As the UCAS deadline draws near I thought I would repost a question I once got on how to write your personal statement. Also if you are looking for an example, I have included the original personal statement that I wrote when applying for my five choices below. Hope this helps!
Hello, I am a college student, and I am looking to apply to law school. I have already narrowed down my options and which universities I want to apply to. Do you have any tips on how to prepare for, write and edit my personal statement? The deadline for the law schools that I want to apply to is coming up soon in January. Thanks!
Applying to law school can seem like a daunting task, especially if you have never had to write a personal statement before! Writing a personal statement is essentially like writing a cover letter for a job, except in this instance, you are trying to persuade the university law departments that you are applying to that you are the perfect candidate.
So how do you go about doing this?
My experience was slightly different as I was applying to Oxbridge I had to submit my applications by the earlier October deadline. One thing I found tough was that for each of my five options, my personal statement would be the same one. On the other hand, it’s good as you only need to craft one good personal statement. I thought it might have been nicer to be able to cater my statement for each institution. However, looking back, the current system is simple so thankfully that’s still the same.
So what’s the big deal?
Ultimately, you are trying to persuade the admissions officers that you are the best candidate for them. The best personal statements that I have proofread do this by being original and demonstrate a well researched and thought out reason for why they want to study the law.
Now ‘be original’ might sound obvious and you might be wondering how to achieve this. The best advice that I can give is that be authentically and uniquely you. It’s great to get inspiration and guidance by reading blogs and example statements but always remember that a personal statement is just that, a unique declaration about why you want to study law and why you’re the right fit.
Might I add that this is an invaluable skill to practice as it will be useful when it comes to applying to law firms later on in your journey. Over time I found that keeping a professional diary or journal about your achievements really helps! As well as being an excellent exercise for recognising and reflecting on your accomplishments it means you don’t forget anything either over time.
Step 1 – What is your why?
At this stage, you have made a decision that you want to study law and have a few ideas about your motivations. This may be for the prestige that the career affords, the intellectual challenge of studying law, that you were inspired by a role model or that you want to help people or that you didn’t know what else to pick.
Whatever your reason is, it’s important to be clear on your why.
Why? I hear you ask. Simply because it makes it easier to craft your statement and offer a cohesive and compelling argument, a skill that every lawyer needs.
My message was that I wanted to understand how I could use the law to help the world around me and drew on how this was motivated by coming from Zimbabwe where tension exists around the rule of law. So when planning what I would say and the examples I would give, I mind mapped around these ideas.
A few questions you can ask yourself to get you started may be:
– Why do you want to study law?
– What about studying law or the profession itself interests you?
– What current affairs have recently sparked your interests?
– What do you hope to achieve by studying law?
– By choosing to study law what are you adding to the world and to that university?
When I was writing mine, I found that mind mapping about myself in this way really helped me to gather the initial ideas and points that I would eventually include in my final personal statement. Some people can dive right in, but by doing this exercise, I found it less daunting by breaking down the task, making it easier to write.
The form of my mind map roughly took the following structure:
A) Ideas answering the question why me/ why am I unique
B) Why does this make me want to study law/ why do I want to study law
C) Work experience that I have
D) Extracurricular activities that set me apart
Step 2 – Flesh it out and tell a compelling story
The tricky part is over! Hopefully, with a skeleton mindmap or whatever form your planning takes place, you have a rough set of ideas that you can now bring together to tell your story rather than diving straight into writing one.
Concerning the structure of my personal statement, I treated it as if I was writing an essay and arranged the above ideas into three sections: introduction, middle, conclusion.
An invaluable writing tip that I would suggest for whenever you are writing an application for anything: always ask the question “so what?” after every sentence.
So what, why should they care or choose you based on what you’ve said. Every sentence has a purpose, and it must add to the whole. If it isn’t persuading and compelling to you, it’s not to the reader.
By asking ‘so what’ it is easier to expand on what you are writing as it allows you to spot gaps where you may not have fleshed out your argument thereby helping you to develop your points
Step 3 – Re-read, revise and review
As it says on the tin, re-read, revise and review as much as possible as you go through your drafts. Ideally, you would have left enough time to get your personal statement drafted and ready to submit way before the respective October (Oxbridge) and January deadlines. I would definitely recommend getting your friends and family to run a second pair of eyes over your statement to check for any spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and provide constructive feedback.
Step 4 – submit
And hopefully assuming that everything has gone well, you’ll be ready to submit your application!
– Be yourself and make it just that ‘a personal and unique statement’!
– Be genuine, and show a real interest
– The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time! Don’t overwhelm yourself but break down the task of writing your personal statement and set yourself a deadline.
– Demonstrate that you are a well-rounded potential candidate with a genuine and compelling reason for wanting to study the law and a firm grasp of current affairs and how this applies.
For more tips here are a few resources I found:
- The UCAS website itself is a great place to start, with an article on how to write a personal statement
- The Guardian also has a great law section with advice.
- All About Law is also a great resource
- You can download my version here: Lorraine Personal Statement (PDF)