Hit-or-Miss Personal Statements and a Flaw Question (Ep. 315)

Nathan Fox's headshot.

With the 2022 application cycle underway, more and more law school hopefuls are seeking feedback on their personal statements. Nathan and Ben are happy to continue reviewing them on the show. But too many submissions seem to flout their advice. So they’re introducing a new touchstone—one that hopefully will encourage everyone to take advantage of existing resources before submitting. Going forward, the guys will be accepting personal statements only from listeners who fill out a prerequisite questionnaire here:


Today’s show features answers to personal statement questions from the listener mailbag and five more personal statement critiques. But first, the guys tackle another Logical Reasoning question from PrepTest 73 and evaluate an admissions tip for Pearls vs. Turds.

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.

LSAT Demon

LSAT Demon Daily

Thinking LSAT YouTube

LSAT Demon YouTube

Important Dates

7:15 – Logical Reasoning Question 15 from PrepTest 73

After reading the argument, Nathan explains that we’re rarely going to wholeheartedly accept one view or another on Logical Reasoning. The marketing consultant could be absolutely right—the advertising campaign could’ve been ill conceived—but they haven’t proven their conclusion. Our job is to understand the argument and tell them ways that they may lose. Ben mentions that this is another example of the “could’ve been worse” flaw discussed on episode 313. Perhaps sales would have been even worse if not for the advertising campaign. Maybe the real reason for the decline in sales was a global pandemic, for example, and not poor advertising.

It turns out to be a Flaw question. Before diving into the answer choices, Ben and Nathan summarize their objection: The marketing consultant ignores all other possible causes for the decline in sales. Answer B perfectly describes that flaw. The guys also take a moment to discuss the difference between the phrases “takes for granted that” and “fails to consider that.” One has a much higher burden of proof than the other.

Try this question here.

20:35 – Pearls vs. Turds

Listener Sarah shares another podcast’s law school admissions advice that screamed “turd” to her as soon as she heard it. She doesn’t mention names, but someone out there is apparently telling college grads with low GPAs that it’s a good idea to return to undergrad before applying to law school. Huh?! The guys agree, this makes zero sense. Once you graduate, your undergrad GPA is what it is. There’s no going back for a do-over. Instead, focus your efforts on something you can improve—your LSAT score.

28:00 – Personal Statement Questions

Listener Brooke has been tuning in for all the recent episodes on personal statements. Before she settles on a topic for her own statement, she has a few questions for Nathan and Ben. First, she’s wondering how to explain a three-year gap in her resume if it’s not a good idea to talk about being a full-time mom. The guys say there’s nothing wrong with mentioning it. They just don’t think parenting should be a main topic of a law school personal statement. Focusing on professional experience is a better way to sell yourself. You don’t need more than one sentence to say that you took three years off to raise your kids and now you’re ready for law school.

Brooke goes on to say that her background is in military intelligence. Nathan says she should make that the focus of her personal statement. But Brooke worries that she can’t be very specific because most of her work was classified. Ben mentions that a lot of military people have written books about their experiences. They leave out specific names, places, and dates. Brooke should do the same. They’re not relevant to the story anyway.

Lastly, Brooke says, “It seems like a lot of the advice you give for the personal statement will simplify it into a retelling of the resume.” That’s not at all what the guys recommend! They say to take one bullet point from your resume and expand it into a story. The idea is to show yourself in action by presenting actual facts. “Do college admissions representatives really not want to read about emotional states?” Brooke asks. Nathan reiterates his and Ben’s advice that facts about actions are much more powerful than claims about emotional states.

50:01 – Sam’s Personal Statement

Sam’s first paragraph isn’t bad. The sentences are short. He uses mostly “I” statements and presents himself as a student athlete. Nathan recommends omitting one negative sentence. The next two paragraphs focus too much on baseball as the subject. Ben thinks Sam can cut this part down to a single sentence. The essay really goes downhill when Sam starts talking about tearing his meniscus while weightlifting. Injury isn’t a point in your favor for law school admission, so don’t waste space on it.

More than halfway through his statement, Sam mentions that he studies chemistry and designed a new product for a car wash manufacturing plant. Now the story is picking up. The guys run out of time before they can finish reading, but it’s clear that Sam should refocus his story on this chemistry internship.

58:29 – E’s personal statement

E’s first mistake is starting their statement with “My name is…” Your name will be at the top of the page. There’s no reason to state it again here. Nathan and Ben prefer that you jump right into talking about what you do. “I mentor and tutor…,” as a standalone sentence, makes a strong first paragraph.

Unfortunately, E makes two big mistakes in the next sentence: talking about something from high school and talking about something bad that happened. Being bullied as a child is sad, and it’s not a point in your favor for law school admission. Your personal statement is a place to put your best foot forward. E’s whole second paragraph needs to go. The third paragraph is a wall of text that seems to ignore most of the advice Ben and Nathan give. They recommend reading all the personal statement lessons at blog.lsatdemon.com and starting over.

1:09:26 – Hayley’s Personal Statement

Hayley begins her statement with a lengthy introduction to a problem that Nathan and Ben don’t care about. They anticipate that she is going to tell them about how she solved the problem. There’s just too much buildup. In the next paragraph, Hayley discusses the simple solution she came up with. It involves a sharpie and some tape. While it was a clever idea, it comes off as overselling.

Ben comments that, although she needs to work on the content, Hayley’s writing style is clear and easy to read. If she expands and refines the second half of her statement—to focus more on what she did as a legal assistant—this could be one of the better statements featured on the show. Nathan agrees that it’s pretty good overall but could be better.

1:19:38 – Emmanuel’s Personal Statement

The first sentence doesn’t say anything about Emmanuel. Instead, the reader learns that a particular day in 2011 “started out like any other humid day.” The next sentence is not a sentence but a series of fragments. Ben and Nathan hate it so far. All the scene-setting is irrelevant. Emmanuel finally makes an appearance in the fourth sentence, as a wide-eyed ninth-grader. Remember law schools aren’t admitting children, so it’s not a good idea to present yourself as a child in your personal statement.

Emmanuel goes on to tell a cinematic story about a trauma that he experienced. It’s tragic, and the guys feel for him. But by telling the reader about his debilitating migraines and nightmares, Emmanuel is not selling himself as a successful future law student and attorney. His statement then transitions into a rah-rah for America and quotes Barack Obama (but misspells his name). The guys find nothing salvageable and recommend starting from scratch.

Near the end of his essay, almost as an aside, Emmanuel mentions that he’s a chemical engineer working with artificial intelligence. Nathan and Ben beg him to please tell a story about his work and submit it to the show.

1:32:01 – Ashley’s Personal Statement

Ashley’s first paragraph is great. She shows herself doing something law-related for her work as a town planner. And it’s believable—it doesn’t come off as overselling or pretending to be a lawyer. The next paragraph has a super long sentence that needs to be broken up, but Ben and Nathan like where the story is going. Ashley’s state recently legalized marijuana, and she’s dealing with its regulation. The essay is too long overall, and the guys recommend cutting two distracting paragraphs about school and random former jobs. With a few other stylistic changes, this could be an A+ statement.