to be more personal or more professional?

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
rachue
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to be more personal or more professional?

Postby rachue » Sat Aug 13, 2011 5:57 pm

Hello!

I've just started researching more about the personal/statement of purpose for law school. I've read a few samples that are considered "good" and noticed that some focus on purely personal quirks or interesting backgrounds/travels/enlightening experiences etc. Others are more professional sounding letters explaining "why" law school and their academic/professional trajectory to getting to this point, and still some seem to combine the two.

For most schools will there be two different letters, or just one? As in, a personal statement and a statement of purpose? Or are they supposed to be combined? Is there a preferred method or is it probably just more on a case-by-case basis?

I'd appreciate any insight as I'm really new to this, and honestly, I don't even really remember much of what it was like back in high school to write for college, since it was so far back.

Thanks in advance!

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cinephile
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Re: to be more personal or more professional?

Postby cinephile » Sat Aug 13, 2011 6:05 pm

There's just one personal statement. While some people may write a combination where it discusses both personal narrative and why law school, it doesn't have to be like that. There was a thread awhile ago about if it was necessary to include "why law school" and I believe the consensus was no, but that this was better for non-trads to explain why they were leaving another field/job for law school.

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icecold3000
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Re: to be more personal or more professional?

Postby icecold3000 » Sun Aug 14, 2011 3:50 pm

Certain schools require an additional Why X essay/addendum (Anna Ivey refers to this as a "Statement of Purpose") in addition to the normal personal statement. Most schools do not. As the above poster said, it is not nessecery or even advised to mention why you want to go to law school in a personal statement. Many TLSers, however, will say that an unsolicited why x essay can give you a tiny edge in admissions. Check out this thread for more information.
viewtopic.php?f=22&t=94015

MumofCad
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Re: to be more personal or more professional?

Postby MumofCad » Sun Aug 14, 2011 5:26 pm

icecold3000 wrote:Certain schools require an additional Why X essay/addendum (Anna Ivey refers to this as a "Statement of Purpose") in addition to the normal personal statement. Most schools do not. As the above poster said, it is not nessecery or even advised to mention why you want to go to law school in a personal statement. Many TLSers, however, will say that an unsolicited why x essay can give you a tiny edge in admissions. Check out this thread for more information.
viewtopic.php?f=22&t=94015


I don't agree with this advice. I just read a PS from a friend who got into Harvard with a 164 LSAT (not a URM). She not only talked about "why law school," she also talked specifically about why Harvard. I see it repeatedly. People want a panacea: write this and you shall get into law school. Write a strong, focused essay. There is no single "right" way to do that and just about any positive content is in bounds.

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icecold3000
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Re: to be more personal or more professional?

Postby icecold3000 » Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:31 pm

MumofCad wrote:
icecold3000 wrote:Certain schools require an additional Why X essay/addendum (Anna Ivey refers to this as a "Statement of Purpose") in addition to the normal personal statement. Most schools do not. As the above poster said, it is not nessecery or even advised to mention why you want to go to law school in a personal statement. Many TLSers, however, will say that an unsolicited why x essay can give you a tiny edge in admissions. Check out this thread for more information.
viewtopic.php?f=22&t=94015


I don't agree with this advice. I just read a PS from a friend who got into Harvard with a 164 LSAT (not a URM). She not only talked about "why law school," she also talked specifically about why Harvard. I see it repeatedly. People want a panacea: write this and you shall get into law school. Write a strong, focused essay. There is no single "right" way to do that and just about any positive content is in bounds.


What do you not agree with?
it is not necessary or even advised to mention why you want to go to law school in a personal statement.

That does not mean that it is always a bad idea, just that it is not necessary.

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Lawquacious
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Re: to be more personal or more professional?

Postby Lawquacious » Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:38 pm

MumofCad wrote: I just read a PS from a friend who got into Harvard with a 164 LSAT (not a URM). She not only talked about "why law school," she also talked specifically about why Harvard. I see it repeatedly. People want a panacea: write this and you shall get into law school. Write a strong, focused essay. There is no single "right" way to do that and just about any positive content is in bounds.


This is somewhat tangential, but perhaps to save some ppl on here the waste of Harvard app money, I want to make the point that your friend had a little sumptin sumptin going for him/her (assuming really an admit with 164/non-URM). I know of one famous author who had a 160 and was admitted to Yale, but short of some very unusual soft non-URMs with 164s don't get Harvard as far as I know. At the very least I feel fairly certain it wasn't the PS in itself that did the trick in your friend's case, assuming what you are sharing is truthful/accurate.

rachue
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Re: to be more personal or more professional?

Postby rachue » Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:52 am

Thanks for all the advice thus far, guys!

Icecold, I will check out that thread. Thanks!

MumofCad
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Re: to be more personal or more professional?

Postby MumofCad » Tue Aug 16, 2011 7:23 am

Lawquacious wrote:
MumofCad wrote: I just read a PS from a friend who got into Harvard with a 164 LSAT (not a URM). She not only talked about "why law school," she also talked specifically about why Harvard. I see it repeatedly. People want a panacea: write this and you shall get into law school. Write a strong, focused essay. There is no single "right" way to do that and just about any positive content is in bounds.


This is somewhat tangential, but perhaps to save some ppl on here the waste of Harvard app money, I want to make the point that your friend had a little sumptin sumptin going for him/her (assuming really an admit with 164/non-URM). I know of one famous author who had a 160 and was admitted to Yale, but short of some very unusual soft non-URMs with 164s don't get Harvard as far as I know. At the very least I feel fairly certain it wasn't the PS in itself that did the trick in your friend's case, assuming what you are sharing is truthful/accurate.


I don't know why I would lie. What would I possibly have to gain? Anyhow, as to whether she was a famous author or something - no. She did have a prestigious award and several publications in lesser journals or schools writing contests. So yes, she had good softs but she wasn't a UN recognized Humanitarian of the Year or NY Times Bestseller. I wasn't trying to imply that many people can get into Harvard with a 164, but they do occasionally take people and when they do its not necessarily because they wrote a PS that could win a creative writing award.

It was a comment in answer to the thread's question of whether to be more professional or personal. The answer I disagreed with above, which I find standard fare on here constantly allude that it should be more personal or at least not a statement of purpose (his take in response was clearly that he meant something else by "not advised," but to me it read to recommend against addressing why law school and I saw it alot in the thread cinephile referred to earlier). That the only thing getting you in the door without great numbers is a narrative that leaves the adcom wanting to send it to the New Yorker for immediate publication. I don't agree because I have seen many admits to the contrary, whose numbers were at or below 25th percentiles and they got into prestigious schools with very professional, simple, clearly written PSs explaining why they wanted to go to law school and a particular law school and that includes Harvard, even though everyone has told me not to even consider writing a why Harvard type piece in my PS because it is obvious. If your reasons are generic, this is probably sage advice, but if you have a particular professor who is working on stuff you have worked on and will be an asset to your career, it can be effective. I'm not talking about a recitation of a resume of course.

The "truth" as I have found it, and yes it may not be common dogma, is that you can go either way on the PS and it can be just fine in accomplishing its task. OP, should think clearly about what would be putting his/her best foot forward and strongest for him/her, not what some other people have done to get in. If you have a compelling and consistent passion through your education, extra-curriculars, and work experience that says this guy/gal could clearly benefit from law school and really have an impact on X field, then write that statement about how you are going to make law school work for your career goals. If you are a great creative writer who can convey information subtly through a seemingly unrelated narrative of some sort, then write that statement. There is no one size fits all box that will get you in the door, just like there is no one size fits all law school student. One of the best things about law school IMO is that we come together from different disciplines and styles of thinking to engage on a common topic - write what comes naturally and sincerely and don't stress over whether someone else went a totally different direction. The only exception is writing things potentially offensive, negative, etc. - like about how you once got away with a criminal act that was unreported but of course totally justified :roll:

I do not believe there is a "right" and "wrong" way to do this, and I have seen repeated adcoms at top schools try to get this across in interviews despite the continued advice that it needs to fit a creative mold of some sort. I see a real disparity between what those who write books about it (especially alot of these compilations of successful essays) and those holding the current gate keys at places like HYS say about what the PS should accomplish. Yes, it should not read like a cover letter, but it could be a softened version of that which shows your passion and personality. Dean Asha at Yale says very clearly it should tell her what has brought you to this point, and excels if it connects that to something larger. Now in my mind, that can mean a statement of purpose that explains the driving passions in your life, the way you think, the way experiences have transformed you or contributed to a certain value set, or some sort of creative narrative. I don't think it in anyway precludes a softened version of a statement of purpose-type essay, if the person has a compelling, interesting background that indicates law school would be the right next step. It may even be necessary for non-trads switching careers.

Of course, its just my opinion from the information I have slowly gathered writing mine over the last few weeks. I realize its not the popular answer.

sparty99
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Re: to be more personal or more professional?

Postby sparty99 » Wed Aug 17, 2011 1:42 am

Whether to write a why essay or be personal/professional is up to you. It depends how you present your story. Why essay's can be very effective if you are sincere about that school and you really want to attend. If you are on the admissions committee, would you want someone who really, really, wants to go to your school or someone who is "shopping" around for the highest ranked program or most scholarship dollars?

My essay was both personal/professional, included why I am going to law school and why xyz. If you are unclear as to what should be in your essay, ask the question, "Is this information critical for them to know about me?" If no, then you probably don't need to write about it.

rachue
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Re: to be more personal or more professional?

Postby rachue » Tue Aug 23, 2011 5:57 pm

Hey guys, sorry it's taken me a few days to get back to this. I'm going to consider what both of you said. Like what MumofCad said, I think it's particularly important to emphasize what brought you to this point, and try to connect it to something larger. I'm not even 100% positive what type of law I would want to practice at this point, and that's probably to be expected for most people, but I'm still going to try to connect it and explain what area I would be interested in pursuing. Thanks again for all your insight. It's good to bounce ideas off each other. Best of luck to you all in writing your statements!




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