Writing a Law School Addendum
Published Februrary 2008, last updated June 2010
What is an addendum?
An addendum is a document that you can choose to include in your law school application, and is most effectively used to put forth legitimate reasons for a weakness of the application. The document should be clear and concise, from just one to three paragraphs in length, and clearly labeled ADDENDUM. A useful way to look at an addendum is as an opportunity to explain any major chinks in your armor as an applicant, whereas the personal statement should be treated as an opportunity to focus on your strengths. If any weaknesses are mentioned in the personal statement, they should be portrayed as obstacles that were overcome and helped to pave a path to growth and experience.
What sort of issues should be addressed in an addendum?
If you think that a member of an admissions committee would benefit from an explanation regarding a particular part of your application, an addendum addressing the issue would be appropriate. For example, if there is one markedly poor semester of grades on your otherwise solid undergraduate transcript, admissions officers would most likely wonder about the lapse in academic performance, and an addendum would be useful in putting forth any legitimate reasons that led to the poor grades of that semester.
The following issues are also appropriate topics for an addendum:
- An LSAT score that does not accurately reflect your law school potential
- An exceptionally poor grade in a particular course
- An overall GPA that is not indicative of your true abilities
- A long gap in your college attendance (not a summer semester)
Explanation of a poor LSAT score is one of the most common uses of an addendum, but a low score should not automatically lead you to write an addendum regarding the issue. Only if you are able to demonstrate prior academic excellence despite low standardized test scores should you consider writing an addendum about a low score, as otherwise, the addendum would probably be of little value. For example, if you scored a 1000 on your SAT, but were able to graduate with a GPA of 3.90, the SAT was obviously a poor predictor of your college performance, and there would be reason to believe that the LSAT might be a poor predictor of your law school performance. In such a case, you should include an official copy of your SAT or ACT score, along with an addendum discussing prior poor standardized test scores and excellent academic performance.
Explanation of a low GPA is another frequent use of an addendum. Addenda of this sort are most convincing if there was a particular semester or year in which your grades were much lower than usual, coinciding with a death in the family or a severe injury or accident. Also, if you believe that your overall GPA was not as high as it could have been due to financial circumstances, such as the necessity of your full-time employment throughout your college career, an addendum could be useful.
When to NOT write an addendum:
If a weakness of your application cannot be explained by any legitimate reason, you will probably be better off not writing an addendum, as admissions officers would most likely be turned off by an addendum centered on excuses. Also, you should never feel the need to write an addendum if there is not some glaring weakness in your application. Keep in mind that most applicants don’t include any addenda in their applications.
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