- The personal statement as an interview
- You must convey:
- That you are competent to do the job
- That you are organized
- That you are prepared for the interview
- That you are capable of following directions
- That you are “well dressed”
- That you have an interest in the particular school
- That you will fit in with the student body
- Who you are
- That you are a pleasure to have around
Your Image Isn’t Everything… It’s The Only Thing!
Direct Applicant Input As Image Control And Development
Your application file is your interview for law school. Your objective in an interview is to create positive images about yourself. Therefore, all forms of direct applicant input should be aimed at image development and control.
Inside Perspective – The content and development of many personal statements suggests that the applicant doesn’t realize that they serve as a replacement for an interview.
Think Of The Personal Statement As A Job Interview
Imagine that you are at a job interview. You want to project a positive image of being: competent to do the job, organized, prepared for the interview, capable of following directions, well dressed, interested in that job and company, and “fitting in” with the company. This can be achieved only if you present yourself in a way that the interviewer gets to know you. You would want the interviewer to think that you would be a pleasure to work with. Finally, all information that you convey during the interview must be consistent with any other information that the interviewer has about you! All components of your application file must be consistent and work together to create a positive image where the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Inside Perspective – You must use your personal statement to sell yourself to the school. Thorough preparation and thought are essential for a well written personal statement.
Competent To Do The Job
Law schools are academic institutions. Schools seek applicants with the ability to do their academic work. For most applicants, this will be established by grades and [SAT scores. Do not use the personal statement to simply repeat your transcript of grades and LSAT scores.
Inside Perspective – If your numbers place you on the borderline between acceptance and rejection at a school that uses subjective factors in its admissions decisions, then your personal statement will be scrutinized with care for evidence that you can do law school work.
We will spend more time later on how to organize personal statements. A well organized file, autobiographical sketch, and personal statement will depict a sensible and clear minded person.
Inside Perspective – If your essay is carefully organized and unified, it will be natural for the readers to assume you are a neat and careful person.
Prepared For The Interview
All forms of direct applicant input should show evidence that it has been written to satisfy the specific requirements of that school. If you are applying in something other than the regular category (for example the mature student category), make it clear why you satisfy the requirements of that category!
Inside Perspective – A big mistake made by applicants is not explaining why they are applying in the special category.
Capable Of Following Directions
Answer the precise question asked. For example there is a difference between a question that asks you to explain why you want to attend law school and a question that asks you why you would make a good lawyer.
Inside Perspective – Our personal statement requires applicants to tell us why they want a law degree. Too many applicants simply review what they think are their positive qualities for admission without explaining what they think society will get back if a scarce resource is allocated to them.
Inside Perspective – A big mistake is failing to read and follow simple directions in organizing the application.
Pay special attention to any requirements respecting length. George Bernard Shaw once apologized to a friend for having written such a long letter. He commented that he hadn’t had time to write a short one. There is no virtue in length.
Inside Perspective – By far the biggest mistake is that applicants provide statements that are too long. It is a mistake to think that sheer length is an asset; the readers of these statements are more interested in concise presentations.
Your personal statement or autobiographical sketch must be beautiful! There is no room for a single typo or grammatical error. Use a font that is visually pleasing. The key is readability. A font size of 11 or 1 2 pitch is best. Allow yourself plenty of time. The best personal statements are developed slowly and deliberately over a reasonable period of time. They are subjected to numerous revisions and refined to perfection. Have your work reviewed by a friend or associate. Ask, what image(s) does it convey?
Inside Perspective – “…spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are a personal pet peeve of mine which I find particularly annoying, especially when I read approximately 1200 applications a year.”
Showing An Interest In That School
Inside Perspective – One law school admissions director at “school X” revealed that they receive many personal statements in which the applicant says he is looking forward to attending “school Y” the following year. This is a very careless error… Avoid it!
If a school has a particular program that attracts you to that school make it clear that you are interested in that program!
Will You Fit In With The Student Body?
In the back of the mind of any admissions director is the question: can I see this person at our school?
Is The Reader Getting To Know You?
Direct applicant input is about you. It must be a reflection of your personality. It must make you come to life as a person. Without direct applicant input the admissions director will not have you in sharp focus. A well written personal statement will bring you into focus – bring you to life. An application file without an autobiographical sketch and/or personal statement is like seeing the applicant on black and white television. The personal statement should move the applicant to living color!
Inside Perspective – A big mistake is that many statements are vague and provide no real information about specific characteristics of the applicant.
Pleasure To Have Around
How do you know if you have written a good personal statement? If after reading your personal statement the reader thinks:
- 1. I have a strong sense of who the person is; and
- 2. I would like to meet that person. Then you have done a good job.
Inside Perspective – A director of a law school admissions committee that interviews applicants once suggested to me that some applicants are given interviews because the personal statement has made the applicant an interesting and likable person.
The Consistency Requirement
The admissions director will look at the complete file for the purpose of trying to get an impression of you. All parts of the file must fit together properly. The Individual components should create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. While writing your personal statement and/or autobiographical sketch ask if it fits well with the other components of your complete file.
The above has been reproduced and/or adapted from Mastering The Personal Statement by John Richardson. Copyright remains with the author.
Copyright © 1998, John Richardson. All Rights Reserved.