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capitalttruth

Why is the personal statement so hard?

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Posted (edited)

Saying this as someone at the end of their second cycle with peripheral thoughts of entering a third cycle: Why is the personal statement so hard?

I come from a background that features a very distant, neutral kind of writing. The common trope that "it's hard to talk about yourself" rings true in my case. I have very specific motivations for entering into law school, all of which are mostly intellectual. But I get the impression that law schools, in their personal statement criteria, want personal narratives of overcoming hardship. I certainly have had my hardships, but I could never find a way to negotiate my personal hardships with my purely intellectual pursuits, so I feel like my past attempts at writing personal statements have felt contrived, and are not the best reflections of my capacities as a writer.  Law schools want honesty, but I've never felt that my scholarly ambitions were sexy enough to them, so I had to find something that worked. So far, finding a cohesive narrative hasn't really worked. At the end of the day, there's just so many similar people in my shoes, even as an Access applicant, that common cliches of overcoming hardship are seemingly impossible to avoid. I tailored my PS to each school I applied to, which is a no brainer; in graduate school applications, it's expected for the personal statement to articulate how one's research interests align with that particular schools scholar(s) in that area. I thought doing this for law schools, showing how my research interests could expand the capacities of the faculty, may have made up for a lack of a cohesive personal narrative. It hasn't hitherto necessarily appeared as such.

As someone who wrote a thesis, I still consider the personal statement the hardest piece of writing I've ever attempted. This whole process has been marked by mastering the LSAT, which thankfully I've done, and now it's about mastering the personal statement, which I'm still learning how to do.

Anyone else have similar impressions?

Edited by capitalttruth

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I don't think you need to talk about personal hardships in your statement. I imagine most people do not have experiences that are atypically challenging. It should be enough to talk about why you want to go to law school and be as genuine about that as you can. Trying to force a story about overcoming a "hardship" where one doesn't exist might actually work against you. Besides, if you're applying to a school that mainly cares about your GPA and LSAT, your personal statement wouldn't carry much weight anyways.

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21 minutes ago, capitalttruth said:

Saying this as someone at the end of their second cycle with peripheral thoughts of entering a third cycle: Why is the personal statement so hard?

I come from a background that features a very distant, neutral kind of writing. The common trope that "it's hard to talk about yourself" rings true in my case. I have very specific motivations for entering into law school, all of which are mostly intellectual. But I get the impression that law schools, in their personal statement criteria, want personal narratives of overcoming hardship. I certainly have had my hardships, but I could never find a way to negotiate my personal hardships with my purely intellectual pursuits, so I feel like my past attempts at writing personal statements have felt contrived, and are not the best reflections of my capacities as a writer.  Law schools want honesty, but I've never felt that my scholarly ambitions were sexy enough to them, so I had to find something that worked. So far, finding a cohesive narrative hasn't really worked. At the end of the day, there's just so many similar people in my shoes, even as an Access applicant, that common cliches of overcoming hardship are seemingly impossible to avoid. I tailored my PS to each school I applied to, which is a no brainer; in graduate school applications, it's expected for the personal statement to articulate how one's research interests align with that particular schools scholar(s) in that area. I thought doing this for law schools, showing how my research interests could expand the capacities of the faculty, may have made up for a lack of a cohesive personal narrative. It hasn't hitherto necessarily appeared as such.

As someone who wrote a thesis, I still consider the personal statement the hardest piece of writing I've ever attempted. This whole process has been marked by mastering the LSAT, which thankfully I've done, and now it's about mastering the personal statement, which I'm still learning how to do.

Anyone else have similar impressions?

I didn't talk about any hardships whatsoever. I didn't struggle with writing mine much; I said why I wanted to be a lawyer, and what I've done so far to get there (trust me my ECs are awful so there wasn't much to talk about).

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Posted (edited)

Is it possible that saying your research interests "could expand the capacities of the faculty" didn't have the desired effect, particularly since 1Ls typically take the same courses and (AFAIK) don't have much leeway to pursue independent research? 

I'm not an expert, but if you wrote a grad school-esque PS for law school, you could have inadvertently signaled to adcoms that there's a mismatch between your perception of law school and how it actually works, at least for 1L. 

Edited by Tagger
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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, Tagger said:

Is it possible that saying your research interests "could expand the capacities of the faculty" didn't have the desired effect, particularly since 1Ls typically take the same courses and (AFAIK) don't have much leeway to pursue independent research? 

I'm not an expert, but if you wrote a grad school-esque PS for law school, you could have inadvertently signaled to adcoms that there's a mismatch between your perception of law school and how it actually works.  

 

My Queens one was the statement that emphasized the more grad school-esque elements. I was outright rejected from them with a 3.7 L2 and a 164 LSAT so I'm thinking that may have had something to do with it. 

My other PS's were moreso tailored in the typical ways characteristic of law school applications. My worry is that they will be perceived as too formulaic and uninteresting.

Edited by capitalttruth

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I only talked about overcoming hardship and spun it into positive outcomes. I diddnt mention anything related to Law school/practicing law. 

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Your personal statement is a two-fold test, meant to confirm that you can use the English language in a way that isn't embarrassing, and that you can discuss a relatively straight-forward topic without becoming ridiculous. You don't need to be Oliver Twist, in either style or substance. If you try, you'll almost certainly achieve a negative result. There may be the odd applicant to law school who really did escape war-torn Syria in the trunk of a car, or who has the narrative style to pull off some exceptional piece of writing. Everyone else is just a reasonably accomplished undergrad who wants to study law. And that's all you need to be.

Seriously. Stop over-thinking this. Just tell them why you want to go to law school.

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If you do end up deciding to enter the next cycle, try sitting down and writing without filtering yourself. Just write about why you want to study law, try to answer any suggested guidelines that the school has provided, then edit it into something you would want to submit.

There is really no formula to this, or else everyone could simply write exactly what each school wants to hear. I didn't tailor my personal statement to any particular school and it was fine. Others may have tailored theirs specifically to each school and I'm sure it would still be fine. Precisely because there is no formula, just different individuals expressing their thoughts in different ways. 

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After seeing the responses in this thread, and after personally sending out my PS to other applicants, it seems like I wrote a good overall PS. I've just gone batshit insane from the wait, thinking it's my PS holding me back.

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