Example Personal Statement: Law
We analyse a student's Personal Statement
This student applied to study Law at the University of Cambridge, Durham University, University College London, the London School of Economics, and King’s College London. They received conditional offers from all their chosen universities except King’s College London.
Here we break their personal statement down into parts, analysing each section so you can learn from their experience.
Having lived in Singapore for nine years, my interest in studying law was originally sparked by the notorious legal system in the country. I read into their laws and policies on crime, safety, and racial quotas, and began exploring criminal law in different countries, comparing their laws and crime rates to see the impact of the legal system in different countries. Studying law will help me develop my research and analysis skills, and improve my ability to construct meaningful, well thought out arguments to support my ideas.
You should write about your initial interest in law, but make sure your only reason for studying the subject isn’t a ‘lightbulb moment’ - it needs to be a long term reason and you need to demonstrate how you have nurtured this interest both in class and in your own time.
Avoid starting your Personal Statement with a definition or explanation of law - you don’t need to prove you know what the subject is; you need to demonstrate your passion for and interest in it.
If you choose to explain why you want to study law, mention the skills or knowledge you’ll build as opposed to the career you hope to have afterwards. After all, you’re applying to be a student, not a barrister!
I used my interest in law to develop my understanding of key literature texts in my English studies, where I chose to write my coursework on Dickens' satirisation of the judiciary system in Bleak House. My studies in English highlighted a correlation between negative perception of the judicial system and increasing crime rates - a trend that can be epitomised by the Victorian era. I researched other Victorian novels to see how authors had used their everyday experiences with people to enable them to write a realistic depiction of the negative perception of law at the time. I was able to think critically about the role of the law in society, researching the Court of Chancery in order to find historical information to support and inform my extensive literary analysis. I also read Learning the Law by Glanville Williams which strengthened my historical understanding of the judicial system's dilapidation at the time.
You don’t have to bring your other subjects in if it isn’t relevant. This student, however, took their interest in one subject and extended it to another which demonstrates their natural curiosity in law, and shows the admissions team that they understand law has a wider place in the world beyond the courtroom.
Many law departments list analytical and debate skills as qualities they look for in applicants so make sure you demonstrate where you have built or developed these skills. You can do as this candidate has and write about an essay or project, remembering to use details of the research you completed, and the opinions or conclusions you formed. If you are invited for an interview, you might be asked about your opinions on the books or articles you referenced so make sure you’ve actually read them!
Through my engagement in current affairs, I discovered an interest in the more human aspects of the law - for example, human rights violations and youth offending. Youth offending is a particular interest of mine and I have examined cases in the news through the lens of experts like Adam Foss in my EPQ on the value of juvenile prison in reducing crime. For this project I also used the University of Oxford’s ‘Tackling Adolescent to Parent Violence’, considering how the law differs in the US and UK and how interventions other than prisons are being experimented with to prevent future crime. This opened up new areas of law for me, enabling me to use my research skills to explore a key legal debate that I would like to study further in a law degree.
You should always mention your EPQ even if it’s not directly related to your chosen subject. An EPQ gives you valuable skills and an opportunity to research any topic of your choice which is very similar to the way you’ll write essays at university.
This student highlights a necessary interest for a law student - current affairs - and uses this as a springboard to discuss their EPQ. They also mention how they’ve used their wider reading and pointed out a key topic they’d like to study in more detail.
I recently took a two week law course at Oxford summer school where I learnt the importance of constructing legal arguments based on precedents and definitions, and was dissuaded from building my arguments too intuitively. We examined the effectiveness of intuition over evidence-based reasoning in ‘hard cases’, considering the value of professional experience in making decisions in a courtroom. What I understood from this experience was that legal reasoning can be based on intuition but only when that intuition is formed through long term experience of legal theory and precedents; I used this to develop my arguments in my law essays. I started listening to BBC Radio 4’s ‘Law in Action’ and building a bank of notes to use in future essays, and began watching court sittings online to learn more about the way legal arguments are built for the courtroom - something that has helped me develop my debate and communication skills.
If you have completed any extracurricular activities that are directly related to law, include them in the body of the Personal Statement rather than at the end with the rest of your activities. As in this example, write about what you learnt, and how it has influenced your studies as a result. If you were inspired to read more widely or start a new activity as a result, avoid listing the names of the films, books, or podcasts you engaged with - instead, write about what you have done with your research either in your work or how it has improved your understanding of the subject.
Remember that you could be asked about any part of your Personal Statement in an interview, so make sure you’d be confident expanding on the points you’ve made.
I have always been a highly active member of my school community and last year my efforts were rewarded when my peers elected me Student President. Campaigning for this position gave me the opportunity to develop my skills in forming persuasive and engaging arguments, and allowed me to recognise the importance of basing justifications in concrete fact. I was also able to identify key areas for development in the school to make informed and realistic promises for improvement without overpromising.
You should save your extracurricular activities for the end of your Personal Statement, focusing on your skills and achievements. Avoid mentioning any career goals you have, and avoid writing a conclusion - your characters are limited so you're better off expanding on points in other paragraphs than writing an unnecessary round up!
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