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Of all the materials that comprise a law school application package, which component was, in your opinion, the most important?

Mr. Fong-Sandoval:
The PERSONAL STATEMENT. Most applicants that the Committee considered, regardless of their undergraduate major or GPA category, have roughly the same numbers. We were looking for real people, not mere numbers. I can tell you for a fact that some applicants with a straight 4.0 undergraduate GPA and a high LSAT score were denied admission because they wrote horrible personal statements. The Admissions Committee felt that these people did not take the application process seriously.

Previously you mentioned that the Admissions Committee received most of the applications towards the application deadline. In your opinion, should applicants submit their applications as early as possible?

Mr. Fong-Sandoval:
Well, yes and no. Yes, if they have dedicated the right amount of time and thought to their application. You see, the early applications received more attention because we had more time to review them. With regard to the personal statements, we could tell who had put in the time and effort, and who had not. My advice is that it is better to turn in a strong personal statement later on in the process, rather than turning in a mediocre one earlier. By that I mean take time to perfect your personal statement because the Admissions Committee will notice the level of attention that you have given your personal statement, no matter when you turn it in.

If I were a student who was going to turn in a statement early and had not revised or edited it considerably, I would take the extra time to make sure it is well developed and send it in closer to the application deadline. You waste the advantages of early submission if you turn in a bad personal statement. It's a trade off. Nevertheless, don't be too close to the deadline because if the school has rolling admissions most of the available spots would have been filled by then.

How much time did you spend on each statement?

Mr. Fong-Sandoval:
In the first half of the semester about six to eight minutes. In the second half of the semester, due to the increased volume of applications towards the deadline, I was only able to dedicate about three to five minutes per statement.

In light of the fact that your average reading time fell from seven to four minutes per personal statement, what is your advice to applicants?

Mr. Fong-Sandoval:
A COMPELLING introduction is the most important part of a law school personal statement. As I begin reading, the introduction can put me in a positive or negative mindset for the rest of the essay. A strong introduction catches my attention, makes a good first impression, and compels me to read on carefully and with interest.

You said that if you found the introduction compelling, you would read the rest of the applicant's essay "carefully," as if it is a good thing; but would an applicant necessarily think a "careful" reading is good?

Mr. Fong-Sandoval:
On the whole, yes. Let me explain. I think I know what you are driving at, and yes, a careful reading means the personal statement must not only start strong, but finish strong. Also, the more attention I give an essay, the more likely I'm going to see errors I might not see on a quick read; so thorough editing is essential. However, the more attention an applicant gets, the more the opportunity for a personal connection between the reader and the applicant.

If established, will this personal connection necessarily translate to the applicant being accepted?

Mr. Fong-Sandoval:
Not necessarily, but I'll tell you one thing--it gets that person CLOSER to being accepted than the other applicant who wrote a dull personal statement. Dull personal statements are a chore to read. Indeed, I know for a fact that dry, dull, and unmotivated personal statements actually WORK AGAINST applicants. The bad writing tells me that the applicant did not take the application process seriously. Let me emphasize that the application process includes making the effort to write an engaging personal statement, not just merely listing your stellar grades. While your good grades get you noticed, this notice may not be enough to gain you acceptance if the rest of your application package is deficient.

Was the recommendation of only one member enough to accept or reject an applicant?

Mr. Fong-Sandoval:
One committee member's recommendation was not enough, in and of itself. But one member's recommendation did carry some weight with the other Committee members.

Given that there are many readers, would you advise that the personal statement be written in such a way that it engages many different people?

Mr. Fong-Sandoval:
Sure, but always make sure that is clear, well written, and COMPELLING.
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