Top 10 Personal Statement Mistakes

I know I've been missing-in-action lately, but I've been helping folks with their law and professional school applications. That said, I wanted to hop on and quickly share some common personal (and diversity) statement mistakes.

#1 Boring (no storytelling)

I preach storytelling because it works! The ball is in your court. Tell. your. story. I won't spend too much time on this one, but a while back I dedicated an entire video to effective storytelling techniques. <Linked here>

#2 The storytelling doesn't make sense.

There shouldn't be gaping holes in your story that leave the reader confused. That said, make sure you include significant details and leave out the superfluous ones.

#3 Restating the resume

Don't waste precious time in the personal and/or diversity statement recounting your work experience all over again. Instead, trust the admissions reader(s) to read your resume. (I promise you, they will!)

*Caveat: It is definitely an effective strategy to use a personal/diversity statement to put certain portions of your resume into context, but the statement should NEVER merely be a recitation of lines from your resume.

#4 No cohesion

If you are all over the place in your writing, the admissions reader(s) will be all over the place in their reading. Your personal/diversity statement should have a focus and talk about 1-2 major aspects of your life and/or experiences. Moreover, each paragraph should effortlessly flow into the next because you've incorporated transition sentences.

#5 No theme

This one's a complement to #4. There should be a theme to your statement; that's how you know you've written a cohesive document.

#6 Bragging too much about the school

That school probably already knows that they're "an esteemed institution of higher learning," and I promise you they've read a gazillion times that they are a "revered educational institution." Use the personal (and diversity) statement to talk about you.

*Caveat: Sure, there are specific prompts that specifically ask you to talk about the school (i.e., "Why X Law School?"), but even then you should use that prompt to connect the school's offerings to your interests, experiences, skills, or future aspirations.

#7 Too didactic

If your entire personal (or diversity) statement sounds like a lecture or research paper, that's a major problem. Revise it so that the focus is on you.

#8 Didn't follow directions

Does the school have a page limit for each document? What about a font requirement? Is there a particular angle their prompt is asking you to take in your personal/diversity statement? Make sure you adjust the statement to fit the specifications of each individual school.

#9 Too wordy

Brevity is the soul of wit. Stay concise and get to the point!

#10 Lacking in varied sentence structure

I did xyz.

I also did abc.

Also, I worked here.

I did this awesome thing.

In conclusion, I want to go to law school because ...

You see how all of the above sentences start with the same subject, "I"? Don't do that in your statement(s). Elevated language is not only about using elevated diction (i.e., "big words"), but it's also about varying your syntax every now and again.

I could say so much more, but I promised I'd stop at 10! If you need one-on-one help with crafting a strategy and writing your college, law school, or graduate school admissions documents, be sure to apply for a service via www.HarvardandHardshipLLC.com/services

Also, I went into more detail about each point during last night's live. I've included the recording below, so be sure to check that out.

Happy writing!



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