How Not to Write a Law School Application Essay

Is there a type of essay that annoys admissions officers so much that they'll stop in the middle of reading an application to vent? Yep. Here's what just hit my inbox:

I doubt you'd let your clients do this anyway, but the most annoying kind of essay I see is the "Why I'm so perfect/how I've ticked all the boxes. Can I recite my resume for you?" essay. 

It takes the form of: "Since early childhood, I have been an over-achieving perfectionist. Not content simply to excel at everything I have done, like be the president of the school paper and work for my state senator while maintaining a 4.0 GPA, I wanted to share my wonderfulness with the less fortunate. So I also have an extensive background in public service. I recognize that there are certain skills that one needs to excel as a lawyer, so I have acquired those, as well, by doing A, B, and C. Now I am primed to enter law school.  Admission to [---] Law School will be the culmination of my decade of effort - nay, the laurel wreath crowning my wonderfulness."

By the way, that final sentence is only a slight adaptation of the one I actually just read.

We on the admissions committee will take the B+ student with 85% percentile LSATs and an essay demonstrating personal maturity and an interesting set of life experiences over the A student with 90% LSATs and an essay like the one above every time.

For those of you who haven't submitted your applications yet, or who are applying in the coming season, take heed. Anyone with law school admissions experience will have an allergic reaction to that kind of essay, and there are tens of thousands of them floating around every year. Treat that as a template for what NOT to write.


Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. Read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, recently updated and available as an e-book. Follow Anna on Twitter (@annaivey).