Ep. 298: I am. I did. I do.
It’s the start of personal statement season for students who are applying to law school this fall. If you’re struggling to organize your story or don’t know where to begin, Nathan and Ben offer up an easy-to-follow strategy. Break it down into three basic parts: I am. I did. I do. The guys also answer another Logical Reasoning question from PrepTest 73, take a look at an article about law school debt, answer questions from the listener mailbag, and discuss the perils of mixing alcohol with LSAT prep.
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7:28 – I am. I did. I do.
First up, the guys discuss last week’s LSAT Demon newsletter, in which Nathan laid out a basic formula for writing a law school personal statement. It’s not a magic formula, and other approaches may work as well. But if you’re having trouble getting started, here’s one way to get unstuck. The basic formula: I am. I did. I do. (And, optionally, I will.)
The “I am” should be a brief statement of who you are today. This gives the reader a foundation for the story you’re going to tell. Nathan and Ben recommend a standalone paragraph of only one or two sentences.
Then take a step back in time to begin your story. “I did” should tell the reader how you got to where you are today. Spend about half a page on this section.
“I do” should be the longest section of your essay. Law schools are primarily interested in the person you are today. Tell them about your current role at work or a project you’re working on. Talk about what you do now. Demonstrate skills that a real lawyer would use every day. Be enthusiastic and positive. Make yourself look like a winner.
Most people can end it there. If you’ve studied or worked in any area related to law or business, the reasons you’re applying will be evident to the reader. But if your experience is in an unrelated discipline and the transition to law is not obvious, then add one final piece to the formula: “I will.” This should be a single sentence explaining why you are now pivoting to law school.
That’s it. Follow those steps to get a first draft on the page. Then you can start revising and polishing it. Ben and Nathan add that if you’re really dreading writing your personal statement, you might want to reconsider what you’re getting yourself into. Lawyers are professional writers, after all.
40:40 – How much does law school cost?
Law school tuition has skyrocketed. An article by Holly Johnson cites the average debt accrued by law students at a staggering $145,500. Even after adjusting for inflation, tuition is almost three times more expensive now than it was in 1985. Ben and Nathan point out that a big part of the problem—not mentioned in the article—is the scholarship arms race. Law schools compete for the best applicants by offering larger and larger scholarships. Those scholarships are paid for by the exploitatively high tuition they charge most students. It’s a broken system. But you don’t have to fall into the trap: Just don’t pay. Be one of the people who gets a scholarship. If you pay full price, remember you’re probably paying for yourself and someone else who’s there for free.