Law School Discussion

Personal Statements: Too Personal?

Personal Statements: Too Personal?
« on: September 07, 2007, 01:38:43 AM »
I am finding it difficult to write my personal statement. Give me a question regarding history, and I'll put forward a thesis and defend it with solid research and cogent writing. However, the PS seems to be a completely different beast in that it's, well, personal. I lean heavily toward privacy, but I realize that in order to craft a truly personalized statement I must open up and share myself with the audience. This has been notably challenging for me.

In some respects, I do have an interesting story to tell. For instance, I was born with a birth defect that presented--and continues to present--social difficulties for me, many of which I have since overcome, but some of which continue to tax me. The ongoing struggle with this issue, however, is not what I wish to express. Rather, I wish to convey how my circumstances and challenges have helped to shape the character I have today. I do feel we are, in many respects, a product of our experiences. I know that my struggles with my birth defect have undeniably had an effect on my life, as well as on my decision to enter law. But I cannot help feel as if it's somehow manipulative to include this, as if I am using this inherent obstacle as a vehicle for entrance into law school.

As if this weren't enough, another dramatic circumstance poses difficulty in presenting: the death of my teenage brother. Normally, I would think it inappropriate to include the death of others in a personal statement. What's the relevance? I have looked inward frequently as of late, however, and I wonder whether the circumstances of his death did not shape my sense of justice and my pursuit of law as a career.

My brother died en route to another hospital, after the original hospital neglected to treat his medical emergency. My parents successfully pursued a settlement with the hospital for neglecting to provide proper care to my brother. The death traumatized my family, as I'm sure many other families have experienced grief after losing loved ones. The circumstances of my brother's death and the resulting lawsuit, though, lent to me a certain understanding of how we pursue justice in this nation.

Furthermore, it taught me what grave consequences exist for the gross negligence of life--both in the emotional pain experienced by those who have lost and by those who are financially penalized for their negligence. That such a painful loss can be filtered through the relative civility of our legal system has given me a great admiration for law, and has imbued me with a sense of duty in maintaining its integrity. On the cusp of entering law school, I am already self-assured in my choice of health law as a professional focus, and I attribute this confidence largely to what occurred in the above lines.

Should I include these indelible but dramatic impressions?

Now that I am in the process of writing my PS, this remains a burning question. Have any others felt this way? I realize this may be an awkward post to respond to, but I'd appreciate insights, views, and recommendations.

Thank you for reading.

Re: Personal Statements: Too Personal?
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2007, 07:23:52 AM »
Like you, I struggled with topic choice while writing my PS. I also have had experiences that, although extremely personal, also have directly shaped my view and desire to pursue law as a career. But, since the topic choice was "so personal," I at first began drafting statements on other topics, since I also did not want to give the impression I was "using" my experience as a means of gaining sympathy.

In the end, I was not satisfied with any of my other drafts. I decided to go with my gut and write based on my original idea. The result is a statement I am happy with - it says everything that was really important for me to convey about myself, my experiences, and why, 5 years out of undergrad, I am now looking to pursue the JD and this career.

I think you should not be afraid to write about experiences that you truly believe influenced you and contributed to who you are today just because they are personal. Isn't that what the PS is for? :) Tone and emphasis can make a huge difference on how your topic is received. Focus not on the actual instances (i.e. disability, death) but how these experiences shaped and reall impacted you, and I think you'll be fine.

I'd be happy to read a draft - it sounds like you'll have something interesting to say!

Re: Personal Statements: Too Personal?
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2007, 07:48:53 AM »
Honestly Steady, I think you've got a fair outline of your PS right there in your post. You're absolutely right that the personal staments is supposed to be personal, and the kind of information you just gave us is appropriate. It's not "manipulative" to include information that sheds insight into your character and history. But honestly, even if it was, you should still include it- you are, after all, trying to convince (or manipulate) the adcoms to admit you to their law school. There's nothing wrong with writing a PS that is likely to engender empathy in your readers, especially if it really does serve to explain your character and your interest in law school.

I second what futurelawstudent said as well- focus not as much on the actual instances, but on their impact on you. I'd also advise keeping the tone of the essay as optimistic as possible- you don't want to depress the adcoms, but rather show how you've successfully handled difficult circumstances.

Good luck.