Six Words to Avoid in Law School Personal Statements

Law School Expert Blog

A personal statement is your best opportunity to present yourself to law school admissions officers. Having read thousands of personal statements, here are the six words and phrases that make me cringe – and waste precious words in making your point.

1. Worldview

I’m not convinced this is really a word, and if it is, let’s pretend it’s not.

2. Personally…

It’s a personal statement – of course everything you say is your own personal opinion. If it’s not, you’re doing something wrong.

3. In Conclusion…

Blech! Just conclude; Don’t announce that you’re concluding.

4. I Believe

It doesn’t matter what you believe about your ability to succeed in law school or what you believe is important in your application – the fact that you believe it is immaterial. Just state the facts so that the reader’s independently-arrived at conclusion is that he or she believes whatever you’re trying to prove.

5. Unique

Very few things in this world are “unique”, especially the use of the word ‘unique’.

6. Firsthand Experience

What is a second hand experience and why would anyone write about it? Of course your experiences are “firsthand”….Again, I’m not convinced this should really be a word.

A great personal statement can really make a difference in your law school application.

For more personal statement tips, see these articles and videos:
Winning Personal Statement Topics for Law School
How to Write a Law School Personal Statement

Or schedule a consultation about my Personal Statement Plus service.

23 Responses

  1. Aarg- this is why you shouldn’t read things like this mere minutes AFTER sending off an app. I used the “I believe…” construction in the penultimate sentence of one of my essays, and reading over it now it’s clear the sentence would be much stronger without it. Oh well…I believe I’ve learned my lesson, at least.

  2. The answer is that it depends what you are trying to explain. Some things can be explained in a sentence or two and others might require a page….
    Stick to the facts of the circumstances and don’t over-embellish your embarrasment.

    1. Worldview is used by John Creswell regarding methodology for research. It is a word used especially in academia.

  3. I made a mistake on my application and sent the wrong addendum. i proofread everything but after moving documents, saving and re-saving, two got mixed up. Is it wise to call the law school, inform them of the mistake, and re-send the correct addendum?

  4. Is it ok to allude to a rape in your personal statement, in connection with how it temporarily set you back in college and led your life to its current direction? (With nothing graphic, mentioned only in 1 paragraph)
    I know it’s a bit risky, but I feel it had the greatest impact on my life..
    Thanks for your feedback in advance.

  5. It’s hard for me to say without reading it, but it seems perfectly appropriate. I always prefer for people to come out and say things rather than “allude” however.

  6. Would you be able to provide us with some more common flaws that make adcoms itch or groan as if they’ve got their finger caught in the door?
    My app is due Nov 3rd, I’d love to make sure I’ve ridded myself of all vulgarities by then. I hope this is possible.

  7. Hi Anne,

    Can you comment on the extent to which a personal statement should be tailored from school to school?

    Also thanks for talking with me during the initial consultation! You really helped me get my school selections worked out. I just bought the book and am pumped to start the process.

    1. Jason, it was a pleasure speaking with you and actually I expect the book to answer that question for you! Thanks for reading the blog and book!

  8. I’m a freshman in high school and my English teacher HATES it when she finds a paper like that. We’re knocked down a full letter grade every time we use the first person. It’s hard for me to believe that there are students applying to law school with essays like that.

  9. As I tell my legal writing students, “penultimate” means ‘next to last’ ; “ultimate” means ‘last’. Be careful not to confuse them. 😀

  10. You shouldn’t use the word ‘literally’ but if you do please make sure you understand what it means. Your heart did not literally sink, you did not literally get kicked out of anywhere, you were not literally devastated, and your last few years were not literally a roller coaster of emotions…to cite a few examples.

  11. Sometimes people use phrases like “to conclude” or “I believe” mainly for writing style because it sets a certain mood that may go with his or her story. Is it really that bad to use these phrases in this context? I honestly don’t understand. As a creative writer, certain wording is mainly used just for style and it’s a way of expressing yourself. I don’t see why it’s such a problem.

    1. Hi Bri,
      I’m working on some, I promise! I’ve just been so busy helping my clients I haven’t had time. But I’m planning to release an updated version of The Law School Admission Game before fall, so keep an eye out for that.

  12. So…. what you’re saying is I should probably rethink my personal statement?? –> “My unique firsthand experiences have helped me develop a worldview which leads me to personally believe I am an outstanding candidate for law school. In conclusion, I believe I would be an asset to any university.” 😉

  13. Thanks Ann. I started gathering my ideas, but I am not sure how to start my first paragraph, Is a personal story acceptable or should I state a clear statement explaining the issue I am about to introduce.

  14. Hi Ann
    I read your book and talked to you on the phone. Will call you soon after I finish my PS.

    But, I have a question about school-specific personal statement.

    I feel like my best story is not about specific “point(s)”, but about a “line” that shows continuous personal development and the profound influence of specific law school.

    But, the 2-pages limit forced me to address only one point. I feel like the former is much notable than the latter. How should I go about it? Thank you.

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