One of the biggest keys to a stress-free law school application process is to start early. Most applications open during the month of September. Unfortunately, that is also when most undergraduate students begin fall classes and many applicants take the LSAT. It is safe to say that stress levels for prospective law students are high in September.
You can spend the summer preparing for the LSAT and begin writing law school essays immediately after the test, or you can begin drafting your essays during the summer, take an 8-10 week break to prepare for the LSAT, then resume the writing process. I found that after taking a break from writing and revising, I came back with a newer perspective that allowed me to read my personal statement objectively. (Even though you are essentially writing an essay from a subjective point of view, it is helpful to edit your essays with the objective perspective that the admissions officers will read it with.)
This brings me to the importance of getting your statements proofread by several people. Ask your mentors, professors or current law students to proofread your personal statements. I recommend having your essay proofread by at least 3 people who are not related to you. I was often told not to rely on your parents to proofread your personal statements. Of course, many parents are biased in favor of their child and cannot proofread their child’s personal statement from a completely objective standpoint. However, a personal statement is your chance to tell the admissions officers how awesome you are. I found that discussing my statements with my parents encouraged me to include the positive qualities that I would have otherwise overlooked. Nevertheless, remember to be discerning during this process. You should be looking for constructive criticism from anyone who reads your essays rather than pure praise. It is important to encourage constructive criticism because a lenient proofreading will likely lead to bypassed errors.
Now if you already have a list of potential readers, you are in great shape. If only one potential reader comes to mind, there is still hope. One of the benefits of beginning the writing process early is that you have ample time to connect with someone who can help you revise and rewrite your statements dozens of times. Legal internships are a great way to establish new mentors and seek advice from current law students and lawyers who can assist with proofreading your statements.
One of the many myths about the law school application process is that one personal statement can be applied to several schools. After I prepared my “prototype” personal and diversity statements, I expected the applications to be a breeze. However, I quickly learned that each school has different demands for the applicant’s personal statement and each application, when proofreading several times, takes about a week before it is complete. Do not rush the proofreading process! I learned the importance of proofreading after the heart dropping moments when I submitted an essay with a typo and submitted my first draft in lieu of my final draft. Please, learn from my mistakes rather than your own.
If you are applying to a range of schools, which I highly recommend, you may have to do a little more than just tweak your essays here and there. Each school poses a slightly different question for their personal statements. One school may ask how your life experiences have led you to study law, while another school asks how you will contribute a diverse perspective to their student body. Depending on the applicant, the most effective answers to these questions will require a moderately different essay.
Lastly, I want to stress the importance of writing a diversity statement. Create a diversity statement that will enhance your overall application. With that being said, create a diversity statement that compliments, rather than reiterates, your personal statement. Law schools are looking to add diversity to their programs. The diversity statement is an opportunity to show the admissions officers what makes you stand out amongst thousands of other applicants. If your race/ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, or socio-economic status has influenced your academic or professional career, write about it! Consider writing a diversity statement about how you have overcome hardships because of your circumstances or how you have gained a unique perspective that will enrich the quality of the law school. Simply stated, show the admissions officers how you are different from the average applicant and how those differences will make you an asset to the law school.
♥ Kayla J. Phillips