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April 3rd, 2013

6 Tips for Writing an Epic Law School Personal Statement

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Write about yourself. Do it now. Thanks!

The abrupt nature of this demand combined with a lack of practice will usually result in bad writing. From miniature autobiographies to abstract musings on current events, such topics typically obliterate a personal statement’s relevance, cohesiveness, and flow.

Whether for academic or professional purposes, we rarely discuss our personal narratives. The unfortunate reality is that most people have not had practice writing about themselves in years if ever—resulting in ineffective and inappropriate personal statement topics. To put it simply, you’re not alone! And that’s why we’re here to help.

In the following article, we will discuss tendencies to avoid when writing your law school personal statement. We will also provide critical guidelines for effective writing that you can use in all of your application documents.

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March 30th, 2013

Law School Personal Statement Formatting: What You Need To Know

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Finished Example of Law School Personal Statement Formatting
This is what your finished law school essay should look like when properly formatted.

If you were wondering how to format your law school personal statement, this is how it should be done. Please note that we are using Microsoft Office’s Word 2010 to make our formatting adjustments, so if you have a different version of Word or are using another word processor, the procedure may be slightly different. However, the end result should be the same.

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March 19th, 2013

Law School Personal Statement Header Format: What Should Be in Yours

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Step Twelve
Personal Statement Header

Much of the application process now takes place online. Some schools have you submit your personal statement in a web form directly, which would negate the need for a header. However, when required to upload a Word file of your personal statement or send a paper copy with your application documents, be sure to include a proper header.

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November 26th, 2011

Law School Personal Statement Ideas

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Join the Crowd

You’re reading this article because you have absolutely no idea what to write your law school personal statement about. Take a deep breath and relax—you are not alone.

For example, take a look at the following tweets about law school personal statements:

  • “This Personal Statement for Law School apps is killing me.”
  • “Writing my law school personal statement for the third time.”
  • “My personal statement is [expletive]. I don’t have any work experience in law firms . . . like other people.”
  • “Personal statement for law school is harder than I thought.”
  • “This personal statement might be the death of me… I hate law school already.”
  • “This law school personal statement will be the death of me. Hands down the most ambiguous two pages I’ve ever written.”

As you can see, for many applicants, the hardest part about applying to law school is coming up with a personal statement topic. It’s hard to write about yourself—we get it.

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March 9th, 2011

Engineering Your Personal Statement Topic: Do Something Worth Writing

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(Photo Source: Richard Scott)

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
-Benjamin Franklin

Saturday Morning Crisis: “What Should I Write My Personal Statement About?”

My phone rings suspiciously early on a Saturday morning.  After reeling in my Blackberry by its power cord, I finally find the courage to confront the blinding light of the phone’s screen.  Caller I.D. reveals that it is my cousin.  As a junior in college, he is in the process of studying for the LSAT so that he can apply to law school next fall.  I have a feeling that I know exactly why he is calling.

“Mike, I know it’s early, but can I ask you a question?”

“Is it about the LSAT or applying to law school?”

“Yeah, how’d you know?”

He proceeded to ask me what he should write his law school personal statement about.  He explained that he believed that his work experience wasn’t impressive enough, especially because he had never worked in any legal capacity.  All he had was a strong interest in criminal law, one year of mock trial experience, and a handful of undergraduate “pre-law” courses.

I tried to help him brainstorm ideas; however, he was convinced that he didn’t have enough to write about.  But with over nine months left before he had to submit his law school applications, I knew exactly what advice I should give him.

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August 22nd, 2010

Three Grammatical Errors That Elite Writers Frown Upon

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The Gradvocates Editing Team was surprised to find that over 75% of the personal statements that we have edited had at least one of following errors in it. Accordingly, we decided to write a blog post to inform the rest of you of what to avoid.

Please note that all of the “incorrect” words or phrases below are not actually incorrect in everyday use. Most dictionaries will even tell you that it is acceptable to use them in the way that we are telling you not to use them.

So you might ask, “Why even read this article then?” Two important reasons:

1) Although they might be correct in everyday use, they are incorrect in academic writing. As you probably know, your personal statement should be as formal as possible.

2) The audience for your personal statement is composed of, in part, highly educated professors who spend a significant amount of their time writing scholarly pieces. They will easily spot grammatical errors, which may negatively affect how your personal statement is received.

“Although” versus “While”

  • Incorrect: While you may be right on the first issue, you are wrong on the second issue.
  • Correct: Although you may be right on the first issue, you are wrong on the second issue.
  • Proper usage of “while”: While he was on the phone, he missed an important phone call.

If you couldn’t tell from the examples, “while” is a temporal word, meaning that it relates to a length of time. Specifically, it should be used to describe concurrent events—things that are happening at the same time.

In this context, “although” is for giving concessions, and it is the word that you should use.

“Because” versus “Since”

  • Incorrect: Since he needed money, he asked the bank for a loan.
  • Correct: Because he needed money, he asked the bank for a loan.
  • Proper usage of “since”: He hasn’t gone to the library since last week.

As demonstrated by the examples, “since” is a temporal word used to indicate the passage of time.

“Because” is used to introduce a reason why something is a certain way or why something happened. In this context, it should be used instead of “since.”

Bonus: the phrase “due to” should generally be avoided when “because” can be used.

“To” versus “In Order To”

  • Incorrect: He reviewed the course book in order to determine what classes he had to take.
  • Correct: He reviewed the course book to determine what classes he had to take.
  • Proper usage of “in order”: They were lined up in order from shortest to tallest.

The words “in order” are redundant. Simply omitting them gets you a concise and formally correct sentence. As we have indicated in the above example, “in order” should generally be used for sequential or grouping purposes

Hopefully this article has shed some light on these common writing mistakes. Avoid them! Although they are not incorrect, they can undermine your credibility as a writer.

June 28th, 2010

How to Write a Great Personal Statement: Part One

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Make a Good First Impression by Hooking the Reader’s Attention

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
—Source Unknown

Members of admission committees are charged with the responsibility of reading thousands of personal statements. This is both a daunting and boring task. You can, however, use this to your advantage by hooking the reader’s attention with an extremely interesting and well-written introduction. After reading dozens of mediocre personal statements, your exciting introduction will be a refreshing treat and will induce the reader to read the rest of your personal statement with enthusiasm.

Do Not Start or End with a Quote or Cliché

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.
—Judy Garland

We are aware that we started this section with a quote; however, we are not writing a personal statement. Admission committee members do not want to hear wise words of wisdom from some author, politician, or celebrity, and using such a quote does nothing to tell the reader about you. This is a personal statement; as such, it is critical that you write your own story in your own words. Furthermore, many schools impose word limits of 500 words or two pages. Do not waste valuable words with a quote that says nothing about you and that will only make the reader roll their eyes.

Be as Interesting and Unique as Possible

It’s pretty damn hard to bring your uniqueness into actual being if you’re always doing the same things as a lot of other people.
—Brendan Francis

This point is best demonstrated by two examples:

A friend asked us to read her personal statement, which was about how a role model inspired her to attend graduate school to pursue international relations. After reading her personal statement, we were perplexed at her topic choice. We asked her why she would write such a dull essay, which wasn’t even really about her, when she has spent much of her life living abroad in Europe and South America. She rewrote her essay, detailing her exciting experiences abroad and integrated them with her desire to study international relations.

Another example involves a client of ours when we were still operating under SimuGator Editing. She wrote a law school personal statement that rehashed her resume and only briefly mentioned that she had worked as a secretary at a law firm. Upon further inquiry, it turned out that she had worked at the law firm for two years where she gained invaluable experience in communicating with clients, handling discovery issues, and researching case law for motions. After advising her that she should write her personal statement about her job at the law firm, the experience that she gained, and why it compelled her to attend law school, our client took our advice and ended up with an impressive personal statement.

Don’t Ignore Word Limits or Write Too Much

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.
—Thomas Jefferson

At most schools, word limits are not a suggestion. In addition to showing that you can follow basic rules, obeying the word limit will show that you can write succinctly and effectively. Ignoring word limits needlessly puts your application at risk.

Along the same lines, if your essay’s limit is two pages, then you should not change font size, spacing, or margins to bring your essay into compliance. Such manipulations are incredibly obvious and should be avoided.

Essays can be edited down to comply with the word requirement. It just takes a little creativity and an acceptance that every word you write is not golden.

Don’t Write Your Autobiography; Do Summarize Its Most Interesting Chapter

An autobiography is a book a person writes about his own life, and it is usually full of all sorts of boring details.
—Roald Dahl

One of the top personal statement problems occurs when applicants rewrite their resumes or try to summarize every one of their life experiences. Doing this is like trying to squeeze your entire autobiography into a short essay. We are sure that admission committee members would love to read your autobiography after you graduate from their school and become highly successful; however, now is not the time for that.

Trying to account for every life experience in a temporal manner is highly ineffective. Admission committee members already have your resume and transcript, which they have most likely looked at before turning to your personal statement. Instead of summarizing what they already know, take the opportunity to impress them with a story that is interesting and exciting to read, and then relate it back to why you would be a great student or good fit for the school that you are applying to.

Get a Professional Opinion

Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.
—David Ogilvy

Your personal statement is one of the most difficult and important pieces of writing you will ever produce. It needs to be absolutely perfect. If you are unsure of whether it is, in fact, perfect, then you need to get a professional opinion as to its content, grammar, and writing style. Because family and friends are too willing to please, their advice will only take you so far.

If you want your personal statement to be perfect, then let us help by purchasing our law school personal statement editing package. We guarantee that we will not stop until your personal statement is truly remarkable.