Personal Statement Editing
It’s important to pitch your application a certain way. Or different ways for different schools. As the saying goes, different strokes for different folks! But what do you mean by a “pitch?” Do you mean that you have to craft your application differently depending on which school you are applying to? Absolutely. And do I have to create a narrative for my own life so that I make the life of an admissions director easier? You bet.
Narrative, eh? What am I – a film story or a novel? Well, it could help if you think of your statement that way. So I gave the pitch that I wanted to come back and enter academia. I did this because I felt that my life story with its multiple years spent in education, lead itself very naturally to that conclusion. The idea of a pitch is to create a unique selling proposition that no other applicant will have. Its unique, because its your life story. Many a times applicants for b-schools talk about their life “story”. You can do the same here. You get about 2-3 pages for a Personal Statement and thats good enough to talk about WHY that X or Y thing in your past drove you to study law. About why your journey in law school or the professional world has driven you to apply to that LLM program. What there is in that city or school that CONNECTS with your past background and themes in your narrative story. There has to be a turning point or multiple turning points in your narrative that engage the reader and make him feel like they are having a conversation with you. Put in some of that material from your inner tank of angst — don’t be shy!
Sounds like a lot of hard work. It is. Which is why using someones else’s personal statement to get an “idea” is never really going to work. It would be like reading someone else’s life story which has very little to do with your circumstances. And Admissions Directors are smart people. They can pick up on when someone is being original and when they are simply copying and pasting stuff from other peoples’ work. Which by the way is also academically dishonest! To illustrate, an admissions director picked up on my reasons for pursuing law, and how I had defied my family against all their suggestions. She said she had enjoyed reading that part because thats how she was too. So if you thought that admissions directors are a bunch of overworked people (they probably are) that dont read your statements, please drop this assumption right now. They read ALL of it and in fact some schools even have multiple levels of review and scoring on a single application file. So your work may not be read by just one person but also many different people. So hard work, yes, but then look at the payoff! You can get to talk about your essay in a Skype interview, and it would have been worth all that effort. You get to add to a facet to your application which may not come from transcripts and CV’s.
Its important to think of your pitch as substituting for your lack of physical presence in front of the admissions committee. Don’t think of it as an information dump for why you won Award X of the Year or why you are the best thing after Usain Bolt. It would be a lost opportunity if you simply regurgitated lines from your CV in your statement. People have done this, and wasted their time and effort. Your goal is to add things about yourself that wouldnt be obvious to someone if they just read your resume. As mentioned earlier, think of it as a conversation with your admissions director. Keep it simple and effective. Avoid histrionics but do have a turning point somewhere which shows why the decision to be a lawyer and consequently an LLM matters to you. If an LLM will make you a better professor because there just aren’t that many people committed to academia, this could be one way to put it. Because maybe your life goal was to teach and this LLM will make it easier to do just that. If your wondering if that was me, it wasn’t. I created the “academia” pitch for schools that I knew (Yale, cough, yes I actually applied) valued that kind of commitment to academia. I has a different “corporate” pitch for schools like NYU and Penn Law where I was arguing to why taking classes at Stern or Wharton fit well within my life-story. So you see, you can create multiple “pitches” and throw them into your essay to create compelling stories for admissions directors to read. In fact, I even remember bumping into a few of them at the LSAC Conference in October 2015 (you should attend this if you are visiting the US around that time) that really wanted to know my story and asked me to put them down on my statement. One even asked me to put down why i went to Jindal Law School in particular because she was curious as to why I chose that particular law-school. Or why one valued certain leadership experiences on my CV and wanted to know more about those. So you see, they want material. They want that content thats hidden in the crevices of your nerve impulses. Put it out there — dont hold back. You never know what they will like and pick-up on. And yes, create multiple pitches because each law school is different.