Monday, May 30, 2016

What In the Heck Am I Going to Write About?

In my last post I listed the many parts that make up a law school application including the personal statement, resume and supplemental essays. I'm going to dedicate this entire post (apologies for its length) to all three of those things especially the personal statement.

Important Side Note: In this post, I have included photo examples. PLEASE DO NOT JUST COPY THEM. You need to make your entire application ORIGINAL & YOUR OWN. I have included them for your benefit but please do not just copy my work because I am here to share my experience and my work is my work... I put a lot of time and effort into it every piece of the application. You should do the same.

The Resume:

My spring semester, senior year, I took a class called "writing for the professions". The course was honestly one of the best that I had ever taken. I learned how to craft professional emails, memos, reports, resumes, cover letters and so much more. I highly recommended taking a course similar to this  if you have the opportunity & your school offers it. I was in class with peers from so many different majors beyond the English major and WE ALL benefited from learning how to create, as well as correspond, through professional documents. 

I would have to say that out of all the documents we worked on, one of the most beneficial was the Resume. Why? Because it applied to my situation right then. I needed one for my for my law school applications. When it comes to crafting a resume, there were many different areas that I struggled with:

1) I had to edit mine multiple times. (& trust me when I say multiple, 
I mean multiple... I'm pretty sure I saved at least 20 different drafts between start and finish)
There was so much fluff to the point were I was almost onto a third page. Resumes are typically a page but if you do go onto a second page its not the end of the world. Just make sure that you're being concise and whatever you include is truly relevant.  
2) I had a hard time writing concisely  - my first couple drafts I felt like I was giving job descriptions that were different from one bullet to the next. My professor pointed out to me that a lot of what I was saying could be done in one or two bullets versus four or five. But I could also do so but cutting down on a lot of the fluff that was there. USE ACTION VERBS TO HELP DESCRIBE. Check out this extremely helpful list of Action Verbs from my Alma Mater. All of this helped with spacing and also forced me to learn to write, describe, explain, etc., in a more concise way.
3) My resume was focused around law school & the applications. So I was highlighting parts of my undergrad career that related to my main focus. But I also included employment, extracurricular activities, projects, etc which took up my time as well. Some of these were tricky because I didn't know how I should describe them.For example I included my most recent summer position as a nanny for work experience... I didn't know what to put down because I couldn't think of ways that it related to what I'd be doing in law school. Though my professor helped by stating that it did in fact  relate because it highlights pieces of my character like being responsible, a leader, etc. etc.

After all is said and done, the best advice that I can give when it comes to the Resume is take the time to make it. Don't rush it. Just like any of the other pieces of the application, its a reflection of your work and dedication to law school (even if it only seems like a small piece of it). Make sure you have someone look over your work too, they can not only catch grammatical errors but they can give some great advice on how to improve your resume. Below I've include a sample template of a resume just so you can get an idea of what it could look like:

The Supplemental Statement:

Some of your schools may require you to do an additional essay on top of the personal statement (some calls these supplemental statements, others use different terms) Now for the schools I applied to (and ones that actually required this additional essay), the supplemental statement required that in so many words I describe Why it is I want to go to THAT SPECIFIC Law School. I made sure to included specifics about the school that drew me to it as well as specifics about the programs or student groups I was interested in. These usually aren't too time consuming or difficult. But like everything else be sure to take your time with it. Don't just give some generic answer, make it personal and from you.. not just stuff you can find on their website. Here are a few examples:

The Personal Statement:

The personal statement is something that you really need to take your time with. This statement is one of the only places where you have the opportunity to tell admissions about yourself and let your individual voice be heard. What's written between the lines is going to prove that you are more than just what your GPA, LSAT Score or Questionnaire define you as you; its a chance to make up for potential weaknesses in other areas of your application as well. This is your one opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants and use your own voice to do so. TAKE THE TIME TO MAKE IT WORTH IT!

I spent about a month and a half on my Personal Statement. Although those 6 weeks didn't feel like enough time, especially as my date to submit moved close and closer. I really struggled at first with my topic because I didn't feel like at this point in life, I had accomplished anything too out of the ordinary, or even faced a hardship that others haven't faced.
I'm unfortunately one of those people that has to write out what they are going to type beforehand (some days it' seriously the most frustrating thing). I probably re-wrote just the beginning of my paper about five times before I found something I actually approved of and there were countless drafts that followed after I got my focus down...

How do I choose a topic? 

Well first, you need to check to make sure the school you are applying to doesn't require you to focus on anything specific within your personal statement. Some of mine did, others didn't. I made sure to save a separate Personal Statement for each school so that I wouldn't mix them up. Also MAKE SURE YOU CHECK THE PAGE LENGTH REQUIRED & DO NOT GO OVER IT. Most schools require no more than 2 -3 pages, but definitely check up on it and stick to that length.

As for topics, you can really write about anything (not unicorns and rainbows , something related to the point of the application). When you decide on you topic or points of interest, DRAFT IT OUT. I had so many drafts, and the beauty of this is after re writing it over and over I was able to pull bits and pieces from each draft and eventually I had a finished product that pulled from almost all of them.

Side Note: For more information check out these helpful Personal Statement Tips

Once you do that... Proof read. Proof read. Proof read. I cant stress the importance of this enough. One tip that I have learned to love is to read your piece out loud. It helps with grammatical errors, weird sentences, and even just hearing what you wrote can help immensely. BUT DON'T STOP THERE, I had many many people read through my paper. Friends, family, past teachers. They were all more than willing to read through, edit & give great advice. Any little bit helped and I eventually had a finished product that I was truly proud to hand over.

Side Note: If you have a personal statement that you need a second pair of eyes to peer-review, I would be more than happy to help out if I can! Feel free to email me!

So what do I write about? 

For mine, I talked about my entire journey when it comes to pursuing law school. I began with the initial dream of becoming a lawyer from my childhood admiration of a fictional character, to the curiosity which led to me to enroll in undergraduate law courses. These courses then created a burning desire for something I could not satisfy at a desk but instead through an internship. That internship burned out the light that burned strong for criminal law; it was through my time as an athlete & English major that a new flame ignited for sports and entertainment law.

All of these were great pieces of my journey that I felt have created my identity. These are things that you wouldn't learn from my GPA, LSAT score or even from my questionnaire or resume. My personal statement became my voice that I deemed important in my law school journey, the voice that I wanted admission committees to hear. I could only hope that it would be heard and accepted.

Hopefully I have answered any questions you have about Resumes, Supplemental Statements & the Personal Statement. If you feel that there is something  I have missed or you have questions about, please please please comment or email me!
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