Personal Statements: what to write about


I just took the LSAT and now I’m going to write my personal statement while I’m waiting to get my score back. Help — I have no idea what to write about. What are the admissions officers looking for?


Dear D.,

This is the perfect time to write your personal statement, so that as soon as you get your score back, your applications will be complete, and you will be ready to hit the send button. The good news and bad news about personal statements is that topics vary widely.

Some people write about a legal-related internship or summer job they have held. Some write about courses they have taken, leadership positions on campus, or experiences studying abroad. I have read essays about helping Hurricane Sandy and Katrina victims, building houses through Habitat through Humanity, or other volunteer work. Sometimes I see essays that are not related to law at all — for example, essays about swimmers, runners, and musicians. Some write about travel; others have written about their families, or obstacles they have overcome in life.

When you are thinking about what to write, think about something you are passionate about — It will come through in your essay. Don’t worry so much about what you think the admissions office wants to hear, or about trying to sound like a lawyer. Think about what they don’t already know about you from other parts of your application. What distinguishes you from the pack? If there were five other applicants with your same GPA and LSAT scores, they may be looking for what makes you unique.

They really want to learn more about you, so you really can’t go wrong so long as you write about something important to you. Admissions officers tell me they read the personal statements carefully, so it’s worth the time crafting something you feel good about. If you can’t decide what to write about, write drafts on two different topics, and see which one you like better. The good news is that the essays are short, so once you hit upon the right topic; it should not take too long to write. When you are done, show it to your pre-law advisor, professors, and/or trusted mentors. Hopefully, by the time you get your LSAT score back, you will be done! Good luck.


Hillary Mantis advises pre-law students, law students and lawyers. She is a Director of the Pre-Law Advising Program at Fordham University, and author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers. You can write to Hillary at