Law School Personal Statement - Getting Personal (without going too far)

Students often ask me, “When it comes to including personal details, how personal is too personal?”

After all, you need to inject some personal details in your law school personal statement. They make the reader - in this case, the admission officer at your school of choice - feel as if he or she is coming along for a ride with you. 
Personal details also help you follow the “show, don’t tell,” rule of writing.

For instance, let’s go back to Rachel from my last article. She shared a story about proudly identifying as Chinese-American, and she used some noteworthy personal details to tell that story.

In the beginning of her law school personal statement, she talks about people always assuming she was a math genius. Now, she could have just said she’s heard “a lot of stereotypes about Asians,” but by specifically describing one, she brings an experience to life.

Of course, this detail is very personal to Rachel. Hearing racial stereotypes was hurtful for her throughout childhood. So why does she choose to share them in her law school personal statement?

One reason is that it helps demonstrate growth. Stereotypes like that offended her, but now she’s learned to be proud of her Chinese-American heritage. By the end of the essay, she realizes why those stereotypes are being made: because the people that make them lack a deeper understanding of human individuality, which she now has.

This brings us to our “golden rule” for including personal details in your essay: Include your emotions and innermost thoughts, but only to support your main point.

In other words, don’t write a sob story.

Rachel didn’t just try to get sympathy from her reader by telling us that she felt like an outcast in school because of her peers' assumptions. Instead, she shows how she overcame those personal experiences to become a stronger individual.

What types of details could you include in your law school personal statement? You don’t have to include too many.
In fact, that’s one thing I see students struggle with: deciding just how much detail to include. 

Here’s the thing: most law school personal statements are about two pages, double-spaced words. You won’t be able to tell a complete story in that amount of space if you’re including every little detail. This means it’s important to choose the ones that really matter.

These are the personal details that made you feel something.  

Rachel, for example, felt something when she saw her father gave a donation to a homeless man during their trip to China. She also saw the impact of the generosity on the man face. These personal details changed the way Rachel viewed her identity as a Chinese-American woman, which is why she chose to share them with the reader.

So, how much personal detail to you really need? Not much. It’s all about quality – not quantity.

Another bit of advice: don’t be afraid to get too personal in your law school personal statement. The meaningful transformations students make throughout college and in their careers school do involve some personal details. There are very few “off-limits” topics.
If you’re nervous to share something about yourself, it’s probably because it made a life-changing impact on you. That’s the exact thing that law school admission officers want to read about.

Until next time,


P.S. Are you worried you won’t be able to fit everything into your essay in fewer than 1,00o words? Take a look at my list of 10 questions every law school personal statement should answer to make sure you’re saying everything you need to in the limited space you have.

Recommended Resources:

1. Law School Admissions Coaching
Get personalized 1-1 help on every aspect of the law school admission process -- or just the law school personal statement.

2. Law School Admissions Guide
I've written a concise guide to the law school admission process with tips on completing every aspect of your applications from start to finish. It's a small price to pay for a whole lot of guidance, and it's short enough that you'll actually read the whole thing.

3. Law School Admissions Cheat Sheet
Quick-reference guide for the law school personal statement, the "Why X?" essay, and the law school résumé. (You can also get it with the LSAT Cheat Sheets.)