No margin instructions specified = take liberties?

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NightmanCometh
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No margin instructions specified = take liberties?

Postby NightmanCometh » Wed Nov 21, 2012 6:14 pm

So, I wrote my personal statement in mind for my first choice school which allows up to 3 pages. I have spent many many months and it is already an extremely polished piece that's been filtered through multiple rounds of edits and proofreaders. I don't think there is much wasted space, but the I cover a lot of ideas that together make a coherent whole.

No matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to fit it under 2 pages without seriously weakening the essay. I'm not even talking about flow or style, I'm talking major ideas and themes that would be altered by taking out sentences.

Here's the thing though- I noticed that for most of these 2-page limit schools, they specify a font size and a page limit but NOT a margin. I know that it is definitely not okay to disregard instructions, but since no margin has been specified, do you think they will care if I set a 0.5 margin? On one hand, it might seem gaming the rules, but on the other hand since law is so detail oriented I kind of imagine that the school would have explicitly specified the margin if it was really important to them.

Any thoughts?

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hichvichwoh
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Re: No margin instructions specified = take liberties?

Postby hichvichwoh » Wed Nov 21, 2012 6:21 pm

The most important thing about your PS is what kind of impression it leaves. Having weird margins will affect different people differently, but I personally wouldn't risk the possibility of giving a negative first impression with something so silly.

NightmanCometh
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Re: No margin instructions specified = take liberties?

Postby NightmanCometh » Wed Nov 21, 2012 6:31 pm

Sure, that's a valid point. But if you weigh the negatives of a silly first impression against the upsides of a substantially better essay, I don't think the answer is so easy...

Has anyone ever called the admissions dept of a school and asked them about this issue? I am kind of in a rush to submit apps asap, but the admissions offices are closed and tomorrow is Thanksgiving...

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ph14
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Re: No margin instructions specified = take liberties?

Postby ph14 » Wed Nov 21, 2012 6:34 pm

NightmanCometh wrote:Sure, that's a valid point. But if you weigh the negatives of a silly first impression against the upsides of a substantially better essay, I don't think the answer is so easy...

Has anyone ever called the admissions dept of a school and asked them about this issue? I am kind of in a rush to submit apps asap, but the admissions offices are closed and tomorrow is Thanksgiving...


Use normal margins. I guarantee that you can fit it under 2 pages without weakening it. If I was an adcomm I would just trash your application. But since it is such a numbers game anyways it might not hurt you. There's your answer though. The upside of this is tiny, while there is a potential for a big downside.

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hichvichwoh
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Re: No margin instructions specified = take liberties?

Postby hichvichwoh » Wed Nov 21, 2012 7:57 pm

NightmanCometh wrote:Sure, that's a valid point. But if you weigh the negatives of a silly first impression against the upsides of a substantially better essay, I don't think the answer is so easy...

Has anyone ever called the admissions dept of a school and asked them about this issue? I am kind of in a rush to submit apps asap, but the admissions offices are closed and tomorrow is Thanksgiving...


Again, it's all about leaving a good impression. What kind of impression do you think you'd be making by calling admissions and asking them about this?

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Gradvocates Editing
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Re: No margin instructions specified = take liberties?

Postby Gradvocates Editing » Wed Nov 21, 2012 10:06 pm

Don't do it. We review a large number of personal statements, and the margins of the document are the first thing we notice. The same has to be true of members of admission committees.

Margins tell a lot about the writer. If the left and right margins are 1.25 inches, then the author was using an older version of Microsoft Word and probably does not write often (being unaware that they should use one-inch margins). Such authors are usually older applicants or science majors.

If the margins are 0.5 inches, then they stand out like a sore thumb, showing that the author is trying to get away with cramming more words into the page limit.

Your margins should be one inch, all around. This is neutral and does not have a prejudicial effect on the reader.

There is something to be said for following limits and directions. We respectfully doubt that every word in your personal statement is integral. Writing with brevity is something you will have to get used to in your future career as a lawyer. If you're curious, look into the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, which set forth very strict requirements that you would not think twice about ignoring or manipulating.

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radar714
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Re: No margin instructions specified = take liberties?

Postby radar714 » Wed Nov 21, 2012 10:11 pm

Gradvocates Editing wrote:Don't do it.


Quick Question: I have the same issue, and I've worked my way around it by reducing my font to 11, and reducing my spacing from double to 1.5. Would you advise against this as well?

NightmanCometh
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Re: No margin instructions specified = take liberties?

Postby NightmanCometh » Fri Nov 23, 2012 10:06 pm

Gradvocates Editing wrote:There is something to be said for following limits and directions. We respectfully doubt that every word in your personal statement is integral. Writing with brevity is something you will have to get used to in your future career as a lawyer. If you're curious, look into the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, which set forth very strict requirements that you would not think twice about ignoring or manipulating.


You are right, but that was the whole focus of my argument- it's that the limits on the margin were NOT explicitly specified. I know that some schools say "use readable margins"- in those cases, they clearly care about the margins and have explicitly stated so, and the answer to this question would be infinitely more clear. But where margin limits are not specified at all, I don't see how changing the margins could be construed as "failure to follow limits and directions." Is it a technicality and an extremely-close reading of the instructions? Maybe- but that's the nature of law and the legal profession, right?

BUT, you and the others have convinced me that it's the intangible "impression" that could be left by doing something like this that makes it unacceptable. I could imagine how seeing a 0.5 margin paper in a sea of 1 margin papers could make a negative impression. For that I've decided to find some other way to fit the page limit, even if it means turning in my app a bit later.

Thanks all for your input!

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glitter178
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Re: No margin instructions specified = take liberties?

Postby glitter178 » Fri Nov 23, 2012 10:42 pm

radar714 wrote:
Gradvocates Editing wrote:Don't do it.


Quick Question: I have the same issue, and I've worked my way around it by reducing my font to 11, and reducing my spacing from double to 1.5. Would you advise against this as well?


Yes. Seriously. So much of law school (at least the writing part) is going to be about trying to cram 30 pages of arguments into 10 pages, meaning, 10 pages with one inch margins and double spaced. Get used to it.

Also, I promise that you can cut things out of your personal statement. Unless your PS ends something like, ". . . and that's how I became the first African American president of the United States of America," you can fit your shit into two pages.




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