know your audience: politics in PS

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know your audience: politics in PS

Postby TheLawrax » Tue Oct 15, 2013 3:44 pm

I was wondering if people have recommendations about what kinds of political content are acceptable in personal statements. I understand that admissions officers are (hopefully) more concerned with my ability to formulate a cohesive argument than with my politics themselves, and politics are by no means the primary topic of my PS. But admissions officers are human, and I don't want any political content in my essay to conflict with their bias.

Does political orientation--i.e., left vs. right--make a difference? Would I be more or less likely to get in if I wrote about, say, personal financial freedom than if I wrote about opposition to the war in Iraq? I obviously have some very strong opinions (some that have changed in recent years, some that haven't) and since I don't really know my audience, I don't want my politics to hurt my chances of getting into a given school.

Would political bias create different reactions at different schools? (for instance, is admissions at U of Chicago actually more conservative than at UC Berkeley?)

Having read through dozens of PS examples, I'm hard-pressed to think of any that mention politics. Is it considered taboo? I don't want to sound preachy in my PS, but I've been very much involved in grassroots political organizing for years and think that including at least some political content would tell a lot about who I am as a candidate.

Finally, what specific content (if any) is okay and what isn't? Topics that so far have come to mind that are relevant to my story but are potentially galvanizing are: violence in protest (either by protesters or police), institutional authority, movement recruitment tactics, and private property.

Thanks for your feedback.

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Re: know your audience: politics in PS

Postby jordan15 » Thu Oct 17, 2013 4:18 am

While it's possible that some (or all) admissions officers don't want to see any politics, if they are receptive to some politics then the examples you mentioned should be fine if written well.

Academics are generally very reasonable and respective of opposite opinions so long as they are well educated and reasonable. For example, Justice Scalia has said that he doesn't care where his clerks lean as long as they can do their research respectfully and competently. It's also well known that he considers Justice Gingsburg to be one of his best friends (and vice versa).

So while you shouldn't worry about a conservative dinging your liberal statement, you need to worry about being perceived as too extreme or too uneducated. A thoughtful statement on against the war in Iraq is not the same thing as questioning Obama's birth certificate. Additionally, you might be able to write a thoughtful analysis against a single component of the Affordable Care Act, but you should not write about how Obamacare the single worst thing to ever happen to the US.

Finally, unless this is the Yale 250, you need to be able to use this essay to demonstrate why you will make an excellent law student and lawyer. So you shouldn't spend too much time on your opinion and not enough time on you.


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Re: know your audience: politics in PS

Postby Ramius » Thu Oct 17, 2013 7:19 am

The best thing you can do with this PS (or any PS for that matter) is write about something significant and important to you. Your entire goal in your PS is to give the ADCOM a subjective third dimension to look at besides your objective LSAT/uGPA to round you out as a candidate. Writing about something you're passionate about or something you've studied/worked in extensively is a great way to do that. That being said, the statement needs to be focused on you, not the issue you're discussing. If your statement revolves around your extensive involvement in a cause/political organization, the positive impact you had on said cause, the positive impact you believe it had on you, or your analytical and well-reasoned take on the cause/issue, it'd probably come off as interesting and worth writing. If you take 2-3 pages to get on your soap box about how you figured out you were right all along while those numb nuts across the aisle are ass backwards clowns who couldn't reason their way out of a paper bag, it'll read horribly and any reader will probably reject you.

Any PS topic is entirely about the approach and the way it's written, not about the topic itself. I'm sure a person who spent the last few years working at planned parenthood could write a quality statement about how their viewpoint of the world changed/was affected by working there regardless of which side of the issue they fell on. Make it about you and make it interesting and no ADCOM will hold it against you. These people are professionals who want to admit people with varying viewpoints on the world, not just people who align with their own views.

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