How Long Does it Take to Write Law School Application Materials?
Many law school applicants find it surprisingly difficult to write application essays. Even applicants who have taken many college classes that involve writing essays may find themselves stumped by the challenge of summarizing their desire to attend law school in two double-spaced pages.
That’s why it’s important to start early. If you plan to apply in the fall, try to start working on your personal statement over the summer. That way, you can brainstorm ideas and experiment with different approaches without time pressure.
If summer ends up busy, aim to get to work by September, when most applications open. September is a pivotal month for law applicants aiming to apply by early fall for their best odds.
How Much Work Do Application Essays Require?
Applicants may vary in the amount of time they need to write their application essays. Some of the applicants I’ve worked with as a law school admissions coach completed applications from scratch in as little as a week, while others invested months in the process.
Generally, applicants who are working on their applications part time – in addition to work, school or other time commitments – will need three to five weeks to complete a personal statement.
Because the personal statement is open-ended, it can take several drafts to come up with the right subject and structure. Then, it can take laborious editing to trim the document down to the page limit, which is usually two – but sometimes three or more – double-spaced pages with one-inch margins.
If you plan to write a diversity statement in addition to your personal statement, devote at least a week or two to this task. It can take more time than expected to fine-tune the essay’s tone and voice.
Striking a modest, authentic and positive tone on a personal statement or diversity statement can be a tricky balancing act. It’s tempting to stuff so much about yourself into these essays that they end up sounding belabored, disjointed or stilted. Budget time for reflection, revision and soliciting feedback from trusted readers.
Other optional essays tend to require less time, because they are usually short and structurally simple. Still, the number of supplemental essays you have to write can start to add up if you apply to many law schools, even if many of those schools don’t have supplemental essay prompts.
Finally, it is worth putting time into proofreading all documents to avoid self-defeating errors like misspelling a law school’s name.
Altogether, then, law applicants should expect to spend at least six weeks total preparing all their application essays. Plan on two months in case of unanticipated distractions.
What if You Find Yourself Stuck?
Many well-meaning applicants find themselves losing their nerve when confronted with a blank document and then losing weeks to writer’s block, compounding their challenge.
If you find yourself unsure of how to start an essay, first outline your ideas and put them in the order that makes the most sense. Based on the page limit, divide the essay into the right number of paragraphs. Then allocate your ideas into each paragraph. Finally, think of how to connect those paragraphs with logical transitions.
Save the opener and ending for last. They’re likely to change as the body of the essay evolves, and they’re relatively unimportant. Unlike in creative or journalistic writing, admissions essays don’t have to “hook” a reader. Focus more on writing clearly than on showing off your sophistication or personality.
Above all, remember that admissions essays will take multiple drafts. The only draft that matters is the one you submit.