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gbpackerbacker
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby gbpackerbacker » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:01 pm

patrickd139 wrote:
phannahan44 wrote:
patrickd139 wrote:They will almost assuredly not push you over the hump, but they can definitely result in a quick rejection.


I love how people on this board say everything with such finality and total assurance. "PatrickD," have you served on an admissions committee!? What on earth makes you entitled to make such a statement? How do you know so POSITIVELY that a personal statement can't, indeed, "push you over the hump?"

I love how people (in general, but you're not special in this regard) love to question things that other people say, just because they can. To answer your first question/exclamatory statement: no, I have not served on an admissions committee. Unfortunately for you, that's hardly the only thing which could qualify me to relay such information. For instance, I am friends with more than one adcomm, all of whom universally agree with that claim. Not to mention anecdotal advice assembled on this board and elsewhere that backs it up. Do you plan on going post by post across the entire internet calling out people who (probably) know what they're talking about, are in no way making absurd claims, but can be questioned from the anonymity of your basement? Are the only people qualified to speak about admissions in general, hedging terms the adcomms of the 188 law schools? Didn't think so.

Further, if you'll read really, really closely, you'll see the word "almost" appear in that sentence. (It's the third word. You should check it out! I even quoted it above for your convenience.) Finally, it's a fucking internet forum. Anyone who take the word of a single poster with any definitive finality deserves to be misled if it's wrong. That said, I still stand by my statement. Numbers and (to a limited extent) soft factors get you into law school. There are almost always outliers, hence my selective use of the word "almost."

Look, I'm sorry that your numbers may not have worked out, and that you may or may not have been banking on your personal statement to "push you over the hump." But if you want to be a picky asshole, attack the non-hedging, definitive second sentence that makes a claim authoritatively.


Boomer Sooner.

patrickd139 wrote:They will almost assuredly not push you over the hump, but they can definitely result in a quick rejection.


And this is the correct response.

LSATclincher
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby LSATclincher » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:46 pm

It depends on the school. But I do believe if two applicants are about even in GPA and LSAT, the PS is the next aspect to which adcomms default. Honestly, none of us know how the adcomms make decisions AFTER the LSAT scores are reviewed. Considering the importance of writing in the legal profession, I believe a plus PS is important in any application, especially to a which you've determined your chances of acceptance are "borderline" or 50/50.

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patrickd139
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby patrickd139 » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:49 pm

WayBryson wrote:
patrickd139 wrote:
phannahan44 wrote:
patrickd139 wrote:They will almost assuredly not push you over the hump, but they can definitely result in a quick rejection.


I love how people on this board say everything with such finality and total assurance. "PatrickD," have you served on an admissions committee!? What on earth makes you entitled to make such a statement? How do you know so POSITIVELY that a personal statement can't, indeed, "push you over the hump?"

I love how people (in general, but you're not special in this regard) love to question things that other people say, just because they can. To answer your first question/exclamatory statement: no, I have not served on an admissions committee. Unfortunately for you, that's hardly the only thing which could qualify me to relay such information. For instance, I am friends with more than one adcomm, all of whom universally agree with that claim. Not to mention anecdotal advice assembled on this board and elsewhere that backs it up. Do you plan on going post by post across the entire internet calling out people who (probably) know what they're talking about, are in no way making absurd claims, but can be questioned from the anonymity of your basement? Are the only people qualified to speak about admissions in general, hedging terms the adcomms of the 188 law schools? Didn't think so.

Further, if you'll read really, really closely, you'll see the word "almost" appear in that sentence. (It's the third word. You should check it out! I even quoted it above for your convenience.) Finally, it's a fucking internet forum. Anyone who take the word of a single poster with any definitive finality deserves to be misled if it's wrong. That said, I still stand by my statement. Numbers and (to a limited extent) soft factors get you into law school. There are almost always outliers, hence my selective use of the word "almost."

Look, I'm sorry that your numbers may not have worked out, and that you may or may not have been banking on your personal statement to "push you over the hump." But if you want to be a picky asshole, attack the non-hedging, definitive second sentence that makes a claim authoritatively.


I can't tell whether or not I would enjoy your company, but this makes me want to buy you a beer to find out.

Regarding that “almost” and “pushing over the hump,” it seems from my reading that the personal statement’s importance rises in proportion to one’s numbers, e.g. when your numbers put you in the middle of the pack at a competitive school, or in the case of those rare, exceptional cases, e.g. your high 160 scores at Harvard. And I whole-heartedly agree with your suspicion that it is what underlies the personal statement in those exceptional cases that is more important than the statement itself, though there does seem to be some tension between that claim and your claim about the extent to which softs matter ;-)

Thanks for the good posts. They made for a good break from the final touches on what I hope will make me one of those exceptions. Love the avatar by the way.
EDITED: Because “contention” and “tension" are not the same word.

I'm pretty much an asshole IRL too, but I'm always down for beer.

As for whether softs matter, it's widely accepted that softs will not compensate for a lack of numbers. (i.e. no matter how many diseases you've cured, a 165/3.4 is not going to get you into HLS) Hence my statement that a PS disclosing these softs is not going to push you over the hump. However, if you're in the running at WUSTL with those numbers and you can't string together 20-30 coherent sentences with a theme (evidently this is somewhat of a problem IRL, according to adcoms), then it will most certainly drop you like a rock. My contention (and this is maybe the only controversial part of the whole thing) is that adcomms, when looking at several PSs lined up in a row to decide who to admit, don't give a damn about how well they're written, they look at the underlying softs.

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patrickd139
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby patrickd139 » Thu Jan 13, 2011 10:50 pm

gbpackerbacker wrote:Boomer Sooner.

False. Hook 'em horns.
Thanks for the +1 otherwise!

WayBryson
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby WayBryson » Thu Jan 13, 2011 11:32 pm

patrickd139 wrote: My contention (and this is maybe the only controversial part of the whole thing) is that adcomms, when looking at several PSs lined up in a row to decide who to admit, don't give a damn about how well they're written, they look at the underlying softs.


I only disagree with that insofar that all other things being equal, (demonstrated) exceptional writing skills is a bit of a soft for a law school application. Perhaps a good topic of conversation over a beer? Now, back to the almost-certainly-futile attempt to convince Harvard and Yale that I am indeed a unique and beautiful snowflake.

2011Law
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby 2011Law » Thu Jan 13, 2011 11:35 pm

WayBryson wrote:Now, back to the almost-certainly-futile attempt to convince Harvard and Yale that I am indeed a unique and beautiful snowflake.


that topic is so overdone. be the ugly duckling who could!

EDIT: just wanted to add that my PS is so bad right now that every time I look at it I want to hit myself and cry.

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patrickd139
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby patrickd139 » Thu Jan 13, 2011 11:56 pm

2011Law wrote:
WayBryson wrote:Now, back to the almost-certainly-futile attempt to convince Harvard and Yale that I am indeed a unique and beautiful snowflake.


that topic is so overdone. be the ugly duckling who could!

EDIT: just wanted to add that my PS is so bad right now that every time I look at it I want to hit myself and cry.

Haha...I sometimes feel like I pioneered that feeling.

WayBryson
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby WayBryson » Fri Jan 14, 2011 12:03 am

2011Law wrote:
WayBryson wrote:Now, back to the almost-certainly-futile attempt to convince Harvard and Yale that I am indeed a unique and beautiful snowflake.


that topic is so overdone. be the ugly duckling who could!

EDIT: just wanted to add that my PS is so bad right now that every time I look at it I want to hit myself and cry.


I get a bit misty eyed when reading over my personal statement, too. But I guess that is just how us swans roll. ;-)

thekunstis
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby thekunstis » Fri Jan 14, 2011 1:41 am

YankeesFan wrote:I have been offered several large scholarships from schools that were either supposed to give me much less or none at all. I sincerely believe that my personal statement had a lot to do with it.

Can you post your PS? Was it a T14 school?

jerrymander
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby jerrymander » Fri Jan 14, 2011 2:01 am

I'm still in the cycle this year, so I'm no expert. But having spoken to a number of students at the top schools, this is my sense:

- The PS matters a fair amount for YS, as there are few auto-admits based on numbers (and perhaps for B as well, though I'm not sure)
- For everyone else, the importance of the PS varies. It can be a significant boost if your numbers fall anywhere around median, because you need something else to distinguish yourself. If you are above 75th, then you just need a PS that isn't terrible. If you are below 25th, then a great PS will probably not save you. Everyone in between needs to have a pretty strong PS.
- What makes a great PS is not pretty writing - it's finding a way to tell a compelling story about who you are and where you are going. I don't buy the argument that the experience behind the PS is what gets you in. Thousands of people write about their study abroad experiences, for example - but to do so in a compelling, genuine, non-cliched way, is the trick. You can't just say what you've done - your story has to connect the dots.

Just some thoughts.

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JoeShmoe11
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby JoeShmoe11 » Fri Jan 14, 2011 2:09 am

Cpwilson wrote:Seriously, how important are they REALLY?


I put little effort into my original personal statement because I thought I was a shoe-in for Columbia ED with a 172/3.81 and statistically I was.

Unfortunately I was deferred most likely because of my lack of effort. My point is I dont know how much personal statements can help you but they can DEFINITELY hurt you. Put a lot of effort into it. It is the only way the ad comm gets to know you as a person, beyond the numbers.

Oh and Columbia is usually considered a school that is entirely based on numbers. I found out the hard way that it is not true.

acirilli1722
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby acirilli1722 » Fri Jan 14, 2011 2:20 am

I talked to the somebody here in our admissions office at our law school and from what I read on this thread the general consensus here sounds like it's pretty accurate. From what I was told it sounds like personal statements can hurt you a lot more than they can help you with a few exceptions. That is a really good personal statement can help a borderline student gain admission over somebody with similar numbers and a weaker statement. Also if you happen to be lucky enough to be considered by YHS your personal statement can be more important since these schools have enough top applicants that they have the luxury to accept a student with lower numbers if they write a good personal statement with an interesting story. For the most part though the lady in the admission office said that sadly enough it basically comes down to LSAT/GPA since those are the numbers that will be sent to US News to create the rankings

sparty99
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby sparty99 » Fri Jan 14, 2011 3:28 am

I think it's obvious that the LSAT/GPA are the two most important attributes. But if the school already receives enough qualified applicants, then how do you think they decide to reject the people with high LSAT and GPA scores? They read the personal statement! Also, for scholarships, if it's based on grades, how do you think they decide who should get what? The personal statement! So the PS is VERY important. In addition, so our interviews.

acirilli1722
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Re: How important are Personal Statements?

Postby acirilli1722 » Fri Jan 14, 2011 3:43 am

I definitely agree that it is extremely important to write a good PS. However the impression I got was that a bad PS could hurt you more than a good PS can help you.




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