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September 25, 2004

Request: Personal Statement v. Statement of Purpose?

Here's an "applying to law school" dilemma for you. CM writes:
I have a question about applying to law school, not law school itself. The applications I've seen are vague about the personal statement topic, so I wrote an essay about why I want to go to law school and how my past experiences fit in. I was hoping I could use it for all the schools I'm applying to. I just read an article on vault.com about the difference between a personal statement and a statement of purpose -- one is about you as a person, the other is about why you want to go to law school. The article recommended keeping these two separate, and trying to figure out which one a school wants based on the application. That's news to me. So my question is, should I write another essay that's more personal and doesn't talk much about law school? And should I have one of each type of essay to send to different schools, or is it okay to use the same one?
I wrote about personal statements here during my own application process, and I still think the advice quoted there (from a book by Donald Asher) is pretty good. The long and short of that is there's no formula; what works for you and seems to "fit" with your application and make it shine is going to be different from what worked for me, but if you're "honest and forthcoming" you're on the right track. Can anyone offer more helpful advice for CM or respond to his/her specific questions about the difference between a personal statement and a statement of purpose? Does anyone know any admissions counsellors who might be willing to respond to something like this?

Posted by mowabb at September 25, 2004 01:53 PM

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I've always suspected that any essay-writing in applying to law school is a writing test in disguise. Sure, they want to know why you want to go to law school, but they also want to find out how well you can express yourself.

Posted by: Ray at September 25, 2004 06:12 PM

Here at Michigan they prefer that you keep them separate; indeed they offer the option of "statement of purpose" as an additional essay you can submit.

I think they use the "Personal Statement" to learn something about the individual applying (as well as, obviously, to critique their writing).

I posted my personal statement on my blog, but I don't recommend using it as a guide -- I'm fairly unusual in the applicant pool.

BTW, the admissions director told me that they don't advertise the number of pages they want to see, but that they expect them to be 4 pages or less.

Posted by: Denise at September 25, 2004 11:28 PM