Live from California, Anna's Top 10 Tips for Your Law School Application Essays



I'm in California this week, where I'll be presenting three 4-hour law school admissions workshops. (Hello, California! I've missed you!!)

Among other goodies, I'll be covering the best way to approach your application essays. We'll also be dissecting examples of good and bad essays (that's actually really fun). If you can't make it, I'm pasting in part of the take-home handout that recaps my top 10 tips for the essays.

And if you're based in California, come join us in L.A. (Friday), Newport Beach (Saturday), or Berkeley (Sunday) and introduce yourself as one of my blog readers. It's always fun to meet you all in person.


Top 10 Essay Tips

  1. Identify the genre of essay question: personal essay or professional essay?

  2. What are the most important qualities an admissions officer needs to know about to get you? Write them down and keep that list in front of you as you brainstorm.

  3. Personal essay topic: Is it meaningful to you? Do you have something interesting to say about it (“so what?”)? Can you do it justice in 2-3 pages? 

  4. Personal essay structure: Tell a story (does it have a beginning, a middle, and an end?). Build a narrative arc (how has your world changed between the beginning of the essay and the end?). Read the first paragraph in isolation (would you want to keep reading?).

  5. Professional essay topic: Have a 40,000 foot view of your career goals. Does your essay help the admissions officer understand “Why law school? Why now?”

  6. Professional essay structure: Make a coherent argument. Does each paragraph build logically on the previous one? Do you have a track record to support your stated goals? If you talk about wanting to effect social change, can you back it up?

  7. Ditch the term paper structure altogether (an introduction that summarizes your argument, followed by 4-5 supporting paragraphs, followed by a conclusion that re-summarizes your argument). Drive a stake through it.

  8. Pay attention to good writing. Lawyers have to write well to get ahead.

  9. Keep it positive. Explain blemishes or dings in an addendum, not in your main essay (and then only if an addendum would add value).

  10. Keep the focus on you, not a policy, a problem, or another person.


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. You can find more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, downloadable as an e-book. Join the conversation here in the blog comments and on Twitter and Facebook. We're always happy to hear from you!