Real Law School Personal Statement : REMEMBER YOUR GOAL

When my wife died at forty of Huntington’s disease, it was not a surprise. Long before we lived in our suburban New Jersey home and raised our three children, long before I met her serving me a lemonade at the café frequented by NYU undergrads, she had been told that someday this would be how her life would end.

She told me on our fourth date about her fate to die young, but I already knew at that point that I wanted to be around her for as long as I could be. We got married on a Sunday in the backyard of her mother’s home. We danced until everyone went home, stayed up until the sun came up. I graduated from NYU with a degree in education. We adopted our three children and I worked for twenty-five years as a high school math teacher at the private school where we sent our kids.

After my wife’s excruciating convalescence and subsequent death, I made a decision not to go back to work. Our kids did the best they could to finish out their college careers. My oldest got married. I walked her down the aisle at her beautiful wedding and tried not to cry at the sight of the stunning woman her mother would never get to see.

When one year later my daughter gave birth to our grandchild and gave her my wife’s name, I tried to anticipate their needs like her mother would have, to disappointing results, I am certain. My life was a quite one. When my daughter and her two year old showed up asking to spend the night, I was happy to have them. When my daughter’s marriage dissolved and she asked if they could stay indefinitely, I felt grateful. Having my granddaughter in the house was  a joy. I enjoyed having the little-girl laughter back under my roof.

I thought of us as a team. She helped to keep up the house and I babysat and spent time with them. She prodded me to go back to my job. But that route felt wrong. I wanted to do something bigger with my life than teach numbers. So I began looking into life in politics. I had always wanted to go to law school, but my wife and I had wanted to start our family. I suddenly saw the possibility. The death of my wife and the birth of my beloved granddaughter had meaning that I was only just beginning to understand. I began to refocus my goals.

I hate t admit it was children’s music that finally pushed me to register for the LSAT, but when my now –four-year-old granddaughter played the same Disney movie for the umpteenth time, I made my movie. Staying home was no longer the right thing for me.

My daughter and my granddaughter tell they are proud of me. My younger children have told me that I am making the decision they’d been hoping I would. In fact, my youngest and I are filling out our graduate school applications together. He intends to go into Engineering, a choice of which his mother would be endlessly proud.

I look at the success of our family, and I know my wife would want me to make this choice and move in this direction. I feel like I have her love and support with every step I take. I only hope I can achieve my dreams without her by my side.

Overall Lesson

Although your essay may be 90% of the way to where it needs to be, that last 10% may be the most important.

First Impression

Oh, my . His story is crushing. After the first paragraph, I am hooked –now, the candidate needs to maintain the strength of his essay.


I find the candidate extremely engaging as a writer and as a person, though his story is, of course, difficult to read. The premature death of a life partner is traumatic, and the pain of his experience is manifest in the details. But even though I found his story sadly compelling, and I sympathize with him and am rooting for him, his essay does not persuade me that he should be in law school.


I want the candidate to succeed, but that is because he is endearing and I admire him as a person—not because he has successfully convinced me that both he and the school would benefit from his admission.

Fortunately for him, solving this problem should not be too difficult. He could cut some details about his history with the wife (how they met, perhaps) as well as about his daughter and granddaughter moving in with him. This would free up space that he could instead devote to discussing why he wants to get his JD, rather than just mentioning that he “began looking into life in politics” and earlier in life had “always wanted to go to law school.”

Why does he want to go now, besides his desire to get back in the saddle, so to speak? What are his legal interests? How does he envision his future career in law?

Final Assessment

This candidate is starting over—good for him! But his essay needs to do more than just announce that he is  starting over. It needs discuss in greater detailwhy he has chosen law school as his particular means of doing so.

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