Application-Review Process for Admission and Role of Personal Statement
Charles, Roboski, Associate Dean, Admissions & External Affairs Ave Marie Law School
Factors Affecting the Admission Decision
There are a variety of factors that influence law schools' admissions decisions; these include: the committee's assessment of the applicant's potential for academic excellence as a law student (primarily based on past academic performance and results of the Law School Admission Test); the educational mission/goals of the law school; the applicant's non-academic accomplishments and experiences (e.g., extracurricular involvement, work history); and, the personal qualities that the applicant possesses and as described in the personal statement and supported by comments offered by those who write letters of recommendation. Additional factors that influence the outcome, and ones that go beyond the merits of the individual applicant, include the law school's interest in achieving a particular class profile (e.g., in terms of life experiences, professional background, LSAT/GPA) and the quantity and caliber of the law school's applicant pool for the particular year.
Role of the Personal Statement
Having read more than 35,000 law school admissions applications in the last seventeen years as a director/assistant dean of admissions at four law schools, it strikes me that some applicants for admission may not appreciate the important role played by the personal statement. Given that law schools tend to view the personal statement as the applicant's "interview" with the admissions committee, I believe applicants are well served when the personal statement provides the reviewer with significant insights about the applicant.
As you begin the process of preparing your personal statement, consider that committee members may rely on the personal statement as: the basis for getting to know you outside of your academic ability (e.g., values, personal goals, etc.); the basis for providing the reviewer with an understanding of what motivates you, both personally and professionally, to apply to law school and earn a law degree; the basis for assessing how you might contribute to classroom discussions, should you be admitted; the basis for evaluating your writing ability and, as a result of the topic(s) addressed in the statement, your judgment. Additionally, the personal statement can help the law school determine whether there is a "fit" with their law school.
The following are some suggestions which may be helpful when preparing your personal statement:
Prior to Drafting Your Personal Statement
Before drafting the personal statement, you may want to engage in a pre-writing process of introspection and reflection by considering the following questions:
- Why am I interested in law as a career?
- What abilities and traits do I possess that will serve me well as a law student?
- What abilities and traits do I possess that will serve me well as a lawyer?
- Why am I applying to this particular law school?
- Given the law schools in which I have an interest, what topics, if any, do they wish for me to address in the personal statement?
Crafting Your Personal Statement
Having reflected on your interest in law school, as well as your own strengths as an aspiring law student and attorney, you may find it helpful to prioritize the points you wish to cover in the personal statement, keeping in mind the page limits of the law schools to which you are applying. Additional suggestions to strengthen your personal statement include:
Write the first draft by the middle part of the summer, thereby providing ample time for revisions and for tailoring your personal statement to those law schools in which you have a particular interest.
Circulate drafts of your personal statement to family, friends, the prelaw adviser, or others, and ask for their candid reactions regarding content and style.
Be sincere and succinct. Avoid the temptation to write for the admissions committee, based on what you think they wish to read; rather, write a statement that allows the reader to develop a good understanding of who you are (e.g., by way of your past experiences, your values, and/or your personal and professional goals).
Strike a positive tone; do not come across as arrogant, nor overly competitive.
Support your statements or claims with specific examples.
Finally, be sensitive to how readers may view your choice of words and topics, as well as your use of humor. (This is not to say that an applicant must avoid particular topics, but rather that he or she should use judgment in terms of how reviewers might "hear" your statements.)
Law schools may require or suggest that you address particular topics in your personal statement. If so, you will, of course, want to develop a personal statement that responds to this requirement. However, as many law schools leave the choice of topics completely up to the individual applicant, I believe the following are potentially helpful topics for the personal statement:
What people, events, or institutions have shaped me and how have they done so?
If I have had significant life experiences or hardships, how might these benefit the law school and/or how might these shape your future career as an attorney?
What are my personal and professional goals?
What personal qualities are necessary for someone to be an exceptional attorney?
What skills, talents, or abilities do I have that will allow me to be an outstanding law student or lawyer?
Why have I chosen to apply to this particular law school?
In conclusion, I believe that the time and effort that is put into a well crafted personal statement will pay dividends. Such a personal statement will provide law school admissions committees with greater information about who you are and, will reflect well on your motivation to study law and enter the profession, and will allow admissions committee members to more fully assess your candidacy and arrive at the best possible decision.
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