Tips and hints
Here are some tips and hints to consider when assembling your application file.
A well-written personal statement can, in many cases, make the difference between admission and rejection. It therefore should be given its due attention and respect.
Most of the guidelines below are rooted firmly in common sense, and the rest basically involve making your statement interesting to read. If you adopt a levelheaded approach, take your time and ask for help, you will be able to write an effective and successful personal statement.
How to make your personal statement better and how to avoid some common pitfalls:
- Express something personal about yourself that your LSAT score, GPA, and transcripts cannot. Do not use your personal statement to talk about your LSAT score, or a bad semester you had. Do not write your personal statement as a cover letter, elaborating on your resume. Make your personal statement just that – personal. Tell the people reading your application something about yourself that they can’t find readily in another part of your application.
- Make your personal statement memorable, easy to read, and interesting. A good personal statement should have a good opening line or topic paragraph to hook the reader in and make them want the rest of the story. Be careful about how you do this, though. Do not write a flashy opening just to be flashy – make sure that the beginning ties in to the middle and the end.
- Keep your personal statement to 2 pages or less, double spaced – do not write to your heart’s content. Remember that admissions committees will be reading hundreds and maybe thousands of personal statements, so it is best to be concise.
- Write your personal statement in essay format – do not write your personal statement in the form of a poem, song, or other non-prose format. Contrary to what some popular television shows and movies will have you believe, admissions committees do not appreciate free verse, iambic pentameter, haiku, or song parodies, at least not in the context of a personal statement. It is fine to be creative, but avoid being outlandish.
- Open your personal statement with an anecdote or situation that pulls the reader in.
- At some point in your personal statement, clearly express your goals and reasons for wanting to go to law school. A TV show or movie about lawyers is generally not considered a valid reason for pursuing a career in law, so avoid mentioning them in your personal statement. Ideally, your inspiration to go to law school should be rooted in reality, not in a fantasy world. Remember that the people who read your personal statements are lawyers and, having practiced law themselves, understand that there is a big difference between what happens in fiction and what happens in reality.
- Re-read and revise your personal statement at least once, and get at least one other person (not someone in a law school admissions office!) to read it, as well. There is no excuse for spelling and grammatical errors in a personal statement. There is no shame in not knowing how to spell a word; there is shame in being too lazy to look it up. Submitting a personal statement without checking over the basics is like going to a job interview without bothering to fix your hair, shave, or tuck your shirt in. It just shows a general lack of effort, respect, and interest on your part. Admissions professionals at law schools generally do not have time to proofread your personal statement for you or to give you feedback. However, it is a good idea to have friends, family, colleagues, and professors read your personal statement and provide feedback before you submit the final version.
- Do not write your personal statement as a list of all of your employment experiences, activities, and awards. Save this for your resume.
- Be honest. Do not plagiarize your personal statement or get someone else to write your personal statement for you. Do not lie in your personal statement. Plagiarism and dishonesty are unacceptable in law school. If you lie in your personal statement or try to pass off someone else’s work as your own, it is highly likely that you will be caught. If you are, you will be reported to the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) for dishonesty in the admissions process. The LSAC will require documentation on the dishonesty, hold a hearing, and then flag your LSDAS report with a note and a report so that every law school to which you apply will receive information on your attempt at passing off someone else’s work as your own. This could ruin your chances at admission to just about every law school in the country.
- If there is something you need to tell us but can’t fit it in to your personal statement or resume, feel free to send an attachment or addendum. Please keep all attachments and addenda as brief as possible.
- Do not make a video, a PowerPoint, a CD, a DVD, or any other type of multimedia presentation.
- If you feel the need to include the name of the law school to which you are applying in the personal statement, be sure to change the name of the law school if you plan to use the same personal statement for more than one application.
Prompt on application form
If you wish to prepare your personal statement before completing the application, here is the personal statement prompt that appears on our application form:
The personal statement may expand on your application or reveal a side of yourself not expressed on your application. It may include, but need not be limited to 1) how a law school education will further your personal and professional goals; 2) significant personal accomplishments; and 3) special circumstances, if any, that you wish the admissions committee to know as it reviews your file. Avoid clichés, grammatical errors, typographical errors, and plagiarism. The personal statement should be typed, double-spaced, and should be no longer than two pages.
If you have overcome special challenges such as economic hardship, educational deprivation, physical disability, discrimination, assimilation to a different culture/society, or any other disadvantage, please describe those challenges in your personal statement.
Letters of recommendation
The letter of recommendation is a component of the application file that is often downplayed as far as its impact is concerned, but it can make the difference between a deny decision and a wait-list decision, or it could cause an admissions committee to take a candidate off of the wait list and make an admission offer. An investment of time and effort in asking the right people to write recommendations on your behalf could potentially pay big dividends in the end. We do not require letters of recommendation, but most of our applicants get one to three letters of recommendation in support of their applications.
Below are some guidelines that should help somewhat as you seek support in the form of recommendation letters for your application to law school.
- You cannot control the content of your letters of recommendation, but you can control whom you ask to write them. Get your letters of recommendation from people who know you and who have worked closely with you, and who have a high opinion of the work you have done.
- Recommenders are very busy, so plan ahead. Give your recommenders at least a month’s notice when requesting a recommendation. This will ensure that you are not pressed for time when it comes time to actually complete your law school applications.
- If you have been out of college for a significant amount of time, do not worry. Academic recommendations generally are the most desirable type of recommendation, but if you have been out of school and in the workforce for more than a year or two, employer recommendations are usually more relevant and much easier to get. The same applies if you are currently a student but have significant work experience. In this case, it would be good to get at least one academic recommendation and at least one work-related or professional recommendation.
- Avoid “Celebrity Letters.” Some applicants think that if they can get a recommendation letter – any recommendation letter – from a powerful political figure, an attorney, a judge, or prominent alum, they have a “golden ticket” to law school. This is not the case. If the letter is essentially a personal recommendation, it will carry little weight, no matter who writes it. However, if this letter is from someone with whom you have worked very closely and is very detailed with regard to the things you have done for or with this person, it will be a very effective letter because of its substance, not because of its author.
- Give some thought to how you ask for a recommendation. When requesting a letter of recommendation, it is best to do it in person (if possible) and to sit down and have a meeting with your recommender to review the work you have done with that person. If a personal meeting is not possible, a phone call is the next best thing. Try to avoid requesting a recommendation in an e-mail or a letter, as these requests may be easily overlooked.
- Be courteous. After your recommenders write their letters for you, send them a hand written thank-you note or card to thank them for their help.
- Make things as easy as possible on yourself and your recommenders. The LSAC Credential Assembly Service offers an optional letter of recommendation processing service. If you allow the Credential Assembly Service to process your recommendations, this means your recommenders only have to produce one copy of their respective letters and send them to one place, and every school to which you apply will see the same letters as part of your LSDAS report. We highly recommend using the LSAC Credential Assembly Service for the processing of letters of recommendation. Visit www.lsac.org for more information on the Credential Assembly Service.
- Follow the directions. Our application requirements are very straightforward, and when you initiate the online application, you will get a checklist of items that you must submit in order to complete your application. If you read the directions and the checklist very carefully and follow all of the directions, your application experience will go smoothly.
- Pay all of your fees. The University of Akron School of Law does not charge a separate application fee for applications submitted online. However, the LSAC charges fees for the LSAT, the Credential Assembly Service, and additional law school reports not included in the basic Credential Assembly Service fee. Click here for a current schedule of LSAC fees. Failure to pay any of these fees in a timely manner could result in delays in the application review process.
- If possible, structure your application plan according to our timeline. You do not have to complete all of the steps on the timeline in the exact order presented, but doing so tends to offer the smoothest path through the application process.