Even professional writers get writer's block, so what should you do when you don't know what to write about in your law school personal statement? Try the 10 writing prompts for brainstorming ideas below, and you should have a working draft of your personal statement in no time.
And remember even though some of these encourage list-making, that doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't keep writing in a free-flowing form whenever an idea strikes. You never know what you'll come up with!
1. What are your most notable accomplishments?Looking at a list of your accomplishments may spark an idea of a particular experience you had while working toward your success. Be wary of basing your whole personal statement, though, on your accomplishments; your personal statement is intended to give admissions committees an idea of your personal qualities, not provide another recitation of your accolades.
2. What are your most notable failures?
If you choose to base your personal statement on a past failure, be sure you're focusing on what you've learned from the experience and/or how much you've grown since that time. Some of life's greatest lessons come from our failures, and this is a great chance for you to show personal growth.
One caveat here: you generally don't want to build an essay around overcoming academic failures; if you must explain a low grade or test score, do so in a supplemental essay, not in your personal statement.
3. What are your law-related goals?List short-term and long-term goals regarding your legal career, including any special programs, classes, or clinics at your potential law school that may help get you there. Then ask yourself why these are your goals, what experiences you've had that have led you to this point, etc.
4. What are your non-law-related goals?By seeing your childhood goal to climb Mount Everest down on paper, it just may spark the memory of the time you and your brother were lost in the woods and you had to take charge of the situation. You never know where inspiration may strike, so when it doubt, write it down.
5. Why do you want to go to law school?Sounds simple and basic enough, right? If you're lucky, it is. By listing the reasons you want to go to law school, you may begin to see a particular pattern in your life that has led you to this point or pinpoint the moment when you decided law school was for you. Either of these could be the basis for an engaging, informative law school personal statement.
6. Go back through old blog entries or journals and expound.Sometimes experiences affect us more when we've had some perspective--and even forgot that they happened. Going through your old writings may help you remember a particular random meeting in an airport that helped influence your decision to apply to law school (in fact, this is what my law school personal statement centered on).
7. Who are the most important people in your life?When you glance back at your life, who are the people that stand out? What have you learned from them? What did they inspire you to do? How would your life be different if it weren't for them?
8. What have been your most important, life-changing experiences?Be sure to list any traveling or times you were away from home, as these can be extremely enriching and formative experiences. Other examples: Did you change careers mid-life? Decide to have a baby while in college? Spend a year in a volunteer organization?
9. Write an introduction of yourself.If you were introducing yourself to a stranger, what are the things you would highlight about yourself? What makes you special and different, and most importantly, what unique perspective can you add to the law school environment?
10. What would you do if you could do anything at all?This is slightly different from the prompts about goals as this one really asks you to dream. If money and time were no objects, what would you most like to do? Can law school help you achieve that? How?