how to write a “personal” statement

I hate sob stories.

I hate them because it puts me in a depressed mood and the whole law school admissions process is depressing enough as it is. And please don’t get me started on law school employment statistics. That stuff burns my eyes. While reading about others’ intense life stories makes me extremely grateful for my blessings, it also makes me rethink my personal statement strategy. A lot. These past few days, I toss in bed thinking about my personal statement and I’ve come to the conclusion that picking a purpose for my PS will (1) keep me focused and (2) make it a stronger piece of writing.

In my mind, I’ve already brainstormed four personal statements. When I say four, I’m not talking about four different versions of the same thing. I’m talking about four distinct personal statements that showcase a different side of me. There’s the “elementary school” me. There’s the “resume” me. There’s the “I think I might very possibly want to practice XXX law someday in the hypothetical distant future” me (yeah, I’ve already scrapped that one. Didn’t convince me when I read it the third time). Lastly, there’s the “tragic hero” me. If you didn’t catch the irony, read the first line.

I love-hate TLS’s forum on personal statements for the usual reasons. One comment that stood out for me was, “Your first paragraph is awesome and has a strong theme but it’s not the same theme you develop in the other four paragraphs.” Huh? It took me three days of mulling over the various feedback to get what they were saying. Some of them were just too nice to come out and say, “This lacks depth! DEPTH of character, motive, and desire for law school!” I realized today that the “strongest” essay I had so far was diluted crap because I was trying to squeeze too many things into approximately 500 words: I’ve got lawyerly skills, I matured after learning from a rookie mistake, I had academic issues and overcame them; oh, and by the way, I really want to go to law school.

And then the crazy squiggly lines in my head started to line up. The only way I can tell a story that only I can tell, I need to talk about the worst thing that happened to me. My darkest hour. The one thing that would make me cry if I start dwelling on it too much. So if an alien ate me, wore my skin, and talked to the law school dean, he/she could whip out my PS and expose the alien for not knowing my darkest hour. I realize that this advice may come off as one-sided for those who have not experienced their darkest hour…yet. Trust me, I wanted to write that kick-ass superhero themed PS as well. In a pile of probably very sad and downtrodden essays, I wanted to write an essay where I comfortably dodged bullets Matrix-style, and became almighty and magnificent and very professional. Alas, that story didn’t do me justice. It was artificial because I was trying to write a knock-off of someone else’s life.

I think the hardest part about this personal statement is that you naturally want to resist what you have and wave something sparkling new. Sort of like recreating your image on the first day of high school. Unfortunately, we all learn that high school doesn’t magically transform you into something you’re not. I confess; I subconsciously wanted the same thing for law school. But it cannot do that. That’s why you have to write something that has you written all over it. Don’t be like me. Don’t limit your topics because you think sickness and death, influential figures, and sports/traveling/marathons have all been done and recycled. Because I believe that if you’re really telling your own story, it will come out unique, thought-provoking, and strikingly beautiful.

…I think I’m ready to write now.

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