Guidance on Personal Statement

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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Guidance on Personal Statement

Post by lawschoolhopeful98 » Sun Jan 13, 2019 3:39 am

Hello Everyone, I have recently started my personal statement for my applications for the Fall 2020 cycle. I was wondering if any of you could give me some guidance or advice on it. What could be better, what could be changed or added so that it could be stronger or even what could be taken out? Any advice is appreciated, and I'll post it below!

While everyone has their definition of homelessness, mine includes a couch with my family in the living room of my grandparents’ house. The years that I’ve been in this situation have been hard, and they surely have taken a toll on my personal life and my educational one.

At this point in my life with my living situation up in the air and having to take the bus two hours to school, a lot of aspects of my life started to seem unappealing or not worth it, more specifically school. I started my college career as a biology major thinking I was going to be a general surgeon, but two years in I realized my heart wasn’t in it. Every day I would sit in my chemistry classes and know that I wasn’t interested in it anymore and I couldn’t see myself spending my life in the realm of science. I knew I had the choice of either finishing my degree and going into a field I knew I wouldn’t be happy in or I could take a chance and switch my major. After that year, I had to think about what I wanted to do with my life and where I saw my future heading. I remember taking political science class that had piqued my interest and I knew that I wanted to continue to study that subject. I also knew that I was interested in the legal and criminal justice system, which was the main reason I had switched.

I held onto this idea of being a doctor because it was easier than telling my family that I would be switching in the middle of my college career. This was a decision that had been weighing on me for months, but I knew I couldn’t work a job that I wouldn’t be devoted to. When I had switched to Criminal Justice and Political Science, the weight and pressure had been taken off of me because I knew I was genuinely passionate about helping others and learning/practicing law. After my first semester in my new major, I had seen a dramatic improvement in my grades and my mental health because I was invested in the subject and enthusiastic about where my future would be headed.

I decided I wanted to dedicate myself to helping others and I knew I was good at it. When I thought about what I wanted from the future I realized that I wanted to come home at the end of the day, and see that I made a difference in someone’s life. Figuring out what I wanted to do with my life allowed me to change how I was thinking and how I was living. I became more involved in church, joined clubs on campus and associated myself with people who had similar goals. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to spend my life talking about hearts, cells, and bones, but instead, I could speak of laws and cases. The thought of being able to practice law, influence and empower others and change lives pushes me every day to do better and be better. I know that when I enter the doors of law school, I will tackle it in strides and I will make sure that when I leave those doors, I will be advocating and making a change in my community.

When I did further research into which area of law would interest me the most and where I could see myself making a significant impact was through public interest law, more specifically working with the homeless and the underrepresented population. I feel this area of law will allow me to participate in a subject matter I am passionate about and have a personal tie to. While the people I will be working with will be on a higher scale of homelessness than I was, I will be able to relate to them and use my experience to guide them through the troubles they are facing.

I believe being homeless for the past few years gave me a different perspective on the world by showing me what it is like to live on almost nothing and how I can overcome my current situation and still have a passion to work and pursue higher education. I strongly believe that this situation has made me a stronger and better person and for that I’m thankful. It showed me that as long as I keep my eye on the future, I will be able to overcome anything I face. While the years have been tough, my mom, sister and I have become closer and have been able to rely on each other no matter the problem. This event is a significant part of my life and I whole-heartedly believe that it has given me the necessary skills I need to become a successful lawyer. It has made me empathetic, strong, has taught me perseverance, and has shown me that I can achieve success regardless of the situation at hand.


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Re: Guidance on Personal Statement

Post by OnThePrecipice » Mon Jan 14, 2019 9:11 pm

Hey there. I'll be pretty straightforward. As a disclaimer, I'm no expert on personal statements or law school admissions - I'm a 0L, haven't even begun to think about a PS, and might not even go to law school. Nonetheless, I think I can be helpful.

I see a few issues with your PS, but the main issue is that your story about homelessness doesn't end up saying much. You lead with it, but by the very next paragraph it basically gets dropped and you begin talking about how your heart wasn't in medicine. It's not clear how your homelessness and loss of interest in medicine are related. In fact, it sounds pretty contradictory: what I thought as I read it was that you're homeless but privileged enough, not only to attend college, but to change your major simply because you lost interest. If my understanding of your PS is right, that story is too incoherent to resonate with. I am not judging your story, but the admissions committee might.

A second issue with your PS is that it's quite generic and therefore impersonal, and I would say that writing an impersonal personal statement is probably the worst thing you can do in that department. All the reasons you mentioned for why you want to learn/practice law (helping people, feeling satisfied at the end of the day) could just as well explain a desire to learn/practice medicine, or finance, or engineering; furthermore, it hardly even says anything about you - the reason you gave for going to law school basically applies to anyone applying for any profession. But, with the implicit question - "Why law school?" - you tried to answer (which I don't think you need to answer here, but you can), your answer must explain why you want to go specifically into law. Your PS mostly skates around the issue, and when it addresses the issue, your answer is basically just that it interests you.

Overall, I think what you tried to do was wrap a pretty generic story (choosing to study law) in a layer of your subjective experiences (dealing with homelessness).

To fix the first issue, I recommend making sure that every idea, and even word, that's in your PS is meaningful, that it adds something to the overarching message (singular) of the PS. On the other hand, perhaps your living situation is directly relevant to your change in major, in which case you might just need to elaborate on the connection.
As for the second, try to insert yourself into your PS such that the message you share is deeply personal (the gauge I use for this is how vulnerable I feel sharing the information), which is not to say it must include a sob story. On the other hand, perhaps you were speaking from the heart, in which case I suggest you focus on differentiating yourself from the crowd.

I'm not too active on this site, but let me know if anything I said wasn't clear and I'll try to get back to you. Hope this helps. Keep at it!


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Re: Guidance on Personal Statement

Post by Scutrules » Thu Jan 31, 2019 10:58 pm

I agree with OTP on every point. You have a potentially intriguing story that can definitely be written about. I get why you want to advocate for homeless individuals but I don't see your passion for it.

"When I was xx, my mother, sister, and I became homeless. I remember trying to decide what to pack, picking the few shirts I could keep and agonizing over which books I'd have to part with. I remember watching the door close behind me for the last time. I remember standing next to my family knowing that we no longer had a home. I remember seeing humiliation in my mother's eyes as she apologized for not being able to keep our house. I remember holding back tears because I needed to stay strong for my mother and sister.

I remember the kindness of my grandparents as they made room in a tiny living room for the three of us. I remember the generosity of the food banks and of goodwill. I remember my fear in the future and I remember when that fear turned to hope. I have been altered by my experiences after losing my home and I have seen the power of advocacy on behalf of the homeless. I was not in a position to help my mom and sister when we became homeless and I am thankful for those who did help us. My goals in life have changed and I know now that I need to spend my career advocating on behalf of and for the homeless." etc etc etc

I'm a believer in telling a story for your PS. Something like the above. I want to feel proud of you and I want to be sure that you'd be a positive representation of my law school. This may not be the angle you'd like to take, and that's fine. Just my .02


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Re: Guidance on Personal Statement

Post by lateapplicant19 » Fri Feb 01, 2019 12:58 pm

I'd say stick to one theme, one anecdote, one narrative and run with it. I've repeatedly heard from adcom people and current students that it's probably best to leave out "Why Law?" unless you have a super compelling reason, and you do if you flesh it out. I'd also advise against trying to fit in too much in one statement, you risk losing the reader.

Good luck,

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