Essays explaining problems

Some questions require a lengthy answer only if you answer "yes" to a preliminary question, such as, "Have you ever taken a leave of absence?" Your answers to some of these questions may be included in your personal statement; others will not. If the topic of your personal statement lends itself to including the answer, do so. 

If your file will need more than two separate notes, you should probably change the topic of your personal statement. On my own applications, for instance, I had to explain breaks in my academic career, disabilities, one academic probation, and attending two colleges. It would have been pointless to include an essay about how my philosophy major affected my view of the world with four explanatory notes about other subjects. Instead, I wrote of the circumstances of my life: dropping out of school to work when my father had a heart attack, being injured at work, attending school part-time between surgeries and full-time afterward, trying to do too much and suffering academically. The admissions committee thus saw a full picture of my life, instead of receiving the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that they had to assemble.

Applicants often let their desire to answer "no" instead of "yes" affect their interpretation of a question. For instance, an applicant may feel that withdrawing mid-semester doesn't count as taking a leave of absence. Feeling better when completing the applications doesn't offset feeling worse when the rejection letters come in — or when the law school declares the file incomplete — or when the Board of Law Examiners tells you they're holding a Fit Moral Character hearing because you misrepresented yourself on your application.

Anne Richard has offered to answer any arrest and moral character questions for you. If there's any doubt whatsoever, call her.


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