DeLoggio Education Consulting

Selection of and Preparation for College and Professional Programs

Essays: the Most Individual Factor

 

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Essays. Note the plural.
Many applicants see multiple essay questions as a burden. Some of these people are simply fools; the others, who know that these essays are an opportunity rather than a burden, and still don't want to complete them, don't deserve the school at all.

Every essay is one more chance to sell yourself to an institution that doesn't need you, but that you want really badly. After all, you're spending a ton of time and money applying. If you thought that you could go and visit and spend four hours talking to them, and those four hours would convince them to admit you, then you should be equally willing to spend four hours on that "optional" essay. I tell my clients that "optional" means "only if you really want to go here."

Many people confuse a personal statement with a statement of purpose. Some schools are nice enough to explain the difference carefully, and there's sure to be a link here to some of those schools. In general, however, the personal statement is your chance to tell the school what a great, interesting, and motivated person you are, while a statement of purpose is your chance to show them why their school is the right one for you.

Sometimes a single essay cannot explain everything an admissions officer needs to know about you.

  • Most schools offer you the opportunity to discuss your background either as part of the diversity you will bring to the law school or as evidence of the obstacles you have overcome in order to succeed as much as you have thus far.

  • Responses to questions about arrests, academic probation, and leaves of absence often require an extensive answer.

  • In other cases, the law school specifically asks other questions:

    • why do you want to be a lawyer,

    • what is your proudest personal achievement,

    • why do you want to attend our school?

In those cases, supplemental essays must be written to give the admissions officer the information they request. Each of these essays is another occasion for you to present the picture of yourself that you want the admissions committee to see. It's your best chance to give them a reason to say "yes" to your application; don't waste it.

What Goes Where?

Frequently, people send me an essay that they call a personal statement, and tell me they don't know what to say about their diversity, or their grades. I look at what they've written and tell them, "You've got it backwards; this IS your diversity statement. What you don't have is a personal statement."

When I work with clients, I get them to write me their whole life story. Then I pull out what is needed to answer application questions:

  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • What happened to your grades?
  • What's your family's diversity?
  • Why do you want to be a lawyer?

What's left is your personal statement. It comes last, not first.


Quora Copyrighted Materials

All the links below this box are owned jointly by Loretta DeLoggio and Quora. Be sure to follow the Copyright rules for both organizations when using this material.

What Not to Say in an Essay

Essays: the Most Important Part of your File

You’re only as Good as your Essay

On Integrity, Intelligence, and Success

Please, Not That Essay Again!

But I Need More Space!

Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!

Is it okay to copy and paste my personal stateent unto UCAS without spaces?

How do I become more s pecific about the topic on what am I going to write about on my essay?

Personal Statements

There is so much confusion about what a good personal statement should say that every few years I wind up writing a sample personal statement. The set of personal statements included here are all essays I've written about my own life for the benefit of my students. My purpose is to show the three things that every personal statement should accomplish:

  • The essay should actually feel like you to yourself and your friends.
  • The essay should be actually interesting to someone who doesn't know you – something a person would read if he or she found in a magazine.
  • The essay should have a point; it should be a good story, but also a story with a moral.
All of the personal statements attached here have been written by me and are about my life. In other answers, I may quote a sentence or paragraph from an unnamed student whom I may have worked with 30 years ago. But all of the complete personal statements are my own, and do not divulge any confidential information that is proprietary to anyone else.

How to Write a Personal Statement

Choosing Your Personal Statement Topic ("Cut my meat" essay – partly diversity)

Personal Statements — How Personal?

The Best Personal Statement -- "Mom"

Yet Another Personal Statement, more undergrad, perhaps

"Tattoo" Sample Personal Statement

What did you write in your admission essay for college?

What should I write in a personal statement if there are not much impressive things that I've achieved?

Is it too cliché to write about friendship in a college essay about what matters to me?

Diversity and Adversity

A typical personal statement tells a story about some part of your life that expresses who you are. But many parts of your life are not personal to you; they are part of your heritage, your family, or where you grew up. A person who grew up in Chicago lived a very different life from someone who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains; and a person who grew up near Chicago's Miracle Mile lived a very different life who grew up on the South Side with "Bad Bad Leroy Brown."

The reason these aren't quite "personal" statements is that everyone who grew up in that neighborhood could tell approximately the same story if you grew up in the projects, everyone around you went to the same bed school, had the same run-ins with the police, had the same likelihood of being killed in a drive-by shooting. And so did the kids who grew up in East LA or in the Bronx. And if you were privileged and wealthy, the differences between the stories of people who grew up on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and those who grew up on Beacon Street in Boston would differ only in how old the mansion was. That's why diversity statements, although an important aspect of your life story, are not quite the same as personal statements, and are generally separate essays that you are permitted to include.

Adversity statements are slightly different. They to tend to have certain similarities; the lives of our paraplegics, or all blind people, or all poor people, tend to be limited in certain typical and stereo typical ways. Again, they are important to explaining your life, but in themselves, they are not necessarily very different.

That's why the real importance of a diversity or adversity statement is not in telling the story, but in telling what you learned from it, or how it helps make you the person you are today. Every paraplegic had to learn to live with a wheelchair and with medical aid; but only a few learned to mount their wheelchair to a snowboard and continue with their favorite hobby. It is that special story or life lesson, the uniquely individual aspect of your life that is different from everyone else who grew up in your circumstances that makes these essays brilliant instead of commonplace. My client who was run over by a train and lost both legs was, in many ways, like a lot of other disabled people. But the fact that he took the insurance settlement and bought an airplane and learned to fly showed that his body may have become limited, but he refused to allow his spirit to be deprived as well.

Play the Diversity Card!

Essays about Obstacles You've Overcome

Tragedies are Forgiven -- or Not.

How to Explain Community College

"Why our school?"

I don't know how many ways there are to say that the right essay can turn our "maybe" into "yes," but that's especially true in answering any questions about why you want to attend that school.

Although part of your answer may refer to city, climate, family in the region, etc., at least half of it should focus on the school itself. You can talk about facilities, students, programs, but you cannot be superficial or generic. The good answers are about five clicks deep on the school's web page. And if you're going to name a program or group, you should have something very specific to say about why it is important to you.

Don't think you can get away with saying, "the mock trial team sounds really interesting," because easily 100 colleges will have a mock trial team. Instead, be prepared to talk about the amount of faculty men touring the team gets, the number of competitions they enter, the number of awards or trophies they've taken home; and connected to a reason that it's important to you – either that you did the Lincoln Douglas debates in high school, or that you hope to attend law school after college. But if you can't give the reason why you're interested in mock trial and the reason why the school's mock trial team is special, then you should be talking about mock trial.

How do I nail the “why Duke, Stanford and Hamilton” essays?

 


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