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Cornell Law Personal Statement: How to Write + Examples

August 25, 2023
10 min read


Reviewed by:

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 03/03/23

Getting ready to write your Cornell Law personal statement? Unsure of where to begin or what to share? This guide has got you covered!

Cornell is a T14, Ivy League law school that aspiring lawyers dream of attending. With such high rankings and prestige, it takes a lot to impress Cornell’s admissions committee.

Aside from a stellar LSAT score and GPA, you’ll have to showcase your impeccable writing skills by writing a personal statement that shares a compelling narrative that showcases your potential as a future legal leader. 

This personal statement will give you a chance to demonstrate your individuality and commitment to law, so it’s essential you craft it with care! Read on to learn how to write a winning Cornell Law School personal statement and to see a few examples to draw inspiration from!

Cornell Law School Personal Statement Requirements

Student applying to Cornell Law

There aren’t any strict requirements when it comes to the Cornell Law personal statement. In an attempt to give students the opportunity to express themselves as they see fit, Cornell urges students to write about any topic they believe will present the most valuable personal information.

Your personal statement may address your intellectual interests, significant accomplishments, obstacles overcome, personal or professional goals, educational achievements, or any way in which your perspective, viewpoint, or experiences will add to the richness of the educational environment of Cornell. 

The length of the statement is also left to your discretion; however, you’re reminded that the admissions committee reviews thousands of applications! So, it’s best if you keep it short and sweet! It’s suggested your personal statement does not exceed two pages.

How to Write Your Cornell Law Personal Statement

Now that you’re familiar with the basic Cornell Law personal statement requirements, let’s delve deeper into how to write a statement that resonates with the judges and maximizes your chances of acceptance!

Step One: Research

You want to clearly prove your dedication to Cornell in your personal statement. To do this, your statement cannot be generic. Familiarize yourself with Cornell Law School’s missions, values, programs, and history.

old photo of Cornell

Step Two: Reflect on Your Experiences

Before you write your first sentence, take time to reflect on your personal, academic, and professional experiences that have shaped your interest in law. Consider significant challenges, achievements, or moments of inspiration that have influenced your decision to pursue a legal education at Cornell. 

Step Three: Define Your Narrative

Once you’ve brainstormed all of the key experiences that define your identity, develop a central theme or narrative that connects these experiences and motivations. This could be a personal story, a passion for a specific area of law, or a desire to make a difference in the legal field. 

This narrative will give your personal statement coherence and help the admissions committee understand your unique perspective. You should use this narrative as your hook as well! Consider setting the scene for the readers with vivid descriptions or starting mise-en-scene at the climax of your story. 

Step Four: Brag a Little

You’ve accomplished a lot to get to where you are right now, and you should tell the admissions committee about it! While you don’t want to rehash your resume, you should highlight your key strengths, skills, experiences, and attributes that make you a strong candidate. 

medals and awards

Some traits Cornell values in its applicants are problem-solving, leadership, and a commitment to social justice and service. Provide concrete examples to support these strengths and share how they will contribute to your success as a law student and lawyer.

That said, make sure to provide examples of your prowess in context, don’t simply list your accomplishments and avoid arrogance. You’ve learned a lot- but not everything! You should be proud and honest while also highlighting your eagerness to learn and grow moving forward.

Step Five: Focus on Flow

Ensure your essay flows as you move through different experiences. Make use of transition words and phrases, maintain your tone, provide logical connections, and engage your reader throughout. 

Step Six: Include Your Research

Remember that research you conducted about Cornell? Now’s the time to show you did your homework. Students typically include their specific reasons for applying to Cornell near the end of their personal statement. 

Mention any relevant courses, clinics, or professors that align with your academic and career goals. Prove that you have carefully considered why Cornell is the right fit for you!

Step Seven: End With a Bang

Don’t neglect your conclusion! You want to leave a lasting impression on the admissions committee, so pay attention to your final sentences. 

student thinking

You can either summarize your reasons for attending law school, and your hopes for the future, or refer back to the story shared in your introduction and provide deeper reflections on it. However you choose to end your Cornell Law personal statement, ensure it leaves your readers satisfied!

Step Eight: Be Authentic and Concise

Write in your own voice and be true to yourself. Admissions committees appreciate authenticity and want to understand who you are as an individual. Avoid clichés, unnecessary jargon, and only use language you feel comfortable with.

Step Nine: Edit and Revise

After finishing your first draft, edit and revise it until it is free of grammar and spelling errors. Ensure it flows, is clear, and impactful. Seek feedback from others to gain different perspectives on your statement and do not submit it until you’re completely satisfied with it!

Cornell Law School Personal Statement Examples

Here are two Cornell Law School personal statement examples that allow you to see these steps in action!

stack of accepted Cornell law essays

Example 1

Growing up in a small town, my perspective on the world was limited. Opportunities to witness the challenges faced by marginalized communities were rare, and my understanding of human rights was confined to textbooks and news headlines. It wasn't until a life-changing experience during my college years that my passion for human rights was ignited.

It all started when I stumbled upon a documentary about a grassroots organization working tirelessly to combat child labor in Southeast Asia. The film featured brave individuals who risked their lives to fight for the rights of children subjected to exploitation and abuse. I was struck by their unwavering determination and the impact they were making in their communities.

Intrigued and inspired, I immersed myself in the subject, delving into academic research, volunteering at local NGOs, and engaging in eye-opening conversations with activists. Each encounter further deepened my understanding of the intricate web of social, political, and economic factors that perpetuate human rights violations.

During a summer internship at an international human rights organization, I witnessed firsthand the harsh realities faced by refugees fleeing persecution. I listened to their stories of despair, resilience, and hope. It was in those moments of empathy that I realized the power of the law in safeguarding human dignity and fostering social change.

Motivated by this newfound purpose, I dedicated myself to the study of human rights law, pursuing coursework and research projects that explored the intersection of legal frameworks and social justice. I eagerly engaged with professors, attending guest lectures and seminars to deepen my knowledge and broaden my perspective.

My passion for human rights also compelled me to take action beyond the classroom. I co-founded a student organization focused on raising awareness and advocating for human rights issues on campus. We organized events, hosted panel discussions, and collaborated with local organizations, striving to ignite a sense of responsibility and action within our community.

Through these experiences, I have come to appreciate the immense challenges inherent in protecting and promoting human rights. Yet, I firmly believe that change is possible, and it starts with each individual who refuses to be silent in the face of injustice.

It is my profound desire to further my education at Cornell Law School, renowned for its commitment to social justice and its distinguished faculty in human rights law. I am inspired by the opportunity to learn from leading scholars, collaborate with passionate peers, and immerse myself in an environment that nurtures both academic excellence and practical application.

Ultimately, my aspiration is to become an advocate for those whose voices have been stifled and rights have been trampled upon. I strive to dedicate my legal career to the pursuit of justice, working tirelessly to ensure that human rights are upheld and protected for all.

Cornell Law School represents the ideal platform to nurture my passion, provide me with the tools and knowledge necessary to effect change, and equip me with the skills to make a meaningful impact in the field of human rights. I am ready to embark on this transformative journey, committed to the pursuit of justice and the relentless pursuit of a world where human rights are not just lofty ideals or headlines, but tangible realities for all.

Why It Works

This statement is successful because it effectively captures the reader's attention with a personal narrative and engages them in the journey of the writer's discovery and passion for human rights. 

The writer demonstrates a clear understanding of the complexities surrounding human rights issues and their commitment to making a difference. They showcase their academic pursuits, practical experiences, and leadership initiatives, all while highlighting their desire to contribute to real-world human rights initiatives. 

The statement also effectively connects the writer's experiences and aspirations to Cornell Law School's reputation and resources, demonstrating a genuine interest in the institution. Their essay flows well, it is easy to follow, and it leaves the reader with a deeper understanding of who this student is and what they value. 

Example 2

Jane Mendez, aged 13 years, a devoted daughter, loving sister, and cherished friend, passed away Saturday, March 17, 2018. 

As I sat, re-reading my sister’s obituary, I couldn’t help but wonder how she could be reduced to a one-page statement. A statement that seemed so matter-of-fact, that left out all her little quirks that I took for granted, like the way she still slept with her broken blue night light that buzzed when it was plugged in, or how she only ate her pancakes with whipped cream and strawberries because she hated the taste of maple syrup. 

This obituary wasn’t my sister, but it was all she was remembered as. The poor 13-year old with so much life yet to live, tragically killed by a drunk driver. The pain and grief from her loss were indescribable. I found myself grappling with questions of justice and accountability. 

Driven by a desire to transform my personal tragedy into a force for change, I embarked on a journey that intertwined my grief with a passion to do more. Through tireless research, I educated myself about the legal intricacies surrounding drunk driving and the devastating consequences it inflicts upon society.

Empowered by my knowledge, I actively engaged with local organizations dedicated to combating drunk driving. Collaborating with legal advocates, I participated in awareness campaigns, organized fundraisers, and lobbied for stricter legislation. Witnessing the impact of my efforts, I realized that the law possessed the potential to save lives and provide solace to those affected by tragedy.

This awakening fueled my academic pursuits as I immersed myself in legal studies, devouring courses on criminal law, torts, and public policy. In classrooms and debates, I sought to unravel the complexities of our justice system, exploring the nuances of accountability, rehabilitation, and victim advocacy.

In my journey, I discovered the powerful intersection between law and advocacy. Through internships at law firms and victim support organizations, I worked diligently to provide compassionate legal assistance to those navigating the aftermath of traumatic events. Assisting survivors in court hearings, I witnessed firsthand the pivotal role attorneys play in giving voice to the voiceless and restoring faith in a broken system.

I found solace in channeling my grief into compassionate action. I became determined to contribute to a legal system that prioritizes the rights of victims and ensures that justice prevails, even in the face of unspeakable tragedy.

Cornell Law School, with its unwavering commitment to social justice and academic excellence, stands as the beacon of hope for realizing my aspirations. The opportunity to learn from distinguished faculty members renowned for their expertise in criminal law and victim advocacy is a privilege I deeply covet.

My sweet sister’s untimely death forever altered the trajectory of my life. Her memory propels me to pursue justice, inspire change, and ensure that no other family experiences the pain I endured. Guided by my sister’s legacy and with her broken blue night light in hand, I emerge through the darkest period of my life with resilience, empathy, and an unwavering commitment to the pursuit of justice. I stand ready to make a lasting impact at Cornell Law School and in the broader realm of law.

Why It Works

This is an emotionally charged personal statement that does an excellent job of engaging the reader. They add personal touches, like the blue night light, that further immerse the readers into the narrative. Readers can sympathize with the reader, feel their sense of loss, and feel inspired by their resilience. 

They demonstrate they have clear ambitions and goals for the future, showcase their research, advocacy, and legal involvement in combating drunk driving, and determination to do more as a lawyer. They also tie their ambitions back to Cornell, showing their genuine interest in this school!

FAQs: Personal Statement for Cornell Law School

For any remaining questions about how to write your Cornell Law personal statement, read on!

1. How Long Is the Cornell Law School Personal Statement?

While there is no formal word count for the Cornell Law personal statement, it’s suggested your statement does not exceed two pages.

2. What Should Be Included In the Cornell Law School Personal Statement?

Students are encouraged to share whatever they feel is most important for the admissions committee to know and what is otherwise missing from their application. 

Most successful personal statements will include meaningful experiences that motivated students to join the legal field, experiences that shaped their values, and their future aspirations. You should also highlight the strengths and qualities that make you a strong Cornell candidate.

3. How Important Is the Cornell Law School Personal Statement In the Admissions Process?

While it is just one component among several that are considered, the personal statement offers applicants a valuable opportunity to showcase their unique qualities, experiences, and aspirations to the admissions committee.

Admissions committees carefully review personal statements to gain a deeper understanding of applicants' personal narratives, their passion for law, and their alignment with the values and mission of Cornell Law School.

4. Are There Any Formatting Guidelines for the Cornell Law School Personal Statement?

Cornell Law School does not provide specific formatting guidelines for the personal statement. However, it’s generally advised students use a standard format, such as Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri, and size 11 or 12 point font.

Final Thoughts

As you begin your own Cornell Law personal statement, ensure you strive for authenticity, reflect on your personal and academic journey, and use your own voice! Craft a statement you’re proud of and feel connected to and embrace this opportunity to stand out and make a memorable impression on the admissions committee!

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