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Author Topic: Personal statements- how long is too long?  (Read 1044 times)

Basic_Black

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Personal statements- how long is too long?
« on: January 21, 2008, 06:52:26 PM »
I'm a 1L helping a friend polish his personal statement.  Can someone remind me- how long is too long?
His is currently at 1200 words- which is nearly four pages double-spaced, 12 pt. font.

Yeah, I should know, but I think mine was about 1000 words- which seemed long at the time...

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viv

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Re: Personal statements- how long is too long?
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2008, 07:20:07 PM »
If the school doesn't have a stated limit, I'd say 4 pages is fine as long as it doesn't lose focus/can't be edited down any further without losing content.  My PS was about that length for the schools that allowed it (Berkeley, Michigan, etc.) and then I wrote a different, shorter version for the schools that had stricter limits (Penn, Vanderbilt, etc.).  I also think that if a statement is that long, you should try to limit the number of additional materials you send in (diversity statements, why x statements, addenda).  Just don't make it a chore, in terms of time, for them to read your application.

dubsy

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Re: Personal statements- how long is too long?
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2008, 07:31:40 PM »
I'm a 1L helping a friend polish his personal statement.  Can someone remind me- how long is too long?
His is currently at 1200 words- which is nearly four pages double-spaced, 12 pt. font.

Yeah, I should know, but I think mine was about 1000 words- which seemed long at the time...



if i were an adcom, i would definitely not spend my time reading all of that.  4 pages is excessive, IMO, and I bet there's a ton she could flush out.
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P. Pius

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Re: Personal statements- how long is too long?
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2008, 12:33:41 AM »
Your friend *should* be able to get it down to 2 pg, double spaced.  I started out with around 3 full pages but have been able to scale it back to 2 pages to make it more coherent and to the point.  I think my PS is much stronger now than when it was several pages, but to each his own.
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Ilovecheese

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Re: Personal statements- how long is too long?
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2008, 01:21:13 AM »
I think 3 pages is pushing it sometimes.  Very often, people don't have much to say, but they have diarrhea of the pen.  As a result, you get a badly edited, run on piece of writing that goes over 3 pages.  If you really have something meaningful to say, then go ahead and write a longer PS.  Many people fail to understand that PS's serve as writing samples. 

IamAnXman

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Re: Personal statements- how long is too long?
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2008, 01:31:54 AM »
i think the "etiquette" length is different from the actual allowable length. basically, you should make your PS as long as needed to get your points across. this is not to say that you should write a 10 page novel but 4-5 pages is understandable, especially for a strong applicant with a good story to tell. those with 2-3 page PS's, if you've read many, seem very sparse and tell very very little. it's rarely the writer's fault, it's just that it's not enough room to talk about yourself. so it's not asking too much for an adcomm to read 4-5 pages, especially since this is the rest of your life we're talking about. that's why great schools allow more room, specifically for that reason. boalt, for instance, gives you 4 pages to do your work.

rnidtowner

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Re: Personal statements- how long is too long?
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2008, 01:39:54 AM »
I'm a firm believer that 2 pages is as long as you should go. 

Here's a little evidence:  I'm sure we've all read those volumes of "sample essays" that you can buy at Barnes and Noble.  These are supposed to be the most compelling personal statements in the country...yet they're all boring, and they're all too long.  I'm sure that your personal is interesting to you, but to someone else, it probably isn't that exciting.  Maybe it's just been heard before.  At any rate, I'd try to shave it down.

Like you, I started with a 4 page personal statement.  By the time I had knocked it down to 2 pages, it turned out to be a much tighter piece of writing that still made the points I wanted to make in a much more impactful way.  If you have a few hours, just give it a try.  I'll bet you'll be amazed by how much of your personal statement you can cut.

Matthew

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Re: Personal statements- how long is too long?
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2008, 04:56:33 AM »
I think the most important thing to remember in the law school application process is that, in 99.999% of cases, you're not special.  Everyone thinks they have a fascinating story that can't possibly be pared down below 3-4 pages.  In the same way many people think they need 3 pages for their resume, it's heresy to suggest that they could exclude things to get it down to one.  These people think they're the exception to clear guidelines that pretty much every expert suggests.   But in the vast majority of applicants' cases, one only needs a one page statement and a two page personal statement.  As Cheese suggested, many people have a lot of flab in their writing and are probably doing themselves a favor by being forced to cut out some content.  I know mine was better.  Even if you think your PS is the finest thing you've every written, cutting out the worst of your best will leave only the best of your best, the most interesting, informative content that would otherwise be buried under less quality writing.
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Re: Personal statements- how long is too long?
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2008, 08:51:17 AM »
I think the most important thing to remember in the law school application process is that, in 99.999% of cases, you're not special.  Everyone thinks they have a fascinating story that can't possibly be pared down below 3-4 pages.  In the same way many people think they need 3 pages for their resume, it's heresy to suggest that they could exclude things to get it down to one.  These people think they're the exception to clear guidelines that pretty much every expert suggests.   But in the vast majority of applicants' cases, one only needs a one page statement and a two page personal statement.  As Cheese suggested, many people have a lot of flab in their writing and are probably doing themselves a favor by being forced to cut out some content.  I know mine was better.  Even if you think your PS is the finest thing you've every written, cutting out the worst of your best will leave only the best of your best, the most interesting, informative content that would otherwise be buried under less quality writing.

I totally agree with Matthew.  My PS started at around 4 pages and the final version that I submitted was 2.  Supposedly (and obviously I haven't been to law school yet), good legal writing is concise and to the point.  I tried to keep that in mind with my personal statement and show the adcomms that I could write without tons of flowery language and unnecessary words thrown about.  I don't know if mine was the best in the world, but I feel it was stronger once I had pared it down to 2 pages.  Another advantage is that different schools have different limits.  If you keep it to 2 pages you are safe at every school I know of.

Keep in mind we're just a bunch of 0Ls and none of us are really experts.  Just my opinion.  That and $1 will get you a double cheeseburger at McDonalds.
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quincym

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Re: Personal statements- how long is too long?
« Reply #9 on: January 22, 2008, 10:29:57 AM »
Quote from: University of Chicago
How long should my personal statement be?  We recommend 2-3 pages, anything longer should be so fascinating that we forget how long it is.

So pretty much make it as long as it needs to be. Have something to say, say it, and get it over with.