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Yale Law School Application Essay

Here’s a round-up of four recent takeaways!

1. No headings. No gimmicks.

Give your personal statement a heading if you want, sure. Give it a weird layout. Write it as a poem, an acrostic poem or haiku, or turn it into a musical if you want.

And then revise into not these things.

It is good for you to do whatever you need to do so that you’re able to freely and genuinely write from the heart, but then, best take out whatever quirky structural element enabled you to write openly. You may be convincedit’s cute/clever, but that’s sort of like being convinced your baby is the cutest baby of all time.

(Those of you who still don’t trust me, please set up a [free] consultation and let me try to convince you!)

Sample essay here.

2. Put your head in your story.

In your creative writing classes in college, you were probably told to “show, not tell.” If you were writing a short story, you’d be advised to reveal the characters’ feelings by what they did and how they acted, rather than by announcing it: “Lydia was heartbroken.”

This holds true to a certain point in law school personal statements. You want to give enough detail that your story is sincere and poignant and resonates with the reader. But you actually don’t want to leave it open to interpretation in the same way that many contemporary short stories are, because you actually have an agenda here, which is to persuade someone of your suitability to a particular law school.

Sample essay here.

3. If you say you love American History (or any subject), you have to explain what you love about it.

Remember in most romantic comedies ever made when two people are on a date, and one says, “I love that book!” never having read it, and comedic tension ensues as he tries to converse about a book he hasn’t read? If you say you are passionate about a subject or thing, and you don’t actually say why, or what about it you love so much, it comes across a little like this. It’s an easy mistake to make—but for the same reason, it’s an easy one to fix, too, if you catch yourself doing it.

Sample essay here.

4. When you discover abstract truths (“who you are” or “your life’s purpose”), elaborate…concretely.

This is along the same lines as the previous reminder, because both boil down to: Don’t leave the reader hanging. Here’s a brief excerpt from the critique of a personal statement that had this problem: “At the climax of her essay, the candidate writes, ‘I needed to help them see from my perspective and also see from theirs. In Korea, it was no longer just about how to speak, but also how to make the other person understand.’ Great! But what? I don’t know what her perspective was, or what needed to be understood.”

Again—an easy fix if you know what to look for.

Sample essay here. 

For literally dozens more critiques, visit jdMission’s blog. Happy writing! 📝


Don’t forget that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person LSAT courses absolutely free. We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


Mary Richter is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in New York City. Mary has degrees from Yale Law School and Duke. She has over 10 years of experience teaching the LSAT after scoring in the 99th percentile on the test. She is always thrilled to see students reach beyond their target scores. At Yale, she co-directed the school’s Domestic Violence Clinic for two years. After graduating she became an associate at Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP in New York City, where she was also the firm’s pro-bono coordinator. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, and more. Check out Mary’s upcoming LSAT classes here.

The Yale 250 is one of my favorite law school essays. The prompt is intentionally open ended.

That means the topic you chose to write about says as much about you as content. Combined with the strict (yes, you must adhere to 250) word limit, this brief, open-ended essay is a writing challenge of both creativity and concision.

The first step before you draft is to review the common pitfalls of the Yale 250.

Knowing what not to do is helpful. But, how do you actually approach writing?

Here are four easy steps to help you craft an essay that does not merely avoid blunders, but one that will present you in the best possible light.

1. Think About Your Application Holistically

While each individual component of your application matters, don’t forget that the admissions committee will review the entirety of your submitted materials.

The Yale 250 is your opportunity to discuss achievements and interests that have not been fully explored in your Personal Statement, Letters of Recommendation, and resume. Consider gaps in your story or perspective that will give strangers deeper insight into who you are and how you think.

2. Brainstorm Topics with Audience in Mind

Jot down a list of facts, experiences, skills, and perspectives that you would want the Yale Admissions Committee to know about you. Challenge yourself to come up with at least a dozen ideas.

What unique interests or experiences can you speak about with authority? What are you passionate about? Perhaps you are an accomplished equestrian or avid reader of science-fiction novels.

Keep audience in mind. Yale faculty play a significant role in evaluating applications. That means your readers are among the brightest legal minds in the world. Sharing your words with this elite community is a privilege. Don’t waste it.

3. Focus on Discrete Moments or Concepts

250 is in the name of the essay. You will only have half a page to express yourself. To write about any subject with depth and insight in only 250 words means the topic you explore should be discrete.

Rather than attempt to capture the entirety of your equestrian experience, for example, zoom in on a particular, transformative moment. Don’t simply relay what happened. More important is to reflect on what this experience means to you.

If you are writing about a hobby you care about like stamp collecting, narrow the discussion to the core significance. Briefly detail aspects of your personal collection, while delving into the intellectual appeal: the nostalgia of hand-delivered mail in relation to the costs / benefits of instantaneous communication in the digital age.

In other words, be precise while also aiming to transcend the topic to explore its larger import. Easier said than done, right?

4. Draft. Revise. Revise. Revise.

Examine your options. Which topic from your list strikes the right balance between idiosyncratic detail and a more universal significance?

First, draft without sweating the word count. Capture the core of the topic and its significance to you.

Next, revise to streamline language to get the draft down to 250 words.

Before you submit, ask a trusted advisor for a neutral opinion on whether you met the essay’s objectives. Revise accordingly.

Finally, revise as a proof-reader. Like most admissions committees, Yale hates typos.

If you take these four steps and still have an essay that engages you as a reader, then it will, in turn, engage the application readers at Yale.

Don’t think of the Yale 250 as a chore. Have fun writing about yourself and your interests. Yale wants to get to know who you are beyond your stats and academic/professional work experience.

About Stratus

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Topics: Law School Admissions |


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