Law school admissions officers are looking for bright, focused applicants who can, among other attributes, think for themselves. While you may be all of these things, you also may feel like you need to look at personal-statement samples to help you get your bearings on developing the format and style of your own narrative. While this isn’t a bad idea, we give you fair warning that in doing so, you will be stepping onto a slippery slope. After reading some of the sparkling samples that abound on the web, some applicants may feel like their own stories lack the requisite drama, and even be tempted to expropriate some of the stories presented in them. Doing this would be a big mistake.

Admissions officers have seen it all, especially plagiarized personal statements. They stick out like a sore thumb. Whether you feel inadequate because you have never climbed Mount Everest or pulled a survivor out of a badly wrecked car about to explode, keep in mind that few others can claim to have done such things. Yet, apparently, a lot of applicants are embellishing their essays with a touch of fiction. A study conducted by members of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), the organization that handles undergraduate applications to universities and colleges in the U.K., found numerous, easily detectable, plagiarized personal stories in the applications they reviewed.

So we suggest you limit your review of sample essays to fend off the temptation to embellish and aggrandize. Also, reading the stories of others can stymie your own efforts to fully develop your own biographical sketch. You might find yourself tempted to write something that reads like the samples.

Keep in mind that admissions committees have a highly developed sense of “smell,” and know all too well the whiff of plagiarism. More importantly, truthfulness has a feel like nothing else. Your own accurate, insightful and carefully developed stories will demonstrate your skill for communicating and connecting with others.

So while it doesn’t hurt to read a couple of sample essays to help organize your own effort, keep it at that. Your own stories are the best tools at hand to create a memorable impression. Your personal statement is your one opportunity to introduce yourself as a unique individual. If you’re serious about showing your intellect, drive and potential, make the most of your own life’s stories to develop a moving, persuasive personal statement.

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