Law school personal statement: 5 signs you should scrap it and start over

Any great writer will admit that there comes a point in time when an idea just isn’t working. A thought that sounded great in your head might not translate into a compelling piece of writing. 

And that’s certainly okay. In fact, it can be helpful to know what doesn’t work before finding the thing that does.
But when it comes to writing the law school personal statement, you probably don’t want to dedicate too much time to something that isn’t working. After all, you have deadlines to consider. 

So, how will you know when it’s time to scrap an idea and start over?

Sometimes it’s obvious. It might dawn on you suddenly. Other times, it won’t be so clear.

If you’re in the process of writing your law school personal statement and you feel like something just isn’t right, you’re probably correct. That said, for many of the students I work with, the writing process is never exactly fun, either.

So, it can be hard to tell the difference between a personal statement that requires thought, patience, and polishing (which – trust me – they all do) versus one that simply needs to be started over. When that happens, it’s time to start fresh.

Here are five signs that it’s okay to scrap your draft and start over:

1. You have writer’s block – not just the kind where it takes a little while for the words to start coming, either. This version of writer’s block leaves you feeling like you would have no idea where to begin, even after spending a lot of time thinking about it.

2. You can’t seem to put your ideas in order. You have plenty of thoughts to support your main idea. Yet, when you write them out in your outline or first draft, they become jumbled and you find yourself having to switch points around multiple times.

3. You left it, came back, and are still frustrated. When students say they’re having difficulties, I’ll sometimes recommend they take a break and come back to the draftg in a day or so. If you’ve done that and still can’t figure out where to go with it, you might need to move on and try something different.

4. You don’t feel a connection to the topic. You might find this out while brainstorming, writing your outline, or even during the first draft. Even if it's logical and well-written, admission officers can tell when your heart’s not in it.

5. You read it back and don’t like it. This does happen, and it can be disappointing – especially when you’ve already put the effort in. But like I mentioned in #4, admission officers can tell when something was (or wasn’t) written with passion. If you don’t love your law school personal statement, chances are, your readers won’t, either.

Now, for the good news: once you’ve found out your main idea isn’t working, you don’t have to waste another second on it.

You now have a blank slate. The second time around, you can begin with the perfect topic from the very start.

How? By working with someone who’s an expert in law school personal statements. 

Countless students have come to me frustrated with drafts that just aren’t working. All it takes is a little bit of discussion with me to unlock the right one. 

If any of the situations above sound like yours, I want to help. I have a number of useful resources you can check out on my website, but nothing compares to my one-on-one law school admissions coaching sessions. They’re what helped students like Michelle get accepted to NYU, and many of my other students are currently attending Top 14 law school as well.

Are you ready to start fresh? If so, reach out and let me know how I can help.

-Steve


P.S. I know it can be frustrating to start over, but it will make finding the right idea that much better. In fact, in my next article, I’ll share with you how you’ll know when you’ve found the right topic. And I’ll include some examples to help!

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.)



Law school personal statement: turning negatives into positives

When many students set out to write their law school personal statements, they think about what makes them great applicants. That could be a great LSAT score or GPA, volunteering, work experience, or expertise in a sport or hobby. 

But in the 
law school personal statement, simply describing what makes you great is a mistake

Law school admission officers want more. 
And I’ll let you in on a little secret I usually only share with the students who work with me: Law school admission officers want to know how you became great.


What does that mean?


Well, let’s take Michelle for example. I mentioned her briefly in my previous email. You might recall that I helped her get into her top-choice law school, NYU.

I’d like to share Michelle's story with you. 

Michelle excelled in sports. So much so, in fact, that she'd been recruited by a prestigious college for her athletic abilities, where she’d also have access to national athletic recruiters. She knew that by attending the school, it would give her a better opportunity to play in the "major leagues."

Clearly, Michelle had a lot going for her. But her law school personal statements doesn’t stop with her strengths – nor should yours.

After spending a short time at her undergraduate college, Michelle realized she was in the minority in terms of race and religious views. The school did not have a welcoming environment, and because she knew it would limit her ability to succeed, she decided to transfer.

Her story doesn’t end there, either. 

Even though her next school was more culturally diverse, strict transfer regulations prohibited her from partaking in sports to the best of her abilities. She grew frustrated, and in trying to advance as a player despite her circumstances, 
her academics suffered. 

Michelle's grades were mediocre due to absences and missed assignments. She soon realized that if she didn’t make a choice, her schoolwork would suffer – and potentially, so would her future.

She finally found the right fit: a college with an accepting community where academics were most important.

While going through three schools and having to make the difficult decision to give up sports might seem like a “failure,” Michelle shows us that she’s actually overcome her hardship. 

She learned to prioritize what’s most important in her life. She also shows us that while some students struggle to achieve “balance,” what worked best for her was choosing to commit to one thing (her studies) fully, instead of underperforming in two separate endeavors.

Michelle's example shows us that the law school personal statement isn’t just about highlighting your strengths. 

It’s also a chance to show law schools the sacrifices you’ve had to make to become strong.

What sacrifices have you made? What are some hardships you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are today?

I’d like to hear about them, and discuss how we can turn your hardships into a winning law school personal statement. 

Most importantly, like Michelle, I’d like to help YOU get into your dream school. Reach out and let me know what’s giving you trouble at the moment, or if you have any questions about the law school admission process.

Talk soon,

Steve


P.S. I know I’ve talked a lot about the law school personal statements in my articles, but if you’re like many of the students I work with, you’re probably also wondering about some other important steps of applying to law school. One task you absolutely shouldn’t wait on is requesting letters of recommendation. Your professor will appreciate you asking as early in advance as possible. But before you do, be sure to check out my check out this advice on getting awesome letters of recommendation.

P.P.S. I've published several law school admission coaching sessions on personal statements and recommendation letters on LSAT Unplugged.


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.)






Why law school personal statement feedback can hurt you

At one point or another, you may have heard about having “another set of eyes” check over your work. Perhaps you’ve had a peer, tutor, or parent glance over an important essay before handing it in. It’s a good practice to follow. 

But not with the law school personal statement.
Many of the students I work with are shocked when I share this with them. I understand why.

After all, the law school personal statement is critically important to your future. Wouldn’t you want as many eyes as possible looking it over?

Not quite. Let’s find out why.

For starters, each of your readers will have their own opinions about how your PS should sound. Some may prefer certain writing styles, while others might think you should write differently.

It’s impossible to please everyone, and by the time you try, you’ll wind up overcomplicating your 
personal statement.

(Especially if you try to list every single activity you’ve ever done, instead of focusing on one.)

Ultimately, you’ll be writing your law school personal statement to please everyone else, when in reality, the only opinion that truly matters is that of the admission officer who reads it. 

Here’s the thing: your friends may be well-meaning, but they aren’t admission officers. Neither are your family members, or even your teachers.

Why does that matter?

Because even if they know what great writing looks like, they still don’t know exactly what law schools are looking for. They haven’t consulted with law school admission officers. (However, I’ve chatted with, and gotten to know, dozens of them - and you can listen to - and watch - those conversations on the LSAT Unplugged podcast and YouTube channel.) 

As a result, everyone who reads your personal statement drafts will recommend changes based on what they 
think admission officers want to hear.

The problem is, things change.

In fact, LSAT and law school admission policies have changed a lot in recent years.

So, in order to ace the law school personal statement, you really only need to have one other set of eyes read it – someone who’s up-to-date in the world of law school admissions. 

I can help.

I have plenty of insights I’ll be sharing in upcoming articles, but I won’t know which ones are most helpful to you without seeing exactly where you are in your writing process.

If you let me help, I can show you some ways to write the law school personal statement your dream school's admission officers will want to read. And, instead of having teachers, friends, and family members read and critique your work, you’ll be saving time by only having to polish your personal statement for one set of eyes.

My approach has worked for hundreds of students. Michelle, for instance, worked with me to develop a flawless law school personal statement for the officers at her top-choice law school, NYU. Her statement on overcoming hardships was precisely what they wanted.

Unsurprisingly, 
she was accepted!

Where do you want to go to law school? Let’s find out how to get you there. Shoot me an message so we can talk about your most important audience: the admission officers at your top-choice law school.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Steve


P.S. Want to find out what Michelle wrote about? Keep an eye out for my next article, where we’ll talk about how you can use your hardships to your advantage for acing the law school personal statement .


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.)



LSAT Logic Games Diagramming Cheat Sheet



Law school personal statement: how to choose the right words

If you’ve ever used Microsoft Word, you’re probably familiar with its very handy thesaurus tool. (If not, here’s how it works: you can right-click on a word, and it will give you a list of similar words you can use as a replacement.) 

It certainly works wonders when you’re trying to wow your professors, but what about law school admission officers?
Not so much

As you’ve found out from my previous articles, the same rules just don’t apply when it comes to writing the law school personal statement. 

Here’s why: when a simple word works, it’s best to leave it. When students try to replace perfectly suitable words with long, fancy synonyms, it’s often an attempt to sound more intelligent.

But law school admission officers can see right through it.

That’s not to say that using synonyms makes you look less intelligent. It just means law school personal statements aren’t necessarily a place for you to “show off.” Rather, they’re a place for you to make a meaningful impact on your reader: the admission officer. 

And you can do that with simple language.
 
(The Hemingway App is a great tool for this.)

So, just how important is word choice in the law school personal statement? Probably not as important as you might think… but it still matters. 

In fact, what matters most when it comes to word choice is selecting words and phrases that showcase your authentic voice, instead of trying to write like someone you’re not.

This is good news for you, because it will
 simplify the writing process
.
When students first start working with me, one of the things they tend to overthink is word choice. They expect to get each word out perfectly on the first draft. Oftentimes, they spend a lot of time thinking carefully about the next word as they’re typing.

In doing so, they lose focus and get off track.

After meeting with me just a couple times, they discover how to stop overthinking and instead write more naturally. (I have a few useful tips students always find helpful, and I’d be glad to share them with you, too.)

By freeing yourself from having to choose every single word perfectly, you can get your point across more easily with simple, effective language.

Then you can go back and fix as needed.

So how will you know which words to leave, and which should be changed for better flow and readability?

That’s where I can help. Not only have I showed countless students how to master the 
law school personal statement by achieving a natural, genuine voice, but I’ve also spent lots of time getting to know admission officers to find out precisely what they’re looking for. When I chatted with a former Harvard Law School admissions officer, she told me they typically review thousands of applications each cycle.

Will your law school personal statement have the power to stand out?

Let’s make it happen – just reach out, let me know what you’re struggling with, and how I can help.

Will share more soon,

Steve


P.S. Sometimes, writing the law school personal statement isn’t just a matter of finding the right word. It’s also about getting the words out in the first place. If you’ve been putting off your first draft because you don’t know where to start, I’m here to help. You can come to me at any stage of the process – whether you haven’t begun or you have a draft ready but it needs some polishing. In the meantime, watch for my future articles to get more advice.

P.P.S. For more, you can see me working with students during live law school admissions coaching sessions on the LSAT Unplugged YouTube channel and podcast.


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.)



What law school admission officers look for

If you’ve been reading my articles so far, you may have noticed a common theme I share with students is using the law school personal statement to “stand out.” It’s critically important to the entire law school application process, but don’t just take my word for it.

Instead, I’ll share some tips from my conversations with law school admissions officers (posted on the LSAT Unplugged YouTube channel):
Tip #1: Use Your Own Voice

There’s no magic “formula” for the perfect law school personal statement.

In other words, you can’t just Google “law school personal statement,” find a template, and fill in the blanks.

If you follow that process, you’ll miss the opportunity to tell your own story in your own unique voice. And, that’s precisely what admission officers are looking for.

On top of that, your reader will know exactly what you’ve done.

Law school admission officers read more personal statements than they can count, but they can instantly spot an essay that’s been created from a template. It will sound forced and unnatural – exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.

For every student I work with, I find out the story that makes them unique. Whether you’ve overcome an obstacle, developed a passion for a particular activity, or have known you’ve wanted to practice law since you were a young child, that’s what you’ll show in your statement.

That honest and meaningful story is in you, and we can work together to pull it out.

And, when you’re writing the most honest and meaningful version of your story, your unique voice will come out naturally.


Tip #2: Show What You Have to Offer 

Using an authentic voice to tell your story is only half the battle. Admission officers also want to know what you’ll bring to their school.

This is where I see a lot of students struggle.

What value can you bring to your law school of choice?

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to say “great LSAT and GPA,” “a great work ethic,” or anything to that effect.

Admission officers see that all the time.

Plus, your transcripts speak for themselves. If you’re a hard working student, they’ll already see that based on your grades, test scores, and recommendation letters.

So, your law school personal statement is the place to explain something different that makes you valuable to the school.

The law school personal statement is an opportunity you have to seize.
 You have to show officers what you would bring to the campus.

In other words, pretend the law school is asking you, “If we were to accept you, what would be in it for us?”

Here’s how one student of mine, Emily, answered that question.

You may remember Emily from one of my previous emails. She wrote her law school personal statement about her experience with Spanish and becoming a bilingual immigration paralegal

Not only did her law school personal statement have an authentic voice, it also showed her school what they’d gain by accepting her: a bilingual student who could learn and take classes in both Spanish and English, and connect with clients as a future immigration attorney.

(By the way, Emily got accepted to her top-choice law school!)

So, what story can you tell in your authentic voice that describes the value you’d bring to your top-choice school?

It’s a lot to think about, and I’d love to help.

Maybe you’ve already done some brainstorming, or perhaps you have a blank slate and just don’t know where to start. No matter where you are with your law school personal statement, I can show you what to do next to make it happen.

We can work together to find out how you can craft a story that will get you into your dream school. Reach out and let me know what you’re thinking at the moment.

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Steve


P.S. If you’ve found my examples from other students helpful, I’d be glad to share more. While you don’t have to have the same or even similar circumstances, sometimes learning about others can be helpful to stir up some ideas about your own experiences. Emily's just one of 1,000+ success stories I can share. 

P.P.S. For more, you can see me working with students during live law school admissions coaching sessions on the LSAT Unplugged YouTube channel and podcast.


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.)