Your personal statement gives you the opportunity to set yourself apart from other applicants. To successfully utilize the personal statement, spotlight one or two particular experiences that demonstrate your drive and intention for applying to law school. Your personal statement should provide depth into why and how you are pursuing a law degree and why you would thrive as a law student. 

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How Does It Fit Into Your Application?

Your personal statement is just one of many key factors in an application. Avoid making the mistake of devoting all your time to your personal statement while forgetting about the other parts of the application. Your personal statement should be strong and well-written, but it shouldn't delay the submission of your application. 

What Are Admissions Committees Looking For?

Everyone has a different opinion on what should be included in a personal statement; therefore, every admissions committee member will have a different approach to reading and reviewing a personal statement. Below are a few questions committees generally keep in mind when reading a personal statement. Remember, this is not an exhaustive list and opinions will vary from reader to reader.

  • Did you answer the statement prompt?
  • Who you are as a person? (e.g., background, experiences, education, etc.)
  • Why did you choose law instead of another career path?
  • Do you possess the qualities necessary to be a law professional?
  • How do your profession goals coincide with going to law school?
  • Are your perceptions of the law profession realistic?
  • Do you demonstrate succinct, clear, and concise writing that tells who you are and your motivation for applying to law school?
  • Would I be interested in meeting you?
  • Do I want to learn more about you?
  • Are you a good fit for the program?

Before Writing: Brainstorm

The brainstorming phase is an important step in the writing process. During this phase, consider every potential topic to include in your statement. Answer the questions below to start the brainstorming process.

  • How have you prepared to be a law student and why are you ready to enroll now?
  • What is special, distinctive, unique or impressive about you or your life story?
  • Who are your intellectual influences?
  • How did you learn about law? What stimulated your interest in law?
  • What characteristics and skills do you possess that enhance your prospects for success?
  • Have you overcome any unusual obstacles or hardships?
  • What is your biggest accomplishment? What are you proud of?
  • What do you like to do in your free time? What are your hobbies?
  • What are the most compelling reasons for the admissions committee to be interested in you?
  • What are your short and long term goals?
  • Did you take time off after earning your undergraduate degree? If so, why and how have you used this time to grow?
  • What is the most important thing for an admissions committee to know about you? 

The Writing Process

Writing Exercises

As you begin the writing process, use the following exercises to get you started.

  • Write your initial draft as if you were writing to a friend about going to law school. Tell him/her why you want to go and why it is the best choice for you.
  • Imagine you have five minutes to talk to an admissions committee: What would you tell them and why? Write down all you can about your goals, decision to attend law school, what you hope to accomplish, your qualifications, etc. without stopping.

Create a Draft

As you begin your initial draft, carefully read and re-read the question or prompt. Answer the questions based on your initial response. Emphasize identifying the message you want to convey and don’t worry about editing or length. This is the inventing stage of the writing process, so be creative.

Rewrite, Revise and Edit

Be prepared to write several drafts. Look at the content, clarity and overall tone of your statement. Read the introduction. Do you get a clear idea of where the statement is going? As you edit your statement, look at the mechanics, grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Do's
  • Tailor your essay to the exact guidelines of each school. Read the applications' requirements carefully and follow these directions.
  • Think of the personal statement as your interview with the law school.
  • Aim for depth, not breadth.
  • Describe why an event is significant to you and what you learned from it.
  • Focus on one or two specific themes and discuss experiences related to them.
  • Concentrate on capturing the reader's interest in the opening paragraph.
  • Strive to make the essay unique by using concrete examples from your life experience.
  • Select people who you trust to read and provide feedback on your personal statement.
  • Create a conclusion that refers back to your introduction and ties your points together.
  • Connect life experiences to your professional goals and career motivation.
  • Articulate short and long term career goals clearly.
Don'ts
  • Submit the same essay to multiple schools.
  • Write a cliched introduction or conclusion.
  • Preach to the reader.
  • Repeat information elsewhere in your application (i.e. replica of your resume).
  • Discuss money as a motivating factor.
  • Cram too much information into the essay.
  • Exceed word and/or page limits.
  • Exaggerate your qualifications or experience.
  • Discuss potentially controversial topics (i.e. politics or religion).
  • Include spelling, punctuation, formatting, or grammatical errors.
  • Use passive voice.
  • Excessively apologize for any preconceived shortcomings.

Evaluate Your Personal Statement

 Evaluation is an important part of the writing process. Carefully read over your personal statement and use the personal statement evaluation chart below to critique your statement. Ask at least one person whose opinion you value to review and evaluate your personal statement as well.

Content
  • Did it answer the prompt and/or questions asked?
  • Did the opening paragraph capture the reader's attention?
  • Is each topic supported with specific and/or concrete examples?
  • Is it personal?
  • Does it reflect the writer's qualifications?
  • Is it positive and upbeat?
  • Is it an honest and forthright presentation of the writer?
Structure
  • Is it clear and concise?
  • Do the first sentences of each paragraph express all the main points?
  • Do thoughts and themes flow from paragraph to paragraph?
  • Is it well-organized?
  • Does it have a main focus?
  • Are there an appropriate number of topics addressed (2 to 3 main topics)?
  • Does each paragraph have a main point and evidence to support the main point?
  • Does it have a solid conclusion that naturally develops from the previous paragraphs?
Interest
  • Does it have a compelling theme?
  • Does it sound interesting?
  • Does the ending give the reader a sense of completeness?
Mechanics
  • Is proper punctuation used?
  • Is proper capitalization used?
  • Do subjects agree with verbs?
  • Does it contain typos?
  • Are contractions used sparingly?
  • Does it use "I" appropriately?
  • Is active voice used?
Overall
  • Would I be interested in meeting the person who wrote this personal statement?
  • Do I want to learn more about the person that wrote this personal statement?
  • Would the writer be a good addition to the student body?

Resources

  • Make an appointment with a Pre-Law Advisor
  • Make an appointment with the UVA Writing Center. Tutors can assist with drafting, revision, argument structure and other special concerns.