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I recently searched the internet for advice on writing a Personal Statement and the first page I found had well over 100 bulleted pieces of advice. Although I agreed with many of the suggestions, I think they were far too extensive to be of much help to most applicants. [How do you incorporate 100 suggestions into an 800 word essay?]. Further, they seemed to only address content, with no focus on the process of crafting a Personal Statement. Below are what I believe to be the six most important keys to writing a successful essay in this format. If you follow this short (albeit not simple) list, your essay will stand out to the admissions committee, greatly increasing your chances of getting into your dream law school.

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Almost all great Personal Statements have a theme, some overarching idea tying together the various parts of the essay. Such essays are much more likely to capture the interest of committee members, who will have reviewed numerous applications. The best Personal Statements that I have read relate a specific story from the applicant’s life, tying that experience into to their proposed life direction and law school’s place in the overall plan. These essays use the story as the theme and, when done well, are incredibly effective. Not all applicants, however, will have a truly formative experience that makes for good use in a Personal Statement. Still, use of a theme remains crucial to creating a stand-out essay.

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A couple words of warning before closing out this bullet: Do not write an essay on why the legal profession is a noble one. Do not write about the importance of law in a civilized society (at least in a broad context). Everyone on the admissions committee already believes these things and assumes you do to. They are trying to determine whether you are a good fit for law school, not whether law school or the legal profession are good in general. Thus you must present your story – and how law school fits into it.

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Although creating a strong personal narrative can be challenging, do not fall into the trap of creating a story that isn’t there. Insincerity is amazingly easy to detect, even in well written Personal Statements. Do not use your visit to Haiti when you were twelve as your theme if you have not thought about the trip since – however, if something you saw there made you want to be a lawyer, then it will likely make for a great theme to build the essay around. Even if you can’t answer the “why law school?” question very well right now, an underlying reasoning exists. It may take a lot of work to draw that out of yourself and get it on paper, but forego the temptation write something disingenuous just because you think it sounds good – I promise it won’t.

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