How to Write a Non-Required Addendum

1. Explain what happened.

As my transcript reflects, I received a compassionate withdrawal from my summer 2012 classes at Somerset University. I was unable to finish the last two finals of these classes because my abusive live-in boyfriend threatened my life. I left him and received a restraining order against him.

2. If applicable, end on a positive note.

I lived with that boyfriend for the last two years of college. I feel as if I would have been able to perform better in school if it were not for the relationship. As my transcript indicates, my GPA was higher for my first two years of college. After I filed the restraining order, my grades rose. I look forward to earning higher grades as a law student.

Not all addenda have to end on a positive note. If you’re writing about a tragedy, for example, you don’t have to strain to be optimistic.

3. If applicable, say what you’ve learned or changed.

In retrospect, I should have withdrawn from school that semester.

Since then, I’ve listened to recordings of my professors’ lectures as I walked, which has increased my comprehension.

If you’re describing anything that could continue to affect you—an addiction, a learning disability—it’s especially important to tell the adcom why you don’t expect to have a similar problem in law school.

4. Offer to share more information.

I’d be happy to share more information about this matter.

Please contact me if you’d like to see my medical records from this time period.

How Much Detail?

You should orient the reader with dates and specific place names, and give enough detail to explain how and why the incident affected you. Specify medical conditions and drug addictions; give some details about work schedules that prevented you from studying.

However, you don’t have to create a vivid scene the way you would in a personal statement. Every detail that you add requires more of the adcom’s time and patience.

Take a look at the following two examples:

As I sat down to take my chemistry final, I experienced a black spot in the center of my vision which slowly expanded until it covered everything. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor, my fellow students’ concerned faces were hovering over me, and the proctor was on the phone with a nurse.

I fainted during my chemistry final in the fall of 2011. This episode turned out to be the first symptom of mononucleosis.

The first example goes into unnecessary detail. Now look at two more:

In my final semester, the last class I needed to graduate was only offered on campus and I became very ill with pneumonia mid-semester. Due to the class time I missed, I violated the class’s strict attendance and participation policy, resulting in two term papers being penalized as they were considered late, and I lost valuable attendance and participation points. My absences resulted in a D.

In the middle of my final semester, I became very ill with pneumonia. I was not excused for illness, though I provided a doctor’s note, and my absences resulted in a D.

Again, the first example goes into unnecessary detail. The last paragraph has all the information this writer needs.

Length and Tone

Like character and fitness addenda, non-required addenda should be factual, straightforward, and as short as possible. In most cases, one or two paragraphs should be enough.

There is one exception to the “keep it as lean as possible” rule. Consider adding a bit of extra verbiage to be deferential:

I know that you know how to evaluate transcripts, but in case you’re unfamiliar with my school’s grading policies, I’d like to share some relevant information.

Don’t be cocky.

Bad: As anyone can see, my LSAT score is not a predictor of my chances of succeeding in law school.

Better: Therefore, I don’t believe my LSAT score is a good predictor of my chances of succeeding in law school.

Don’t celebrate yourself too much either.

Bad: By sheer determination, I managed to make it through the semester, knowing that some people would have withdrawn if they were in my shoes.

Try to say what happened without any spin.

Formatting

Format your addendum the same way you format your personal statement, but the last line of your header should read “Addendum” instead of “Personal Statement.”

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