ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

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mlansky
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ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby mlansky » Mon Sep 16, 2013 10:56 am

My LSAC gpa is 2.65, my undergrad institution gave me 2.89. I've been scoring near or at 180 on my PTs so I'm hoping to give lower T14 schools a splitter worth considering.

I didn't work hard in undergrad, in fact I was a drunk but the consensus seems to avoid admitting that to adcoms unless absolutely necessary. In the year since I graduated, I've sobered up and had a kid, learned value of hard work, yada yada yada.

Is this purely the stuff of a Personal Statement, or with a GPA this low should I write an addendum?

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francesfarmer
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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby francesfarmer » Mon Sep 16, 2013 11:59 am

mlansky wrote:My LSAC gpa is 2.65, my undergrad institution gave me 2.89. I've been scoring near or at 180 on my PTs so I'm hoping to give lower T14 schools a splitter worth considering.

I didn't work hard in undergrad, in fact I was a drunk but the consensus seems to avoid admitting that to adcoms unless absolutely necessary. In the year since I graduated, I've sobered up and had a kid, learned value of hard work, yada yada yada.

Is this purely the stuff of a Personal Statement, or with a GPA this low should I write an addendum?

You shoudn't write an addendum. Being a drunk is not an extenuating circumstance. (No judgment.)

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mlansky
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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby mlansky » Mon Sep 16, 2013 12:11 pm

francesfarmer wrote:You shoudn't write an addendum. Being a drunk is not an extenuating circumstance. (No judgment.)


K thanks. I guess something in me just wants to raise my hand and tell the law school that I know my gpa was embarrassing. I'm still going to try to write most of my PS around the last year and having a son and how I like working hard now, and I'll just hope my LSAT redeems me.

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francesfarmer
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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby francesfarmer » Mon Sep 16, 2013 12:25 pm

mlansky wrote:
francesfarmer wrote:You shoudn't write an addendum. Being a drunk is not an extenuating circumstance. (No judgment.)


K thanks. I guess something in me just wants to raise my hand and tell the law school that I know my gpa was embarrassing. I'm still going to try to write most of my PS around the last year and having a son and how I like working hard now, and I'll just hope my LSAT redeems me.

You'll be ok, law schools see this all the time and you're obviously a much more responsible person now. I'm a (less-severe) splitter so I understand how hard it is to wish you could go back in time and make better choices. You have to move forward and trust that your real life experience is valuable and will hopefully make you more employable than K-JDs with 4.0s!

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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby blsingindisguise » Mon Sep 16, 2013 12:28 pm

mlansky wrote:
francesfarmer wrote:You shoudn't write an addendum. Being a drunk is not an extenuating circumstance. (No judgment.)


K thanks. I guess something in me just wants to raise my hand and tell the law school that I know my gpa was embarrassing. I'm still going to try to write most of my PS around the last year and having a son and how I like working hard now, and I'll just hope my LSAT redeems me.


Yeah but they will already know you know it's embarrassing.

Q: Were you actually an alcoholic, and did you literally quit drinking? Or are you just someone who drank too much in college and slowed down later. If the former, an addendum on the subject might not be crazy -- alcoholism is sort of a disease, after all.

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francesfarmer
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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby francesfarmer » Mon Sep 16, 2013 12:33 pm

blsingindisguise wrote:
Q: Were you actually an alcoholic, and did you literally quit drinking? Or are you just someone who drank too much in college and slowed down later. If the former, an addendum on the subject might not be crazy -- alcoholism is sort of a disease, after all.


I thought about that--I still don't think you should mention it. I definitely believe that alcoholism is a disease but I don't think you should highlight your substance abuse problems which you say you've only had under control for the past year. I don't think that will inspire confidence in you.

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mlansky
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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby mlansky » Mon Sep 16, 2013 12:50 pm

blsingindisguise wrote:Yeah but they will already know you know it's embarrassing.

Q: Were you actually an alcoholic, and did you literally quit drinking? Or are you just someone who drank too much in college and slowed down later. If the former, an addendum on the subject might not be crazy -- alcoholism is sort of a disease, after all.


The former. Meetings, sponsor, program, etc. I've searched a little bit on alcoholism addenda, they seem rare but not unheard of. Obviously it was a factor in my grades and, from my perspective, there's this big, life-changing set of circumstances that have happened since, dividing my life into 'before' and 'after' periods. For those reasons, it has crossed my mind that it might be worth explaining that part of my story, either in my PS or in an addendum.

But all that being said, while you're right -- it's not crazy -- it might still be unwise. It doesn't change what my GPA was, and it introduces a specter that wouldn't otherwise be in the adcoms' minds. While it might be a disease as far as the medical profession is concerned, what's important here is how the adcoms will respond and I don't think it's safe to assume that they wouldn't be more dismayed by this new information than by just thinking I was a lazy kid who hadn't yet developed a work ethic, which is the way I'm currently leaning toward describing it.

What do you guys think? I'm not very knowledgeable about admissions so any input would be deeply appreciated.

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mlansky
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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby mlansky » Mon Sep 16, 2013 12:51 pm

francesfarmer wrote:
I thought about that--I still don't think you should mention it. I definitely believe that alcoholism is a disease but I don't think you should highlight your substance abuse problems which you say you've only had under control for the past year. I don't think that will inspire confidence in you.


Yeah that's my thought as well. Thanks for your earlier comments btw, made me feel a little better.

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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby MoMettaMonk » Mon Sep 16, 2013 12:57 pm

Personally I wouldn't write an addendum about it. If it comes up then of course be honest, but because it's only been a year I wouldn't draw attention to it unnecessarily. Congrats on getting everything together though and good luck going for that 180 on the LSAT.

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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby bp shinners » Mon Sep 16, 2013 1:08 pm

francesfarmer wrote:
blsingindisguise wrote:
Q: Were you actually an alcoholic, and did you literally quit drinking? Or are you just someone who drank too much in college and slowed down later. If the former, an addendum on the subject might not be crazy -- alcoholism is sort of a disease, after all.


I thought about that--I still don't think you should mention it. I definitely believe that alcoholism is a disease but I don't think you should highlight your substance abuse problems which you say you've only had under control for the past year. I don't think that will inspire confidence in you.


Especially since law school social functions are almost always at bars.

Writing that addendum is a risk - it might pay off some places, it might not. If you have ways of showing that you have your alcoholism under control, and you're a risk-taker (which might help since you're a splitter), you might get away with the addendum. If you want to play it safe, leave it out.

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mlansky
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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby mlansky » Mon Sep 16, 2013 1:16 pm

Seems clear that no addendum is the way to go. Thank you all for your input.

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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby blsingindisguise » Mon Sep 16, 2013 1:18 pm

mlansky wrote:
francesfarmer wrote:
I thought about that--I still don't think you should mention it. I definitely believe that alcoholism is a disease but I don't think you should highlight your substance abuse problems which you say you've only had under control for the past year. I don't think that will inspire confidence in you.


Yeah that's my thought as well. Thanks for your earlier comments btw, made me feel a little better.


Yeah I missed that it was only a year, which might sound a little too recent for comfort. If it had been five or ten years I'd be more inclined to discuss it -- which is not to diminish your accomplishment at all btw, and good for you for straightening yourself out.

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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby danquayle » Mon Sep 16, 2013 1:39 pm

mlansky wrote:
blsingindisguise wrote:Yeah but they will already know you know it's embarrassing.

Q: Were you actually an alcoholic, and did you literally quit drinking? Or are you just someone who drank too much in college and slowed down later. If the former, an addendum on the subject might not be crazy -- alcoholism is sort of a disease, after all.


The former. Meetings, sponsor, program, etc. I've searched a little bit on alcoholism addenda, they seem rare but not unheard of. Obviously it was a factor in my grades and, from my perspective, there's this big, life-changing set of circumstances that have happened since, dividing my life into 'before' and 'after' periods. For those reasons, it has crossed my mind that it might be worth explaining that part of my story, either in my PS or in an addendum.

But all that being said, while you're right -- it's not crazy -- it might still be unwise. It doesn't change what my GPA was, and it introduces a specter that wouldn't otherwise be in the adcoms' minds. While it might be a disease as far as the medical profession is concerned, what's important here is how the adcoms will respond and I don't think it's safe to assume that they wouldn't be more dismayed by this new information than by just thinking I was a lazy kid who hadn't yet developed a work ethic, which is the way I'm currently leaning toward describing it.

What do you guys think? I'm not very knowledgeable about admissions so any input would be deeply appreciated.


I'm going to go against the trend here. A GPA that low is going to raise red flags no matter what you do. They're going to ask the question, in their minds. And in their mind's imagination, you'll have no control over their speculation. Look people know what college is. Your BEST CASE scenario might be that they assume you partied way too much or had some substance abuse problem. If they don't assume that, they might just assume you're dumb with an aberrational LSAT. That's not better.

This is spin. You have a bad fact. You need to influence the narrative around that bad fact. Maybe this is because I'm getting older, but people realize everyone makes mistakes. When you're young in college surrounded by high achievers that's not always evident. But its true, and it can even be humanizing.

People are forgiving of mistakes. What they are not forgiving of is obfuscation and denial. But if you can demonstrate to the ad comm that you owned your mistakes, remedied those flaws and grew as a result, then that actually might be viewed positively.

I speak from some experience. Right after I graduated law school and started my legal job, I got a DUI. I thought I'd disbarred, lose my job immediately and never receive consideration for another job ever again. None of that happened. Years later, I've been admitted to a couple more jurisdictions, been consistently promoted and taken several new job offers. My DUI has come up. It probably always will. But when it does, I tell the truth: It was a mistake, it forced me to reevaluate where my life was headed. When I didn't like what I saw, I took steps to change things and I honestly feel as though I'm better for it. Having gone through that makes most other challenges pale in comparison.

Has it cost me some jobs? Sure. Conversely, I've gotten offers after interviewers confided they had similar struggles and admire that I don't shy away from it.

The bottom line: You've got a bad history. But if you can demonstrate you've overcome it and grown, you can ease their concerns and perhaps even evidence strong characteristics that someone without that bad history can't.

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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby Cicero76 » Mon Sep 16, 2013 1:58 pm

danquayle wrote:
mlansky wrote:
blsingindisguise wrote:Yeah but they will already know you know it's embarrassing.

Q: Were you actually an alcoholic, and did you literally quit drinking? Or are you just someone who drank too much in college and slowed down later. If the former, an addendum on the subject might not be crazy -- alcoholism is sort of a disease, after all.


The former. Meetings, sponsor, program, etc. I've searched a little bit on alcoholism addenda, they seem rare but not unheard of. Obviously it was a factor in my grades and, from my perspective, there's this big, life-changing set of circumstances that have happened since, dividing my life into 'before' and 'after' periods. For those reasons, it has crossed my mind that it might be worth explaining that part of my story, either in my PS or in an addendum.

But all that being said, while you're right -- it's not crazy -- it might still be unwise. It doesn't change what my GPA was, and it introduces a specter that wouldn't otherwise be in the adcoms' minds. While it might be a disease as far as the medical profession is concerned, what's important here is how the adcoms will respond and I don't think it's safe to assume that they wouldn't be more dismayed by this new information than by just thinking I was a lazy kid who hadn't yet developed a work ethic, which is the way I'm currently leaning toward describing it.

What do you guys think? I'm not very knowledgeable about admissions so any input would be deeply appreciated.


I'm going to go against the trend here. A GPA that low is going to raise red flags no matter what you do. They're going to ask the question, in their minds. And in their mind's imagination, you'll have no control over their speculation. Look people know what college is. Your BEST CASE scenario might be that they assume you partied way too much or had some substance abuse problem. If they don't assume that, they might just assume you're dumb with an aberrational LSAT. That's not better.

This is spin. You have a bad fact. You need to influence the narrative around that bad fact. Maybe this is because I'm getting older, but people realize everyone makes mistakes. When you're young in college surrounded by high achievers that's not always evident. But its true, and it can even be humanizing.

People are forgiving of mistakes. What they are not forgiving of is obfuscation and denial. But if you can demonstrate to the ad comm that you owned your mistakes, remedied those flaws and grew as a result, then that actually might be viewed positively.

I speak from some experience. Right after I graduated law school and started my legal job, I got a DUI. I thought I'd disbarred, lose my job immediately and never receive consideration for another job ever again. None of that happened. Years later, I've been admitted to a couple more jurisdictions, been consistently promoted and taken several new job offers. My DUI has come up. It probably always will. But when it does, I tell the truth: It was a mistake, it forced me to reevaluate where my life was headed. When I didn't like what I saw, I took steps to change things and I honestly feel as though I'm better for it. Having gone through that makes most other challenges pale in comparison.

Has it cost me some jobs? Sure. Conversely, I've gotten offers after interviewers confided they had similar struggles and admire that I don't shy away from it.

The bottom line: You've got a bad history. But if you can demonstrate you've overcome it and grown, you can ease their concerns and perhaps even evidence strong characteristics that someone without that bad history can't.


I agree with this. I believe there is a post on Asha's blog, for example, where she says that in a case with a blatant low point on the application, such as a really low GPA, no addendum is always worse than some kind of addendum.

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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby blsingindisguise » Mon Sep 16, 2013 2:06 pm

danquayle wrote:If they don't assume that, they might just assume you're dumb with an aberrational LSAT.


Let's not get carried away here

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mlansky
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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby mlansky » Mon Sep 16, 2013 2:36 pm

Thanks again for all the input, good points have been made in favor of an addendum that have me reconsidering.

A couple of thoughts:

-If I don't score in the mid/high 170s, I'm probably not going to go to law school at all. So, assuming I get, say, a 176, is it really possible they'd chalk it up to getting lucky? I feel like admissions people are way too familiar with the LSAT to think something like that is possible.

-I'm not going to avoid the subject of my GPA entirely. I'm going to contrast the last year, of working hard, wanting to be a positive example for my son, and so forth, with the now-incomprehensibly poor performance I put on in school... I just don't know whether to do it in my PS exclusively or put the bad stuff in an addendum so I can keep my PS more forward-looking and positive. Now the question of whether or not I should address the alcoholism as its own part of the explanation brings me to the next thought, that

-I really don't want them to think I'm trying to excuse my behavior or imply that I don't deserve to be judged according to my performance. I earned my godawful GPA just as legitimately as I'm going to earn my LSAT. I've been sober for the better part of 2 years now, and have helped other alcoholics to recover, but I don't want to look like I think this stuff absolves me of my past.

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francesfarmer
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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby francesfarmer » Mon Sep 16, 2013 2:55 pm

mlansky wrote:Thanks again for all the input, good points have been made in favor of an addendum that have me reconsidering.

A couple of thoughts:

-If I don't score in the mid/high 170s, I'm probably not going to go to law school at all. So, assuming I get, say, a 176, is it really possible they'd chalk it up to getting lucky? I feel like admissions people are way too familiar with the LSAT to think something like that is possible.

-I'm not going to avoid the subject of my GPA entirely. I'm going to contrast the last year, of working hard, wanting to be a positive example for my son, and so forth, with the now-incomprehensibly poor performance I put on in school... I just don't know whether to do it in my PS exclusively or put the bad stuff in an addendum so I can keep my PS more forward-looking and positive. Now the question of whether or not I should address the alcoholism as its own part of the explanation brings me to the next thought, that

-I really don't want them to think I'm trying to excuse my behavior or imply that I don't deserve to be judged according to my performance. I earned my godawful GPA just as legitimately as I'm going to earn my LSAT. I've been sober for the better part of 2 years now, and have helped other alcoholics to recover, but I don't want to look like I think this stuff absolves me of my past.

I think you can address the issue of your alcoholism in your PS and still keep it positive. That's probably the best route, in my opinion. If being sober is such a big part of your life now, I think you can write a powerful PS about it that will also obviously explain that your alcoholism contributed to your horrible GPA. Others will probably disagree, but I think a risky PS can pay off. I wrote mine about a very depressing personal topic and managed to make it uplifting at the end and it went over well.

And no, adcomms will not think your 176 is an anomaly. That's ridiculous.

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danquayle
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Re: ridiculously low gpa, should I write an addendum?

Postby danquayle » Mon Sep 16, 2013 3:24 pm

francesfarmer wrote:
mlansky wrote:Thanks again for all the input, good points have been made in favor of an addendum that have me reconsidering.

A couple of thoughts:

-If I don't score in the mid/high 170s, I'm probably not going to go to law school at all. So, assuming I get, say, a 176, is it really possible they'd chalk it up to getting lucky? I feel like admissions people are way too familiar with the LSAT to think something like that is possible.

-I'm not going to avoid the subject of my GPA entirely. I'm going to contrast the last year, of working hard, wanting to be a positive example for my son, and so forth, with the now-incomprehensibly poor performance I put on in school... I just don't know whether to do it in my PS exclusively or put the bad stuff in an addendum so I can keep my PS more forward-looking and positive. Now the question of whether or not I should address the alcoholism as its own part of the explanation brings me to the next thought, that

-I really don't want them to think I'm trying to excuse my behavior or imply that I don't deserve to be judged according to my performance. I earned my godawful GPA just as legitimately as I'm going to earn my LSAT. I've been sober for the better part of 2 years now, and have helped other alcoholics to recover, but I don't want to look like I think this stuff absolves me of my past.

I think you can address the issue of your alcoholism in your PS and still keep it positive. That's probably the best route, in my opinion. If being sober is such a big part of your life now, I think you can write a powerful PS about it that will also obviously explain that your alcoholism contributed to your horrible GPA. Others will probably disagree, but I think a risky PS can pay off. I wrote mine about a very depressing personal topic and managed to make it uplifting at the end and it went over well.

And no, adcomms will not think your 176 is an anomaly. That's ridiculous.


I agree with that approach.

As to the LSAT I was speaking more to it being a aberration in terms of work ethic and consistent effort. The LSAT is a test you can game, so it does to an extent reflect effort in addition to intellect. If all someone has to go on you are a high standardized test score once and 4 years of poor performance, they may view the one evidenced example of strong performance as the exception. But Ad Comms always value a high score because very high LSATs are so rare.

And don't view it as trying to make excuses for your past. You're not. You're expressing the history and qualities that make you the person you are today. It sounds like sobriety is a major part of your life now. The fact that you've been able to make such a dramatic life change while providing for a child and subsequently achieving a high LSAT score illustrates qualities that most other candidates can't.

Frankly, if you get a high 170 score, a lot of schools are going to want to admit you. Ultimately they care most about numbers, and high GPAs are relatively plentiful. They'll want your high LSAT. Just help them feel good about it. To the extent they care about your softs, I really think your perspective will help you stand out from other splitters... they are ultimately your competition.




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