The following are three examples of successful Personal Statements. The first follows the more conventional model. In addition to being coherent and well-organized, this Personal Statement shows what the student thought she gained from undergraduate academic and co-curricular activities that should contribute to her success in law school and beyond. Admitted to a number of law schools, she recently graduated from a well-known institution in the Midwest, and she is now an associate at a large law firm in Michigan.
"Bursting the bubble," an idea that was promoted during my first days in college, has yet to lose its stamina. The "bubble" refers to the small town of Alma, in which the college is located, whose surrounding cornfields seem to seclude the town from the rest of the world. In order to "burst" this "bubble," we were told, we must take advantage of the opportunities that the college offers. This advice, along with my own motivation and enthusiasm, enabled me to gain the most diverse education possible. In addition to the courses I have taken during my undergraduate study, the opportunities I chose to take advantage of have had an immense impact on my educational experience and preparation for life after Alma. These opportunities included studying abroad in Aberdeen, Scotland, participating on the Alma College Model United Nations team, and serving as a Staff Writer amd News Editor for The Almanian.
The opportunity to study abroad at the University of Aberdeen allowed me to not only gain an education in a different culture, but to live within and experience that culture as well. The Scottish culture was just one of the many factors that influenced my study abroad. Most of the students within my living quarters were also foreign students studying abroad; this provided me the chance to live among various cultures simultaneously. While abroad, I traveled through seven European countries for one month with two other students--each of us bearing a single backpack. This unforgetable adventure cannot be compared to any other experience in my life. The differences in language, cuisine, living quarters, transportation. amd even restroom facilities are cultural characteristics that make each area of this world unique. During my first experience overseas, I discovered worlds previously foreign to me. The people I encountered and the places I visited through this experience will remain in my memory for the rest of my life.
Another opportunity that greatly furthered my educational experience was taking part in Alma College's Model United Nations team and traveling to New York to compete against schools from throughout the world. The rigorous preparation that was essential to competing in this conference is the strongest form of educational discipline I have ever received. An intense atmosphere involving extensive daily research and comprehensive analysis prepared me for both the conference and a truly higher education. The conference consists of simulated United Naton's committees, with each participating school representing a country of the United Nations. The objective was to form resolutions through compromise and teamwork. Recognition was awarded on the basis of leadership reflected in the ability to take charge of group discussions and asserting knowledgeable interpretations of relevant topics. Listening to the ideas of others is also an essential leadership quality. The overwhelming feeling of pride when our school won the Outstanding Delegation honor at the end of the conference showed me the true reward of hard work and determination. In an earlier conference held in St. Louis, Missouri, I was part of a team that also achieved the highest honor of Outstanding Delegation, and I earned an individual Delegate Award for performance within my committee as well.
Becoming involved with The Almanian, the college newspaper, has also been an asset to my life. As a Staff Writer, and previously as News Editor, I became immersed in events and controversies of various facets of the college and its community. As News Editor, I achieved a leadership role within the newspaper's layout, content, and production. As a writer, I am part of events that happen, rather than an outsider who simply observes situatons. Both positions gave me a strong foundation im strengthening my writing and editing skills. In addition, I have been involved in the continuous improvement of our newspaper by attending media conferences throughout the country. Knowledge and skills that fellow staff members and I acquired from these conferences are continuously incorporated into the enhancement of our newspaper.
Taking advantage of these opportunities has served as great preparation for life after Alma when I attend law school. I have learned the importance of involvement, which leads to knowledge based on experience. Through "bursting the bubble," these experiences provided me with skills, self-confidence, motivation, and dedication in my future studies. I am prepared for the next step in my life--to tackle the rigorous and demanding curriculum of law school.
Lawyers [are] operators of the toll bridge across which anyone in search of justice has to pass. -Jane Bryant Quinn
The second Personal Statement is less conventional than the first and potentially risky. Do you think the applicant succeeds in muting an alleged negative attribute, perhaps turning it into a positive trait? Accepted by a number of law schools and offered a full tuition scholarship by one, the author ultimately decided to attend dental school rather than law school.
My mother tells me I am highly motivated and disciplined and that I work diligently and intensively to achieve goals I set for myself. My father says I have controlled tenacity--I get an idea in my mind and methodically go after it. When I ask my younger brother how he would describe me to a law school admissions committee, he says, "You are the sister of a super fantastic brother, and they should accept you so I can have your bedroom."
If this is how family members describe me, how would I describe myself? What immediately come to mind are not my own words, but those of a professor at Alma College who encouraged me to apply for the prestigious Truman Scholarship. After reviewing my academic credentials favorably, he and several other faculty conducted a screening interview to question my career objectives and to decide whether I would be a candidate with the potential to be a Truman Scholar. I can still hear the words he politely delivered to me at the conclusion of the interview: "You have the credentials, but you lack the focus we typically look for in a Truman Scholar." I lack focus? I lack focus.
Intended to be as delicate a rejection as possible, those words neither harmed my ego nor withered my spirit. Rather, they seemed to me an asset--a true, although incomplete, description of me.
I have never had the clearly defined career goals that are so often emphasized as the measure of potential success. Intrigued instead with the process of learning itself--subject matter aside--I yearn to delve into intellectual territories yet unknown to me. This is reflected in my choice of undergraduage studies. I reveled in the diverse educational opportunities Alma College offered me for my first two years, and I took courses in practically all fields of study. Not until the end of my second year when I was required to declare a major did I do so. I lack focus. At the end of my third year, after declaring majors in sociology and Spanish and having lived and studied for a semester in Spain, I returned to Alma and enrolled in an English class that was required for my Spanish major. Unexpectedly, this class provoked my curiosity and intellect with such vigor and inspiration that I dropped my Spanish major to make room in my schedule to further explore this newfound interest in writing. I lack focus.
As unfocused as my career goals may be, I do take particular interest in helping disadvantaged people. In the spring semester of my sophomore year I traveled to Honduras and participated in a relief effort to aid poverty-striken famlies. For three years I have volunteered at the Michigan Masonic Home, making regular visits to spend time with the elderly residents. I have also volunteered at the Michigan Special Olympics and have been a mentor in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program for four years. Choices concerning a career are confusing to me at this point because of the multitude of opportunities available. I think law school will foster my ongoing quest for new and inspiring knowledge and help me explore a future I can be passionate about. I am not certain what I will ultimately do with a law degree, but I do not think I need to know now. It is more important to enter law school with an open mind, reader to absorb and processd new information without previoiusly constructed biases.
Perhaps I am unfocused. Possibly this was detrimental in the eyes of the college's selection committee, which sought individuals who could articulate specific future intentions for its Truman Scholarship candidates. But perhaps my lack of focus has been beneficial thus far. It certainly protected me from being rendered blind to experiences outside a stricly paved career path. When coupled with my motivation, determination, and control tenacity, my lack of focus will someday be cultivated into a passion for something I have yet to explore. I am certain that law school will offer me this opportunity.
Since when do you have to agree with people to defend them from injustice? -Lillian Hellman
Read the following unconventional Personal Statement carefully. Why did it succeed in helping its author to get accepted accepted by so many law schools, including the one in California that she l attends? How well does this essay succeed in doing what all good Personal Statements should do: tell law school admissons committees something positive about a candidate that they can't get from other sources?
The Ocoee River in Tennessee is shallow, rocky, and swift. With such names as "Broken Nose," "Slice 'N Dice." and "Hell Hole," its rapids daunt and dismay whitewater adventurers. After spending the better part of four post-college years living, working, and kayaking in the southeastern United States, I had yet to conquer this river. It was not my lack of ability that prevented me, but a paralyzing fear that increased as time passed.
Whitewater kayaking can be both exhilarating and overwhelmingly intimidating. It takes a combination of acquired skill and mental confidence to go to a difficult river and padde it well, to get to the end and know that you belonged there that day. When paddling extreme whitewater you are constantly processing and reacting to what is going on around you while at the same time strategically planning for what lies ahead. During my time in the Southeast, working seasonally for an outdoor recreation company, I paddled many rivers and often, working on specific skills needed to be comfortable in whitewater. Still, I avoided the Ocoee, until a situation arose which implanted a "now or never" mantra in my brain.
Toward the end of my fourth season I got a call from my dad. He was coming from Michigan to paddle the Ocoee River with five friends from his kayaking club. It would be the first trip to the Ocoee for most of the group, and I felt strongly that my time had come as well. I decided to tackle the river before the group's visit to accomplish a long-awaited goal and to familiarize myself with the rapids so I could act as a guide for my dad and his friends.
I will be eternally grateful to a dear friend who, two days before the group's arrival, took me methodically through each rapid of the Ocoee River. She helped me break down into manageable pieces what had once seemed too immense for me. At each phase of the river she game me the technical information I needed, what angle or approach to take, and the reassurance that I had the ability to make it happen.
I learned that it's all right to be afraid, as long as I don't let fear dictate the events of my life. I found that the feeling of fear, if conquered, will translate ultimately into a feeling of elation. I never knew a hobby could teach so many lessons. But almost five years after encountering the sport, I've met more challenges and come away with a greater self-confidence and sense of accomplishment than I could have imagined.
I remember the moment when I was with my dad and his group, all of us sitting in our kayaks in a large, calm pool toward the beginning of the river. We talked and laughed, and, although I was nervous, I knew I belonged there. Finally, someone suggested we get going, and the question was raised, "Who will lead us?" Six pairs of eyes turned my way. I just smiled to reassure myself and said, "Follow me."
Law is experience developed by reason and applied continually to further experience. -Roscoe Pound