Two Most Common Optional Essays

(1) Diversity Statement
A “diversity statement” is a common type of optional essay that encourages applicants to reflect on any personal diversity that they may contribute if selected as a member of the incoming class. The most important thing to realize is that “diversity” is interpreted broadly by law school admissions offices and is not limited to race or ethnicity. Diversity includes any element of your identity, circumstances, or experiences that you believe may give you a diverse perspective from fellow classmates or a different lens through which you view the world. Relevant types of diversity may include (but are not limited to) race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religious identification, sexual orientation, military experience, single parenting, nontraditional age, underrepresented major (e.g., STEM majors), or first-generation student status.

It is not, however, sufficient to merely identify a type of diversity. You should go one step further and articulate (1) how that diversity has impacted you personally and (2) why it may give you a unique perspective that enriches the law school class. It is not easy to articulate why your diversity matters, so it may take significant time to prepare a solid first draft. If you don’t feel that you have a meaningful type of diversity, then don’t submit a diversity statement. More importantly, don’t stress about not submitting a diversity statement! It is truly an optional statement and you will not be penalized for choosing not to submit one.

(2) Why “X Law School”?
Many law schools offer applicants the opportunity to use a separate “Why ‘X Law School’?” essay in order to articulate specific reasons why the applicant believes the school would be a strong fit. Presumably, if you are applying to a school, there were reasons that led you to apply to that school above other similarly situated law schools. So if a school permits such an essay, you should make the effort to write one. Start first by identifying your actual reasons for applying, then do more research. What classes would you be most interested in taking? What clinics interest you? Does the school have a particular focus or philosophy that you appreciate (e.g., law and economics, law in action)? Does the school place a significant number of graduates in the area in which you are most interested (e.g., public interest law, “big law”)? Does it have smaller class sizes than the average law school? By providing evidence of your strong interest in a school and of an appropriate fit, you can increase your likelihood of admission. So do your research, but don’t just regurgitate information from the website or other sources. Internalize the information, and reflect on why that information is important to you. If you truly can’t find something substantive to say about the school, reconsider applying there.