Law School Personal Statements (Part 4): Revise, Revise, Revise!

KeyboardAll good writers know, “Writing is rewriting.”

Sometimes you read your personal statement draft and you realize, this is not the story I want to tell.

It sucks but it happens a lot.

You’re definitely not alone.

Sometimes you can rewrite what you have but other times you need to scrap the whole thing and go back to the drawing board.

Are you telling one story or two or three?

I’ve read many drafts where the author tried to shove too many stories into one essay. It was a mish-mash and there was no cohesion to the essay. Remember what I said earlier, you have to pick one story. Cut the extraneous stories and focus on expanding your core story.

What if it’s too long?

On the other hand, if you’re satisfied with the story itself but it’s too long, then you need to edit. Every sentence has to count. If a sentence repeats what you said earlier, just in different words, cut it out. I learned from a writing teacher that you should cut until the paragraph makes no sense. Then put back the last thing you cut.

Kick it up a notch!

Let’s say you’ve written the story you want to tell and your length is good. How can you take your essay to the next level?

One simple way to improve your essay is to pay attention to how it flows. You do this by focusing on the first and last sentences of every paragraph.

Look at the last sentence of your introduction. Does it make you wonder, what’s next? Does it entice you to keep reading? Now look at the first sentence of your second paragraph. Does it connect with the last sentence of your introduction? If not, rewrite those sentences.

Keep going. Look at the last sentence of your second paragraph. Then look at the first sentence of your third paragraph. Is there a connection there? Does it make sense?

Do this with each of your paragraphs. Keep working on those first and last sentences to make sure each of your paragraphs connects well with the next one.

Word counts & essay length

Many schools require that the personal statement be two pages, double-spaced, with 11- or 12-point font, and one-inch margins. Some schools want three or four pages. Some give a maximum word count. Some don’t have a word count or page limit at all.

Follow the directions for each school. The major mistake that law school applicants make is they don’t tailor their personal statement and other materials to every school. Yes, tailoring takes time. Yes, it takes diligence. This is your future career we’re talking about! Do the work.

Can you use the same personal statement for all schools?

Yes, you can use the same basic personal statement. But as I just stated, you need to tailor your personal statement to the length requirements, and any other requirements, given by each school.

Proofread like a pro

So you feel like your essay is almost ready for human consumption. Now you need to proofread. Print out your draft. I repeat, print out your draft.

Any editor worth his or her salt will tell you that you can’t find all the mistakes and errors in a document by proofing it on the computer screen. On paper, errors pop out more. Your eyes are more careful when you’re reading it on paper.

Now that you have your essay printed, use a bright-colored pen to mark anything you need to change. After you’re finished editing, make corrections to your electronic copy. Then, print out your essay and proofread it again.

Great writing takes time.

Don’t settle for okay or decent or good. Revise, revise, revise until your personal statement is the best it can be.

Want more help? Take my class, Write Your Personal Statement in 7 Days. It’s a great way to get support and structure for writing a personal statement in a short amount of time.

Have questions about your law school personal statement? I’d love to hear from you! I’m here to help. Post your questions below and I’ll respond.