Every statement is unique and represents an individual; therefore, the following general guidelines may not apply to you. You should plan on writing a main personal statement which can serve as the core statement. In addition, some law schools will ask you to write on a specific topic. You can usually use your core statement for the heart of their specific statement, polishing and tailoring to their specific topic as required. Be sure to address their topic directly, however, even if this means abandoning your core statement. In general, the statements which have the most positive impact on the admissions decision have certain characteristics. From the experience of members of the Loyola faculty who have read hundreds of these statements in the past, you are strongly advised to adhere to the following guidelines:
- The length should not exceed two pages, double spaced, one inch margins, 12 pt. font. Remember, the law school admissions people have many statements to read. Nuances in long statements will be missed by most readers. Small fonts will be resented, especially by readers whose eyes are going.
- The statement should have an interesting title.
- The statement should be unique. It should be a statement which only you could write. A generic statement, for example, one concerning “why I want to go to law school,” “how I overcame a serious obstacle in my life,” “My strengths as a potential lawyer,” etc....such statements could demonstrate a lack of creativity, an attraction to triteness, and could even harm your admissions profile.
- The grammar has got to be right! Spelling, too!
- The topic can be anything but the theme of the statement should be linked to the legal enterprise in some way, usually near the end of the statement.
- The statement should be personal. It is your statement and should concern your view on something, your experience(s), etc.
- Sink the hook in the beginning of the statement
Several recent statements come to mind as especially good statements and especially illustrative of some of the above guidelines. One statement was written by a Loyola student who, while studying at the Bangkok campus, rented a motorcycle and took off into Thailand. He got lost and was seized by the Khmer Rouge in then-Cambodia. He was held overnight. Talking was forbidden. Food was none. He was justifiably afraid, given the “killing fields” history of the Khmer Rouge. The next day, he was released and directed through several checkpoints back into Thailand. His personal statement began, “My first encounter with the law was when I was seized by the Khmer Rouge.” The one and a half page statement told a little about the encounter and linked it to the rule of law. It was a unique, arresting personal statement.
A second example is from a student who worked in Americorps for a year. On one of the group’s spikes (trips out), she went to Cleveland where Americorps had rented some rooms in a hotel for the group to stay in while they worked in Cleveland. The hotel turns out to have been a crack house. Her personal statement began, “I used to live in a crack house.” She linked her statement to the reality versus the appearance of law.
I am sure that the admissions people, on beginning to read these statements, did not sigh, “Oh, gosh, here’s another Khmer Rouge statement. Why can’t these people write something to keep me awake?” or “Another crack house statement! Boy, do I get tired of these!”
Two other memorable statements are one which described a conversation with Mother Theresa and one which told about working in the City Jail for the Public Defender’s office.
Whatever you write, write something unique to you.
Others with whom you confer may advise you in other directions. You must decide on what approach best represents you and what approach will put you in the best light with a law school admissions reader.
- See the workshop presentation on writing personal statements. View the PowerPoint on personal statements. Do not do the following steps until you have gone through the personal statement notes.
- Make an appointment with the Writing Center to go over the personal statement.
- Next, you should work with a faculty member who is willing to read your personal statement and advise you on it. Do the following:
- Identify a faculty member whom you would like to advise you about your personal statement.
- Coordinate with that faculty member his or her reading and advising you about your personal statement. Do not ask the faculty member to read a first draft or anything short of a polished statement.
- After you have finished with the faculty member and have revised your statement (if revisions are needed), email the statement to the prelaw advisor and set up an appointment for the prelaw advisor to go over the statement.
- Once all that is done, send the personal statement to LSDAS.
For more information on writing your personal statement, visit the Top Law Schools website