Guide to Personal Statements

by Ken DeLeon, J.D
Founder of

© Copyright by Ken DeLeon 2009
All Rights Reserved
with Joann Kleinneiur, Ph.D.
Editor-in-Chief at Revision Editing

Foreword - This book is designed to teach you how to write a great personal statement. The introduction focuses on theory. The rest of this book gives this theory flesh by... (continue)

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Chapter 1: Preparing to Write Your Statement
The Importance of the Personal Statement
Avoid Avoidance Behavior
Chapter 2: Understanding the Admissions Committee and Its Expectations for the Personal Statement
About Your Audience
Seven Questions the Admissions Committee Will Ask
  1. Have you demonstrated intellectual excellence?
  2. Have you had a tangible impact on individuals or groups?
  3. Have you demonstrated good leadership skills?
  4. Have you had real-world experience?
  5. Can you look at an issue from multiple perspectives?
  6. What will you bring to our school?
  7. What brings you to our school?
Chapter 3: The Rhetorical Approach to the Personal Statement
Convincing Your Audience to Admit You to Law School
Logical Appeals
Emotional Appeals
Ethical Appeals
Cultural Appeals
Chapter 4: Choosing Structure and Topic
Structuring Your Statement
  1. Tell a personal narrative or story.
  2. Begin with a personally meaningful quote.
  3. Sketch a character.
  4. Use a metaphor or analogy.
  5. Pose rhetorical questions.
  6. Present a problem and how you solved it or would solve it.
Topics for Law School Personal Statements
  1. Describe how you endured adversity.
  2. Describe what makes you a diversity candidate.
  3. Show how you have matured.
  4. Describe what you have learned from a mentor.
  5. Write about an event or issue of particular importance to you.
  6. Write about coursework or research.
  7. Write about your passions, ideals, or favorite hobbies.
  8. Write about leadership experience that you have had.
Chapter 5: Writing Powerful Sentences
  1. Hook your reader immediately.
  2. Write strong sentences.
  3. Use the active voice.
  4. Vary your words and sentences.
  5. Write in a professional and formal tone.
  6. Do not make elementary writing mistakes.
  7. Do not mismatch the number of a noun and its verb.
  8. Avoid clichés.
  9. Avoid sentences with empty subjects.
  10. Conclude powerfully.
Chapter 6: The Personal Statement Checklist
  1. Have a clear idea of what you want to convey before writing.
  2. Write about aspects of yourself that reader cannot get from other parts of your application.
  3. Do not use gimmicks.
  4. Be personal in the law school personal statement.
  5. Offer specific, meaningful stories and experiences.
  6. Tailor your personal statement for the law schools to which you are applying.
  7. Focus on your strengths and not your weaknesses.
  8. Adhere to the page or word limitations.
  9. Edit your law school personal statement.
  10. Make your personal statement do extra work for you.


Chapter 7: Making the Most of the Sample Personal Statements and Commentary
Chapater 8: The Personal Narrative (Structure)
  1. Silicon Valley Start-Up
  2. Senior Design
  3. Stay-at-Home Dad
  4. Happy Camper
  5. Minimalist
  6. Coming Out
  7. Belorussian Lawyer
  8. Mormon Conflict
  9. New York Artist
Chapter 9: The Organizing Quote (Structure)
  1. Ubuntu
  2. PR Agency Builder
  3. Alice in Casinoland
  4. Kentucky Governor’s Scholar
Chapter 10: The Character Sketch (Structure)
  1. South Dakota
  2. Magazine Industry
  3. Russian Grandfather
Chapter 11: Overcoming Adversity (Topic)
  1. Kenyan Immigrant
  2. Gordie Day
  3. Surviving Rape
  4. Parental Disability
Chapter 12: Diversity Candidates (Topic)
  1. Resisting the Label “Muslim”
  2. Muumuus and Moving On
  3. Hurricane Katrina
  4. Autism
  5. First to Attend College
Chapter 13: Chronological Growth (Topic)
  1. High-Stakes Law Experience
  2. Uganda and Cambodia
  3. UK Study Abroad
  4. Delmarva Shorebirds
Chapter 14: The Mentor (Topic)
  1. Debate Skills
  2. Korean American


Appendix A: Reach School Risk-Taking
Appendix B: “Why Our School?” Essay
  1. Why Penn?
  2. Why Michigan?
  3. Law in the Casbah
  4. Taxi!
Appendix C: Yale 250s
  1. Porgy and Bess
  2. Violin Maker
  3. Bighead
  4. The Buildings of Stories
  5. Multiple Heritages
  6. Volunteer Work
Appendix D: Ending on a Good Note
Application Addendum
Letter of Diversity
  1. Proud Latino Heritage
  2. Garment Factory to British Marshall Finalist
  3. Swimming Lessons
Appendix E: Letters of Recommendation
Requirements for Letters of Recommendation
Selecting a Good Recommender
Requesting Your Letter of Recommendation
Do Not Draft Your Own Letter of Recommendation
To Waive or Not to Waive
Appendix F: Letters of Continued Interest
What Should I Write About in my LOCI?
How long should my LOCI be?
When should I send my LOCI?
Who should I send my LOCI to?
How should I send my LOCI?
Other Points About LOCI’s
Sample LOCI
  1. Interest in Juvenile Law
  2. Zebra Law School Letter #1
  3. Zebra Law School Letter #2
After You Send a LOCI
Appendix G: Considering a Joint Degree


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