This workshop is designed to generate ideas and motivate you to start writing your personal statement!  First, we will work to ease your concerns about this part of the application.   Second, we will offer several different self assessment paths that encourage you to think about yourself and the study of law.  Finally, we hope you will leave with a starting point and content for YOUR personal statement.

Motivation of the Writer!

  • An opportunity!  Your interview, your chance to share yourself in a unique way. 
    • "Best way to get a sense of the applicant." 
    • "The personal statement brings the applicant to life." 
    • "Recognize this is one aspect of the application process over which the applicant has a great deal of control."
  • Think about the reader. Write to your audience. He/she is creating a picture of you as your application is read.   He/she wants to enter into your thoughts and perspective, and they want specific details about you.  You are advocating for yourself.
  • Think beyond the numbers.  A strong statement will separate you from the thousands of candidates with similar academic credentials. 
  • It is an essay.  Make it clear and vibrant.  It is an image of YOU.  This is a chance to identify the significance of past experiences, current purpose and goals. "Show" the reader who you are, do not "tell" the reader who you are.  Allow the reader to conclude things about you by what you share.
  • Chance to hear from the readers.  Deans' Panels Oct 30-NYU, Cornell, Duke, and Stanford.  .
  • Where are you?

Stop.  Talk about it.

Writing Your Essay

Getting started: 

  • Exercises encourage self inventory and reflection.  Thoughtfully completing them will give you writing material.
  •  "Free writing".  Writing for a set amount of time w/o stopping and no thought to grammar or spelling.

Essay should have a theme with an introduction (microcosm of the essay), paragraphs with topic sentences, and a conclusion (that draws together the themes with his/her self assessment and goals). 

A theme ensures that your statement is organized, easy to follow, and enjoyable to read. 

You must give your audience evidence for your assertion that you should be admitted. 

Evidence-use more than one type;

  • Persuade with facts
  • Persuade with feelings (not over the top)
  • Persuade with credibility
  • Persuade with belief and value patterns of the audience


  • You should be able tell someone the logical progression of your essay
  • How each paragraph interprets evidence for a claim and contributes to the overall effect of the essay


  • Your topic is related to, but separate from your structure.
  • Your structure is the form of your personal statement, and the topic is the content.
  • You may start with the structure or the topic, depending on which appeals to you more.

Show you have

  • Intellectual ability,
  • analytic ability,
  • imagination,
  • motivation,
  • maturity,
  • organization,
  • teamwork,
  •  leadership,
  • self-confidence,
  • oral communication skills,
  • written communication skills,
  • and career potential.

Keep the focus on you.

For most people telling a story with a moral strong enough to be your motto/angle will be your structure.

  • Write about something you like or something you know.  Be willing to start over if your theme does not work out.
  • It is an exercise in communication.  You have to tell the reader something that will distinguish you from the other 2000-5000 applications. 
  • (Every applicant believes he/she is capable of doing well in law school¬タᆭhe/she will make an outstanding lawyer.) You will have to do better.
  • As the theme sheet suggests, law schools are interested in anything about you which is distinctive-travel experience (if you speak another language fluent share it), life tragedies and triumphs, that aha moment!  How did these things change youHow have you grown as a result of them? 

Dos and Don'ts


  • Use first-person "I"
  • Recognize ideas and sentences do not need to be complex.  Keep language simple.  Alter lengths, styles and rhythms of your sentences for variety or effectiveness.
  • Use active verbs. Vivid active language is crucial. 
  • Keep tone confident, positive but not too strong


  • Overuse quotes, questions, poems, and clichᅢᄅs.
  • Overuse adverbs and adjectives. 
  • Remember fine line between humor and annoyance, confidence and arrogance.  Gimmicky statements are not always well received. So walk the line carefully!

Final Thoughts

  • Set aside time to develop.
  • Generally two pages double spaced.  Follow application directions!
  • Write it, set it down, walk away for a few days, return, read out loud and rewrite.  
  • Have others read.  Ask what do you learn about me?
  • Have advisor read.
  • Our office by appt.
  • Career Center, Walk-in Hours, 764-7460.
  • Sweetland Writing Center, Peer Tutors will read, Angell Hall, UGL, Lloyd Hall, 764-0429.
  • Proofread.  Check for syntax, grammar and spelling.  Do not rely on spell check. 
  • Send it!