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Personal Statements Geared Towards Schools

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Hi, I've been trying to see how to approach writing some of my personal statements and I have noticed that a lot of people say for example for Windsor "Social Justice Related" or "geared towards Ottawa" and I was unsure of how people figured this out? Any advice? 

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They just mean that they’ve tailored their statements to the specific strengths, concentrations, and/or missions of the school. Some people will also discuss how they’d want to practice in the market where the school is located. Schools like uOttawa also have particular components that they look for when reading personal statements. This info is available on their Common Law website. Here’s the link: 

https://commonlaw.uottawa.ca/en/students/admissions/how-to-apply/writing-your-personal-statement 

Best of luck to you! 

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Schools do tend to have those kinds of reputations, though their reputation isn't necessarily what they're looking to see reflected in application materials. For instance, U of T has a reputation for being "corporate" but the school itself likes the idea that it is a pathway for people who want to further access to justice and lots of people emphasize their interest in the schools' legal clinic opportunities and reputable International Human Rights Program in their personal statements. 

It really depends on the story you're trying to tell about yourself. In my view, "tailoring" your personal statement just means connecting your past experiences together in a narrative, expressing your plan for the future, and making the school look like the next logical step in your path. There are probably a lot of other ways to think about the personal statement, but this was how I thought about mine when I wrote it (admittedly over three years ago).

If you're looking to target your personal statements to the law schools you're applying to, I would suggest thinking about concrete and practical things that each school has to offer, and how those things relate to your reasons for wanting to be a lawyer. For instance, if you know that one school has a legal clinic which does bird law and you're interested in bird law, then you'd want to point out that clinic as part of why you're applying to the school/ why the school fits into the overall narrative you're trying to put forward in your personal statement. You can do the same sort of thing with profs (i.e., if school A has Canada's top 3 scholars in bird law, you can emphasize your interest in bird law and whatever bird law-specific courses School A offers in that area).

You can get information about this from schools' websites and by asking current students about what they think of their schools' programs in your areas of interest.

Hope this helps! To clarify, all the above are considerations on top of whatever requirement the school sets out for the personal statements' contents and structure. Also, if you're from out of province or from the other side of the province, you should give some location-related indication of why you want to go to a particular school. If you have one.

Edited by Demander
clarification
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The information that helped me the most writing my personal statement is that it’s a 2-way street. You need to talk about yourself and maybe a specific event that made you develop an interest in law. However, schools want to attain a good “yield” which is the amount of offers accepted vs the amount of offers given. As part of the process, the admissions committee will read the statement and ask themselves, “how likely are they to accept an offer from us?”. This is not necessarily advice so you know what to write about, but it helped me because it made me stress less about writing a perfectly crafted letter that I hope they will like and made me focus on how I can fit in and bring value.

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1 hour ago, Sponge said:

The information that helped me the most writing my personal statement is that it’s a 2-way street. You need to talk about yourself and maybe a specific event that made you develop an interest in law. However, schools want to attain a good “yield” which is the amount of offers accepted vs the amount of offers given. As part of the process, the admissions committee will read the statement and ask themselves, “how likely are they to accept an offer from us?”. This is not necessarily advice so you know what to write about, but it helped me because it made me stress less about writing a perfectly crafted letter that I hope they will like and made me focus on how I can fit in and bring value.

I have yet to go through the application process myself, so I am open to being wrong here. However, if I am not mistaken, yield protection is primarily an American tactic, no? I have been browsing various forums for a while and do not recall any instances of a Canadian applicant with grades and an LSAT score well above a school's median being rejected.

I think the sensible (and most time-efficient) thing to do is to construct a general PS that nevertheless allows you to make note of specific things that make a school attractive to you (e.g. a particular clinic, journal or institute/centre for a specialized area of law)--what you might call a cookie cutter approach. At least that is what I have been doing, but maybe it won't work! 

Since schools are simply looking for the best applicants, my guess is that they are less interested in the area you hope to work in and more so the quality of your application relative to everybody else's, in which case, you might as well just write about what it is you truly want to do irrespective of where you are applying. Whether they are completely indifferent is a different question, I think.

Though, once more, I've never been on an admissions committee, so...

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6 hours ago, aftervirtue said:

I have yet to go through the application process myself, so I am open to being wrong here. However, if I am not mistaken, yield protection is primarily an American tactic, no? I have been browsing various forums for a while and do not recall any instances of a Canadian applicant with grades and an LSAT score well above a school's median being rejected.

I think the sensible (and most time-efficient) thing to do is to construct a general PS that nevertheless allows you to make note of specific things that make a school attractive to you (e.g. a particular clinic, journal or institute/centre for a specialized area of law)--what you might call a cookie cutter approach. At least that is what I have been doing, but maybe it won't work! 

Since schools are simply looking for the best applicants, my guess is that they are less interested in the area you hope to work in and more so the quality of your application relative to everybody else's, in which case, you might as well just write about what it is you truly want to do irrespective of where you are applying. Whether they are completely indifferent is a different question, I think.

Though, once more, I've never been on an admissions committee, so...

I heard this from someone on an admissions committee. Although, definitely in Canada there is more of an emphasis on grades. I agree with you 100%. I just brought it up because I think it gives good insight into what the admissions committee is looking for, other than just why you want to practice law and what interests you.

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I've never seen any actual evidence in all the years that I've participated here, or been involved in law school and legal practice, that any Canadian law school is concerned about yield protection. 

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15 minutes ago, erinl2 said:

I've never seen any actual evidence in all the years that I've participated here, or been involved in law school and legal practice, that any Canadian law school is concerned about yield protection. 

I have seen it but don’t remember from which school exactly. Nevertheless, I still stand by the the fact that it is important to tailor the personal statement to the school in question and to express why this school is of interest to you.

Edited by Sponge

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My personal statement to TRU mentioned a couple of very specific, very niche electives that I had a strong interest in and weren't available at other schools. The school didn't have a "reputation" in the areas of law those courses covered, but they liked seeing that I researched their course selection and that I had a substantive reason for wanting to attend their school.

 

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Make a generic template, and add in a few details tailored towards the specific schools you plan on applying towards

Other than that some schools will have their own requirements for a personal statement such as a part b where they give you a hypothetical scenario you must respond to - this and some other requirements may force you to make an adjustment to the overall message you want to convey in your statement 

Your ps should ultimately focus on why you want to sudy law, and briefly explain why you think youre a strong candidate thorugh your life expereineces. PM if you want some more advice - id be happy to help. 

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Also make sure you read the application questions/prompts each school asks closely. While it may seem that they all want a generally personal statement, make sure you’re actually addressing what they’re looking for. I applied to 5 Ontario schools and while I did pretty much copy and paste some paragraphs for each school’s statement, due to the variations in personal statement prompts I had distinct essays. Another key thing is that each school has different character/word limits. For schools where you have less space, you may find it beneficial to focus in on one topic whereas for schools where you have more space you will want to bring up more topics. While I don’t think it’s necessary to strongly gear each essay towards the respective school, I think you should show that you have done SOME research on the school and why you’d like to attend/would be a good fit. 

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