Grades Addendum – Sexual Assault

First Draft

P1. In 2006 I was raped by an acquaintance at school X. Before this happened, I had been a very strong student, in the top 20-25% of my class while taking a rigorous course load (including a Graduate Seminar my Sophomore year). Being raped fundamentally changed my relationship to the world and to myself. Whereas before this event, I was very confident in my studies and my future, in the aftermath, I was afraid to leave my dorm room. I was so terrified of being invalidated again (a textbook response to rape trauma that I was not informed enough to recognize) that I would work on papers for hours on end, riddled with anxiety, paralyzed by deadlines. While the drop in my grades might seem to suggest that I was no longer focused on studying, I actually became too focused on success or failure in the work to the point where I was unable to turn anything in.

P2. Not knowing how to get help, or what kind of help I needed, I was overwhelmed at the end of my first Junior semester (the first term when I experienced the cycle described above). I took a year off and thought I was ready to return in 2008. Being back in the environment without enough healing was not the right choice for me at the time. I returned to school and the cycle was perpetuated. I did not submit any papers and I did not attend any finals. I had developed agoraphobia. I was required to withdraw and 5 F’s were placed on my transcript. I wish I had done things differently but I felt I had no options at that time.

P3. The fact that I was able to get a 4.0 at school Y while working full time, as well as the A+ I received (a special commendation at school X requiring formal appeal to the Registrars office--rarely granted, a true mark of honor) on a difficult translation project has helped me to understand how much that environment had become damaged from the rape. While I was able to graduate in 2011, I struggled academically. The small amount of healing that I had accomplished at least brought me to the point where I did eventually turn things in. My senior thesis grade, for instance, was B-range, but was lowered to a D because I was paralyzed with fear and turned it in nearly a month late.

P4. I now recognize that I had only just begun a path of healing that would take many years. Nearly a decade out, I have only in the past 2 years felt like my old self again. I remember being this person before the rape.

P5. I recently visited school X’s campus for the purpose of healing. I went to each of the places associated with the assault and the effects. The corridor where my rapist entrapped me and the stoop where I often sat late at night in the Spring of 2008, despair enclosing from all sides. I integrated each into my present.

P6. My LSAT score as well as the consistently good grades I received in my first two years of college (in addition to my 4.0 semester at school Y) speak to the academic record that would have been mine had my life not been taken from me that night in 2006. Had the rape not occurred, I believe I would have graduated with around a 3.5, if not better, and this in the era of school X’s aggressive grade deflation policies. My professional success, I believe, is also evidence of my healing, as is my happiness and centering on where I am in life—all of which I will bring with me to law school.

My Feedback

Q,

Let me say, first of all, that I am deeply sorry this happened to you.

This is a powerful addendum. You’ve done a great job of describing how the rape affected you. Paragraphs one and two need a light polish (which we'll do in the last round), but they are more or less finished.

The second half of your essay, in which you describe your recovery and emphasize the positive, could use a bit more work. Remember your goals: (1) to explain why your grades plummeted, (2) to highlight the parts of your transcript that best represent your potential, and (3) to convince the adcom that you’re ready for law school. The first part of your essay explains why your grades plummeted. You might reorganize the second half to better articulate (2) and (3):

  • First new paragraph: highlight representative parts of transcript.
    • 4.0 at school Y while working full-time
    • A+ on translation project
    • Grades before rape
  • Second new paragraph: I’m ready for law school.
    • Finally feeling like old self
    • Walking the halls
    • Prepared to kick ass

One more note about your last paragraph: I wouldn’t deal in counterfactuals. It’s less compelling to say what your GPA would have been than it is to note that your transcript before the rape is a better reflection of your academic potential.

I hope you don’t feel disheartened. This addendum is already superb, and I don’t actually think it would take very much work to make it a little bit better.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Best,

David

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