Archive for the ‘Personal Statement’ Category

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Personal Statement Tips

March 1, 2010

I still have not heard from DU or CU about whether I have been accepted, so no news there yet.

I have noticed in my “top searches” a lot of hits from people looking for personal statement advice, so I’m going to use this down-time to see what help I can provide regarding this.

I do need to emphasize (again) that I am no expert, and honestly, I may never know how well my own personal statement is received. I haven’t posted anything about my own personal statement because I’m a little paranoid about plagiarism and don’t want anyone to copy mine. But what I can do is give you the general gist. I’m sure there are a lot of women in a position similar to mine who could relate, so this one’s for you.

Set yourself apart.
With the personal statement, the trick is to differentiate yourself from all the other applicants. This can be pretty tricky if you’re like me: a middle-class white woman who hasn’t faced any earth-shattering challenges (yet). I imagine it’s even more difficult for white males. You don’t want to take something trite and make it sound like a bigger deal than it is. Yet you want to impress the admissions board with some tale of heroic achievement. Where to begin?

First of all, if you have overcome any real challenges, that is where you start. It could be the death of a parent, the loss of a job, dealing with an illness, fighting with an insurance company — anything that you can use to leverage your way into the admissions board’s heart and mind.

If you’re like me and are blessed by no deaths in the immediate family, no job loss, good health, and so forth, it can be a little trickier. In my case, I ultimately settled on addressing the fact that it took me 11 years to finish my undergrad degree. This may not be an obvious choice, but for me, finishing my degree at the age of 32 was really the slingshot that threw me into the law school madness. I decided to spin what appeared to be a bad decision on my part initially into an actual benefit that changed the course of my life.

Go with what comes naturally.
In your case, you’ve probably been thinking about a topic for a while. Write down everything you think of and stew on it. Write down opening sentences. Write down “zingers.” Write down every angle you could take. You will probably find yourself being attracted to one specific life event; that is the one you need to write about. It will come most naturally, and you will feel more passionately about that than something else you may think the board wants to hear.

Remember Composition 101? They were on to something.
Coming up with the topic is the hard part. Now you’ll have to write it. If nothing else, use good basic writing. Make sure your spelling and grammar are perfect. Use an outline and stick to it. Intro with thesis, supporting paragraphs, conclusion with restatement of thesis. You learned this in Composition 101. A rep from DU told how the dean was ticked off when someone didn’t capitalize “Denver.” Those are mistakes you can’t afford to make.

Keep it interesting.
The admissions board undoubtedly reads a lot of dry essays. I wrote mine in a story-like tone, keeping the language simple and flowing. I didn’t use a lot of big words to show how intelligent I am. My goal was to engage their interest with the very first sentence and to keep them reading till the end. I wanted to make it fun for them, not a chore. I inserted a little humor without being unprofessional. I also wanted to come across as someone who may have made “mistakes” but is comfortable with who she is.

Get your essay reviewed.
I had several people read my essay. When they were nitpicking at commas, I knew that the content was pretty good. I should have taken advantage of Regis’s writing center, but I didn’t. If you have access to a pre-law advisor or writing center, USE IT. They will tell you where you need improvement. Mine was reviewed by people who know me very well, a professional technical writer, and a colleague. I made sure to get a green light from all of them.

From here on out, I’ll just kind of run down how I wrote out my essay. Perhaps someone will gain a little inspiration from it. :)

Paragraph 1: I immediately addressed my “mistake” of not finishing my college degree on schedule and set up the rest of the essay by implying that was actually “the right thing at the right time.”

Paragraph 2: I did not go into WHY I didn’t finish undergrad on time; that’s not the point. The point is how the intervening years shaped my life and ambitions, and gave me the confidence to tackle law school – something I wasn’t ready for eleven years ago.

Paragraphs 3-4: I talked about my career and how I benefitted from that.

Paragraph 5: I set up how becoming a stay-at-home mom changed my life (but this is NOT about the kids–I felt that talking about “how becoming a mom changed my life” would come across as insincere and insipid. Besides, that would have taken my essay totally off course.). I took on two significant leadership roles during this time that helped prepare me for law school/career.

Paragraph 6: I told how I assumed a major leadership role in my freelance editing position–I really wanted to emphasize how adult this role was, and send the message that I Am a Leader. (Leadership was really my overriding theme.)

Paragraph 7: I told how my volunteer position as a Girl Scout troop leader further shaped me as a leader and added a bit of humor. I showed how I have really dealt with the nuts and bolts of dealing with people on an intimate level while trying to keep order and harmony whilst pursuing real goals. I also added this to show that while I was a SAHM, I wasn’t just sitting around watching Oprah all the time. I was actively involved in my community.

Paragraph 8: I shifted focus on my desire to go back to work, finally finishing that college degree, and how doing that shaped my ambitions to become a lawyer.

Paragraph 9: I reminded them that if I had finished undergrad school on schedule, none of the events they’d just read about would have taken place. I would not have acquired the skills, confidence, focus and direction that I have now. This is why finishing college 11 years late was actually a good thing — for me.

Paragraph 10: I concluded my essay by restating my thesis and telling how I plan to use a law degree to continue my community involvement and leadership, just on another level.

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Doing the Dirty Deed

January 5, 2010

Yep, I did it. I officially applied to law school. I decided my personal essay was finally good enough, proofread the applications, resume and addendums, and sent those suckers off. I am still missing one letter of recommendation, but I decided to go ahead and get the applications off and attach the LOR when it finally gets posted to LSAC.

I did that yesterday. And wouldn’t you know it, but DU sent me a marketing email today (finally!) offering to waive my application fee. Urgh! I don’t know how kosher it is, but I sent them an email asking if it’s possible to get my fee refunded in light of their offer.

Oddly enough, I got another email from DU giving me a link to track my application status (different departments, obviously). That’s pretty cool. For CU, I have to send in a certification letter and check via snail mail, so I’m not expecting to get any response from them until they log that.

So, save for the missing LOR, I’m el done-o with the whole application process. Whew! It was brutal, eh. Next step is to wait, wait, wait for a yea or nay!

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Rough Draft

December 29, 2009

of personal statement is finally done. Editing process is going well. Still have to shave 29 words off and fit it onto two pages (it’s getting there).

Still waiting on 2nd LOR to come through. It’s been two weeks since I was informed he mailed it. Is it supposed to take this long?!

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Brainstorming

November 17, 2009

That darn personal statement is the ultimate thorn in my side. Even so, I am happy to report some progress! I sort of knew what direction I wanted to go with it, but wasn’t sure it was right. Wouldn’t want to make the wrong impression, you know. A little Facebook chat with my mom confirmed for me that I should go with it. If the same “challenges” stood out to her as were compelling me, then it is a theme I can run with.

A few months ago I jotted down lots of ideas, many of them disconnected and disjointed, but if you’ve ever brainstormed then you know how important it is to get those ideas down on paper before you forget them. I’ve been doing the same thing the last couple of days with a little more focus. Interestingly, going back and reading them in hindsight, the snippets I wrote about my “challenge” were by far the best and most interesting things I wrote down. They flowed and didn’t seem forced.

And now I’m ready to organize my thoughts. I’ve got a pretty catchy opening statement in mind, a thesis and supporting statements. Those are the bones, and now all I have to do is flesh it out. I’m happy that I’m finally getting somewhere with this! Some good planning should make it a strong essay. That English degree might not be good for much, but it sure comes in handy when writing essays to specialize in something else!

After all that writing will come loads of editing, of course, not to mention peer review. Settling on a subject was my biggest hurdle, and now that that’s cleared I can focus. Now to face my next hurdle — procrastination.

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First investment

June 3, 2009

I plunked down my first chunk of change towards law school this evening. I finally managed to get over to LSAC.org (Law School Admission Council), which is basically a central location for law school applicants to work from. I paid $121 to register for the LSDAS Credential Assembly Service, and $134 to register to take the LSAT. September 26 is the big day. I’ve got a little less than four months to get ready.

The LSDAS is a place where you enter your school information, gather letters of recommendation, and send transcripts. They then assemble a report on you and send it to the law schools to which you are applying, or those that ask for it. It automates a lot of things and makes it easier on the law schools.

I had a slight hiccup recently when I discovered that the transcript I’d sent from MSCD to my alma mater, Evangel, a year ago did not come through. I requested a new one be sent nearly two weeks ago. I won’t know if it arrived until next week, when Evangel’s registrar returns from her vacation. My Regis transcript did go through, though, and I’m thrilled about that! So my degree is delayed a few weeks because of MSCD, but I’m hoping next week it will be resolved.

Those are three A’s that will be added to my 3.5 GPA at Evangel. It won’t change my GPA by much, but it can’t get any worse!

I’ve decided that everyone should at least take a course or two in their 30s. Taking that class and finally getting my degree is so much more intensely important and gratifying to me than when I was 20.

As to my progress since my last post, well … there isn’t any. I’m kind of stumped on my personal statement. I have written down a lot of ideas, and every time I have a flash of insight or inspiration, I write it down in case I want to use it later. That’s about all I can do right now. It will take me several months to get things formulated in my head. Here’s the requirement as described by CU:

REQUIRED PERSONAL ESSAY: At Colorado Law, we strive to enroll students who advance our core values of character, diversity, leadership, and commitment to service. Explain how admitting you to Colorado Law will contribute to this goal. The personal statement should be no longer than 1,000 words.

Should be easy, right? Ha. DU’s is less explicit, which means I can likely use the same personal statement for both schools, as long as I make it good.

As for preparing for the LSAT, I admit I haven’t done much of that. I’ve read over a sample test, and three of the four parts look very do-able. I feel confident I can do well on those parts. But the “Analytical Reasoning” part — yikes. I have to work at it, and the only thing I can really do is practice. I’ve been feeling the urge to get going on that, so once the kids are out of school I will be spending more time on that. I have no choice, really.

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First Steps

May 13, 2009

There probably won’t be many updates through the summer, mainly because there aren’t a lot of “action items” I have to do during that time. Things will take off in the fall. My assignments for this summer are:

1) Prepare for the LSAT. The idea is to take many practice tests and brush up on my weak areas so that I’m ready for it in October.

2) Write my personal statement. I’ve started jotting down ideas already, and I need to get a really solid one written by August or September to include with my applications. I expect this to be challenging — not the writing part, but the coming-up-with-a-compelling-story part.

I won’t know until I get the results back from the LSAT whether I even have a prayer of getting into law school. I’m shooting for at least a 170 (highest possible score is 180). It’s ambitious, but heck, I want to get in, y’know? So that’s what I’ll be up to for the next while.