Chapter 8: The Personal Narrative (Structure)
The personal narrative is the most common structure for the personal statement genre. In this structure, the author tells his or her story. The personal statement is a brief but high-density autobiography, with certain zones you want to weight more heavily. In the personal narrative structure, you relate a representative story, a choice you made, oran event that changed the course of your life. You tweak the story, like a photographer would compose a self-portrait, to make it represent yourself in a particular light. A strong personal narrative, whether it presents one or more than one story, should have an organizing theme linking the parts of the statement. By beginning with a theme, a metaphor, or an image that you then end with, theessay concludes satisfyingly—as Samuel Taylor Coleridge said—with its tail in its mouth. With any structure or topic, you should always remember you are trying to persuade your audience to admit you to law school. You do this most powerfully by describing specific examples that show you possess intellectual excellence, leadership abilities, abilities to work with a team, that you have reached beyondthe safety net of college, and that you can look at issues from multiple perspectives. Also try to use your narrative to persuade your admissions committee reader that their law school is the best fit for you.
• This essay has all the best elements of an exceptional law school essay. It has enthusiasm, building excitement, and triumph. The applicant gives the reader an “ah ha!” moment when heannounces his idea for the Senior Design competition. The invention, TruePOS, strikes the reader as a great idea, promising benefits to customers and restaurant owners alike. This candidate has achieved greatness, and he offers great promise to achieve it again through creativity, technical knowledge, and drive that makes him stay up all night to accomplish his goals. He has a reason for wanting togo to law school: to learn about patent law, because he is sitting on a patent that could potentially make him millions of dollars. This applicant has worked with a team, and more than that, he is naturally both the leader and the glue for the teams he organizes. He gets passionate about what he is working on. He is motivated, ambitious and clever. He has substantial intellectual and analyticalabilities. This statement is a pleasure to read. It uses the description of one key event to showcase the applicant’s array of talents.
The applicant does a good job of conveying his particular interest in Columbia Law School: intellectual fit (Columbia’s patent law program) and geographical location (proximity to family) are valid reasons why Columbia Law School is his first choice. Thisstatement assisted the applicant in securing admission to Columbia Law School, amongst others.
• Margaret was also concerned that “delaying” law school would turn into “giving up” on it. She left unspoken her fear that she might respect me less if I stayed home.
• My wife and I once feared that I would give up on going to law school or that my brain would atrophy while home with the kids. Instead,I became more efficient and more ambitious with the time I did have to myself. For pleasure reading, I tackled academic texts on such topics as Islamic history, an interest I have had since college, and Constitutional theory. During naps, preschool, and late nights, I taught myself Cisco network administration, accounting, and anything else I needed to know to run my business. On behalf of thepractice my wife joined after residency, I have analyzed physician productivity and evaluated the financial viability of a major real estate venture. Most recently, I played a pivotal role in the successful renegotiation of a multimillion-dollar contract with Blue Cross/Blue Shield. My work and self-study have honed my analytical skills far beyond their levels of seven years ago, and have broadened...
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