Optional Statements: An Opportunity, But Optional
October 18, 2019
Considering whether to write an optional statement? If you complete your personal statement and still feel that you have more to share, an optional statement provides you with an opportunity to do so. Here is our advice to determine whether submitting an optional statement is the right choice for your application.
First, let’s be clear about one important distinction between a personal statement and an optional statement. A personal statement is required. An optional statement, as the name suggests, is not. Nevertheless, an optional statement may provide an opportunity for you to help us understand how you will contribute to the diversity of perspectives, experiences, and pathways in the student body at Harvard Law School.
Many prospective students wonder whether an optional statement is secretly required to put forth a strong application to Harvard Law School, or assume that it is in their best interest to maximize every opportunity to submit materials to us.
Nope—the optional statement is definitely optional, and should only be submitted when all the other components of your application are not sufficient to provide a full picture of you as an applicant and potential member of the HLS community.
Think carefully about whether and how you use this optional component. There are times when an application is actually weakened by an optional statement due to a lack of cohesion or relevance to the rest of the file.
If you submit an optional statement, ensure that it provides us a fuller understanding of how your individual path informs and is informed by your decision to pursue a legal education. The optional statement should not be an extension of your resume or personal statement, but instead a reflection on the unique perspectives and insights that you will bring to our classrooms and community. Think of the word diversity in its broadest sense: background, experience, identities, ideological/political viewpoints, traditions of faith, skills, passions, aspirations, and more.
Optional statements work best when they bring something new to the application—something we haven’t already learned from reading the other components of your file. Remember that we will have just read your resume and personal statement a few minutes prior, so repetition of the same information and material is not necessary.
In short: optional statements provide an opportunity, but you must think carefully about whether submission of an optional statement will enhance your application.
Whether or not you choose to submit an optional statement, we are excited to get to know you in your own words.
Filed in: Inside the Black Box