Optional essays for law school

For example, Harvard has a looooong list of optional essay topics, but not a single one of them is some variety of "Why Us?

That's how they're signaling to you that the optional essays are truly optional. If you go over to the Harvard admissions website, they even tell you as much in their Application Tips if you click on the little "i" icon:. As you are filling out the application, if there is not a topic that naturally comes to mind then you should probably skip this question.

So a good rule is that if an optional essay topic is asking some version of "Why Us?

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And if the optional essay question is not a "Why Us" essay prompt, submit something only if it's a strong piece of writing AND it says something about you that isn't already demonstrated somewhere else in the application. What We Do.

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Ivey College Consulting. And at that point, the admissions process becomes a game of comparisons. Large numbers of applicants will cluster around particular numerical combinations and reviewers will be looking for the factors that set one prospective student apart from others.

Your personal statement, as you undoubtedly know, is the generally the most significant of these factors.

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Letters of recommendation, properly managed, can come in at a strong second. Optional essays set you apart. The applicant who writes a pertinent, well-conceived essay in response to a general application question sets himself apart with the insights he provides and the quality of his writing. Or, the omission may send a specific message. There are myriad possible explanations: laziness, overconfidence, running out of time, no articulable reasons for wanting to attend that particular school, not having done your homework on the school before selecting it and maybe more.

When Are Optional Essays a Bad Idea?

Notice the trend, though? Of course, many general application questions have less baggage than this one. Then, you can make your essay a separator at the next level, too, by making the most of the opportunity to tell the admissions committee still more about yourself, your interest in the school or whatever other relevant information that prompt invites.

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