I remember getting my graduate and law school acceptance letters. Not only did it feel great to be accepted, but each one came with a hand-written note from one of the leading scholars at the school complimenting me on my admissions essay. I worked hard on mine. And I have worked hard with hundreds of students since then to help them feel confident in theirs as well.
Graduate and law school admissions essays demand a bit more from writers than undergraduate admissions essays. Applicants to grad and law school need to know more about their educational goals – or be able to convince the admissions staff that they are clear about those goals. More importantly, every anecdote – personal, academic, or professional – has to connect directly to one persuasive topic: how will you, the student, make a unique contribution to the school (and, make its rankings go up!)?
Below is a brief outline of some ideas for how to write the grad or law school admissions essay. It is a balancing act. A writer has to include a lot about herself, but also demonstrate a knowledge of the unique relationship she hopes to create with the school. That means knowing the school very well – its faculty, staff, programs, alumni, and current student research. The outline below is not intended to be chronological in nature, but to serve as a checklist of ideas and steps to consider while drafting the essay(s).
Take a look at the list. Start a draft, then sign up for a session with Tutoring the Whole Writer to become more confident in your submission. Discover the writing style you need for your essay – and your preferred college(s).
NOTE: The usual fee range for a single online tutoring session on a two-page application essay is between $20.00-$45.00. View the fee structure for details and don’t forget to ‘Like’ Tutoring the Whole Writer on Facebook for session discounts.
Grad and Law School Personal Statements: Basic Guidelines
Before Writing: research the school and its faculty:
- know the admissions and enrollment statistics
- know of two or three faculty of interest, their research, and one or two of their published works
Topics for the Personal Statement/Essay
The School-Focused Parts:
- Share why you have chosen to apply to a particular school.
- Share that you are and why you are interested in a particular field
- Share what you know about the professors you researched and indicate your interest in working with them
The Student-Focused Parts:
- Share your motivation – how you became interested in that field
- Discuss your skills with examples: oral communication, writing, leadership, peer motivation, etc.
- Discuss one possible career goal if you can do so clearly. Do not discuss a handful of possible careers goals.
- Share any very personal challenges that will show admissions readers you have perseverance in the face of any adversity
- Every story, every example, every line needs to relate directly to how it has prepared you for success in college/grad school
- Avoid grandiose statements
- Use active words
- Be succinct – revise for unnecessary words, phrases, and whole points in some cases
- Grad School Application Checklist: 7 Months Out (usnews.com)