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Law School Admissions Tip: The Addendum

Posted in Test Prep on January 5, 2011 by

Every other Wednesday, our friends at Clear Admit will share one of their excellent tips for navigating the law school admissions process. For more advice, be sure to check out their blog.

Most law schools permit addendum essays, in which applicants have the opportunity to explain extenuating circumstances in their application, including serious issues involving academic, professional, or criminal records.  Today we’d like to offer some advice to candidates who are obliged to write essays responding to these circumstances.

Consider the requirements. Most schools do request that applicants write an optional essay to address certain issues, such as an academic probation or criminal record.  In this case, it’s necessary that you answer the question being asked.  However, some schools offer a broad optional essay option, in which students have the opportunity, but are not required, to discuss negative aspects of their candidacy.  In deciding whether or not to discuss your background, consider if writing an essay about your situation would be helpful to your candidacy, quieting potential concerns and demonstrating your growth, or whether an optional essay would instead cause the adcom to dwell on negative aspects of your candidacy.

Remain constructive. As you approach writing your addendum, think carefully about the way this information might be perceived and make sure that the impact it makes on your chances of admission is a positive one.  Although it’s necessary that you explain the situation as honestly as possible, you should also include information to demonstrate how you have grown from the experience and/or improved since the time it occurred.

For instance, an essay that simply alerts the adcom to a serious medical condition might help its author stand out from other applicants, but could also leave the reader wondering whether this person could handle the demands of a rigorous academic program. On the other hand, a few details about this applicant’s strategies for achieving success in spite of some disability and commitment to supporting others with a chronic illness or impairment might make him or her seem like a very valuable addition to the law school community.

Be concise. It’s important to keep in mind that by responding to this type of essay, you are creating extra work for the person reading your file. This should not dissuade you from addressing a required topic or one that you have deemed important based on the considerations above.  However, it’s very important that you demonstrate good judgment by limiting your comments to the most relevant information, keep your response as direct and concise as possible, and follow any set page or word limits.

We hope that these general guidelines have helped to shed some light on the sometimes confusing issue of law school application addendum responses.  For further help on this topic, check out our other Admissions Tips on essay writing.