Law School Personal Statement - Show, Don't Tell Example

Last time, I showed you how to use the “show, don’t tell” writing style in your law school personal statement. Now, we’re going to find out how I helped one student master the technique in her law school personal statement for Georgetown Law.

The student, Jessica, knew she wanted to write about her heritage. She chose to showcase her visits to Korea as a way to describe how important family and culture are to her. 
But instead of telling us about it, I helped her write in a way that shows us. Let’s find out how.

Jessica's opening sentence is:

“On a sweltering summer day in July, I stood before my great-grandparents, unsure of how they would receive me.”
Now, you might think she’s meeting her great-grandparents for the first time, but there’s more to the story. Let’s keep going. 

“My hair spilled out of a blue bandana and sweat trickled down my cheeks. I wore a tattered, oversized t-shirt and cotton shorts, but I did not come empty-handed.”   

I picked out some of the details Jessica uses and highlighted them in bold. These are examples of her showing us her experience.

Sweat trickling down her cheek shows just how hot the day really is. And, the fact that she’s wearing tattered clothing might suggest she’s there to do work.
She continues: 

“I held in one hand a bucket of soap water and a bundle of rags in the other. I proceeded to balance myself on the slab of marble. I dipped my rag in the bucket, rubbed it over the smooth surface, and watched the black grime disappear. Letter by letter, something familiar emerged from under the grime: my surname. The dirt on the rag made me smile and I felt my great-grandparents smiling too. I knew that although they were long dead, they were pleased as they watched me, a gangly, twelve-year old, clean their marble tomb in their native village in Korea.”  

The section in bold above further illustrates Jessica's ability to show instead of tell. She doesn’t simply tell you that she cleans the graves of her ancestors. Instead, she makes us feel like we’re there with her as she works.

In fact, Jessica's work ethic – and determination – is the very heart of her essay.  

She goes on to describe how she visits Korea each year and has promised to continue the family tradition of planting trees there. Towards the end of her essay, she writes:

“The thread of my bloodline has carried this tradition to me and has taught me the virtue of perseverance.”   

Thus, the details Jessica chose to include in her opening fit perfectly. They support the overall message of her essay while also creating an image for the reader.
You can do the same thing in your law school personal statement – and I’d be glad to help. 

Of course, getting started is the toughest part. If you find yourself getting stuck, here’s an article where I share some of my best advice for beginning your law school personal statement.
Or, if you want to go over some ideas with me, just reach out. I look forward to hearing about your unique story! 

Until next time,

P.S. Have you noticed that many students choose to write about their heritage/culture in their law school personal statements? That’s because it’s a great topic to write about. In my next article, I’ll show you why.

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.)

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