Law school applications are stressful for many students, and so is knowing when to include an addendum alongside your application. Typically, addenda are reserved for explaining a special or extenuating circumstance found on your record that may raise a few eyebrows among the admissions committee once you turn in your complete application.
In this article, we will discuss the exact purpose of a law school addendum and help you to understand when and when not to include one with your application. We'll also be helping you with some tips on how to write your addendum for maximum clarity and efficiency. Read on to learn everything you need to know about the law school addendum.
What Is a Law School Addendum?
A law school addendum is a short essay that you can include in your application that works to proactively address any issues or red flags that the admissions committee may wonder about, such as low grades, low LSAT scores, or a criminal record.
Your addendum should typically be no longer than a couple of paragraphs and it should provide a concise, objective explanation about the circumstances that led to the anomaly on your application and offer an explanation as to why that particular issue will not affect your candidacy or ability to perform well in law school.
The addendum should not offer up any kind of argumentative reasoning, defensive statements, or be so long that it distracts from the rest of your law school application; the addendum is intended to be a complement for your application, not the main show.
Types of Law School Addenda
There are a couple of different types of law school addenda that you may write. We've listed these below for easy reference.
Character and Fitness Addendum
A character and fitness addendum may be included if you have any type of criminal offense on your record or if you have any type of academic misconduct during your undergraduate history. Any type of disciplinary action or criminal record should be discussed in an addendum, but you should take care to read each law school's specific instructions, as certain schools require a character and fitness addendum to be composed in a specific way.
A transcript addendum refers to anything on your college transcript or with your undergraduate GPA that may cause an admissions officer to pause. These can be things like a low GPA, multiple withdrawals from classes, or leaves of absence from your time in undergraduate college. We will elaborate more on specific scenarios that might warrant a transcript addendum [ANCHOR TO #When to Include an Addendum]below[END ANCHOR LINK].
LSAT Score Addendum
An LSAT score addendum is useful for explaining why you scored low on a past administration of the LSAT or to provide context about the score you are applying to the school with. These are not typically as common and may not be necessary unless you have taken the LSAT many times and have greatly varying scores, or you want to explain your personal circumstances behind a specific low score.
When to Include an Addendum with Your Application
While not a complete list, the scenarios listed below should give you a good idea about when and when not to include an addendum with your application.
Low Undergraduate GPA
You should discuss a lower undergraduate GPA when your GPA is significantly lower than your LSAT score, or when your GPA is much lower than the average GPA at the law schools you are applying to.
In this addendum, you should be discussing any extenuating circumstances, such as personal sickness or family emergencies. Make sure to offer explanations on the circumstances, without including any excuses. You should also take care to highlight some positive aspects of your transcript, such as courses in your major that you routinely performed well in, as this will help balance out your addendum and can make you look more favorable to admissions committees.
Low or Multiple LSAT Scores
It is generally rarer to need to include an addendum discussing your LSAT scores. Typically, this type of addendum is only necessary if your LSAT score was affected by something outside of your control and you want to provide an explanation for it.
If English is your second language or you have a history of underperforming on standardized tests, this would be a good idea to include on an addendum; the essay should provide a simple explanation for your score and offer examples of how your ability to succeed in law school isn't necessarily tied to your ability to perform on tests.
You should also keep in mind that some law schools may require you to explain a large dip in LSAT score—usually more than 6 points from one administration to the next. In cases like these, check the law school's admissions website to ensure what information needs to be on the addendum, and then form a concise explanation as to why your score dropped significantly. Though keep in mind that if you genuinely don't know why your score lowered, you are allowed to say this on a required addendum.
Anomalies on your transcript, such as a leave of absence, multiple withdrawals from classes, or multiple transfers are all good reasons to write an addendum. Your addendum should give context to these issues and clearly give an explanation as to what happened. Explanations can range widely, and can include everything from illnesses, to deaths within the family, to poorly accommodated learning disabilities, to work and financial obligations.
Just make sure to keep your explanations objective and stick to the facts without any embellishment when you are explaining something about your transcript.
Addendums that cover criminal records can vary greatly. In most cases, you will not need to worry about a speeding ticket or a fine over something small in high school; law schools are generally only interested in things that you have been either convicted or sentenced for.
It is important to read the individual application requirements if you find yourself having to write an addendum like this, as law schools differ in what they require their applicants to report.
When explaining a criminal record, you should take care to give the facts surrounding the issue and then provide a concise explanation admitting that you were wrong and stating what you have learned from your experience; you should always end an addendum like this on a positive note and describe how the issue shouldn't affect your application eligibility into law school.
If you want to read more in detail on character and fitness or criminal record addendums, check out this article here.
When to Not Include an Addendum
When they reach the optional addendum part of a law school application, many students begin wondering if they should submit an addendum just because they can, or simply in order to explain something minor. However, you should only submit an addendum when it is absolutely necessary in order to explain something on your transcript or personal record that could negatively affect your admissions chances.
You should not include an addendum on your application if you only have one bad grade on your transcript, you "just feel" like your LSAT score doesn't showcase your abilities, or you plan to be argumentative about why a certain professor in your undergraduate college shouldn't have given you the score they did.
Before deciding to write an addendum, ask yourself if it is necessary in order to help the admissions committee understand something they would not have known otherwise, and if your addendum will be more of an explanation than an excuse. If the answer is yes to both of these questions, it may be okay to write an addendum—as long as there is a very good reason to.
You should keep in mind that if you do end up including a superfluous addendum, it could reflect badly on you as a candidate. You don't want to draw attention to one or two bad undergraduate grades, nor do you want to seem like you are making excuses for something you should have otherwise been prepared for, such as the LSAT or undergraduate finals you may have scored poorly on.
How to Write a Law School Addendum
The most important part of your law school addendum is how you write it. Follow our tips below to craft a concise, professional addendum that will perfectly complement your law school application.
Key Points to Include
These key points should be included in most addenda, as they make a good base for starting your essay and can help you craft a concise, professional addendum.
This is the most important part of your law school addendum. You should start by discussing the part of your transcript, test score, or criminal record you are writing the addendum about (for instance, saying "my transcript reflects a withdrawal during my second-semester classes"), and then follow up with the facts or circumstances that surround the issue.
Don't make excuses and don't try to push the blame onto others for the issue in question. You should be writing nothing but the plain facts and discussing necessary information surrounding your issue, without any embellishment or emotional pleas.
State What You've Learned
This part is generally only applicable if your addendum deals with a personal choice that caused an issue on your academic or criminal record, such as an academic misconduct report or a possession charge. After spending one paragraph on your explanation about the issue, you should then take a few sentences to discuss what you learned or how you have changed.
Again, you don't want to try and muddle the facts by being overdramatic and stating how much you regret your choices and will never make bad decisions ever again. Instead, you should own up to your mistakes, acknowledge them professionally, and then provide a clear, concise statement detailing how you have learned to avoid repeating these mistakes.
Most law school addenda will need to end on a positive note, as this helps ensure the admissions committee that you are indeed a fine applicant, despite any issues that may be on your transcript or personal record. If you've already stated what you learned from a bad choice or issue on your record, you will likely not need to add in extra sentences, as this is positive enough.
For other addenda that don't include a section stating what you learned, you should try and focus on pointing out courses you did succeed in, upward trends in grades, or discussing how proper accommodations (in the case of a learning disability) improved your ability to do well in school.
Of course, if your addendum is dealing with a tragedy or other deeply personal issues, you don't have to force a positive spin; only end on a positive note where appropriate.
Offer to Give More Information
It is a good idea to include a sentence or two at the end of your addendum that offers to give the admission committee more details about your issue and the circumstances surrounding it. This honesty in disclosure about your issues can build up trust with the admissions committee, and is a good sign of you owning whatever you are writing your addendum about, which is a positive sign for a law school applicant.
It is incredibly important that you don't go into too much detail or spend time crafting a story in your law school addendum. You want to tell the admissions committee exactly what happened as clearly as possible; they should not be reading through an entire 3-page story that builds up to the event that you are discussing in your addendum.
Keep your explanations short, objective, and to the point in order to get the best, most professional, results with your addendum.
Formatting – Length and Tone
The law school addendum is not much longer than a few paragraphs, with 3 paragraphs generally being the longest it should ever be. For most students, only one or two paragraphs will suffice to provide an explanation, along with a few sentences stating why the issue should be disregarded when considering their ability to succeed in law school.
Keep your written tone professional and objective, and try not to come off as overconfident or too prideful. The addendum is intended to be a short, factual essay, and unnecessarily flowery language, excuses, or a generally bad attitude conveyed by your writing will likely not work out well for you in the admissions process.
If you would like to read several examples of law school addenda and understand how they are broken down into these essential components, you can check out this guide for more in-depth information.
Polishing Your Law School Application
Applying to law school can be a stressful thing, especially if you believe there is something on your transcript or in your personal history that may be interpreted poorly by the admissions committee. Crafting a concise law school addendum can be a solution to these worries, and if you take the time to understand how to effectively write your addendum, you can easily polish up your application and ensure you have a fair chance of admission into your dream law school.