Reading law school optional essay examples is a wonderful way to learn the format and expectations of this supplementary law school application component. Law school optional essays, like a law school letter of continued interest, are a useful tool in drawing attention to your application and helping you increase your chances of getting in. While there is some disagreement on whether optional essays are always required, knowing how to write them well is important. In this blog, we’ll learn what law school optional essays are, how to write them, some common essay prompts, which schools ask for optional essays, and some optional essay samples to help you in writing your own.


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What is a law school optional essay?

A law school optional essay is a secondary, supplementary essay you can submit as part of your application to law school. As the name implies, they are not always required of students and are different from a law school personal statement. For example, law school diversity statement is a common optional essay in the US and Canada. An optional essay is similar in structure and intent to a personal statement, but will usually be written in response to a specific prompt. Optional essays are usually submitted concurrently with your primary application.

Law school optional essays are a student’s response to supplementary prompts or questions. Some law schools will have specific instructions on writing and submitting an optional essay, or provide writing prompts or a list of potential questions.

Want to learn more about law school optional essays?

Are optional essays really optional?

There is some debate whether law school optional essays are actually optional. Some law schools state that students who do not submit an essay in response to at least one of their optional essay prompts are not considered for admissions. And given how competitive law school acceptance rates are, it’s in your best interest to write an optional essay if the school provides a prompt, question or topic. If they do not, you can brainstorm a topic of your choice to write a supplementary essay.

If you choose to do so, it’s vital that you respond to the prompt or prompts you feel you can provide an answer to.

Optional essays should be used strategically to bolster your application. It can be a useful tool to tell the admissions committee of your chosen law school more about you or provide them additional information about why you should be considered for admissions.

Want to see a summary of some of our key points from this blog? This infographic is for you:

How to write a law school optional essay

Law school optional essays follow the same formula as college essays or law school personal statements. They are an essay that highlights your personal experiences, perspectives and answer the given prompt. Some schools will allow students to submit an optional essay on the topic of their choosing, too.

Optional essays need to include an introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, same as other college essays. A typical word count for the optional essay is only 250 words, although some schools will ask students to submit multiple optional essays or allow for a greater word count. Schools like Stanford and Yale are among the top schools which allow only 250 words for optional essays.

If you’re unsure how to begin writing an optional essay or brainstorm ideas, law school admissions consulting can help you develop the writing and researching skills you need to craft an excellent essay. Or you can read our examples below for some help and inspiration in writing your own.

Some things you need to consider when writing your own optional essay for law school, though, is to avoid repeating any information you shared in your personal statement or other parts of your application, use your optional essay strategically, and follow the instructions you’re given for the prompt.

Common law school optional essay prompts

One of the most common law school optional essay prompts is “Why do you want to attend X law school?” You may have already answered this question in your personal statement or another part of your initial application, but it is a favourite question law schools ask of prospective students.

To answer this prompt, you’ll need to find your distinct reason or motivation for applying for that specific law school. Research the school’s program, culture, values, and mission and demonstrate your knowledge in your answer. For example, if you’re applying to Harvard Law School as it is arguably the best law program in the country, tell them why you agree the program is excellent and why having a top-tier law education is so important to you personally.

Some other common prompts for law school optional essays will be to ask you off-beat or quirky type questions, sometimes similar to law school interview questions, to see what kind of unique, stand-out responses you’ll submit. Other optional essay questions will be relatively simple to answer, such as “what is your favourite book?” or “what are your most important extracurricular interests?” These questions might sound simple for a 250-word essay, but it’s key to always tie your answer back to your motivation for applying to law school and reveal something pertinent about yourself.

Do you still need to work on your law school personal statement? You might find this video helpful:

Below we’ve listed recent prompts provided by some of the top law schools in the US, including Stanford Law School, Harvard Law School and Georgetown University.

Some recent prompts from Stanford Law School include:

Harvard Law School’s list of recent prompts includes:

  1. State and describe any legal issue in your region or the world and provide your solution to address it.
  2. Tell us why you want to have a degree from Harvard Law School, and how it is related to your past experiences.
  3. List and describe your academic interests and tell us how they are related to your future career.
  4. Tell us about your career plans and in which country you plan to pursue a career.

Georgetown’s recent prompt list is perhaps the most unique:

  1. What is something important that you have changed your mind about?
  2. What unpopular opinion do you have, and why?
  3. Tell us about a time in the last five years when you stood up for yourself.
  4. Share a Top Ten List with us.

Which schools encourage writing an optional essay

There are some law schools which encourage students to submit an optional essay for consideration as part of their application. If you’re thinking of applying to law school in Canada, for example the University of Toronto, an optional essay is highly encouraged as part of your OLSAS application. If you’re researching potential law schools in Canada, it’s also a good idea to check out their admissions requirements as well.

Many of the top law schools in the US strongly encourage students to submit an optional essay or statement as well, including Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Columbia, and Duke University, to name a few.

Have you taken the LSAT yet? If you're preparing, you'll want to know these helpful tips:

Law school optional essay sample #1

Prompt: What important challenge does society face today?

The most important challenge society faces today is to collaborate for a better future. There are more people on the planet than ever before, and with so many different generations, cultures and peoples all trying to find common ground, it can create a sort of “too many cooks in the kitchen” dilemma. Society has been changing rapidly, and the world is changing more drastically than ever before. It is my belief that collaboration is our biggest challenge.

We’re all aware of the global problems facing our society today, and the various efforts around the globe to implement solutions and come up with the answer. However, with so many different voices clamoring to be heard and different perspectives all clashing in the discussion, it can be hard to see any forward progress. Solving our problems on a global scale will be some of the most significant challenge any of us will know in our lifetimes, so in my opinion learning to work together for a solution will be the biggest obstacle. It is my thinking that it is time we see new voices, and new solutions in the room.

This may of course contribute further to the problem since there are already so many individuals wanting to be heard. But we have also seen in recent years how the younger generations have been stepping up and adding their contributions in positive ways. In politics, in technology, in environmentalism, in law and in industries across the globe, there has been a turnover of new ideas. And I think focusing on new ideas and figuring out how to make them work now is far more beneficial than another debate. We already know what needs to be done. Our biggest challenge will be to stop thinking of our individual needs and start thinking collectively of our global futures.

If you still have lots of questions about the law school application process, check out this video:

Law school optional essay sample #2

Prompt: List and describe your academic interests and tell us how they are related to your future career.

My academic interests are broad, but I have always been interested in a career in the law. I studied my undergrad with a Bachelor of Communications with a minor in criminology and forensic science. I have always been fascinated with forensic sciences and I believe a thorough understanding of science and criminology are essential to my future goal to become a criminal defense lawyer.

As an undergrad, I also took several optional seminars and courses on criminology, and I interned at a local forensic lab during the summer as a file clerk. During my internship, I was allowed to safely observe many common forensic procedures and learn more about the inner workings of a forensic lab. It was fascinating to learn the science behind these procedures and witness how they are performed with my own eyes. My criminology seminars also afforded me the chance to speak to practicing lawyers and retired police officers about their experiences with the criminal justice system.

My major in Communications has also been invaluable to me as I pursue my goal to become a lawyer. As a lawyer I will need the skills I have learned in communicating effectively and clearly in any medium. I have also been able to develop my writing skills considerably, which will be a necessary tool in my skillset.

All of these experiences have given me a well-rounded and holistic view of my future career and given me a solid foundation to build on as I prepare to enter law school. I believe my undergraduate experiences and academic interests will add to my learning at law school. 

FAQs

1. What are law school optional essays?

A law school optional essay is a supplementary essay you can include in your law school application. They are a good way to boost your application and provide further information to the school admissions committee about your background, personal experience and motivations.

2. Do I need to write an optional essay for law school?

No; not every law school asks for optional essays, and not every law school will expect one. Even so, an optional essay can be a great tool to help your application stand out, especially with the right writing prompt.

3. What are some common prompts for optional essays?

One of the most common prompt is “Why do you want to attend X law school?”, although different law schools may provide a list of prompts for students to choose from.

4. How long does my optional essay need to be?

An optional essay is typically no more than 250 words, but some law schools will allow some flexibility on this matter.

5. Does Harvard Law School require an optional essay?

While it is not required, Harvard Law School does provide applicants with a list of optional essay prompts, so it’s a good idea to pick at least one to submit to help strengthen your application.

6. Is an optional essay the same thing as a diversity statement?

An optional essay may have a diversity prompt, but sometimes diversity statements are required separately as well.

7. Does Stanford Law School require an optional essay?

Stanford doesn’t require an optional essay, but students who choose to do so are asked to submit at least two essays of 250 words maximum. Applicants are provided a list of prompts to choose two topics from.

8. Does Georgetown University require an optional essay?

The university doesn’t require an optional essay in their applications, but they do provide a prompt list for those who choose to submit one.

9. Is it bad not to submit a law school optional essay?

The only time it’s advisable NOT to submit an optional essay is if the prompt or prompts provided don’t resonate with you personally. Submitting a weak optional essay is worse than not submitting one at all. If you’re struggling on picking a topic or a prompt you like for an optional essay, don’t submit one.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting


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