As we’ve previously discussed, because most schools offer fairly broad guidelines regarding the personal statement, choosing a topic to write about for that length can seem like an insurmountable challenge. Today we’d like to offer some advice on ways in which you can choose a topic and focus your personal statement to your advantage.
1. Consider the broad range of topics available to you. The first step in choosing a subject for the personal statement is to consider all the options, such as meaningful academic, professional, extracurricular, or personal experiences. Within each of these categories, applicants can discuss a variety of topics, including their successes, challenges, motivations, leadership experiences, and mastery of a subject or field. In considering your full range of options, keep in mind that it’s best to choose a topic that positions you in a positive light and shows your personal growth.
2. Think about what will make you stand out. The personal statement is the perfect opportunity for applicants to illustrate in their own words what makes them unique to the admissions committee. Therefore the story you tell should be interesting, memorable, and demonstrate more about you than what appears in the rest of your application. This is your opportunity to showcase yourself as an individual—so make sure that your topic portrays your most admirable personal characteristics, i.e. intellect, passion, sense of humor, ability to think across disciplines.
3. Think about how you want to position yourself. Law school applicants should consider how they want to “market” themselves to law schools. Perhaps one applicant’s personal and academic experiences consistently show that they are an effective risk-taker, whereas another applicant’s professional history and extracurriculars demonstrate his or her altruism. Through considering how your experiences and interests reflect who you are, it will be easier for you to solidify and “sell” a cohesive image of yourself to law school admissions committees throughout your application. Once you have determined this positioning strategy, it makes sense that your personal statement should fall in line with the image you have decided to present.
4. Don’t try to explain why you want to be a lawyer. If the admissions committee wanted to know your reasons for seeking a law degree, the application would require a Statement of Purpose rather than a Personal Statement. The assumption in the admissions office is that you want to be a lawyer if you are applying to law school (it is a profession, after all), and admissions committee members are not usually impressed by a 0L’s knowledge of legal terms and what lawyers do. So, it’s best to make sure that your personal statement gives the admissions committee insight into who you are, regardless of what you choose to discuss.
Good luck writing!