Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog

Real Law School Personal Statements Reviewed: Pick a Strong Topic

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Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog - Real Law School Personal Statements Reviewed: Pick a Strong Topic by mbaMission

In this series, a jdMission Senior Consultant reviews real law school personal statements. What’s working well? What’s not? If it were his/her essay, what would be changed? Find out!


Note: To maintain the integrity and authenticity of this project, we have not edited the personal statements, though any identifying names and details have been changed or removed. Any grammatical errors that appear in the essays belong to the candidates and illustrate of the importance of having someone (or multiple someones) proofread your work.

Personal Statement

“Opening up” doesn’t come organically to everyone. The truth is, most of us have a very hard time finding a way to de-clog and allow oxygen to flow freely throughout our bodies. There are of course tools, but they are not always so easy to find. Sometimes you come across important tips in magazines or on television: They might be breathing exercises to help with circulation, or workouts to get your blood flowing, or even drugs to open up the blood vessels in your lungs as wide as they can open.

Being open is the first step one can take in becoming a whole and complete person. For me the first time I felt truly opened up, occurred thanks to something fairly simple. I had always had a stuffy nose. I don’t know if I was living with low-grade allergies or some kind of nasal irritation, but for the most part, I breathed in and out of my mouth if I needed to take in full breaths of air.

It wasn’t the best way to live life, and certainly not the most attractive. Let’s face it, “mouth breather” is not necessarily how a person wants to be thought of. But I didn’t have much of choice considering there was no fast and hard diagnosis and not much in the way of treatments, although I tried changing my diet and on occasion, resorted to nasal sprays.

One day a close friend brought over a small plastic blue tea pot-like contraption and with a smile pronounced it a “neti pot.” I had never heard of one before. It turns out a neti pot is actually the oldest form of something called “nasal irrigation” whereby the nose is cleansed of toxins and debris with nothing but warm water and iodized salt. The word “neti” itself comes from the Sanskrit for “nasal cleansing.” The practice comes out of the Ayurvedic yoga practices of India and can be traced all the way back to ancient yogis – male yoga masters – as one of the six cleansing practices called “kriyas.” The belief was held that the neti pot would functionally clear and strengthen breath, purify the nose and lead to deeper and more effective meditative practices.

I have to admit, I was skeptical. But at my friend’s prodding, I filled the pot with about a cup of warm water – what one might use for a comfortable bath, then mixed in a quarter teaspoon of iodized salt. Once the solution was sufficiently stirred, I placed the arm of the pot, per my friend’s instruction, and leaned my head over to the side above the sink.

At first the results were unremarkable. As I slowly poured the water into my nostril, it immediately poured back out again. I stopped and implored my friend, frustrated that the front of my shirt was now splashed with salt water. My nose and sinuses were so blocked, there was simply no way for the water to pass through them. But my friend remained steadfast. She told me that I had to keep pouring until the blood vessels softened and the mucus could loosen up. Not wanting to disappoint my friend, I tried again. Again the water simply ran down my cheek, but I finished a complete pot nonetheless. Then I refilled the pot and poured it into my other nostril. This attempt too, simply filled my nostril and then retracted back out again and down my other cheek.

By the time I had a filled a fourth pot with the solution, I was ready for my friend to leave. She promised me that this could be my last try, now that the front of my shirt was soaked as well as the front of my jeans.

This time, the strangest sensation overcame me as the water entered my nostril then seemed to stream across my nasal pathway, looping generously into my other nostril and then out in a rivulet that splashed delicately back into the basin. I almost wanted to sneeze, as the water tickled its way around my nose. Immediately, I filled a fifth pot and ran the water through my nose the other way. It felt so good, my friend had to tell me to stop so that I wouldn’t irritate my delicate nasal passageway.

I let the air flow into my nose, down my throat and into my lungs. It was revitalizing and wonderful. From that point on I vowed to use my neti pot three times a day. Since that moment, my nose has never again been stuffed up. It was this awakening that lead me to the realization that anytime you are stuffed up, you are actually closed up. You require an opening up in order to proceed and move forward.

For me, the neti pot was the greatest tool I have ever found that will help you to open up to life. Ever since I began using it, my life has become full, open and flowing. It has made me profoundly ready to move forward in my life and career. As an aspiring lawyer, being open has lead me down the path toward law school. With every breath I find myself closer and more deeply enmeshed in my dreams.

Who knew that something as basic as a neti pot could change my life? But after that day, I traded in my friend’s plastic version for an authentic ceramic pot. I made my practice more of a ritual that would represent a cleansing three times a day. Today my momentum is clear, directed, and most of all fluid. Nothing is closed, nothing is stuck and nothing is stuffy.

jdMission Review

Overall Lesson: If you are a strong writer, you have no excuse for picking a weak topic.

First Impression: The introduction is a bit cliché and uninteresting, but I like how the candidate shares a true story from her life early in the essay. In addition, the transition from a metaphorical “opening up” to a literal one is logical—though the subject matter is a bit unpleasant.

Strengths: The candidate’s writing is quite good. She is able to share a personal narrative and hold the reader’s attention—a surprisingly difficult task for many applicants, and a vitally important one, given that the school’s admissions reader has probably reviewed 100 other essays since breakfast. Moreover, that she is able to capture and maintain the reader’s attention with such a trivial—and sometimes unpalatable—story is a testament to her writing ability.

Weaknesses: I have to question how seriously the applicant is taking the essay, which is a problem. Did she choose this topic because the neti pot really did change her life, and if so, what does that say about her? Perhaps she has been very fortunate if the worst thing that has ever happened to her—as the essay seems to imply—is a stuffy nose. Not that she needs to write about the worst tragedy of her life, but if she is going to choose such a low-stakes and, frankly, unusual story to convey who she is, she must do a better job of linking her original “opening up” metaphor to her views, beliefs, and dreams—as well as to her law school aspirations.

She ends her essay with the following:

I made my practice more of a ritual that would represent a cleansing three times a day. Today my momentum is clear, directed, and most of all fluid. Nothing is closed, nothing is stuck and nothing is stuffy.

This summary statement sounds trite and uninspired, and it lacks a critical, intelligent application of her discovery. It also does not seem true. Nothing in her life is “closed”? (And what exactly does that mean?) Nothing is stuck? I do not believe this; her life sounds too perfect.

The candidate could instead take her essay in one of several different directions. For example, she could discuss the importance of ritual. Or she could detail more specifically how her life has changed since discovering the neti pot—not just literally, but also what being more “open” means in actual practice.

Finally, she needs to find a smoother way of connecting this change in her life with her current aspirations to attend law school. As is, the transition does not work.

Final Assessment

I would advise the candidate to set this essay aside and return to the basics. Thoroughly brainstorming other possible topics could benefit her tremendously. She has the writing skills necessary to deliver a powerful essay, and better topics than the neti pot discovery may be buried in her personal history. However, if she wants to move forward with this theme, she will need to edit her personal statement with a heavy hand, searching in particular for overuse of the expression “opening up” and taking care not to assume that her readers will naturally understand what that means. 📝


Read more real law school personal statement reviews, or Sign up for your Free Personal Statement Review by a jdMission Senior Consultant.


jdMission is a leading law school admissions consulting firm with a team of dedicated consultants who have not only been through the law school application process themselves, but also possess elite communications skills and can help you navigate this crucial—and often perplexing—process. Your consultant will serve as your coach and partner every step of the way, advising you on school selection, helping you brainstorm personal statement topics, editing your essays and resume, helping you manage your recommenders, advising on any addenda, and more! Sign up for a free 30-minute consultation or a free personal statement review with a jdMission Senior Consultant.

Telling Your Story: Tell the Truth in Your Personal Statement!

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Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog - Telling Your Story: Tell the Truth in Your Personal Statement! by jdMission

A personal statement is really no more than telling a story—one that illuminates the “you” a law school would be lucky to have in its student body. In this series, “Telling Your Story,” a jdMission Senior Consultant will discuss how elements of storytelling can—and should—be applied to your personal statement.


When deciding what to write in your personal statement, do not make stuff up. First of all, doing so is wrong. That said, I have been around long enough to realize that this basic reason is not enough to stop everyone. So here are a few more reasons why it’s better to tell the truth in your personal statement.
Read more

Zen and the Art of Test-Taking: How Meditation Can Improve Your LSAT Score

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Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog - Zen and the Art of Test-Taking: How Meditation Can Improve Your LSAT Score by Ben Rashkovich

Ready to study the right way? We incorporate the latest discoveries in learning science into our LSAT course to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your prep. Want to see? Try the first session of any of our upcoming courses for free.


One tried and true way to improve your LSAT score is to study the right strategies. How should you diagram an Open Grouping game? How should you approach a Sufficient Assumption question? And what the heck is conditional logic?

In other words: understand the test.

Another way to tackle the LSAT is to practice techniques that will make you a better test-taker. Top scorers on standardized tests are able to focus, remain calm during difficult question sections, and keep their energy levels strong during the final innings.

In other words: understand yourself.

Ideally, you’ll want to take both approaches. And one way to become a better test-taker is, as you might’ve guessed from this title, to try practicing meditation. Read more

5 Logic Games Tips to Help You Speed Up

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Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog - 5 Logic Games Tips to Help You Speed Up by Daniel Fogel

Learning science has come a long way in recent years, and we’ve been learning with it. We incorporate the latest discoveries in learning science into our LSAT course to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your prep. Want to see? Try the first session of any of our upcoming courses for free.


In my last post, I discussed several big-picture ideas to help you make smart time-management decisions throughout the LSAT. Today’s post focuses on some much more granular, detail-oriented tips to help you maximize your efficiency on the Logic Games section.

Orientation Questions

Question #1 on many Logic games asks you to select the answer choice that contains an acceptable ordering or grouping of the elements. Even if you find Orientation questions straightforward, you might not be solving them as efficiently as possible. Many students check each answer choice against all the rules until they find a violation, but this leads to superfluous work. Instead, go through the rules one at a time, scanning for an answer that breaks that rule. When you find one, cross it off, and move onto the next rule. Rinse and repeat, and of course make sure you don’t bother to check subsequent rules against answers you’ve already eliminated!

When you’re done with the Orientation question, make sure you circle the answer so that you remember to use it as… Read more

Real Law School Personal Statements Reviewed: Smooth Rough Patches

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iron-wrinkle-real-law-school-personal-statement-reviewed-smoothen-rough-patch-jdmissionIn this series, a jdMission Senior Consultant reviews real law school personal statements. What’s working well? What’s not? If it were his/her essay, what would be changed? Find out!


Note: To maintain the integrity and authenticity of this project, we have not edited the personal statements, though any identifying names and details have been changed or removed. Any grammatical errors that appear in the essays belong to the candidates and illustrate of the importance of having someone (or multiple someones) proofread your work.

Personal Statement

I don’t think I understood about being black. Everyone in my world just was. Of course there were white people and black people, but race and its complexities seemed to play out mostly on TV, in movies, in newspapers. But in my world, and let me try not to sound cliché, there were just deepening and lightening shades of people. Read more

Mastering the Science of LSAT Timing

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Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog - Mastering the Science of LSAT Timing by Allison Bell

Ready to study the right way? We incorporate the latest discoveries in learning science into our LSAT course to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your prep. Want to see? Try the first session of any of our upcoming courses for free.


Of all the standardized tests out there, the LSAT is perhaps the most intensely time-pressured. We all know the feeling of our hand shaking a little as we stare down at an entire unattempted Logic Game with only five minutes left on the clock. So students often ask me questions like, “When will I start to see improvements in my LSAT timing?” “Will it come with practice, or will I just kind of naturally start to go faster?”

Those questions convey a passive approach toward LSAT timing: If I just keep studying, my timing will improve. Unfortunately, pacing on the LSAT doesn’t quite work that way. In order to become substantially faster, you need an active approach to improving your speed. You have to deliberately select strategies that you will use to improve your speed, embed them into your practice, and reflect on your pacing after each study session. Here are a few strategies to try: Read more

Telling Your Story: Brainstorming on Your Law School Personal Statement

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Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog - Telling Your Story: Brainstorming on Your Law School Personal Statement by jdMission

A personal statement is really no more than telling a story—one that illuminates the “you” a law school would be lucky to have in its student body. In this series, a jdMission Senior Consultant will discuss how elements of storytelling can—and should—be applied to your personal statement.


About a year ago, my sister called and asked what I was doing.

“I’m brainstorming ideas for my book,” I told her.

“With whom?” she asked. I was alone.

“I’m pretty sure if you’re by yourself, it’s just called thinking,” she said. Ah. Indeed.

Brainstorming, as we all know, is a term commonly (over-)used today in business, education and pretty much any environment to describe how a group generates as many ideas as possible. Apparently, some of us use the term for individuals as well.
Read more

To Cancel or Not to Cancel Your LSAT Score: When to Press the Big Red Button

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Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog - To Cancel or Not to Cancel Your LSAT Score: When to Press the Big Red Button by Ben Rashkovich

Ready to study the right way? We incorporate the latest discoveries in learning science into our LSAT course to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your prep. Want to see? Try the first session of any of our upcoming courses for free.


Some people walk out of their test centers on LSAT day all smiles and good cheer, ready to enjoy their study-free day.

Some people.

Most of us mortals, though, walk out furiously trying to figure out which was the experimental section, what the right answer was for that extra tough Logical Reasoning question, and whether we messed up every Logic Game on the test. It’s natural to want to review and to feel impatient about getting your score—and even to worry that you didn’t do as well as you’d hoped.  

If that sounds more like you, then it’s possible you might be wondering if you should cancel your LSAT score. Don’t be so hasty, though: canceling your score is a permanent move that often doesn’t pay off. Read more

I Don’t Know How to Group Study for the LSAT!

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Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog - I Don't Know How to Group Study for the LSAT! by Chris Gentry

Learning science has come a long way in recent years, and we’ve been learning with it. We incorporate the latest discoveries in learning science into our LSAT course to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your prep. Want to see? Try the first session of any of our upcoming courses for free.


Note: If you haven’t yet read Allison Bell’s post on LSAT motivation, I highly recommend you check it out here. This post is inspired by both a comment from my lovely wife and that post.

At the end of Allison’s post, she mentions finding a study partner (or partners, plural—small group or paired study is very, very effective). I’m hoping to follow up on that post with some ideas on how to make these group study sessions more efficient. Read more

Real Law School Personal Statements Reviewed: Use Strong Supporting Examples

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Manhattan Prep LSAT Blog - Real Law School Personal Statements Reviewed: Use Strong Supporting Examples by jdMission

In this series, a jdMission Senior Consultant reviews real law school personal statements. What’s working well? What’s not? If it were his/her essay, what would be changed? Find out!


Note: To maintain the integrity and authenticity of this project, we have not edited the personal statements, though any identifying names and details have been changed or removed. Any grammatical errors that appear in the essays belong to the candidates and illustrate the importance of having someone (or multiple someones) proofread your work.

Personal Statement

I love gardening: My hands in the dirt, the smell of freshly grown flowers or vegetables, the invigorating sensation of working the earth in the great outdoors. There is order to sowing seeds – steps and clear directives that allow life to reproduce generationally.

I feel like the law boasts numerous similarities to a garden. While there are no hard and fast rules, there are serious guidelines to each. In a legal environment, you have to understand the existing laws of the land. But you must also understand that public opinion shifts and makes room for subtle changes to the law. Read more