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"Why are you applying to this program/school?"
It seems like a simple question, but in reality the answer is rarely anything simple. If you’re applying to a school that you’ve always wanted to attend, and you have a million different reasons for wanting to go there, you probably won’t have any trouble with such a prompt. But what about all the other schools you’re applying to as well? And what if you don’t even really have a favorite or top choice yet?
The secret to succeeding with a prompt like this is to take time and do some research. I’m not talking about simply cruising over to the program’s website and throwing some figures about job placement and faculty accomplishments into your essay. The admission officers are all too familiar with their institutions’ talking points, and if they see those in your response, they’re probably just going to yawn.
Instead, try to figure out at least one aspect of that program that really calls to you. Look for professors who have conducted research or study that somehow connects to your own prior work. Look for opportunities that are unique to that place and that you fully plan on seizing. Look for ways in which you match what that school is looking for, and then sell yourself to them.
"What are your plans for the future?"
Such a topic may be closely connected to a personal statement, but in this instance, they’re specifically asking you to focus on nothing but the future. In fact, they probably want to hear your plans for the post-law-school future, so don’t spend a bunch of time focused on your research plans. A question like this enables the admission committee to gauge what you’d do with the degree you’re seeking to earn. If you don’t have a relatively clear and planned answer, it will make them wonder why you’re pursuing this degree in the first place.
To tackle this prompt, sketch out your 5 and 10-year goals, along with some longer-term aspirations. Don’t worry about making these too detailed; everyone knows that it’s extremely difficult to hit the nail on the head when you’re looking so far into the future. Instead, try to make sure that they seem plausible and are clearly connected to you and your intended course of study.
"Describe your specific experiences in X field or activity."
When confronting a prompt like this, your task couldn’t be any simpler. My only comment here is to avoid repeating your resume in essay form. You probably can’t fit everything in, so you’re going to want to focus on the most important and influential experiences. When discussing these, focus on your own work/contributions and what you ultimately gained from those. Don’t delve into a play-by-play of course syllabi or the methodology of your research project.
That doesn’t cover everything, but it should give you a decent starting point regardless of what type of essay that you’re working with. Regardless of your particular prompt or program, the most important thing is that you begin the essay writing process by carefully analyzing what you’re supposed to be writing and who’s going to be reading what you write. Diving right in without such careful thought will often result in an essay that misses the mark.