Personal Statement-stravaganza (Ep. 309)

Nathan Fox's headshot.

It’s the first-ever Thinking LSAT Personal Statement-stravaganza! In this special episode, Nathan and Ben become mock law school admissions officers as they read and compare four personal statements. There’s a catch—they read only to the point where they would decide to admit or deny the applicant.

Admissions committees have mountains of applications to drudge through. Realistically, they aren’t reading every single essay from beginning to end. Odds are they already have a good idea of what their decision is going to be based on an applicant’s GPA and LSAT score. A cursory look at the personal statement may be all they need to confirm that decision.

As always, if you like the show and you want to get more from the Thinking LSAT community, check out the links below. You can connect with other folks studying for the LSAT, and get more useful resources from Nathan and Ben.

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Important Dates

08.14.2021 — August LSAT Testing Begins

08.25.2021 — October LSAT Registration Deadline

5:57 – V’s Personal Statement

Our first candidate is V, who raised her LSAT score from 148 to 167 in three months using the Demon. All she needs now is a killer personal statement to match that impressive score.

Ben comments that, while her first paragraph is wordy, V hasn’t made any obvious mistakes. Nathan thinks the rhetorical question she included is an unneeded flourish. He and Ben both would prefer that she tell her story in a more straightforward manner. But, so far, it’s easy to read, and she gets the point across that she worked through college. The guys are curious enough to continue reading.

The second paragraph starts with a somewhat bloated sentence that’s hard to interpret. The reader isn’t going to know what it means to have “facilitated the transition from in-person operations to an original virtual platform.” V should just state the facts and explain what she actually did. The rest of the paragraph isn’t great. It’s all about the success of the project and not about what, specifically, V did for the project. It leaves the reader skeptical about whether she called any of the shots.

V then oversells her internship by calling it “incredible.” And she protests her own story by explaining why she decided to take an unpaid position even though she needed to work two jobs to pay for school. If she’s proud of all of this, she shouldn’t need to explain it. When she mentions “studying to get ahead in my classes,” the guys tap out. Everyone who is applying to law school studied for their classes in undergrad. The reader (who has a stack of other applications to get through) would likely decide that they’ve read enough.

26:30 – Rushali’s Personal Statement

Rushali’s statement is one giant paragraph. This alone makes Ben not want to read it. If he were considering applicants for his law school, he might immediately discard this one. He reads the first sentence and hates it. Nathan agrees. Rushali needs to make “I” the subject of her sentences, and she needs to use parallel structure. The next sentence is conclusory and uses the word “passion”—two big no-nos for personal statements.

The guys scan a few more poorly written sentences and officially call it quits when Rushali starts talking about her mental health issues. Lots of people struggle with their mental health, but there’s no reason to blurt it out in a personal statement. You’re supposed to be putting your best foot forward. No one is admitting an applicant on the basis of their mental health issues. Present the best facts about yourself, and let those facts speak for themselves.

41:48 – Ayoka’s Personal Statement

Ayoka has been studying with LSAT Demon for about a month and has already raised her practice test scores from 142 to 157. She credits the podcast and the Demon with “literally” saving her life. Now she’s ready for the guys to shred her personal statement.

Ayoka introduces herself as a paralegal, a mother, a wife, an entrepreneur, and a free spirit—and Nathan would stop reading right there. No one is looking to hire a “free spirit” as their attorney. Even if the reader decides to continue beyond that first line, Ben says there’s a definite quitting point soon after. Law school admissions committees aren’t interested in anything you did as a young child. The guys both tap out. They encourage Ayoka to start over and to resubmit a more focused statement that demonstrates an ability to succeed in law school and legal practice.

53:03 – K’s Personal Statement

K begins with two clear “I” statements that show her doing something noteworthy. This is what the guys like to see. She then delves into a description of the painting she was researching for her art history thesis. Ben and Nathan would rather hear more about her actual research. But her strong start is enough to keep them reading.

After three more paragraphs of fancy art-history talk, the guys stop, not because it’s poorly written, but because they’re bored. K clearly has the chops to work in an academic setting. She has demonstrated that she can write and use big words like “semiotic” and “ekphrastic.” Ben’s not impressed by this writing style, but he’s also not worried about her ability to succeed in law school and in the legal field, where many people write like this. Nathan agrees that K sounds like someone who could practice art law. She goes into their presumptive admit pile.