MSU College of Law


CREATING YOUR BEST PERSONAL STATEMENT

TOP TIPS

  1. Treat your statement like it matters.
    The personal statement is the one piece of your application that you have complete control over. You’re making all the decisions, from topic to formatting to tone, so take your time. Do your best work. Lots of applicants have similar (and even identical) credentials, and this is the chance to make yourself stand out. And this might sound obvious, but if there are guidelines/rules, follow them! Most schools don’t have specific requirements, but start by checking.
  2. Make it an interview.
    You have the opportunity to share information about yourself with the admissions committee that they otherwise wouldn’t know, so go beyond your credentials and your resume. Use the statement to communicate something about who you are (your values, goals, personality, or background) in a well-crafted essay.
  3. Stay on message.  
    Great statements center tightly around a single theme. You should consider everything that doesn’t relate to that theme a digression, and consider cutting it. It’s better to cover one subject in depth than to give a cursory treatment to a whole range of topics.
    Keep your statement short (under two double-spaced pages). If you’re tempted to go longer, remember that legal educators value clarity and concision in writing. The strongest personal statements aren’t usually the longest ones!
  4. Customize your statement.
    We get it, you’ll probably apply to multiple schools and you want to recycle your personal statement. But if you want your personal statement to communicate passion for a particular school, make it clear that you’ve done your homework. What makes this school stand out to you? What programs and opportunities does it offer? Does attending the school represent a long-term personal goal? Most students won’t take this extra step, so you’ll automatically stand out if you create a meaningful connection to the school.
  5.  Proofread, proofread, proofread.
    Your statement should demonstrate to admissions committees that you’re a strong writer, so your statement needs to be free of errors. Work with a trusted reviewer, and plan ahead so that you can revise, rethink, and rewrite. Proofread that statement over and over and over. Then one more time.

WARNINGS

  • Don’t lean on quotes. We’re here to learn about you, not the founding fathers or Plato.
  • Humor is tricky. It’s hard to be appropriately funny for people you’ve never met, so be very careful.
  • Don’t get tricky with fonts, margins, etc. Simple and clean are best.
  • You’re not currently an expert on the law, so don’t dwell on legal philosophy or practice. .

SUGGESTED TOPICS FOR PERSONAL STATEMENTS

  • Why does this specific law school interest you?
  • Why do you wish to earn a law degree?
  • What personal qualities do you possess that will allow you to become an outstanding law student (or attorney)?
  • What are your professional goals?
  • Describe a personal experience that represents your best qualities.
  • Describe a hardship that you overcame.
  • Describe an experience that taught you something about yourself.

DEAN ROBOSKI’S RECOMMENDATIONS

Charles Roboski has served as assistant dean of admissions and financial aid at Michigan State Law since 2008. Prior to MSU Law, he served as dean or director of law admissions at Notre Dame and Ohio State University, among others. Over the course of his career as a chief admissions officer, he has reviewed more than 50,000 personal statements.

I find that applicants often don’t fully appreciate the importance of the personal statement. In my experience, investing time and effort crafting a powerful personal statement will make you a more competitive applicant. Above all, your personal statement should represent who you are in your best, most-polished writing.

Spend some time making a plan before you start writing. Once you’ve chosen a topic, it’s time to create an outline and prioritize the points you plan to cover in your personal statement. If the schools you’re applying to require you to write about particular topics, tailor your statement accordingly.

Good personal statements don’t happen in an hour. It’s the work of numerous drafts, thoughtful evaluation, and careful editing. Start your first draft in the middle of the summer, so you have plenty of time to revise (and start over, if necessary).

Once you have an edited first draft, ask strong writers to critique the content and style. Give your reviewers plenty of time to return thoughtful comments. Don’t get too attached to your first draft; you should be willing to make substantive edits and change your direction to create your best possible work.