Uchicago Lighthearted Essay

As promised this begins a series entitled, "Tips & Tricks," that is designed to help you with the some of the more difficult aspects of completing your law school applications.  Future posts will cover topics such as the importance placed upon GPA, questions about majors and suggestions for obtaining the best letters of recommendation.  We thought we would start with the personal statement as it is one of the most difficult and time-consuming parts of the application.  Making this the first post in the series is also a reminder that you should set aside enough time to write a compelling personal statement.  And so now, here are our words of wisdom about that infamous personal statement...

The personal statement is the aspect of the application that we hear the most about when recruiting or talking to prospective students (except perhaps general fear of the LSAT!). "What should I write my personal statement about" is a critical question for the applicant, but one that is hard to answer. Here is a summary of do's and don'ts taken from several members of our admissions committee:


·       A personal statement is supposed to be PERSONAL! We want to hear about you, what makes you tick, what motivates you, and what inspires you. We are trying to make up a class of interesting, dynamic people, and this is the place to show us that you will add something vital to our school.  Whether your statement is light-hearted and comical or more serious, a statement that will stand out in our minds is one that is not only personal and interesting, but sincere. 

·       A good personal statement will give a sense of who you are as a person after reading it and there are hundreds of ways to accomplish this.

·       Remember, this is your writing sample as well as a personal statement so make sure that it is a flawless piece of writing. No typos, nice paragraphs, and something that flows well is highly desirable. One good way to catch typos is to read your statement aloud.  You often will catch missed words and awkward phrasing that you don't when silently reading it.  One of the most important things you can do to make your statement its best is to have someone whose writing you respect read it and offer comments.

·       Make your personal statement interesting, tell a captivating story, or inject some humor into the essay. We read a lot of these, so something fun can help you stand out in the crowd. 

·       Try to focus on something unique about you, something that is not going to be repeated in other people's essays. One essay topic we see a lot is the pre-med student who has an epiphany in a Political Science class and decides to change her major (but not until after getting a C- in Organic Chemistry!).  Nonetheless if your motivation to study law does originate with such an experience do not let that deter you from telling us so.

·       If you are sending out individualized personal statements, make sure that you send the correct personal statement with your application. I have read hundreds of personal statements talking about how the applicant really wants to go to a school other than Chicago. Needless to say, this can ruin an otherwise wonderful personal statement.


·       Don't rewrite your resume in your personal statement, writing chronologically about all the things you have accomplished in your life. That is the purpose of a resume this kind of personal statement tells us nothing new and tends not to be very interesting.

·       Be very careful when talking about the law. Remember, our committee is made up of lawyers, so if you are going to argue a legal issue, be aware that a lawyer will be reviewing your arguments very carefully. 

·       Don't be weird or quirky, just to be weird or quirky.  Although we encourage creativity, anything too strange (past examples included rhymes, videotapes, and CDs) will be memorable, but not in the good way.

·       Don't talk about our law school instead of yourself. It's great that you think we have a wonderful law school, and even better that you learned a lot on our website, but we already know that!

·       Don't feel like you have to write an essay about saving the world. If saving the world is your passion, then feel free to write about it. Something personal and introspective that fails to mention global warming, international terrorism or the sub-Saharan AIDS epidemic can still be a great personal statement.

With that we wish you luck composing and we look forward to reading what will undoubtedly be a compelling, interesting and personal statement about you!

Let's post our essays to help next years students get an idea of what they should write.

Here's my Chicago essay exactly as I submitted it (typos included).
Apperently it didn't work :(

Essay Option 2: Destroy A Question


“There must be an answer.” I thought to myself. I, a thinking being, must be able to deduce the answer to any question I can pose. I could not. Every argument I concocted I just as easily repudiated. I only got back to where I began- nowhere.

I frantically perused the musty pages of the classics in a vain attempt to resolve my question. I found that my question was more often a topic of prevarication than discourse. Plato never pushed beyond his postulate that the universe was eternal and immutable. Descartes’ brilliance collapsed when his haphazard proofs of God’s existence were repudiated. William James simply dismissed the question as unanswerable. It seemed that the great minds spent more time dismissing each other’s work than building their own.

I was lost. In every other field I had studied reason provided a clear path to knowledge. This time, however, reason led me nowhere. Every time I thought I had deduced the logical path to a new idea I discovered faults in my logic that left me in the same place I had started. I could not find any axioms of knowledge.

I consulted a revered theologian. He consigned my question to the mind of god. “But who created god?” I asked, sensing a hole in his answer.

“God is the uncreated creator.” The memorized rebuttal carried with it contempt towards my lack of knowledge of theological canon. I left the conversation refusing to accept any axioms of my existence.

I then sought out a venerated scientist. I asked him my fabled question, expecting a meek response. Instead, he began a dissertation on the mechanisms of the universe. “But why is it that way?” I asked again and again only to be met with another wave of explanations.

“That is what empirical evidence indicates.” He retorted constantly.

“But how do you know your conclusion isn’t like an explanation of the movement of shadows on a wall” I asked alluding to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

“I needn’t concern myself with hypotheses that cannot be falsified. I am a man of science.” His dismissive reply left me in the same place I started.

As I walked out of his office I overheard a toddler importuning his mother. “But why?” he asked time and time again. His mother’s repeated explanations failed to satiate his need for knowledge. He continued probing. Her explanations eventually focused on the existence of the universe. The toddler was not pleased. “Why does the universe exist?”

“It just does,” the mother said as she walked out of earshot.

As I walked on I noted that all three never reached any firm basis for their knowledge. The theologian and the scientist both dismissed the question as unanswerable. In his youth, the toddler refused to capitulate. He continued probing for knowledge beyond what his mother could provide.

My question was fundamentally a question of the mechanism explaining a condition. However, in order to explain something we must be able to observe it. By definition I couldn’t step out of the universe and observe it. I couldn’t answer my question because it was impossible for me to observe the mechanism. I capitulated to the inevitable: my question had no answer.

Post edited by Bill_h_pike on

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