Yale Law School Requirements

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OmbreGracieuse
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Yale Law School Requirements

Postby OmbreGracieuse » Sun Apr 11, 2010 5:48 pm

I was just wondering if anyone knew what the PS was supposed to be about, and what the 250 word writing prompt is. I was hoping this summer to write PS's and such, however the application session is closed for the season so I can't even access it.

Thanks so much! :)

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Boba Fett
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Re: Yale Law School Requirements

Postby Boba Fett » Sun Apr 11, 2010 5:57 pm

Asha Rangappa on Personal Statements wrote:I understand your frustration with the standard mantra about personal statements, but this is an equally frustrating question to answer from our end. After all, we review thousands of personal statements every year, and each one is so different that finding a common thread in all of them is practically impossible. Well, except that maybe the word "endeavor" is totally overused and should really be banned from personal statements generally.

In any event, I've given it some thought and I think there are some common themes to successful personal statements which can help you in approaching yours. Keep in mind that I'm basing my suggestions on what I see working in Yale's admissions process, and other admissions folks from different schools may disagree. But I think that there's a way to make your personal statement a good one, and a way to make a good personal statement a great one.

A good personal statement provides a coherent narrative of what has brought you to this point (in your life, of applying to law school, or a combination of these two). What this narrative consists of will depend on the person writing it. For some, it may focus on their upbringing or cultural background. For others, it may be an intellectual journey, where certain ideas or courses influenced you. And for others it may be one or several experiences, personal or professional, that were meaningful. Whatever the narrative is, the reader gets an idea of the major events, turning points, influences, or experiences that make up who you are. This personal statement functions essentially like an on-paper interview -- it's kind of like a glorified cover letter, in fact. We get an idea of who you are, what's gone on in your life, and -- implicitly or explicitly -- why you applied to law school.

(NOTE: I do see essays every year that don't take this approach and instead focus on an unrelated topic that doesn't necessarily provide the reader with an understanding of why law school might be a logical next step. I'm not saying that this approach can't be successful. But I'm addressing general strategies here, and while your experience auditioning for American Idol may very well make for a captivating, knock-it-out-of-the-park personal statement, I'm assuming that most people want the safer, tried-and-true approach. So on to the great personal statement.)

The applicant with a great personal statement takes the above personal statement, and goes a step further by relating the things they have chosen to mention to something that is larger than themselves. Now, I don't mean that they go on to pontificate about their own personal philosophy of life. I also don't mean that they have to choose some global issue or platform -- this isn't the Miss America contest. What I mean is that the great personal statement makes connections between the experiences or events that the applicant has highlighted and, say, a larger idea or an theme that it made the applicant consider or explore further. Or, for someone who wrote about their upbringing or background, perhaps they now evaluate those experiences from a new and different perspective and can make a connection between those experiences and issues they later became interested in. Another way to put this is that this type of personal statement takes something that was merely descriptive -- a cover letter -- and makes it into something that is reflective -- an essay. This allows us to learn not only what you are about and what you've done, but also how you think and what matters to you. A reflective personal statement demonstrates an ability to think critically and analytically about one's own experiences, which in turn suggests that the person will be a thoughtful and insightful contributor to the classroom and the law school community -- and that's what we are looking for.

The question I get asked the most by prospective students is, "How can I stand out?" Usually the applicant is looking for me to provide a list of courses, activities or summer jobs that he or she can check off and be done with it. But two people with the exact same resumes, GPAs, and test scores can do very differently in the admissions process based solely on how they present themselves. The one who gives us a window into what really makes them tick will be the one who stands out from the crowd. And seriously, don't use the word "endeavor."


Asha Rangappa on the 250-word essay wrote:Sigh. The 250-word essay. I remember putting off my Yale Law School application because of the 250, too (good thing that applying late to YLS doesn't affect your chances of admission!).

The 250 word essay, in case you haven't checked out our application, is an essay on any subject of your choice, which the Admissions Committee uses "to evaluate an applicant's writing, reasoning, and editing skills." In other words, this is your first exercise as a potential lawyer: say something meaningful in a limited space, and make it good. You'll be asked to do this repeatedly in the future: law school papers have page limits, and there are judges who will throw out motions or briefs that exceed their word number guidelines. Being persuasive and concise is the quintessestial lawyerly skill, and we want to see that you have it.

Honestly, though, the 250-word essay is really a gimme. It gives you a second bite at the personal statement -- after all, given all of your goals, interests, opinions, accomplishments, backgrounds, and hobbies (just to name a few aspects of yourselves), you couldn't have possibly covered everything important about who you are in a two-page personal statement. So the 250 is a chance for you to explore something you care about that might have ended up on the cutting room floor in writing your personal statement. Maybe it's a policy argument. Maybe it's a piece about a hobby or passion of yours. Maybe it's a personal anecdote. There's not much you can't write about.

In fact, there are tons of "Dos" in writing the 250, and just a few "Don'ts." So it might be more helpful if I list the five major mistakes people make in writing their 250s and you can avoid them, thereby increasing your success rate exponentially. These mistakes are:

1. Not Keeping Your Essay at 250 Words or Less. Yes, it seems like it would be obvious that a 250-word essay should be, well, 250 words. I'm not sure why people choose to ignore this. Because they think what they have to say is so special that the limit doesn't apply? They didn't read the instructions? They don't know how to use the word counter on their computer? Not clear. Look. It's an excercise. The faculty who came up with this application requirement a billion years ago do not like to be mocked. Do I or the faculty reading your application actually count the words? Maybe -- do you want to take the chance? Bottom line: Don't go over 250 words. If what you have to say is longer, edit it. And yes, definite and indefinite articles and prepositions count.

2. Writing the 250-Word Essay about Writing a 250-Word Essay. There are always a couple of hundred applicants each year who think they are pret-ty clever. So they write an essay which will go something like, "So I have to write a 250-word essay. Actually, now I have written 20 words so it's actually a 230-word essay! Wait, make that a 224-word essay!" And it will go on in this vein, subtracting numbers until the applicant has managed to write 250 words about absolutely nothing.

3. Giving 250 Words in Stream-of-Consciousness Prose. So, another couple of hundred people think that they can just barf out everything they didn't mention in their personal statement, putting a period after 250 words. As in, "I obtained my black belt at age 15. I like to sleep with my window open. My cat has fleas. I can bake an awesome apple pie." And so on. OK. So I indicated above that the 250 is an opportunity for you to talk about things you may not have mentioned in your personal statement. BUT YOU STILL HAVE TO INCORPORATE THEM INTO A COHERENT ESSAY. We are not asking for 250 words' worth of random facts about yourself. Remember: "writing, reasoning, and editing skills." This type of essay gets an F in all categories.

NOTE: I have never seen anyone using tactic 2 or 3 be admitted.

4. Not Proofreading Their Essay. Somehow, it seems, the 250-word essay is really prone to grammatical and typographical errors. Probably because people are putting it off till the last minute, therefore not going over it with a fine-toothed comb as they have done with their personal statement (though those sometimes have issues as well). Please ask someone to read your essay. There are things that spell-checker will not catch, but are still wrong. For example, "peek" vs. "peak," "Untied" vs. "United," "affect" vs. "effect," you get my point. Again, remember that this is a lawyerly exercise, and no one wants a sloppy lawyer.

5. Using the 250-Word Essay as an Addendum, or a "Why Yale?" Essay. This is not as egregious as the first four, but I mention it because I really think people who take this route lose an opportunity. First, you can add an addendum -- about the C you got in Calculus, or the alarm that was going off during the LSAT -- in addition to the required essays. The 250 doesn't preclude that (just keep it brief). Second, a listing of the courses or programs at Yale which intrigue you is nice, and shows that you've researched the school, but doesn't really add to the Admission Committee's knowledge about you (they already know Yale's courses and programs are great, they teach them!). You should really try to take advantage of the 250 to showcase your writing ability, and pursue a topic other than an explanation of the components of the application or a list of things that caught your fancy on our website. We want to find out more about what makes you tick!

I hope that the above pitfalls are helpful in guiding you in what not to do, and therefore in pointing you in the direction of what to do. The 250-word essay is rarely a dealmaker or breaker. Mostly, it offers the Admissions Committee a window into some small snippet of who you are, carefully and thoughtfully condensed into a few short, but meaningful, paragraphs. Think this isn't possible? Remember that the Gettysburg Address is only 272 words -- 22 words short (or long) of being the ultimate Yale 250.

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Knock
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Re: Yale Law School Requirements

Postby Knock » Sun Apr 11, 2010 6:07 pm

Thanks for quoting that, it was an insightful read.

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Boba Fett
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Re: Yale Law School Requirements

Postby Boba Fett » Sun Apr 11, 2010 6:11 pm

Knockglock wrote:Thanks for quoting that, it was an insightful read.


You're quite welcome.

It's extracted from her blog: http://blogs.law.yale.edu/blogs/admissions/default.aspx

You may also find this interview of interest: http://www.admissionsdean.com/researchi ... a-rangappa

Good luck!

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The Kid
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Re: Yale Law School Requirements

Postby The Kid » Sun Apr 11, 2010 6:17 pm

Knockglock wrote:Thanks for quoting that, it was an insightful read.


+1

OmbreGracieuse
Posts: 254
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Re: Yale Law School Requirements

Postby OmbreGracieuse » Sun Apr 11, 2010 8:07 pm

Boba Fett wrote:
Asha Rangappa on Personal Statements wrote:I understand your frustration with the standard mantra about personal statements, but this is an equally frustrating question to answer from our end.... Think this isn't possible? Remember that the Gettysburg Address is only 272 words -- 22 words short (or long) of being the ultimate Yale 250.


Thanks so much! I really appreciate this. ^_^




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