What is an addendum; why do I need one; how do I write one?
An addendum, as the name suggests, is something you can add to a law school application. Not every application will include an addendum – it is something you add only if needed. There are three reasons you might include an addendum in your law school application:
- If you are a student with a diverse background or experiences that have not been shared elsewhere;
- If you have had a run-in with the law or had disciplinary issues at your university;
- If there is a gap in your resume or a period in your university study when your grades differ dramatically from your normal academic performance.
Addenda need not be long. A robust paragraph is generally enough to explain your issue, though if additional length is necessary, that is allowable. As with personal statements, an addendum should be clear, direct, and to the point. No whining; no self-aggrandizing. Just the facts, factually stated and absolutely truthful.
A Diversity Addendum
Law schools are interested in candidates with diverse backgrounds and experiences. If you are from another country, are a member of a minority population, or consider your background diverse in another way, you might explain that. If you speak another language, include that. If you are a first-generation student or from a diverse background, include that. Be very clear, concise, and truthful. Do not invent a story of diversity if it does not apply to you.
A Disciplinary Addendum
You have to disclose in your applications any run-in you have had with the law and any disciplinary action taken by your college/university against you. Read your applications carefully to see how each law school defines the information they are requesting. Generally, anything other than a routine parking violation should be disclosed. You will be asked the same question when applying to take the bar exam, and your answers have to align. One infraction, even if considered rather serious (i.e., DUI) will not keep you out of law school, if you explain it adequately and it is evident that it was a one-time event, not repeated and lesson learned. If there is a police record, you must obtain a copy and include it. For college disciplinary matters, even something as apparently minor as a loud party in your dorm room must be revealed if there is a written record of it. And you must obtain that record. If in doubt, disclose and explain, and do so factually, truthfully, and concisely, without whining.
The “Gap” Addendum
If there is a gap in time in your resume or if you had a time in college where your grades were suddenly much lower than was usually the case, and there is an explanation, present that explanation. Examples of content for an addendum of this sort include: 1) challenging family situations (e.g., death of a parent; house burned down; parent forced to leave the country), 2) trauma in your life, such as an assault or serious health issue; 3) mental health issues. Or you needed to take time off to work to finance your education. In any case, explain the situation directly and honestly, without embellishing, and point to the fact that after this difficult time, your grades improved and you were back on track, so this divergent time in your academic life is not indicative of your true potential. If you needed therapy or mental health assistance to get back on track, explain that, and that you are now on a stable path, but that the difficulty resulted in an inability to focus on academic work so your grades were temporarily worse than normal and the effect on your GPA was not good. As with the legal problems explained above, the message should be that you are managing these issues, have the supports you need, and are ready for advanced study.
Not everyone will submit an addendum. It is something you only add if it fits your situation. The pre-law advisors are available to help you decide whether an addendum is appropriate for you and also to review any that you write.