University of Wisconsin–Madison

What Is the Goal of a Personal Statement?

FIRST, and most importantly, the personal statement is your primary writing sample. In fact, it may be one of only two writings that the admissions committees will receive from you—the other being the LSAT writing sample that you composed in a mere 35 minutes. Admissions committees want to know whether you are a strong writer, and they will evaluate your personal statement through this lens. Well-written personal statements should not only demonstrate that you are proficient in your use of the English language but should also demonstrate that you can be logical, persuasive, engaging, and concise.

SECOND, at most law schools, the personal statement is a proxy for an interview. Only a handful of law schools offer interviews to applicants. For all other law schools, the personal statement is typically the only opportunity that the admissions committee has to get to know something more personal about you than is reflected elsewhere in your application. It is called a personal statement for a reason. It should make admissions committee members feel as though they have met you, and ideally, they will like who they met.

THIRD, the personal statement gives the admissions committee greater insight into your critical thinking abilities. Are you able to reflect on your life experiences and identify how one or more of those experiences has impacted you in some meaningful way? Critical thinking is an essential quality for law students and lawyers, and admissions committees want to see you demonstrate that ability in your personal statement.

FOURTH, the personal statement may give admissions committees a sense of your motivations for attending law school. Was your decision to apply well reasoned or was it a result of not knowing what else to do after college? Admissions committees prefer to admit applicants who have come to the reasoned conclusion that law is the best career path for them.

FIFTH, the personal statement can be a form of tie-breaker for applicants with similar numbers and experiences. An applicant who has demonstrated critical thinking, persuasiveness, and writing ability may have the upper hand.

Finally, the personal statement is potential and needed relief for admissions committees that review thousands of applications over the course of the admissions cycle. The other components of the application, while useful, can be dry and fatiguing to review in bulk. The personal statement is the one document that can bring life to an application file. Take advantage of that opportunity and give the admissions committees an engaging statement. It doesn’t need to be the great American novel, but it should at least give admissions committees a pleasant break from the rest of the application review process. They will thank you.