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The Personal Statement & Other Essays

What is the Personal Statement?

  • The personal statement is an essay required by most law schools as part of the application - it should focus on your intellectual develoment from college forward.
  • The essay serves two purposes:
    • It is a writing sample
    • It is a business interview on paper
  • The essay should be about two double-spaced pages (unless the application provides different instructions).
  • The personal statement provides you with the opportunity to present yourself without being boastful. Let your reader know how you are unique and why you would be an interesting addition to the law school class.

Make It Interesting

  • Think about two or three formative experiences, beliefs or events and how these have affected the way you think about the world. These might be a memory from travel, your growth as an athlete, your passion for an activity, your reflections on an experience significant to you.
  • You do not have to write about why you want to go to law school. If you decide to write about your motivation to attend law school, make sure that your background and experience support your assertions. A well-focused reason for applying can be helpful (more so at some schools than others – talk to the Pre-Law office).
  • Be yourself. There is no winning formula for writing a personal statement but successful essays tend to be honest and specific. Ask: Would an admissions officer know you better after reading the statement?
  • Remember that some schools might give you the opportunity to write more than one essay, including a diversity statement. If you have a great story to tell about your life, tell it when appropriate for the question posed. For example, recounting your experiences overcoming a certain hardship or as an immigrant can make an interesting supplemental essay.

Use Resources

  • The Pre-Law Advising office runs personal statement workshops both in the late spring and early fall, and provides handouts on writing strategies.
  • Hunter’s Writing Center, 416 Thomas Hunter Hall, (212) 650-9537, is another valuable resource.
  • Get feedback from people who can give you constructive criticism. The Pre-Law office provides on-going consulting about your applicaitons.  We review your work in real time (as opposed to mail).  Be sure to set up an appointment.  


  • The essay should be carefully structured.  Make sure that you have strong transitions between paragraphs, and that you address the points you mention in your introduction and in topic sentences.
  • Your grammar and punctuation should be flawless.
  • Check spelling.
  • Put your essay away for a few days, then edit again. See where you can eliminate repetitive sections and better explain or develop ideas that aren’t clear.
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