Pen and Chisel Q&A: How to Tackle the “Why X School?” Essay

Eileen ConnerWorking on your law school applications? Please welcome back law school admissions essay expert Eileen Conner, founder of Pen and Chisel, who has some timely advice on the dreaded “Why School X?” essay.

If you missed any of her other admissions Q&As, check them out here.

Q: One of my target law schools requires a supplemental essay that discusses why it’s the best school for me. What should I include in this essay?

The “Why X School?” essay is a short piece law schools occasionally ask applicants to submit. Because it isn’t as common as the personal statement, diversity statement, or addendum, many applicants don’t have a solid plan on how to tackle it. So let’s look at the basic elements of a successful “Why X School?” essay.

In this essay, you should argue that a particular law school and its programs are right for you.

And how do you know if it’s right for you? There are as many different reasons as there are applicants.

Your career ambitions

Before you start writing this essay, think about what you hope to achieve with a career in law:

  • What are your goals?
  • What field or branch of law do you see yourself working in?

Narrow down your plans as much as you can.

Instead of just determining what general role you’d like to play, think about who you would like to be working with and the overall effect you’d like to have.

Maybe you want to work in patent law to help scientists preserve their rights to their discoveries. Maybe you want to become a public defender to ensure that those who can’t afford their own representation get fair trials. Whatever your ambition, define it for yourself as clearly as possible.

The law school’s resources

Next, it’s time to think about your target law school’s characteristics and resources.

What about their program could help you achieve these career goals?

Read through the school’s website and any additional information you may have to begin building a picture of the different resources they offer. List out all the resources you find that might help you achieve your career goal. Individual professors you’d love to study under, specialized academic tracks, particular workshops or clinics, part-time programs, or even geographical location — any or all of these could be part of your list.

Again, it’s a good idea to be as specific as possible.

Law schools are looking for students who have done their homework and have a strong understanding of the school’s specialties.

Citing specifics will show the admissions committee that you’ve taken the time to do your research and really get to know the school while also emphasizing the reasons that their program is the right choice for you.

Link them together

To create a successful “Why X School?” essay, you’ll want to show the connection between your career goals and the law school’s resources:

  • What about this school makes it the place for you?
  • How will it help you achieve your goals?
  • Essentially, what are your reasons for targeting this school?

Reasons for picking a particular program can vary quite a bit from person to person. Just as everyone has their own particular ambition and career goal, everyone has their own particular reasons for wanting to attend a given law school.

Maybe you’re targeting a career in environmental law, so you’d love to attend Vermont Law. Maybe you’re interested in intellectual property and its applications in technology, so Santa Clara and Stanford are at the top of your list.

Whatever your situation, use this essay to show how your target school’s programs, specialties, and other resources will help you achieve that career goal.

By showing a clear connection between your ambitions and your chosen law school’s resources, you’ll be able to make a strong argument that this is the right program for you.

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Thanks, Eileen!

More about Eileen:
Eileen Conner is the founder of Pen and Chisel LLC, where she specializes in helping law school candidates perfect their application essays. A graduate of the University of Michigan’s prestigious creative writing MFA program, Eileen is the former Senior Editor for Law at Revision Editing.

Read On:

As you embark on your law school application journey, you might want to bookmark Applying to Law School 101: What You Need to Know to Succeed.

Then check out some of the rest of the Pen and Chisel Q&A:

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Best of luck on your applications!

Got an admissions question for Eileen? Leave it in the comments!


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