University of Wisconsin–Madison

Good Advice from Law School Admissions Deans

“You could approach the personal statement as your opportunity to have ‘an interview’ with an admissions officer. If you had fifteen minutes, what question do you hope would be asked? What story would you tell? What do you hope the interviewer would remember about you? The best statements are heartfelt, sincere, straightforward and above all, beautifully written.”
Ken Kleinrock, Associate Dean for Admissions, NYU Law

“We…look favorably upon applicants who can be a bit reflective in the personal statement—they not only describe their life experiences, but how those experiences shaped them and why they are important. How have those experiences influenced the applicant and, perhaps, helped define his or her goals and aspirations. You either have this insight or you don’t. If you are able to draft this type of essay, it can be extremely powerful because it shows that you might have a more sophisticated view of the world and your role in it.”
Bill Hoye, Associate Dean of Admissions, Duke University School of Law

“I think that the biggest error in judgment that an applicant might make is to talk too much in their personal statement. It is so much more effective for an applicant to be concise, say what they have to say, make their point, and then stop talking.”
Andrew Cornblatt, Dean of Admissions, Georgetown Law

“It is fairly obvious to us when an applicant tries to be someone or something s/he is not, which is not only off-putting, but can also cast a shadow of doubt on other parts of your application. Be sure that when you talk about future goals, e.g., saving Alaskan whales, it is because you have a demonstrated interest in doing so and not simply because you might have gone on an Alaskan whale watching cruise. We really want to know you—who you are and what motivates you, albeit in two pages or less.”
Nkonye Iwerebon, Dean of Admissions, Columbia Law School