Law School Applicants: You Can Learn From Rappers

Law School Admissions
If you have been reading our excellent GMAT Tip of the Week series (penned by Veritas Prep’s GMAT guru, lesson booklets co-author, and Director of Academic Research Brian Galvin), then you know one thing: it is “Hip Hop Month” here at Veritas Prep. The esteemed Mr. Galvin has been coming up with interesting and nostalgic ways to use rap music examples in order to better understand complex GMAT problems and solutions.

Today, it is our prospective JD readers who get to experience the joyful fusion of hip hop and graduate school admissions. This only makes sense, considering we once ran a blog post breaking down the legal implications of the Jay-Z song “99 Problems.”

By now, you HAVE to be wondering: what can you, the law school applicant, possibly learn from a rapper?


It’s pretty simple, actually: what you can learn is how to tell a story. Rappers – the good ones at least – are ultimately storytellers. The hip hop album generally considered to be the best ever recorded – Nas’ Illmatic – is basically a spoken word version of his life’s journal. The late great Tupac Shakur transitioned easily from “gangsta rap” to books of poetry and back again. These guys gave us tales of their life, made the words rhyme, and put it all over produced beats and sounds. That was their way of telling a story within the confines of a particular form.

Law school applicants also have the challenge of telling their unique story within the confines of a form … the personal statement. We’ve written about the personal statement several times in the past (mistakes to avoid, how to write a great personal statement), but there is one critical mistake that applicants keep making … they want to write about all the good stuff and ignore the bad.

If you click on the above links and read my previous offerings on the subject, you know that the personal statement is all about answering the admissions officer’s biggest question. It’s all about positioning. It’s all about mitigating weaknesses. In other word, the best personal statements feature raw, honest, uncompromising storytelling. And now is where hip hop re-enters our discussion: the best rap songs are often not the brag and boast variety, rather, they are the tales told from the heart. Sure, there have been a few party anthems that have resonated over time and maybe this is me, but the hip hop tunes that have stayed with me over the years are tracks like 2Pac’s “Dear Mama,” “Keep Ya Head Up,” and “So Many Tears,” Common’s love letter to rap itself (“I Used to Love H.E.R.”), Jay-Z’s “Lucky Me,” and Biggie’s “Juicy.” Introspection, emotion, and brutal honesty is what elevated rap from shallow party music to something akin to literature. It made listeners sit up and take notice and to feel invested in the lives of the artists. There’s a reason that so many people were devastated when 2Pac died and it wasn’t because he penned “California Love.”

Law school applicants would be wise to take a page out of the same book (of rhymes). Sure, you can brag about an accomplishment with artistry and make an initial impression – you may even have an admissions officer nodding her head for the rest of the day. But when admissions committee rolls around and precious few spots are up for grabs, your odds are better if your words have staying power – if you tell a story that resonates and makes the reader sit up and take notice. You want the reader to feel invested in your life as an applicant. Make them care about you and your story.

In short, when you write your personal statement, set out to write “Where I’m From” instead of “H to the Izzo.”

For more information on law school admissions or for help incorporating career goals into the application, visit our law school admissions site or call our offices at 1.800.925.7737! And, remember to follow us on Twitter!

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