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“It’s the only communication that we receive in the applicant’s own voice and is one of the best ways for the committee to ‘get to know’ the person applying,” says Kraemer.
“It is not uncommon for a personal statement to have a significant impact on how we evaluate a candidate—a particularly strong or weak statement can be determinative.” It can also afford an opportunity for the applicant to explain or put in context to the admissions committee a negative element of their application—a poor grade or language score, for instance.
Georgetown University Law Center, for instance, asks applicants to describe their background, goals, and reasons for applying to the program; Stanford is looking for information about the applicant’s experience in legal practice, interest in graduate study, and professional goals.
“To be honest we are purposefully broad in our description because we want applicants to have the freedom to express themselves in whatever way they see fit,” says Justin Swinsick, director of graduate admissions at Georgetown. This year, University of Pennsylvania also updated its personal statement requirement to include a bit more guidance, calling for a statement of no more than two pages, and specifically recommending that the applicant avoid repeating his/her CV.
Undergraduate students should not underestimate the importance nor the weight assigned to a personal statement.
It should be personalized and include any relevant examples that have influenced your decision to apply to a university program in general and why a specific program was chosen.
While it’s only one of many elements going into an LL. application, the personal statement can be a tricky one to master.
Many law schools are not very specific about the requirements for the personal statement, aside from word count.
Swinsick says one applicant start her statement by writing that she wanted to pursue an LL. But she went on to tie this into how she planned to leverage her legal studies, career and financial success into bringing help and visibility to problems plaguing her community in a developing country.
“It was very well written, highlighted her best qualities, and tied together why she wanted to pursue the program and why Georgetown’s program in particular would help her achieve her goals.” While it’s a good thing to be personal, don’t overdo it either.