What is the Admissions Committee looking for in the personal statement?
The Admissions Committee is primarily looking for two things in the personal statement:
- Who are you: Will this applicant be a likeable and interesting addition to our community? Are you thoughtful and reflective? Will our professors and your classmates enjoy working with you and learning from your perspective?
- Writing and communication ability: Can you communicate your thoughts effectively? Are you able to present information in a clear, organized, and concise manner (much like you will be required to do in law school and as an attorney)?
What should I write about in my personal statement?
Our application does not provide a specific topic or question for the personal statement because you are the best judge of what you should write about. Write about something personal, relevant, and completely individual to you. This may include writing about a significant aspect of your background, a quality or trait that you believe defines you, a transformative experience, or the things that interest and motivate you. Don’t worry so much about selecting a unique or novel topic. Just be yourself. Your personal statement will be unique if you are honest and authentic. See these examples of personal statements written by some of our students.
How does the personal statement fit into the rest of my application?
Think about the personal statement as the fun and interesting part of your application. This is where we get to learn more about who are you as a person and go beyond the transcripts, test scores, and resume. Let each part of your application speak for itself and do what it is intended to do - you don't need to worry about selling us on your credentials in the personal statement.
Do I need to tell the Admissions Committee why I want to go to law school?
Not necessarily. We request a personal statement; it is not a statement of purpose. You are welcome to discuss your reasons for applying to law school, but please make sure that we will still get to know you as an individual. Law schools have different views on this topic, so please consult each school to which you are applying.
What are some tips for a successful personal statement?
There are few rules that apply to every applicant because of the individual nature of the personal statement, but here are some tips based on our experiences that all applicants should follow:
- Be straightforward. Do not make it more complex than it is. We simply want a candid, well-written essay that helps us learn about you, your story, and your background.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread. Your personal statement should not have errors - this is a sample of your writing and it should be a strong reflection of your written communication skills. Edit extensively and make sure to remove tracked changes.
- Be concise and organize your thoughts. Remember your basic writing skills and essay structure. You want to present your ideas in a logical, clear manner.
- Make sure your personal statement is about you. Keep the focus on you with any topic that you choose. Focusing on a family member or family history, a social or legal issue, or stories about others is a very common mistake. Even if you tell a moving and interesting story, it will not be a successful personal statement if it does not allow us to get to know you.
- Be yourself. We are confident that every one of our applicants is unique. Be honest. Do not write about something you think you are supposed to write about or rely too heavily on sample topics or model statements. A topic will not be effective unless it is appropriate for your specific application and background. Don’t try to fit your personal statement into a defined category or box.
- Write in your own voice. This makes your personal statement believable and authentic. Don’t use phrases and vocabulary that you wouldn’t normally use in writing and conversation. It is usually not a good idea to lead with a quote. We are looking for clarity and honesty.
- Make it personal. If someone else could write your personal statement, it probably is not personal enough. We often see this happen when applicants discuss a social issue or area of the law. Remember that you are not trying to educate the Admissions Committee about the law or any particular issue. Your goal should be to educate the Admissions Committee about you.
What are some of the common mistakes that I should avoid?
While what works for one individual will not work for another because the personal statement is so individualized, here are some common mistakes that we see from applicants:
- Restating your resume. Resume restatements are one of the most common errors. We will read your resume in detail and we want the personal statement to tell us something new about you.
- Listing your qualifications. Don't try to overtly sell yourself to the Admissions Committee. This isn't the place to convince us how qualified you are. Your qualifications will shine through in the other parts of your application. Let each part of the application speak for itself. Remember that this is the part where we get to know you as an individual.
- Typos and “tracked changes”. Make sure to upload the correct version of your personal statement into CAS. If you plan to reference law schools by name, please make sure to reference the correct school for each application.
- Legalese or Latin phrases. Avoid using legal terms or Latin phrases if you can. The risk that you are incorrectly using them is just too high.
- Extensive discussions of the law and attorneys. It is not necessary to discuss the law, tell us what type of law you want to practice, or convey the extent of your legal experience. Legal experience is not a factor in admission. It is not the place to demonstrate your knowledge of the law or the role of attorneys. These personal statements do not tell us much about the applicant as an individual.
- Telling us you'll be a good lawyer because you like to argue.
- Name-dropping. It is not necessary to cite the names of our faculty and programs from our website in your personal statement unless you are placing the reference in a meaningful context. It detracts from your authenticity. However, if one of our faculty members or something about our community has genuinely inspired you, you're more than welcome to tell us about it.
- Covering too much information. You don't have to cover your entire life story. Use your discretion - we know that you have to make a choice and have limited space. Attempting to cover too much material can result in an unfocused and scattered personal statement.
Is there a page limit on my personal statement?
There is no page limit, but we generally find 2-4 pages to be sufficient in most circumstances. If it is longer, make sure that it is absolutely necessary and really interesting. We do not have any formatting rules with respect to spacing, font type, font size, or margins.
May I submit a diversity statement or “Why UChicago” essay?
You may, but please do so only when they are important to your application. Please remember that you want to be concise and genuine.
We believe that the personal statement is a wonderful place to discuss any aspects of your background (e.g., racial, ethnic, or religious identification, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, etc.) that are significant to you. If you find that you cannot include these topics in your personal statement, you may submit an additional diversity statement.
If there are genuine and informed reasons why you are particularly interested in studying law at UChicago, you are welcome to discuss them in an additional essay.