Law School Personal Statements (Part 3): The First Draft

Human_skeleton_diagramBefore you write the first draft of your law school personal statement, you need to first understand the anatomy of a personal statement.

If you haven’t already, read my post, Writing Your Personal Statement (Part 1): Reading Comes First.

After you’ve read all seven personal statements in the Personal Statement Packet, come back to this post.

Let’s go over the four parts of a personal statement: the introduction, the second paragraph, the middle and the conclusion.

THE INTRODUCTION

Each statement begins with an introductory paragraph that “hooks” you into the story. You must get your reader’s attention right away.

There are two ways to do this: either begin with provocative sentences about an experience or event that shaped you OR put us on scene with you at the time of the event or experience.

Go back to the Personal Statement Packet that you read earlier.

Notice that Jamie, Sam, Terry, Madison and Gerry all start with provocative sentences about their lives. Whether it be about hating his father for his alcoholism and depression (Jamie), or crying when her younger brother was born on Christmas (Sam), or admitting that you were eight when your fascination with disasters began (Madison), these applicants hooked us and drew us in to their stories.

For great examples of putting the reader “on scene” with you, refer again to the Personal Statement Packet and notice how Delilah and Brenda start their essays with a first-person account. We are right there with them, getting the frantic phone call at the cafe (Delilah) or watching our suitcase disappear into the crowd at Delhi’s Ajmeri Gate (Brenda). Putting the reader on scene with you is a powerful way to hook the reader.

Spend more time on your introduction than you do on any other paragraph in your essay. It’s that important.

THE SECOND PARAGRAPH

So, you introduced something provocative or interesting in your introduction. You hooked us in. Now we need to know why you’re telling us this story.

Give us some history, some context on your life, so that we understand where you’re coming from. Show us what you were like before you changed. That is what the second paragraph is all about.

THE MIDDLE

In the following 3-5 paragraphs, describe what actions you took and how you changed. I can’t put it plainer than that.

Describe the actions you took, whether positive or negative or some combination of both, and how it helped you change, discover or understand yourself or something in your life. Bring us to the present day. That’s it.

THE CONCLUSION

You need to give the reader a satisfying ending. That’s the purpose of the conclusion: to end your story and wrap it up with some final thoughts.

How are you going to do this? Refer back to whatever situation you describe in your introduction. Whatever you wrote about, you need to explain what you are like today and how the situation resolved itself. As one of my favorite writing teachers taught me, “The DNA of your conclusion is in your introduction.”

In the Personal Statement Packet, Jamie writes a stellar conclusion. Go back and read his introduction and his conclusion. Read, absorb, learn.

SHITTY FIRST DRAFTS

It’s time to take a crack at your first draft. It doesn’t have to be good. This is only the beginning.

As the awesome writer Anne Lamott said, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”

CELEBRATE!

Once you finish writing your first draft, take a break and do something nice for yourself. The hardest thing is to face the blank page. You did it and got the words out of yourself. Congrats!

You need to celebrate now. Because after you’ve written your first draft, the real work begins.

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