Real Examples from Successful Applicants
Sample Personal Statement #1
I was born in Juneau, Alaska. For the
first year of my life I lived in a tiny cabin in the woods
with plywood floors and no indoor plumbing. Even though my
parents were the only ones in their families to have college
degrees, they were always struggling to make ends meet. My
father, a Vietnam veteran, was either unwilling or unable to
hold a job for very long. Eventually my mother decided to go
back to school, leaving my father to take care of my sister
and me while she studied and worked.
At the start of elementary
school I was placed in a program for gifted students, taking
designed to challenge me where regular classrooms could
not. It was wonderful, but it wasn’t to last. When I was eight, my
parents decided to move to northern Minnesota, and I was pulled out of the
talented program. We moved to a small rural town with a tiny, financially
strapped school district. There were no special programs at my new school.
Most of the
students were from poor rural families like mine and the dropout rate was
high. Suddenly, I was very bored in school and began to hate it.
When I was
fourteen, we moved again. This time we went to yet another small
rural town in the farming country of southwestern Minnesota. Right away
I got a job
as a waitress at the local diner, using the earnings to help my family.
The job was difficult for a shy kid like me, but my family
needed the money.
learned to overcome my shyness, and after a year of working at the diner
I became very good at it. But then my family moved again to, of course,
rural town, this time in north central Minnesota.
It didn’t take
long for me to realize that I didn’t want to be
a waitress in a series of small towns for the rest of my life. I had
if I wanted to have a better life I would have to depend on myself. I
decided that I wanted to be an exchange student. I wanted the experience
another language and visiting foreign countries. To be honest, I think
I really just needed an excuse to get away. Thankfully, I was awarded
from the Blandin Foundation in my community to go to France during my
with an exchange program, and I jumped at the opportunity.
Going to France
changed my life. I was intellectually challenged for the first time
since I left Alaska. I embraced the challenge and loved
it. One of the happiest times of my life came in February of that year
when I realized I had broken through the language barrier and had become
Despite the initial language difficulties, I earned straight As at
the French high school I attended and became close with my
and host family.
It was difficult to leave at the end of the year, and upon my return
to the United States I experienced intense culture shock.
senior year I took college courses at the local community
college instead of attending high school. I worked full-time
and had a daily
babysitting job, too. On top of that, my parents were both commuting
several hours away for work and I was left in charge of my younger
sister. I struggled
to make it to class and study when I could find the time, and I somehow
managed to earn a decent GPA by the end of the year.
I chose to go
to St. Cloud State University because I didn’t want
to be stuck at the community college for another year, and
that if I wanted
to get somewhere in life I had to have at least a four-year college
degree. College hasn’t always been easy. Having to
work outside of school has allowed me little time for studying
campus activities, and I took some classes
were very difficult, but I always remained committed to my intellectual
growth and self-betterment. Consequently, I have excelled.
I am seeking the best legal education
that I can possibly obtain, and I look forward to being challenged
in law school.
I am a curious
intellectual stimulation and exposure to new ideas. I want to
become a lawyer for many reasons but the primary reason is
because I want
career so that I can support my family and myself. I have spent
enough of my life in
small, rural Minnesota towns and now I am ready for my next big
personal and academic adventure.
Sample Personal Statement #2
When I was eight years old my family
moved to a small town about forty miles north of Milwaukee,
Wisconsin. Slinger has a population of 3000. After getting
over being the new girl from big scary Milwaukee, I basically
sat side-by-side the same twenty-five classmates for the next
four years. After that, we all went across the street to the
middle school where another elementary school joined us. Of
course everyone knew everyone else here as well. This was our
class until high school graduation. You can really get a sense
of belonging and deep friendship by being so close to people.
I was an “insider” who shared everything with the
same people, day in and day out.
But the feeling of comfort
I had in being part of the group soon gave way to a sense
of monotony. The
people around me were blind
to diversity and were reluctant to change. The people I’ve
known forever disregard diversity with respect to people
and cultures, but more fundamentally they fail to pursue
of what life has to offer. I knew more existed in the world.
I knew life existed outside of Slinger, and that is what
wanted for myself. Consequently, I chose to attend college
away from anyone I ever knew and where no one knew me.
I decided I wanted to study law after graduating from St.
Cloud State University, I knew I needed some experience.
to get my foot in the door at a law firm or simply be exposed
to the law in action to see if a legal career was really
for me. I went home to Slinger for the summer wanting to
a law firm. Unfortunately, in Slinger there are just two
lawyers. They are husband and wife and work out of their
son runs their errands. So much for the legal market back
I realized then and there that I had outgrown
Slinger for good. I decided to seek employment in the big city
I obtained an internship at the Hennepin County Public
Office. Working as an investigator for public defenders
opened my eyes to how difficult it is for the accused to obtain
what they are constitutionally entitled to. Many of our
scary, and committed unspeakable crimes. I had never seen
anything like it. While growing up I read about some “kids
getting into trouble” in the Slinger Police Blotter,
but I never had to sit five feet from a convicted murderer
charge of armed robbery.
Still, this defendant deserved
all of the rights and protections that the system could
afford, and I was proud to help him.
The folks back in Slinger would never have understood this.
in a part of our legal system that makes sure everyone
is given justice. But when my own clients are reluctant
me because the only experiences they have had with the
law are negative,
it makes it very challenging to serve them fully. I may
have been able to get statements from everyone who saw
the night of the alleged crime, but I can’t convince
my client that the law is supposed to work for him. Again,
because of where
and how I grew up I have always viewed police officers
as the “good
guys.” But at the public defender’s office,
I had a seven-year-old client who shut the door in my face
he thought I as a cop. He wanted nothing to do with me.
This is something I have never been faced with before in
I wanted real life legal experiences from my internship,
and I got them.
After working for the public defender,
I continued to further my legal education both in and outside
of the classroom.
For example, I was nominated to participate
in the National Youth Leadership Forum. For two weeks we intensely studied
the South African legal system. The experience was amazing.
Like my internship, it
changed my outlook on the law. The South African legal system is in the
process of complete transformation. To see the struggles
of a nation working toward
a kind of justice its people has never known made me look
at the United States
system of justice with more reverence. In America we see the right to a
jury trial as a fundamental right. In South Africa they
see juries as a hindrance
to justice. They do not believe that ordinary people without legal education
are able to decide the guilt or innocence of a person.
Not only was what
I learned about the South African legal system worthwhile,
but the people I met made my trip unique as well. I loved
being able to
talk to other aspiring law students about what we observed. The sharing
and feelings about these new approaches to the law was intellectually
stimulating. Moreover, I made lasting friendships. The folks
back home didn’t
want me to go on the trip—they were worried for my safety due to
notoriety—but I’m so glad I did.
I have begun to learn about
what the law entails and I have seen the law at work in a variety of
places. I want to continue learning in law
to work with some of the most diverse, educated, and experienced people
in the world is an aspect of law school that I look forward to. I want
and from them. I am committed to exploring and mastering the legal
field, and I know that I will succeed because I have the drive,
courage to go tackle the “unknown.”
I have come a long
way from being a small town girl living where everybody knows my
name. But, I still have a long way to go in reaching my personal
goals, and law school is the next step that will enable me to do
Sample Personal Statement #3
[Note: The following 345-word personal
statement was part of a successful application to a top-25
When he arrived on campus with the law school’s new
entering class, the Dean of Admissions not only remembered
but also told the author that his was “the best personal
statement that [she] had ever seen.” Study this
personal statement carefully. Note that the stories told
a lot about the applicant, and that despite its short
statement packs a lot of punch.]
For most people, the slap on the face that turns their life
around is figurative. Mine was literal.
Actually, it was a punch delivered
by a drill sergeant at Fort Dix, New Jersey, while I was
in basic training. That day’s
activity, just a few weeks into the program, included instruction
in “low-crawling,” a sensible method of moving
from one place to another on a battlefield. I felt rather clever
for having discovered that, by looking right rather than down,
I eliminated my helmet’s unfortunate tendency to dig
into the ground and slow my progress. I could thus advance
more easily, but I also exposed my unprotected face to hostile
fire. Drill sergeants are typically very good at detecting
this type of laziness, and mine was an excellent drill sergeant.
So, after his repeated suggestions that I correct my performance
went unheeded, he drove home his point with a fist to my face.
We were both stunned. This was,
after all, the New Army, and striking a trainee was a career-ending
move for a drill sergeant,
as we were both aware. I could have reported him; arguably,
I should have. I didn’t. It didn’t seem right for
this good sergeant, who had not slept for almost four days,
to lose his career for losing his temper with my laziness.
Choosing not to report him was the first decision I remember
making that made me proud.
I was not a perfect soldier the next day; neither was I the
same unmotivated person who, for lack of effort, had failed
at virtually everything I had previously attempted. I was determined
(itself a novel experience) to apply myself to soldiering.
That was eight years ago. In the
interim I have enjoyed a short but distinguished military
career, married, fathered
a child and resumed my college education. I am currently poised
to graduate with honors from [State] University. Looking forward
to law school, I can only trust that my distant mistakes are
not too costly; I am certain, however, that the lessons I’ve
learned will continue to assist me.