5 Mistakes to Avoid in Law School Application Essays

If you're crafting a highly successful personal statement, it won't include these things.

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Law school admissions officers read thousands of application essays every year. So how can you make yours stand out when the stakes couldn't be higher?

[Access the U.S. News Best Law Schools rankings.]

To ensure that your personal statement maximizes your chances of gaining admission to your dream school (even if your GPA or LSAT is below the school's range), avoid these five mistakes.

1. Writing about study abroad: Having read thousands of application essays, I would estimate that approximately 15 percent of law school applicants write about their study abroad experience. No matter how much your own study abroad experience "changed" you, writing about it simply will not differentiate you from other applicants.

Remember that no one sits next to each admissions officer requiring that he or she read every essay in its entirety. If a reader has just read five study abroad essays and yours starts with, "My semester abroad in Florence profoundly changed my life forever," you are much less likely to receive the acceptance letter or E-mail you so covet.

2. Highlighting your personal experience with the legal system: Lawyers pride themselves on being unbiased, relatively unemotional professionals, so your story about witnessing a crime or serving on a jury will not impress the law school admissions committees.

Stories that show your character, work ethic, and intellect outside of the legal context will impress the admissions committees far more than your firsthand experiences with the law.

[See how law firm recruiters rank the best law schools.]

3. Over-inflating your vocabulary: Always use the word that best exemplifies the idea you are trying to convey. If that word is only one syllable, fine. If it is five syllables, that is fine, too.

While you should avoid repeating the same word over and over, do not use a big word simply in an effort to show off your vocabulary. It will seem forced, and it won't work.

4. Over-editing: Do not edit your essay to the point that the writing becomes so generic that your authentic voice is lost. Overly edited essays make it immediately obvious to the reader that you had substantial help on the essay.

You should certainly have a number of people, like trusted friends and professors, read your essay and provide feedback, but ensure that the final essay is your work and is in your unique voice.

[Get more advice on applying to law school.]

5. Repeating your résumé: Your personal statement should not be just a narrative of your résumé. Use the essay to give context to the most compelling components of your academic and professional experience.

Your résumé is a summary of your qualifications and accomplishments, but your essay is your chance to "speak" to the admissions readers and tell your unique story. Don't forsake this valuable opportunity.

By avoiding these things, you will significantly increase your chances of admission to the law school of your choice.

Check back here next week for my latest blog post. In the meantime, good luck writing your essays!