Personal statement tip of the week: Don't argue

Really, this is several tips in one, and they all boil down to refraining from arguing.

1. Don’t use your personal statement to argue for your admission to X law school. That’s not what it’s for.  Let all of your materials together make that argument, by the sheer weight of your demonstrable fabulousness.  Your personal statement is not about making the case.  It’s about showing the readers what experiences and perspectives you’ll bring to their law school community and to what they like to think of as a three-year-long conversation.


2. Don’t think for a minute, and certainly don’t write, that your love of arguing is why you should go to law school. I can’t make this point better than the Yale Law School Dean of Admissions has in her blog:

[O]n a conceptual level, the “I Love to Argue” P.S. seems to be based on the mistaken notion that it’s actually good, or relevant, that you love to argue.  It’s not.  Going on and on about how you love being confrontational and argumentative with each and every person in your life is a major red flag for the reader of your file.  It’s a character flaw.  If you love to argue, and even admit that you do so over petty,  irrelevant things, you suggest to the reader that you are reactionary, a poor listener, unable to relate to different perspectives, and that you are generally an unpleasant person to be around (and to have in a class).  The fact that you think it’s an asset suggests that you lack self-awareness and are going to have problems getting along with others.  In other words, you are going to be a social and administrative (if not academic) nightmare.  Not so good.

3. Don’t argue that your LSAT doesn’t accurately represent your aptitude, that your GPA would have been higher if…, or that your lengthy disciplinary record is no reflection of your sense of community and responsibility. These all may be true.  But present facts that tend to refute the presumption(s) your record creates.  This will be far more persuasive than your mere recitation of your view of the matter.  Show the admissions committees your abysmal SAT score contrasted with your stellar GPA to indicate your past experience with standardized tests.  Tell them what happened that semester your GPA took a nosedive.  Show them the ways in which you’ve demonstrated your commitment to community since that period in life when you were throwing parties in your dorm every weekend. (And each of these belongs in the appropriate addendum, NOT in your personal statement.)