If you’ve been a part of my life in the last two years, you would know how the law school applications process weighed heavily on my soul. My days consisted of constant LSAT (Law School Applications Test) studying, my weekends were consumed with full-length practice tests. I was consistently working on my application, writing and re-writing, proofreading and starting my personal statement from scratch over and over and over again. I was reaching out to law school students that I knew from my sorority, asking every single one their advice. On my 2-hour bus commute to and from the Governor’s Office, where I interned, I listened to podcasts on the law school applications process and LSAT strategies because I would get carsick if I tried to read. I was ALL in.
And… even with all of that… I have to admit. The enrollment decision process was met with disappointment and sadness as I received several denials from schools across the nation. I was waitlisted from a school I had deemed as my “back up” option. My LSAT score was no where near where I had been testing during practice tests. This is all very hard for me to admit; I am someone who is tenacious and persistent, doing everything I thought I could to make it. And that’s just it… I did everything I could. I tried my absolute best, and at the end of the day, that’s all I can do. It was difficult at the time, but now I look back with pride and think: I did that.
Writing your personal statement for graduate school, professional programs or (in my case) law school is a daunting feat. It requires some soul-searching, for sure. What makes you, well… you? What are the qualities you possess that make you an undoubtedly competitive, incredible candidate for said program? Why are you even applying here?
You may think, like I did, that you have to have this grandiose, exceptional story to have a grandiose, exceptional personal statement. Spoiler Alert: that’s just not the case. Yes, of course, crafting a personal statement does require some deep introspection and brain-power. I admittedly wrote countless drafts, trying out different topics and prompts that I thought might work and finding out over and over again they just didn’t. They didn’t represent me, my character or who I wanted to come across as to the admissions committee. They didn’t wow me, so why would they wow them? Crafting my personal statement took almost six months of continued attempts until I wrote the version that exists today (well, the early version. It’s been proofread so many times).
That’s something you have to keep in mind when writing this; it’s going to take some trial and tribulation. Maybe you begin writing about an experience you had, but can’t find a way to integrate this experience to who you are today. The writing process is never linear. And it shouldn’t be.
Writing and rewriting your personal statement over and over again allows you to become more in tune with yourself and your values, why you wanted to pursue this program in the first place, what makes you you. It’s a compelling revelation when you save that final version onto your hard drive, ready to send off to the college of your dreams. You at least know with every ounce of your being that every word on that paper reflects who you are. And that’s exactly how it should be.
In full disclosure, I’m not and have never been a part of an admissions committee. I’m an applicant, just like you. I don’t have the credentials to tell you what you should or shouldn’t write, but I have done my research. I’ve helped many friends write successful personal statements as well as my own. I’ve had a personal statement consultant (Anna Ivey Consulting) and I’ve read many books on the subject. So… take all of this with a grain of salt!
Where do I even start?
You should most definitely start with the college or program’s application requirements. Write down in a spreadsheet (if you’re applying to multiple places) what their personal statement requirements are. How many pages is it allowed to be? Is there a prompt, or are you free to write about whatever you choose? Are you required to write about why you chose this program in particular? If so, that means you may have to craft a couple of different personal statements.
You need to be aware of the requirements before you even sit down to write it, because not completing these is a sure way to get yourself docked before the admissions committee even reads your first paragraph. Be mindful about following instructions; if you can’t even follow directions for this, how will you be a competitive student? You know?
Generally, for law school applications, personal statements range from 2-3 pages. Some don’t have a page requirement, but from what I’ve heard, you definitely want to ballpark it around 2 pages. If it’s more than that, you need to make sure what you’re saying is realllllly integral into what you want the committee to know. If not, nix it. You don’t want to bore them with your words. Every word needs to make a contribution to the thesis of your personal statement (do I sound like your undergrad writing professor yet?).
Choosing a Topic
Alright, here’s where the soul-searching comes in to play. Think about all of the different experiences in your life that have made you who you are. When I think of personal statements, I think about reading examples of outstanding athletes, accomplished creators and prodigy artists. I think of reading about students who have faced massive obstacles in their home lives, making it undoubtedly difficult to succeed in their academics or professional life.
I thought for the longest time that I had to be some D1 football player or have this story of intense loss to craft an effective statement, and that’s just not true. At all. If those are attributes that are part of your life and you feel that they’re extremely integral to who you are, by all means, write about them. But the fact is, we all have an incredible story to tell about who we are and why we are the way we are. We just have to find it.
I’ve created a worksheet for you that you should fill out. It discusses different aspects of your home life, from socio-economic challenges to demographics to your passions/hobbies and your involvement. Then, it goes a bit deeper. What is your relationship like with your parents? What was the proudest moment of your life, and why were you proud? When do you feel the most like yourself?
Some of these questions I’ve pulled off of Pinterest bullet journal prompts. Some are questions that I think could be answered by some great autobiographies and personal essays (which, by the way, you should read more of to get an idea of how to talk about yourself).
Choose Values to Convey
When you’re sitting down to craft your personal statement, you want to write out the values about yourself that distinguish you from all of the other applicants in the pool. Which values do you want to convey to the admissions committee? Maybe you’re an extremely talented artist, which allows you to be creative and problem-solve in original ways. Maybe you’re really compassionate, which contributes to having a high level of emotional intelligence and thus, you’re able to connect to people really well. I don’t know, and I can’t tell you what your values *should* be. Those are things you have to dream up on your own.
Figure Out How to Relate Them
Okay, so now you’ve got a topic. And you’ve got your values. How are you going to relate the two to each other in an effective, compelling essay? Let’s go back to high school and brainstorm. Write it all out on a piece of paper and figure out how each paragraph will contribute to your mission.
You want each value to be demonstrated through the topic that you’ve chosen. So, if it’s an experience, you want to describe different facets of that experience that relate to those values. So… for a generic example, let’s say my topic is that I’ve been a pianist my whole life. My values are tenacity, resiliency and creativity. How might you relate playing piano to those values?
You could talk about all of the hours of practice you’ve put in. All of the sheet music you’ve marked up. All of the notes you’ve played incorrectly, and all of the times you felt frustrated. You could talk about all of the times you wanted to quit. All of the times you did quit, and all of the times you came back to sit at that bench. Maybe you talk about composing your own pieces, or the problem-solving tactics piano has given you. You could parallel a difficult measure to an obstacle in your life that you’ve had to overcome. It could be this dynamic, intricate metaphor, with descriptive writing that makes use of music vocabulary to drive home the imagery.
Tell a STORY
So, you may have noticed from that example that I reallllllly wanted you to find ways to relate that experience to your life in creative ways. If you’re a storyteller, this’ll be fun for you. Incorporating imagery is something you’ve known since grade school; you know how this contributes to a more compelling piece. Remember, this personal statement gives you the freedom to get the admission committee’s attention. So, do just that. Get their attention! Write like you’re telling this beautiful story, because you are.
Craft your statement with your package in mind
Avoid the robotics. Don’t repeat what you’ve got on your resume! They’re getting that, too. This is your chance to be creative, have fun and show a different side of you that they’re not getting from the other components of your application. Remember, all of this is a package. Your resume, your GPA, your LSAT score (or GRE), your personal statement, and, if applicable, your diversity statement. These are all separate components that build this portfolio for the admissions committee with your name on it.
You want to deliver your personal statement as a component that does not reinforce the things you’ve already said in different files of your application, but elevates it by adding new information. Why would they ask for all of these different files if you’ve just said the same thing over and over and over again, just in different formats? You want to build an application that is well-rounded, effective and not repetitive. Use this personal statement as an opportunity to do just that.
Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
Read your essay over and over again. Keep different versions of it tucked away in Google Drive. Have your family read it, maybe some friends that trust you and know you. Maybe have some people that don’t know you read it, and ask them what they think of you.
At a certain point, though, have confidence in what you’ve written. Know that everyone will have a different opinion on what you should write, and that’s okay. But at the end of the day, this is YOUR personal statement. It should reflect you in every word. If it starts to sound too much like your mom, your best friend, your college consultant, your editor… it’s not your personal statement anymore. Always ask for advice, but at the end of the day, make the executive decisions yourself. After all, this is your future. Not theirs.
Personal Statement Brainstorming and Proofreading Services
If all of this doesn’t seem to click with you quite perfectly, let’s connect. I can definitely help you brainstorm some ideas and figure out how to go about crafting your statement! I don’t charge what consulting firms do (not even a fraction of a fraction), and I think we could team up to help you get over that writer’s block.
If you’ve already formulated your idea, put it down onto paper, and need some help proofreading, let me know as well. I’d be glad to help! Writing and copyediting are most definitely my strengths, and I’d love to help you build the best possible statement you can.
You can connect with me via my “connect” page! I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
Yes, yes, the rumors are true. I’m an LSAT survivor. You know, that taunting law school admissions test that looms over all pre-law students’ heads as they begin the law school application process. That one.
Here are some tips I learned from taking my LSAT not once, but twice. I think, had I implemented some of these things the first time I took my test, I would’ve performed better (my score was by no means bad) and wouldn’t have opted to try again. But alas, here I am, writing things to remember. Maybe this was all for this post, for you. I don’t know. The universe is funny like that sometimes.
Both times I took the test, there were some issues with other students not having the proper materials for the test. Don’t let that be you! Get all of your materials together and ready days before the LSAT, and double check it on the night before. The last thing you want to do on test day is scramble trying to find your watch or your passport. Need a checklist? Here:
#2 or wooden pencils, sharpened (bring at least 3)
Feminine hygiene or medical products
Water (20 oz maximum)
I made the mistake of skipping purchasing a watch the first time I took my test, and neither of my testing locations had a watch. BUY A WATCH. I repeat, BUY A WATCH. Even if you don’t use timing as a pacer (wait, you don’t? Why not? You should), I’d highly recommend purchasing one. Actually, I’m not recommending. I’m demanding. You can buy a special LSAT watch like the one I had here:
Then, make sure everything’s good to go in your gallon size Ziploc baggie. And print out directions to the testing location, too, just for you to have in case your phone directions don’t work.
Don’t Bring These
Also, remember that these items are not allowed:
Digital watches, alarm watches, beeping watches, calculator watches
Cell phones (leave it in the car or leave it with reception if you’re at a hotel)
Photographic or recording devices
Briefcases, handbags, backpacks
Weapons or firearms
02. Eat a big dinner & watch your favorite movie
The night before the LSAT, don’t go crazy with trying to review material. Try to relax. I even had a massage the day before my test, ate a big dinner and settled in around 7 to wind down and watch a movie that was funny and light-hearted. You can look over your study guides and skim through your books, but find comfort and confidence in knowing that you know the material. Don’t sweat it. You know what to do.
If you’re letting me recommend the movie, you know I’d pick something in the 80’s/90’s movie category. Perhaps Back to the Future? Clueless? Sixteen Candles? All good choices, you can’t go wrong with any of them. Lighthearted, sweet, funny. Perfect.
03. Get a good night’s sleep
Like the eve of any big, life-changing event (yeah, the LSAT counts as one), be sure to prioritize getting sleep. Chances are you may not sleep as solidly as you would want (if your nerves are like mine, anyhow), and it’s important to be on your A game the day of the test! So, lights out early (like 9!). Set your alarm early so that you can eat breakfast without rushing!
The Day Of
04. Wear comfortable, warm clothing
I can never think super clearly when I’m cold, and I’m… always… cold. Coats are brought everywhere I go, and LSAT day is no exception. You’re probably in a large conference room, and their air-conditioning is probably on. I recommend dressing very comfortably and equipping yourself with some layers so that you can shed them if you need to.
Also, make sure your clothing is comfortable. Don’t wear a brand new pair of jeans or a new pair of shoes the day of. Stick to clothes you know work for you, whether it be a simple pair of leggings or your favorite pair of jeans. Remember, you’re sitting in that chair for hours and hours upon end. Sections are only 35 minutes, and you need every ounce of brain power you have to focus on the questions. Not how the button on your new jeans is digging into your stomach.
05. Eat a big breakfast of protein, carbs and healthy fats
Next to remember, a big breakfast is essential on days like today, since your brain has to run as best as possible! And remember, food is fuel. Fuel your brain with foods you know you like and agree well with your body. I always choose something like toasted english muffins with avocado and poached eggs. Or protein-oatmeal with coconut milk. Protein and healthy fats will keep you fuller for longer, while carbs will help you focus. So, don’t skip breakfast!
06. Get to the testing location early
I always recommend getting to places early (it’s the Virgo in me). Scope it out, know exactly where the test will be held, find the bathroom and socialize. One of the biggest things that helped me feel calm before my last test was being able to talk to students before I went in — one of them was a 75-year old man taking the test! I feel much more comfortable and confident when I get to have positive interactions with people before the test.
07. Breathe and breathe again.
I know how nerve wrecking this is, and I know it’s scary. But just remember that oxygen is brain food, too. Breathe deeply, expand your ribs and exhale towards your spine. Over and over again. Regulating your breathing is a great way to calm yourself down when you’re feeling extra anxious. Repeat affirmations to yourself to reinforce your positive mindset.
I can do this, because I know the material. Everything is going to be okay because I’m fully prepared. I am ready.
These are just a few things for you to go over before heading into the test, to jog your memory and get those logical reasoning gears turning!
08. Games Process
Spend no more than three minutes looking over each game and deciphering what level of difficulty they are. It will help you tremendously to start with the ones you know you can do rather than trying the harder ones first. I always look for 1D games (chronological order), then In/Out games. These are ones I know I can definitely solve with stellar accuracy.
Rank the games. Decide which one you’re starting with.
Diagram and write out your inventory
Make deductions from the clues. What’s the most restricted? What element is the least restricted?
Grab a Rule questions first, then Specific, then General, then Complex
09. Arguments Process
Read the question stem first. Then determine which question type it is and what you need to answer it using your practice.
Describe the Reasoning
And… if it’s parallel… skip it. (That’s what I do, anyway) Well, don’t skip it. Use your Letter of the Day. Don’t ever leave an answer blank, ever. Just a reminder! I’ll never forget that first test when some guy asked me if he would get negative points for wrong answers during break. This poor man had gone halfway through the test leaving answers blank. NO.
Whenever I read the argument, I also like to mark up premises and conclusions as well. This helps me to identify what’s what and makes the argument easier to break down. Remember that your patterns of wrongness are: out of scope, strong language, not strong enough, doesn’t match and right answer to the wrong question (this one gets me all the time)
10. Reading Comprehension Process
Go through and spend up to three minutes ranking your questions. I also like to preview the questions so I have an idea of what I’m looking for before I read through, but that’s a personal preference.
Work the passage by reading actively, circling indicative information and marking up premises and conclusions. Look for question tasks: big picture, extract, structure and reasoning.
Use your annotations to find exactly what you’re looking for. Remember, in reading comprehension sections, the answers are there. You just have to find them.
Bonus Tip: Be calm and confident.
Attitude plays a huge part in your success on LSAT day. Repeat your affirmations, breathe and remember that you’ve done everything you can to prepare. The score you will get to day is the score you deserve, and the universe will reward your hard work by allowing you to reap the benefits of your success. Practice optimism and good things will happen! Mindset is everything, so be kind to yourself. Especially on this day.
I cannot tell you how long I’ve been waiting to say that I am finally done with the LSAT! The LSAT is the required test for admission into law school — the acronym stands for “Law School Admissions Test.” However, more and more law schools are beginning to accept GRE scores (not all, though, so be sure to check what tests your prospective schools are accepting).
This post is alllll about the studying I did in preparation for the test! I’ll be creating posts in the future that talk about some tricks / study guides I’ve made for myself and sharing them with you all as well. For now, though, here’s what I did and how I did it.
My Study Timeline
I started studying for the test in January of 2018 with the intention that I’d take the test for the first time in September 2018. My undergraduate graduation was in May, but I’ve been enrolled in the advanced master’s program for a few years now. I’ve always known that I’d have an extra year to complete my test, get my personal statement together and round up all of the other components necessary for completing applications.
I have always known that I would eventually go to law school, so it was easy for me to plan out my timeline in anticipation. However, if you’re planning on going straight from your undergrad to law school, I’d recommend getting your LSAT out of the way before senior year. This will save you a ton of stress and allow for you to complete those senior projects or thesis defenses without the LSAT looming overhead. And, if you’ve got to retake the test, you’re not pressed for time!
Choosing how long you study for the LSAT is really up to you. Are you someone who grasps concepts quickly? What is your diagnostic score at? Do you get overwhelmed if it’s too quick (like I do)? There are different study plans available on Pinterest that you can look around to see if it works for you or not, but I’ve attached a FREE downloadable PDF of my own study schedule below.
Choosing a Prep Course
So, I started in January. I bought a prep course without really doing much research on which prep course was best for me. I picked a brand I quite frankly trusted because I had used it for ACT prep in the past (the Princeton Review), and it had a discounted code through my school that significantly brought down the price of the prep courses.
They’re expensive, but think of it as a really awesome investment. The higher your LSAT score is, the more likely you’ll be offered hefty scholarships that make up for the investment in tenfold (I got my first full scholarship offer last week, actually! Yay!). So, while you may feel discouraged by the price tag, just keep that in mind.
The prep course I chose was an online one — I had the option to commute to Tempe (20-30 minutes away from me), but the course was three times a week for three hours and thirty minutes at a time (whew). I’m without a car in Phoenix, so I knew that I’d have to be commuting by public transportation or ride sharing services. On top of school and work, that just wasn’t feasible for me.
So, I chose the online option, which ended up being just fine. I’m admittedly a classroom learner, but the live classes helped to keep me on track and had the same vibe as an in person class. Plus, I could be in my pajamas (okay, MAJOR plus).
The Princeton Review class, overall, was good. Just good. It laid down the groundwork for what I’d later build upon. The only thing I disliked was that if I was getting a concept and the rest of the class wasn’t, we’d spend more time focusing on building that out rather than moving on (and vice versa when I didn’t understand something but everyone else did). Which, to be fair, should be expected of a classroom course. But, I liked that we were able to ask questions, collaborate with each other using the software and hear our teacher explain things. Sometimes we’d even have group assignments, which was cool! I liked getting to know the other students.
My teacher in particular was hilarious and explained things in a way that was clear, memorable and fun (her name was Gail, if you’re interested in working with her!). I could hear her voice in the back of my head on test day repeating those acronyms!
This course was upfront with what they intended — they wanted everyone to get at least a score of 150 by the end of the course. They stated that this should be everyone’s goal. A score of 150 gives you options, it ensures that you can get into law school somewhere and for most people, that’s just what they’re seeking. It all really depends on where you’re trying to go.
You can download my weekly schedule below. I spent days focusing on certain problem areas, switching back and forth between sections. I always made sure that I was timing myself! ALWAYS. If you can’t get to the question, what difference does it make if all of your answers are right? You need to keep track of your time and record it as you go.
You can use this study schedule as a rough guide as to how you’ll approach your own test. I highly recommend going with the way you feel, too. Don’t feel like doing a games section tonight? Don’t. Do arguments or reading instead. Don’t feel like doing LSAT at all? Opt for an academic journal read on something of your choice to read instead. At least it will get the same wheels turning.
As I started doing more and more practice tests and finishing up the course, I was seeing distinct patterns in what I was missing and what I wasn’t. I was extremely strong in reading comprehension, pretty strong in games, but missing the same argument questions over and over again (particularly inference questions and parallelism questions). So, I looked into more focused courses. You could also look into private tutoring.
A lot of my friends have been in the law school admissions process as well, and almost all of them were taking PowerScore. PowerScore, as my law school consultant said, is the perfect course for elevating your scores; it hones in on specific concepts and allows you to really work through those with reason.
So, I purchased the “Logic Reasoning” section of the course, where the instructors go suuuuuper in depth on all of the different argument questions. I know they have a “Logic Games” one, too! Definitely worth the investment. If I were to redo this, I probably would’ve attended went with PowerScore from the beginning. But, that’s why I’m writing this — so that you don’t have to say the same.
On the side, I purchased books I could read on my 2-hour commute to and from work (4-hours in a bus really makes you bored). Some of the books I had are listed below, so be sure to check them out. I’d pick up some here and there at the bookstore and have collected them throughout college.
They’re great little reads to keep you inspired and aiming towards that higher score. However, a lot of their content is the same as one another’s. I also regularly listened to Thinking LSAT, a podcast where the instructors go over specific concepts, problems and questions from their listeners. For the duration, I lived and breathed the LSAT.
In full disclosure, these are Amazon links and I am an Amazon Affiliate. When you use these links, I make a small commission off of your purchase.
Bloggers, Vloggers and Podcasts
I also loved listening to vloggers and reading blogs (like Lipsticks and Lattes and Brazen and Brunette) who are already in law school — it really inspired me to keep going! They’re like an online support and mentorship system in a way, and I loved their content. You should check them out!
And… I think that’s what eventually led to my burnout. I was tired of hearing about it, sick of getting questions wrong, ready to take the test and get it out of the way. Anxiously, I reviewed concepts and took practice tests up until the first time I took the test in November. After consistently getting frustrated with myself when I would get questions wrong, I lost the confidence that I had. My test scores begin to waiver. And… it showed.
Retaking the Test
I took the LSAT again this past month, in January. A lot of people recommend that you take more time between the tests to study more. However, I knew that I knew that content, the concepts and the strategies. However, I scored 10 points lower than I consistently do — I knew my attitude and my confidence had shaken the way I performed. The day I received my scores back I signed up for the January test because I knew I was ready to take it again.
The Wait Continues
I’m still waiting on my test scores for the last test (they take an agonizing three weeks until release). However, I feel so much better about this test than I did about the last one. I walked in with my head high and left with my head high. During the last week, I limited outside stressors in my life. I focused on the test and repeated affirmations to myself that I could do it. After all, I have shown myself time and time again that I could do it.
Would you all be interested in hearing about my test day experiences and tips for getting ready for test day? Be on the lookout for waaaay more posts about my law school admissions process. There’s so much to share! The way I prepared the week before and the day of dramatically impacted my scores. Buuuuut, I guess we’ll see in mid-February. I’m just happy knowing that I tried my 100% best, and this score is the score I deserve.