Academically Oriented Personal Statement

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analytic_philosopher
Posts: 50
Joined: Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:17 pm

Academically Oriented Personal Statement

Postby analytic_philosopher » Sun Aug 05, 2012 10:56 am

I have a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Chicago and I'm currently pursuing an MSc Logic degree at the University of Amsterdam. My original plan was to get into a regular PhD program afterwards and pursue an academic career. Recently, however, I've developed an interest in law school which would allow me to pursue a combined JD / PhD program. Getting into a combined JD / PhD program requires one to apply separately to each of the two programs (JD and PhD) and gain admission in both. The key point to note here is that the application process for each program is completely independent of the other. My questions here are only about the law school application; in particular about the law school Personal Statement:

1. Is it beneficial for me to mention in my law school PS that I am interested in pursuing a PhD?

2. Is it wise to structure my law school PS around my academic interests? As in, instead of writing something about my personality or my life experiences, I'm thinking of writing about my academic interests and how studying law ties in to those academic interests.


Why do I want to write such a PS instead of a normal PS? Two reasons. Firstly, I would feel much more confident writing such a PS because that is a style of writing that I am much more familiar with. That is not to say that I would be incapable of writing a more "personal" PS but it would be much more difficult for me and I wouldn't be as confident about it. The second reason (and I might be completely mistaken here) is that such a PS might be able to set me apart from the crowd of applicants writing about their personal experiences and why they want to become lawyers.

I would really appreciate your input on this matter. Thanks in advance for any advice!

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Note to moderator: Since I am asking a general question rather than submitting a definite PS or a draft for critique, I felt it would be more appropriate to post this thread in the Admissions forum rather than the Personal Statements forum. If you feel differently, please feel free to move my thread. Cheers!

hopper123
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Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2012 7:49 pm

Re: Academically Oriented Personal Statement

Postby hopper123 » Sun Aug 05, 2012 11:28 am

Yes and yes. You are mature enough to write a personal statement that is academically oriented. PM me if you want more advice.

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AntipodeanPhil
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Re: Academically Oriented Personal Statement

Postby AntipodeanPhil » Sun Aug 05, 2012 1:11 pm

I had a PhD when I applied to law schools last year, so I had to consider similar issues. I think the answer to both questions is yes, but with caveats.

1. Admissions staff are educated people, but they're not academics. Some have JDs, some don't, and those who do probably haven't studied the law for many years. What is more, they have to read files quickly. For those reasons, you should try to keep your PS easy and accessible. A two page presentation of your research agenda probably isn't going to be appreciated. Anna Ivey discusses this in her book on law school admissions. You have to find a way to make your topic interesting for a general audience, and include at least some biographical information. A boring PS they can't understand is a wasted opportunity and shows poor judgment.

2. Mentioning your interest in academia will probably help you at schools that regularly produce academics (i.e., the t14), but might hurt you at lower-ranked schools, where such a goal wouldn't be realistic. Schools want students who will get jobs, for the sake of their employment statistics.

By the way, the school that gives you by far the best chance at legal academia is Yale, and Yale asks for a separate 250 word statement, which is a great chance to write about your research, since that will be read by faculty. I wrote a summary of a (law-relevant) publication for my 250, and I know a lot of people do something similar.

analytic_philosopher
Posts: 50
Joined: Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:17 pm

Re: Academically Oriented Personal Statement

Postby analytic_philosopher » Sun Aug 05, 2012 1:57 pm

hopper123 wrote:Yes and yes. You are mature enough to write a personal statement that is academically oriented. PM me if you want more advice.
Thanks very much for your response. If I understand you correctly, you're saying that this is a good idea for some people but not for everyone; in particular, you are claiming that:

1. It takes a certain level of maturity to write a personal statement that is academically oriented, &
2. I have that requisite level of maturity.

I'm not sure how you figured #2, but I'm certainly going to take you up on your offer and PM you for more advice!

AntipodeanPhil wrote:I had a PhD when I applied to law schools last year, so I had to consider similar issues. I think the answer to both questions is yes, but with caveats.

1. Admissions staff are educated people, but they're not academics. Some have JDs, some don't, and those who do probably haven't studied the law for many years. What is more, they have to read files quickly. For those reasons, you should try to keep your PS easy and accessible. A two page presentation of your research agenda probably isn't going to be appreciated. Anna Ivey discusses this in her book on law school admissions. You have to find a way to make your topic interesting for a general audience, and include at least some biographical information. A boring PS they can't understand is a wasted opportunity and shows poor judgment.

2. Mentioning your interest in academia will probably help you at schools that regularly produce academics (i.e., the t14), but might hurt you at lower-ranked schools, where such a goal wouldn't be realistic. Schools want students who will get jobs, for the sake of their employment statistics.

By the way, the school that gives you by far the best chance at legal academia is Yale, and Yale asks for a separate 250 word statement, which is a great chance to write about your research, since that will be read by faculty. I wrote a summary of a (law-relevant) publication for my 250, and I know a lot of people do something similar.
Thank you very much for your response. You are saying that it is alright to write a personal statement with an academic orientation but I should be careful not to address it only to scholars but also to a general audience (while including some biographical information). That definitely sounds like useful advice; I was under the impression that the admissions committee consists of professors (because that's how it works in grad school). Guess I was wrong about that; point taken! I certainly hope to get into a t14 school. I'm guessing that Yale and Stanford might be inaccessible to me given my GPA but I'm sure I'll have a decent shot at schools ranked 3 - 14 depending on my LSAT results. I'll also apply to Yale (but only as a "reach").

You say that mentioning my interest in academia might hurt me at lower ranked schools because the goal wouldn't be realistic. Do you think this is also true of any of the schools in the t14? At the t14 schools, would there be any reason they might not prefer an academically oriented candidate? Perhaps at the lower end of the t14?

hopper123
Posts: 56
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2012 7:49 pm

Re: Academically Oriented Personal Statement

Postby hopper123 » Sun Aug 05, 2012 5:10 pm

analytic_philosopher wrote:
hopper123 wrote:Yes and yes. You are mature enough to write a personal statement that is academically oriented. PM me if you want more advice.
Thanks very much for your response. If I understand you correctly, you're saying that this is a good idea for some people but not for everyone; in particular, you are claiming that:

1. It takes a certain level of maturity to write a personal statement that is academically oriented, &
2. I have that requisite level of maturity.

I'm not sure how you figured #2, but I'm certainly going to take you up on your offer and PM you for more advice!

AntipodeanPhil wrote:I had a PhD when I applied to law schools last year, so I had to consider similar issues. I think the answer to both questions is yes, but with caveats.

1. Admissions staff are educated people, but they're not academics. Some have JDs, some don't, and those who do probably haven't studied the law for many years. What is more, they have to read files quickly. For those reasons, you should try to keep your PS easy and accessible. A two page presentation of your research agenda probably isn't going to be appreciated. Anna Ivey discusses this in her book on law school admissions. You have to find a way to make your topic interesting for a general audience, and include at least some biographical information. A boring PS they can't understand is a wasted opportunity and shows poor judgment.

2. Mentioning your interest in academia will probably help you at schools that regularly produce academics (i.e., the t14), but might hurt you at lower-ranked schools, where such a goal wouldn't be realistic. Schools want students who will get jobs, for the sake of their employment statistics.

By the way, the school that gives you by far the best chance at legal academia is Yale, and Yale asks for a separate 250 word statement, which is a great chance to write about your research, since that will be read by faculty. I wrote a summary of a (law-relevant) publication for my 250, and I know a lot of people do something similar.
Thank you very much for your response. You are saying that it is alright to write a personal statement with an academic orientation but I should be careful not to address it only to scholars but also to a general audience (while including some biographical information). That definitely sounds like useful advice; I was under the impression that the admissions committee consists of professors (because that's how it works in grad school). Guess I was wrong about that; point taken! I certainly hope to get into a t14 school. I'm guessing that Yale and Stanford might be inaccessible to me given my GPA but I'm sure I'll have a decent shot at schools ranked 3 - 14 depending on my LSAT results. I'll also apply to Yale (but only as a "reach").

You say that mentioning my interest in academia might hurt me at lower ranked schools because the goal wouldn't be realistic. Do you think this is also true of any of the schools in the t14? At the t14 schools, would there be any reason they might not prefer an academically oriented candidate? Perhaps at the lower end of the t14?


1.) It takes a certain person to write an academic statement. 2) For law school specifically, I wouldn't hedge my bets toward an academic personal statement if you don't have at least a master's degree. That being said, you are mature in the sense that you are academically mature. If a JD committee is to take you seriously, they would see that you have matured academically because you are finishing up a master's.

I agree with antipodean phil, but in my opinion, I think you make academia personal, which means that you can write a story about how you developed as an academic and how you see yourself developing with the addition of a JD/PhD without talking much about biography. As for the 250, I think that's the most controversial topic. Summarizing your research in a 250 is one way to do things; making the 250 a personal story is another. If I were you, I'd go for an academic personal statement and a personal 250. The 250 is a challenge but condensing some life story into it is even harder imho.

Also I think you are safe to apply with that academic personal statement all across the t-14.

analytic_philosopher
Posts: 50
Joined: Sat Aug 04, 2012 10:17 pm

Re: Academically Oriented Personal Statement

Postby analytic_philosopher » Sat Aug 11, 2012 9:23 am

Thank you so much. The advice so far on this thread has been wonderful.

The consensus so far seems to be that, if I am applying only to T14 schools (which I am), then I can use an academic statement as my personal statement provided that I add a personal / biographical touch to it so that it doesn't read like a boring research statement - which sounds like excellent advice considering that the admissions committee is composed of of non-academics (which is something that I only discovered thanks to this thread).

My main concern is this: when the committee reads my academic / personal statement and they ask themselves the question, "why does this student want to attend law school?" the only conclusion they could come to would be that I want to attend law school because I want to study / research law. However, I've often heard - in general discussions on this topic - that admissions committees want students who are committed to practicing law rather than simply studying law. Is this not true?

Also, I'm wondering how much I should emphasize my PhD goals in my law school application. Should I say that it is something I definitely want to do or that I am just considering doing it? My understanding is that my law school application should be able to stand on its own two feet. I don't want to make it sound like my law school plans are entirely contingent on my PhD plans, do I?

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The advice regarding the Yale 250 has also been great, but that only helps me with one very specific application, whereas at this stage I'm looking for general advice on personal statements that I can submit to a variety of schools.




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