A personal statement is a common requirement for admission into graduate programs. It is also common that the instructions for the personal statement will be open ended. You will want to state why you are pursuing the graduate-level legal program you are applying for, but beyond that, it is up to you to share information that you believe will be helpful to the admissions committee in making its decision.
What is the best approach to writing your law school personal statement that will help you stand out from the crowd? Read on for specific tips and advice for the writing process to nail this part of your application.
Law School Personal Statement Tips
For the personal statement you’ll draft for the Master of Studies in Law or legal certificate programs at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, you will want to focus on two topics:
- Why you want to pursue the program you are applying for
- How you think the program will further your career goals
There’s no one way to write your personal statement, but there are some universal principles that you can apply to make this process easier.
Make an Impression
Your personal statement is about who you are, rather than a demonstration of what you understand about law. Keep in mind that your readers will see a number of applicants annually. Your goal is not to impress them with your current knowledge, but rather to create an impression based on your personal drive, current goals, and plans to capitalize on what this program offers.
Open With a Hook and Finish Strong
The goal of the opening paragraph is to hook the admissions committee. What qualifies as a hook? Without exaggerating your experiences or qualifications, establish something definitive about your perspective. Is there an aspect of your life driving you to pursue legal studies? If so, start with that. Or, is there an interesting or unique challenge or opportunity you want to address in your career, one that greater legal knowledge will help you champion? Introduce themes like these to help establish a clear path through the rest of your statement.
As you hone in on the close, don’t feel pressured to assert a specific moral takeaway. What the admissions committee is after is what you hope to achieve by pursuing this degree.
Tips for the Writing Process
Now that you have a better idea of what to focus on in your personal statement, let’s review how you can go from a daunting blank page to an error-free final document that really sings.
Understand the program you are applying to, including the admissions requirements, curriculum, and faculty before you start writing. The more you know about the program, the more you can highlight what stands out to you about the program and what seems relevant to your career goals and the challenges you want to overcome with a legal education.
Once you have gathered your external research, it’s time to look inward and reflect using the universal principles outlined above. This is the stage where you can put your thoughts on paper without worrying about structure—just get your ideas out so that you have something to work with.
Now that you have all of your thoughts on paper (or typed up on your computer), it is time to get organized. There are thousands of articles about how to create an outline online, but this does not have to be an overwhelming process. The goal here is to get your notes from the research and reflection steps placed in a logical order that will take your reader from the introduction to the conclusion, leaving them convinced that you will be a great fit for the program.
You may be surprised how fast this step can go if you have given ample attention to the proceeding steps. With your notes and outline in hand, sit down and tie everything together into a cohesive document. Lean on the skills you have used to write your papers in the past and trust yourself.
Reviewing your draft can be broken into two parts:
- Reviewing for content
- Reviewing for spelling and grammar
Do your ideas make sense and flow and in logical order? Can the reader follow your thoughts? Is the takeaway clear? You can enlist the help of an outside reviewer if needed. Once you have the content nailed down, it is time to proofread.
When this step is complete, you are ready to submit your finalized document and check the law school personal statement off of your application to-do list.
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Forge Ahead with Pitt Law
As you prepare to apply for Pitt Law’s Online Master of Studies in Law (MSL) program or one of the certificate programs, know that our admissions advisors are always on standby to answer your questions, clarify admissions requirements, and review the list of materials we need from you. We have also created an application checklist to assist you in the application process. We have also created an application checklist to assist you in the application process. Download the application checklist.
Schedule a call with an admissions outreach advisor here.