3 Things I Learned From Writing My Personal Statement

3 Things I Learned From Writing My Personal StatementThis week we welcome 1L Justine Huang to talk about the process of writing her personal statement.

If you are applying to law school for the next cycle, chances are you’re working through or putting the finishing touches on your personal statement. For me, the personal statement was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but I can now appreciate the process as a continuous lifelong journey of growth and self-reflection. Here are three things I learned from the writing process.

1. Start Early!

Plan ahead – writing will likely take longer than you think! I started brainstorming during the summer and didn’t finalize it until November, after multiple rounds of editing and rewrites. Check out these helpful time management tips in carving out time and planning a schedule.

2. Prioritize Quality Over Quantity And Embrace Your Inner Passion

Your personal statement delves into your “why” for pursuing the law. This will require you to dig deep. I started out by jotting on a blank piece of paper all my life experiences, in no particular order, and how they led me to want to pursue the law. After all my thoughts were exhausted, I began looking for connections to craft my story. However, I soon realized that brainstorming is a continuous process — I found myself continuing to shift and piece things together while going on a run or sitting quietly by a lake.

Try to write when you’re feeling most inspired. If your calendar tells you to write from 8-10 a.m. everyday, and you wake up one morning on the wrong side of the bed, you don’t have to write! What’s important is not the amount of time spend in front of a computer, but your clarity on how you got to where you are today and where you envision yourself five or ten years later. Remember, the reader is just as interested in your past as the impact you want to make in the world in the future!

The personal statement is your personal story. The goal is to ensure that the reader remembers you as an individual human being. For me, this was much easier said than done. Don’t shy away from sharing what you were thinking and feeling as you were going through an experience. What intrigued or outraged you? What does that say about you as a person? Specific stories with lots of detail and imagery are your friend. Ask yourself, can another person have written this? Try reading your essay out loud or recording yourself and see how it sits. Note the emotions you feel as you read. What does it look like to share your story with someone? Do you get excited as you read or write your essay? Make sure your personality shines through, as that is what allows the reader to get to know you as a person.

3. Get Feedback From People Whose Opinions You Value (But Take Everyone’s Advice With A Grain Of Salt)

Once you have a draft that you feel good about, it’s time to start sharing it with people you trust. Writing a personal statement is not a linear process —I kept going back and forth on what to leave out and what to add, and I consulted my family way too much. Eventually I realized I needed to stop taking their word as gospel and started finding a balance between listening to my gut on when an essay “feels” right while not trusting myself as the end-all-be-all.

Seek feedback from a range of people you value – professors, friends, roommates, law school students and alumni, colleagues, mentors, career counselors, family members – but remember to take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt. I’m incredibly indebted to the hours people devoted to giving me honest feedback and making my personal statement stronger. Sometimes I worried that I was taking too much of their time and that they wouldn’t be interested, but I was surprised how much people want to be a part of the journey and help in any way they can. You don’t have to (and should not) go this alone!

While the personal statement may not make or break a law school application, it’s important to be able to articulate why you want to spend 3 years of your life studying the law. But realize that getting to your “why” may require a lot of breaking apart and putting back together to bring that to the surface. It’s not easy —writing a personal essay involves blood, sweat, and tears (at least mentally)—but it is well worth it. The journey of introspection will leave you a better person with a deeper understanding of yourself. Embrace the process! It’s not everyday you get to reflect on how you got to where you are today and what you hope to achieve. And to put the cherry on top, the more you enjoy writing your personal statement, the more admissions officers will enjoy reading it!

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About Justine Huang

Justine is a student at USC Gould School of Law, where she is involved with the Mediation Clinic, Law Review, Energy & Environmental Law Society, and Public Interest Law Foundation. Prior to law school, she worked in environmental consulting. She grew up in Orange County, CA and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Wellesley College, where she was a captain of the tennis team. In her free time, Justine enjoys playing the piano, traveling, and hiking.

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