5 Tips for your Admissions Essay (or Personal Statement)

Although your GPA and standardized test score are significant, the admissions essay (referred to in law school as the “personal statement”) is just as weighty. Think about it – the admissions team has been reviewing thousands of GPA/test score combinations all season, so this is your opportunity to engage the admissions representative(s) and show them the dynamic human behind those quantitative factors. Indeed, the essay/personal statement could truly make or break your application. Whereas a dull story could cause your GPA/test score to get filtered into the “average” pile, an engaging, compelling story could give you that extra “bump” into the “accepted” pile.

With that in mind, here are some practical pointers to help you get started with brainstorming the contents of your college admissions essay and/or law school personal statement.

1) Talk about the weak areas of your application.

Did you have a bad semester or year? Is your GPA not particularly competitive? Maybe you wish you could’ve scored more highly on that standardized test? Did you make a regrettable mistake in high school (or college) that resulted in a trip to the Dean’s office, a hearing before the ethics committee, or maybe even some time at the local jail? Whatever the case may be, use the personal statement to expound on the weak areas of your application.

To be clear, you don’t want your essay/personal statement to sound as if you’re begging for admission, or trying to excuse your conduct. However, this is the perfect opportunity to share what you learned, how you’ve changed, and what progress you’ve made. During the written component of an application, the ball is in your court. Take advantage of it by strategically framing how the admissions team views your “weak” spots.

2) Talk about the strong areas of your application.

Do you have a high GPA, but you also had to work a part-time job? Did you attend an impactful camp or leadership seminar? Did you achieve that standardized test score in spite of suffering poverty, a major loss, or some other traumatic event? Now is the time to provide some context to your achievements.

Again, don’t boast and say, “I’m so awesome, and here is why.” However, cleverly and strategically provide context for your accomplishments.

3) Show them what they can’t see.

Are you an award-winning pianist or cheerleader? Did you start a non-profit or business? Are you the talk of your local community (for good reason)? If so, let them know! I’m sure the admissions team would love to hear the story behind the GPA/test score combination.

4) Be vulnerable.

Was there a traumatic event in your life that greatly affected your education, or otherwise affected the course of your life? If you are emotionally able, it might be a good idea to share it with admissions.

Note, however, merely stating, “My mom died, and it was really hard,” probably won’t do the trick. Instead, you’ll want to tactfully link the traumatic, life-altering event to the motivation behind your desire to attend the particular college or law school.

5) Have it proofread.

I can’t say this enough. A new pair of eyes will catch glitches – both typos and grammatical errors – that you glaze over.

I once attended a lunch talk with the Harvard Law dean of admissions. She shared how one student forgot to replace the word “Yale” with “Harvard” in his personal statement for Harvard Law School.

The students in attendance let out a series of exasperated gasps, “Oh no’s!” and empathetic moans.

The admissions representative then shared that she made it easier for him to get into the school he really wanted…

Moral of the story? Be sure to have someone check for typos, grammatical errors, and to make sure you write the correct name of the school.

Need expert advice on flushing out the details of your college admissions essay or law school personal statement? Not sure how to engage the admissions reader with tact while telling your life story? No worries! We are here to help you craft an admissions strategy! Check us out at HarvardandHardshipLLC.com, or shoot us an email at info@harvardandhardshipllc.com.

Wishing you all the best on your academic journey,

-Angel Everett, Esq.

Founder and CEO, Harvard and Hardship LLC


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