Questions Related to the Value of "Why X School" Addenda

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klinepk

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Questions Related to the Value of "Why X School" Addenda

Postby klinepk » Thu Jul 07, 2016 2:53 pm

Particularly when applying to top schools, some people view "Why X School" Addenda as unnecessary and even potentially harmful. People say it's important to have a good reason to add them (which makes sense), so I'm wondering whether or not you all would consider my situation as providing sufficient justification to do so.

A little about me: I spent the last four years abroad in China and did my Masters in Chinese Politics/Law at a Chinese university. I speak the language, and I did my thesis in a specific area of Chinese law, working under a Chinese legal scholar. I'll be applying this Fall to many schools in the T14, and while I probably would have been applying to these schools even if I didn't have this background, I'm particularly, genuinely, interested in attending some of them because of their centers on Chinese law and because many of the Chinese legal scholars with whom I am most familiar, having read (and in some cases cited) a substantial amount of their published work, teach at these schools.

1.) In my case, does it make sense to write addenda to these schools drawing out that connection (including somewhere my background, the school's background, the professors of interest, and my goals in the program/beyond)?

2a.) Do you think it's best to go about that in general addenda/space specifically provided by schools for "Why X School" addenda or do you think I should specifically tailor personal statements towards this end?

2b.) As a non-traditional applicant, I've been torn between writing personal statements that really express something personal and substantive about me as a person vs writing something more professional-seeming that emphasizes my background and its connection to a particular school of interest. I wrote a draft of something more personal recently and my mother, a professor, seemed to think it felt too much like an undergraduate personal statement (the emphasis being on its personal subject matter, as opposed to something more akin to a statement of purpose for a PhD program). I'm wondering whether or not you all think she's right regarding the kind of PS I should write or if she's being a bit bias and mistakenly assuming that personal statements for law schools should be professional in the same way that statements of purpose should be for PhD admissions. Thoughts?

Thanks so much in advance!

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A. Nony Mouse

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Re: Questions Related to the Value of "Why X School" Addenda

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Jul 07, 2016 3:31 pm

I think your mother is wrong in that a personal statement is not intended to be a professional statement, and that law school admissions are really really different from PhD admissions and you can't really extrapolate. In particular, for PhD admissions you really have to make a connection to the school's specific programs and scholars that you want to work with. You don't do that with law school - it's a generalist degree and a professional degree; you don't have to connect to a specific school. You really shouldn't use PhD admissions as a guide (I say this as someone who was a professor before going to law school).

However, even if this sounds contradictory to what I just wrote, I think you can get away with a more professional statement like a grad school statement of interest, if that's genuinely what you want out of law school and what you want to express. Mine was more like a statement of interest because that was simply how I thought about my career and future, and I'd been out of undergrad for yonks; I wasn't going to write the same kind of thing a 22-y.o. would write. But I talked about specific experiences teaching that had led me to law school and specific skills I'd developed as a prof that I felt would make me a good addition to the class/profession, and it was more personal than what I wrote to grad schools (which was really more designed to show my understanding of the profession and nascent research agenda, not so much about me as a person).

If you want to do a more personal personal statement I would not worry about what your mother thinks (no disrespect to her, it's just really hard to get out of the PhD admissions mindset and not all grad admissions are the same). There's always a risk of TMI but personal statements really are about you as a person.

klinepk

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Re: Questions Related to the Value of "Why X School" Addenda

Postby klinepk » Thu Jul 07, 2016 3:51 pm

Thank you for the response. That was also my impression. And no disrespect taken. I think I am torn in part because, like you were, I am a non-traditional applicant with what is probably a more specific perspective on how all this relates to my past and future career than the average applicant, as was likely true in your case as well. On the one hand, I would like to emphasize my background and connection to/interest in specific programs. On the other hand, I don't want to miss the opportunity to write a personal statement if that's something they really want or to overemphasize my more academic interest in law. This is probably the main thrust of why I asked whether I should include it in a separate addendum or if I'm better off folding it into personal statements. It is probably a difficult question to answer convincingly.

Keeping them separate allows me to do both, but I don't know if not having it right upfront in the PS dampens the overall impact of emphasizing my background. However, I also sometimes wonder whether or not they expect something more professional and well-reasoned/justified (as opposed to a well-crafted and personal story) from an older applicant. Perhaps an irrational fear. What I could do is write a "Why X School" addendum that is more academically-focused, including in it the specifics of my background and tying it to various aspects of the program. I could then write a personal statement that, while more personal in nature, still brings to bear substantive aspects of my experiences abroad in making whatever points I end up making about myself in the statement.

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A. Nony Mouse

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Re: Questions Related to the Value of "Why X School" Addenda

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Jul 07, 2016 4:14 pm

I think that for schools that like to see "Why X" essays your plan makes absolute sense. And I think it's definitely possible to mix the personal and the professional appropriately in a PS. Keep in mind, too, that schools will have your resume and be able to see the specific things about your professional background that you want to emphasize.



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