Tips for Writing Your Personal Statement

Everyone looks for the “right way” of writing a personal statement and are generally disappointed to be told that there is no one “right way”. However, there are general guidelines to follow that will help to make your personal statement stand out. 

  • Make it personal, but always professional: The statement should be about you, your skills and how they relate to the program. Don’t talk about what skills make a good lawyer or researcher, talk about what will make you a good lawyer or researcher.

  • Be thorough, but concise: Just because admissions gives you 1500 words, or a two page maximum, doesn’t mean that you must use this space or that your personal statement will be better if you do. If you can say what you need to say in 1000 words or a page and a ½ then do so. 

  • Ensure that you answer the questions asked: If there are specific questions to be answered make sure that you are answering them specifically. You certainly don’t want to be seen as someone that can’t follow instructions.

  • Address negatives in your application: But don’t dwell on them or offer excuses.  If you had a semester with less than stellar grades, mention it, the reason why (if there were extenuating circumstances) and explain what you learned from the experience. 

  • Make it easy to read: Use plain language and ensure that it is organized so that it will make sense to the reader.

  • Explain statements: Don’t just give them a list of skills or experiences, back them up with specific examples. Try to utilize examples that will showcase how you will fit in with the school.

  • Start and end strong: Your opening statement should be strong so you entice the reader to read your entire statement and your closing statement also needs to be strong to ensure that you leave a lasting impression. Some students will opt to start their personal statements with a “snapshot”. This is a short story of a specific time or event in your life that is used to demonstrate why you are choosing to follow this course of study.

  • Make a connection with the school:  Do your research on the school, the department and the program that you are applying to so that you can make the connection between your skills and how you would fit into the culture of the school. Utilize examples to illustrate your suitability for the program and make them specific and unique.

  • Ensure technical perfection: Just like in your resume, grammatical and spelling errors are an indication of not having attention to detail and therefore, possibly not being considered for admission.