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OK, it's time to kick off my promised Personal Statement Boot Camp, which is designed to help you avoid some of the major mistakes I see in law school applications, and hopefully give you some ideas of how to make your P. I can only guess that there is some book, or some group of misguided counselors, that has the mistaken impression that "I Love to Argue" is 1) an original theme for a personal statement and 2) something that is actually going to help your candidacy. I'd say roughly 300-500 people a year write some form of the "I Love to Argue" personal statement, which makes them 1) totally cliche and 2) seemingly clueless about why they are going to law school and/or too lazy to think about it deeply. In other words, you are going to be a social and administrative (if not academic) nightmare. More importantly, ILTA shows a shallow understanding of what being a lawyer is about.
My parents worked hard but had little to show for it.
I knew I wanted more out of life for my self and my family. The specialized education system I had attended while in Holland resulted in my graduating high school at age 16.
More often, however, the applicant proceeds to follow up with more anecdotes illustrating how s/he loved to argue with various other people in different stages and ages of life apparently in the hope that, two pages later, I am going to proclaim, "This applicant is going to be a great lawyer! This means that they can pick up the phone to resolve an issue, rather than having heated arguments in court. In fact, it doesn't matter if you hate public speaking, or even if you're bad at it. and in any event most lawyers never see the inside of a courtroom (or the light of day, for that matter). You mentioned that the applicant may redeem him/herself with stating why they want to go to law school.
seems to be based on the mistaken notion that it's actually good, or relevant, that you love to argue. 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. If you love to argue, and even admit that you do so over petty, irrelevant things, you suggest to the reader that you are reactive, 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).
@Ashley: I don't think this falls in the "I Love to Argue" category.
But, if you intend to show that you are interested in Yale/law school because of the intellectual culture here, be sure to bring it back to you and your own specific intellectual interests, so we can see why you would be a good fit for this environment, and it for you.(If you want to rat out the sources/people who are telling you to go this route, feel free to do so in the comments.) In case you're one of the fortunate applicants who isn't familiar with this theme, the "I Love to Argue" personal statement goes something like this: first, the applicant starts off with some anecdote, usually from preschool, which amounts to having a temper tantrum over something really dumb. You see, arguing is not the hallmark of a good lawyer.The adult in said anecdote (usually, but not always, the mother), instead of giving the applicant a good spank, is totally impressed by the temper tantrum and says, "You are going to be a great lawyer! It's true that many lawyers are skilled orators, but that doesn't mean that they argue.Many students write very compelling essays about what has led them to law school specifically, even if they are based on purely personal or familial experiences.All things being equal, such an applicant would have a leg up over someone who writes a very general essay about why education is important.But some people will go in a completely different direction, writing an op-ed style piece about an issue, making a policy argument, excerpting a piece of analytical writing (like a literary analysis), or writing a descriptive essay about some concept that interests them, with their take on that idea.There is really no right or wrong way to go in a 250-word essay—I have literally read every kind of essay, including ones that made me laugh, ones that made me cry (for good and bad reasons), ones that made me think of an issue in a different way, and ones that taught me something I didn't know.And if you've ever watched an appellate case, you know that the only people who should be arguing (if you're doing your job right) are the hearing judges, who are going to pick apart your case and ask you pointed and potentially snarky questions. In fact, I'd er-, argue, that one of the most important jobs of a lawyer is not to argue at all. Making a legal oral argument, like any skill, is one you can learn . By contrast, we can't teach aspects of character, so getting those to shine through in your personal statement is much more important from an admissions perspective. Do you recommend this in a personal statement, then?Take, for instance, the most important lawyer (and oralist) in the country, the Solicitor General of the United States. So, to sum up: avoid writing about how you love to argue, quoting your mom, or mentioning anything from preschool, and you'll be ahead of 10% of your peers from the get-go. Or does it seem superficial or sucking-up-to-admissions-like to have an applicant lay out why he/she wants to go to law school, when they may have no direct experience in this academic field? Anecdotes with mom advice always strike me as a little contrived, so if there's another way to jump right into the substance of your P. Asha, I come from an educationally disadvantaged background(first to graduate college and from 3 consecutive generations of teenage mothers) and would like to theme my P. on what education in general has meant, and does mean, to me.Thanks for this Asha—I have started my PS with an anecdote that quotes my mom telling me when I was 17 to use my talents to make a difference instead of jumping on the bandwagon of doing this or that. Is the "don't quite your mom" advice universal, or just don't quote your mom speculating about things she doesn't know about? I wouldn't say quoting your mom is per se a bad idea if it ties in directly with a decision or experience you had that made you want to become a lawyer, but I would think about whether that was *really* a significant turning point for you (or are you just trying to figure out a way to open your P. Is it necessary for me to write it specifically about law school or is it ok for me to keep it general?Courtenay: I don't think it's superficial or suck-uppy to explain why you want to go to law school—I actually thinks that's the point of the P. (I may be one of the few admissions people who believes this, but I'd like to know that this is well thought out, not something you're doing because you can't find a job.) You don't have to use legal jargon or talk about things you don't know about, but presumably there are certain academic, professional, or personal experiences that have led you in this direction. Hi Asha, I was wondering how one ought to go about picking between a number of extra-curricular activities to elaborate on in the PS?