J.Y.: Hello, and welcome to the 7Sage podcast. I'm J.Y. Ping, and on today's episode, admissions consultants Tajira McCoy, Tracy Simmons, Jenifer Godfrey, and Jennifer Kott discuss the utility of diversity statements and optional statements along with the purpose of addenda, specifically to explain circumstances surrounding LSAT scores, GPA, or gaps in education or employment. Towards the end, they address questions from the audience. Without further ado, please enjoy.
Tajira: Hello, everyone. My name is Tajira McCoy. I am one of the 7Sage consultants here. I have about 10 years of law school admissions experience, as well as two years in career services, and I have been with 7Sage now for a little over two years.
I would like to welcome my panelists. We are jumping right in and we're going to be talking today about diversity statements, addenda, all of those things where there's a question mark. Should I, should I not submit? With me today, I have my Jens. I'm going to have them, one at a time, introduce themselves. Jennifer Kott, I see that you're sipping, so I'm going to start with Jenifer Godfrey, and please introduce yourself. Let folks know where you've worked and a little bit about yourself.
Jenifer: Hi, everyone. Super excited to be here tonight. I've actually been looking forward to this because it's been a rough week, so excited again to be here. I'm Jen Godfrey. I am an educational event planner and admissions consultant through 7Sage. Prior to joining 7Sage, I spent nearly 10 years in law school admissions at the director and assistant dean levels. I am a big believer in the land-grant mission, so I proudly served four land-grant institutions, including Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge here where I live today. Made my home here with my husband. He is a lifelong resident, which means that I now will be a lifelong resident. So, again, thrilled to be here. Happy for some good questions tonight.
Tajira: And Kott-tastic.
Jennifer: Yes. Hi, good evening, everyone. Hey, thank you so much for taking the time out of your evening to join us, right? You had a choice of things to do, and the fact that you want to spend a good solid hour with us finding answers to questions that would help assist you with your law school applications, thank you. Again, my name is Jennifer Kott. I am a consultant with 7Sage and have been with 7Sage for over a year.
Prior to that, I was in law school admissions for about 18 years. Had that opportunity, like my colleague Jenifer, to have worked at a land-grant institution, two of them, in the state of North Carolina, as well as Arizona. I've also had that opportunity to work for a top-tier law school, 14, if you will, Northwestern, and then a southern private institution, which we would deem as maybe the southern Ivy, other known as Tulane Law School in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Currently now I am director of enrollment at a top 30 college preparatory boarding school here in St. Louis, Missouri. So glad to be here. Happy to answer all your questions, and again, thanks for finding the time to join us.
Tajira: What I love is that all of us have worked for at least one land-grant institution. I worked at UDC in Washington, DC, as the dean of admissions there. I've also worked at a top-tier school. I worked at Berkeley as the director of admissions and scholarship programs. The three of us have also all worked at a law school in Louisiana. I was director of admissions at Loyola University of New Orleans as well.
Without further ado, I'm going to start the conversation on diversity statements, and we'll just kind of take it from there. And who's with us, know that you can be putting questions into the Q&A. I ask that you focus those questions specifically on diversity statements, addenda, optional statements. There will be chances for folks to raise their hands and ask questions towards the end. I'm hoping to reserve about 15 to 20 minutes for that particular forum, for you all. Just know, throughout, we will be seeing that those questions are there. I'll be monitoring those and I'll fold some into this conversation. And then the rest we will address during the Q&A.
First, Kott, I'm coming back to you. What is a diversity statement?
Jennifer: Great question to start off with and really set the temperature of the room. A diversity statement, in some essence, is a supplemental component that really sort of is a different conveyed message, right? It has a different temperature and tone under that structure of diversity, adversity. It's going to be different than what you've submitted in your personal statement, it's going to be different than what you've submitted in your "why X" statement, and it really sort of highlights, based on the question that is being asked of the law school, what do you see as a candidate in the sense of the diversity that you would contribute, right, to our community?
And so in this instance, it's really an opportunity for you to get real and honest and vulnerable if diversity sort of plays into your scope, if you will, your experience, things that you've overcome, right, setbacks that you've had, but then the comeback was even better, is that maybe you grew up in really hard circumstances, right? Financially, socioeconomically, you face challenges in terms of maybe your sexuality, right? Or your race, or let's say you're proud of your heritage, right? Or you're first-generation, right? First-generation college graduate, and you're about to be a first-generation hopeful, right, post-college graduate.
And so those are just an array, right, as we cast that net out of what diversity is, that's sort of what is encompassing in that statement, based, again, sort of on the structure and the protocol of what that law school's asking in reference to this question, it's important to answer the question and give them what they're asking for, especially as it relates to format, double-space, no longer than two pages.
But that's a very overloaded response to your question, and I think we can certainly build off that as the conversation continues, but I think that that's sort of just a good over general view of what that statement could be. Of course, I'm always, always curious to hear from my colleagues in the sense of what they would have to add to that.
Tajira: Anything to add, Jen?
Jenifer: Well, I think a good way to sum up was the diversity statement is diverse in and of itself. There are so many different ways that you can approach this essay, but of course, first and foremost, you need to heed her advice. Look for a call to the question. There might be a specific sort of diversity that the law school is interested in learning about or hearing about. If it is wide open, then know that your diversity is not going to and it doesn't have to look like everyone else's in the pool.
You are actually highlighting what is unique about you and what is it about your background, whether it has been rough or not, that is going to help you add a different shade to the classroom, help those AOs with that community-building aspect of putting together an admissions class, and why is it that the world needs another lawyer like you? What are you going to be bringing to the field that people who have not had the same path as you or the same worldview as you, that they just really can't contribute in the same way that you can?
Tajira: That's great. And Finney, I'm going to come back to you. A lot of times, I get this response from folks who are thinking about doing a diversity statement and aren't sure if they should do one or not. They say something like, "I feel like I could tackle my personal statement and my diversity statement in one document. Should I write a personal statement that covers both or is it actually necessary to write separate documents?" What's your thought on that?
Jenifer: I think it really depends on what you have in your treasure chest of things that you could write about for that personal statement. If it really is that that's the best story that you can tell, and it does cover both aspects, then I think you really only need the one document, but I find that hard to believe. I think a lot of times when people tell me that, I'm like, well, let's brainstorm widely. Let's dig a little deeper. How much of your story can you tell?
Because when you first sit down and all those pages are blank, you feel like, "Oh my God, I'm never going to fill all this up," and then once you really get a roll on, you're like, "I have so much more that I can say and I'm running out of room." So I think if you're having that thought, know that that is a common first thought, and think a little bit, push yourself, think a little bit more expansively and see how you can use all of the different aspects of your application to tell a cohesive narrative about yourself. But again, you don't have to feel pressured, and you certainly don't want these items to be redundant.
Tajira: That's great. Kott, I want to ask you, with diversity being so broad the way that you described, should everyone write a diversity statement?
Jennifer: Tajira, a very quick, simple, direct answer is no. And I'm thankful sort of in our existence of having and working in the industry and being passionate about what we do as consultants and former admission officers, we do have candidates that say, like, "Hey, I'm thinking about submitting a diversity statement because I spent my junior year abroad and really had the opportunity to be exposed to a culture that was completely different than my own." I'd probably advise the candidate that that's really not under the sort of focus of that diversity statement, and I would probably advise maybe not to submit it.
It's a great question, Tajira. I think if the candidate wonders if they should or they shouldn't, talk it out with someone, talk with your consultant, talk with your pre-law advisor for those joining us as current undergraduate students or recent alumni at your institutions. But I would say no, it's not always necessary and it actually can end up hurting an applicant. If they feel they submit something that calls for that diversity and really isn't, it wouldn't help, but I would always advise that if you're questioning, "Oh, I don't know, should I, should I not," ask, seek that advice. But when in doubt, don't submit it.
Tajira: I'm going to push back on that a little bit. Has there been an instance where you've received a diversity statement and it was off-putting to you, and if so, could you give an example? And I'm going to come to you with that also, Finney.
Jennifer: I've never found a diversity statement ever off-putting. I think they always come from a place of sincerity, this organic sense of being genuine and authentic. So, no, and out of all the files that I've read for all the institutions, I've not had one that's like, ugh, it's, or one that's made me like completely sort of make my decision based on that. Again, I've always found those statements extremely sincere, and I know they mean well in the sense of what they're submitting for a diversity statement, but it doesn't hit that sort of point of satisfaction, if you will, in terms of how I am looking to build the class. Now, I've seen a lot of other addendas that have kind of woo, wow-factor shocked me, but no, not when it comes to diversity.
Jenifer: A little bit related to this, I spent some time following my time in law school admissions and veterinary admissions, and at the institution where I worked, everyone was required to submit a diversity statement, but it was a very different call of the question. It was kind of like an appreciation for diversity. Do you get it? Do you know why we care about this? Do you know why you should care about this? And so those really opened my eyes to kind of all the different approaches in how everyone can kind of have something to contribute, because everyone did kind of draw on, as an illustration, a life experience of their own. So that really, I think, kind of helped to educate me now coming back into the law school admissions fold and helping those individuals who really honestly want to try to put their best foot forward in terms of a diversity statement.
But anytime that I've ever been put off by one in the past, it really did fall flat in that it's like, okay, you don't get it. Like if you're writing about being a redhead or left-handed, or as the case may be, it's like you don't get why we care about this and why this is a supplemental essay that you can provide. Certainly didn't ding the applicant in terms of like an automatic denial or anything like that, but it didn't enhance their application in any way and it did make me look for, okay, are there any other parts of this application that kind of reek of desperation or maybe a lack of preparedness and research in terms of your approach to applying to law school.
Tajira: I have an interesting question from someone in the audience that asks, in your experience, has a diversity statement ever been the deciding factor between two similar applicants? Kott, I'll start with you.
Jennifer: No, because in that essence, it would be wrong of me as an admissions professional to be comparing two applicants. I don't have two application files up when I'm reading a candidate. I am solely focusing on the candidate that is on my two screens. Multiple admissions officers have two or three monitors in their office. All the applications are run online. Typically, I'll wait about five minutes until I move on to the next application. But no, not when it comes down to deciding factors of two candidates.
What I'm looking for is someone that, again, that's going to contribute to the class, that's bringing a different lens, a different voice, that's someone that is, that's empathetic. I find that diversity statements are, they're personal, like they're even more personal than I would find in a personal statement in the sense it's real, it's vulnerable, and that's based on the candidate in terms of how comfortable they feel, right, sort of coming forward or sharing that information.
But no, it's never come down, diversity statements never come down to a decision on a candidate when comparing both of them. One, that's unethical. Two, that's not how typically admissions officers review files, and I hope that answers the question.
Tajira: Finney, what's your take?
Jenifer: I think a diversity statement, certainly for me and in the past, has been a factor that has motivated me when I'm walking into that committee room to advocate for a student and to really rally for them, because I'm going and feeling like, if this is a candidate that is on par with the rest of the applicant pool, that is worthy of admission given our limited seats, and they have traveled this distance, so kind of like the distance travel for me is a huge factor and it always has been in my review, it's going to be a candidate that I advocate for, it's going to be a candidate that I keep in mind when it comes to pulling people off of the waitlist. But again, that can also be achieved for some through the personal statement, but it is just a way to kind of tell that distance travel story that I think can make a difference in terms of having someone advocate for you.
Tajira: Thank you for that. What about touchy subjects like religion or political affiliation? Is it a bad idea to write about something that can be seen as controversial? Finney, I'm going to come back to you first.
Jenifer: I have never been put off by any diversity statement or personal statement that I've read about religion. I usually find that result of the sorts of institutions where I've worked at, but a lot of times if someone is writing, I'm curious about it, I'm interested about it, and I really love that they can be comfortable to share that and contribute that to our community. So it has been helpful. When it comes to political matters, it can be a situation where I'm like, okay, this is going to be a person who is going to maybe have to come and find their group and their niche and find a way to fit here if it is kind of running contrary to what the political current is at that law school. But it's certainly not something that I have ever held against a candidate.
Jennifer: I would agree and I would sort of say the same. I mean, here's the thing. I mean, that's the beauty of going to law school is that you're going to have classmates that you are going to have difference of opinions and you're going to see things differently in terms of, like, what place has better queso than another, right? Or there's always a political debate or debate about something, whether it comes to religion, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, religion. But as it relates to law school application, I mean, I think that, I think as long as it's done in a respectful manner, in a way that sort of doesn't put you kind of off-putting, I think it's okay to talk about it in that space.
And again, like, I think that's a great way for law school admissions committees also to kind of see, right, like how the student would fit into our community, sort of based on their passion, whether as it relates to their religion or political party, how would they seek that involvement? Let's say maybe in the Federalist Society or the Christian Law Society, right? Like in the sense of where that law school's located geographically. But no, I mean, it's never, I've never found it off-putting, again, that's that space for that to be conveyed. I just always sort of caution, like, just do it with a side of civility and just grace and respect.
Tajira: For candidates who feel like their story is similar to other applicants, and I know we hear this question all the time, like, I feel like my story is so similar to other people, like, it's not important enough for me to share that, and they ask, well, how do I make it stand out? What would be a piece of advice that you would give? And I'll start with you, Kott.
Jennifer: Well, I think, before you get started, I think you owe yourself to give that time and permission to yourself to really reflect about what the call of the question is, right, as it relates to diversity. And I would also advise, get yourself a journal and just start in that reflection, start penning, same like your personal statement. You want to labor over this, particularly if you feel, you know, you feel that this is important in your candidacy and to share with an admissions committee.
You want to make it stand out in the sense of obviously reading the directions, answering the call of the question. But I think a great diversity statement always sort of starts off with that strong introductory paragraph that hooks me in, right? That sets the temperature and the tone, provides me that background evidence, carries me through, through my undivided attention, throughout the entirety of the statement where I am right there with you. I visually can see sort of what you're feeling, what you went through, and then at the end, finding that conclusion or that resolution of what you're sharing with me, right?
And it's sort of putting the sort of puzzle together in the sense of, this is another trait about you that I can't find anywhere else in your application. So it's that different response that you would be sharing, let's say, if you were interviewing with an admissions committee, right? Like if you had something to talk about as it relates to your diversity. So you want to make yourself stand out in the sense, I think it's always wise to be authentic, be yourself, get a number of people to look at it, like you want that constructive criticism and feedback.
For those undergraduate students, check out your writing centers on campus. Ask your pre-law advisor to look it over. I know, as a former pre-law advisor, I read them over, but you want it to stand out in the sense that it tells that story, it tells that niche as it relates specifically to the topic at hand. Do not go off topic. Don't throw other things into it. Stay on point. And I think it's also important to be simple, direct, and specific.
Tajira: That was Kott's list of 20 pieces of advice. Finney, your take?
Jenifer: I look at, I mean, when people say that, I get where it's coming from a little bit, right? You're not the first person to be poor, the first person to have had a parent serve time in prison. You're not the first, all of those things. But at the same time, I have to push them to talk to someone who is more objective about the situation, right? So talk to someone that you trust, because you are the only person who's lived it in the way that you have lived it, and so your story is worth telling. Just because, I mean, there are no new plots, right?
So you're not coming up with anything that's brand-spanking new that we've never heard before, but we've never heard exactly how it impacted you and motivated you to move forward and make the decisions that you're making, to make some of the mistakes that you made and to bounce back maybe from some of those things. So I think that just because you're not the only person that it happened to or just because you were able to overcome it doesn't mean that it's not a story worth telling.
So those thoughts, I think, are nothing [to worry] about, and it's normal in the beginning stages of writing something like this, and you just really need to talk it out with other trusted sources and have confidence that this is something that's going to add value on paper for people who are trying desperately to get to know something, anything about you that deems you worthy of coming and joining their law school.
Tajira: Okay, great. Thank you so much for that. And we're going to move on so that we have plenty of time for Q&A. Finney, I'm coming right back to you. What are addenda?
Jenifer: They are kind of that little note aside about, they're context, they're filling in the blanks. If there is anything when you kind of step back from your law school application and say, "Boy, I sure do hope they figure out that the story that I told about breaking my arm in my personal statement, that that actually happened in fall of 2018, and that's why I got the C here." Like, if you think we're going to figure all that out without you telling us, you're wrong.
So anything that you're like, "Gosh, I hope they could figure that out," I think that belongs in an addendum. And then just anything where it's just like, "Okay, I answered the question, but also you should know this," but there's no space for it in another appropriate place on the application, that sort of explanation should go in an addendum.
Tajira: Kott, when is it best to write a GPA addendum?
Jennifer: When is it best to write it? When you submit your application, as you're putting your application together? I mean, here's the thing, right? Like you're going to be looking over your application, especially like depending on how many law schools you're applying to, right? That's going to be a lot. You're going to be managing, juggling different things. And as you're putting all this together, I mean, automatically, you're going to have to request your undergraduate transcripts, right?
And so you may have a copy of that, and you sort of may look back and be like, "Woo, oh, I forgot about that one semester. Oof." Or, "Oh yeah, that year. Mm, that year." You probably want to go ahead and start thinking about drafting an addenda as it relates to your grade point average. And as my colleague Finney had alluded to, like, what you want to do is you want to just, you want to tie that bow, right? You got a loose bow, you want to fill in that hole, you want to close the gap.
You want to do, what you want to do is you really want to be proactive and forward thinking and go ahead and provide the answers to the questions that we're going to ask when we're looking at your transcripts or your CAS report that's got your overall cumulative GPA, and we're going to see it semester by semester and year by year. If something, like, if I'm looking at your transcripts and I'm like, whoa, something's going to allow me to stop and pause, like, what happened here? It's probably advised to go ahead and start thinking about writing your GPA addenda and making sure it's done, clean, proofread, and submit that at the time you submit your application.
However, if you forget, or let's say you submit the application and there's that, "I really should've submitted something, I should've, oh gosh, I should've, I could've, oh God," submit it. Go ahead and submit it. Typically, you can send it to the general law school admissions account for a law school and let them know, but some law schools, I will tell you, they will not accept an addenda after you apply.
So it's very important to follow the directions. I think you've heard us be repeat offenders this evening when we have said, "Follow the directions," because there are law schools after you submit, and you're like, "Oh, I forgot to submit the addenda." They're like, "Yep, thanks. We'll note that, but we can't include this in your file." So, just be wary, attention to that. But I would always advise, submit the addenda at the time that you submit the application. Just you want to be prepared. It shows that you're prepared, you got your ducks in a row, that you're organized, and those are going to be great skills and traits that you're going to need, not only as a law student, but more importantly, in the profession.
Tajira: Thank you for that. And just as a point of clarification for anybody who's listening, when you're writing your personal statement, your diversity statement, a lot of times those are written more as a narrative piece. An addendum does not need the narration. We just need a factual statement that gets to the point of what it is you're trying to explain, whether that's about your GPA or your LSAT, which we'll talk about in a moment, or something else that you feel might leave us with a question mark within your application materials. This is a place for brevity, detailed brevity, but brevity.
I'm going to come to you now and I'm going to ask you, in terms of LSAT addenda, when does it make sense for a candidate to consider submitting one?
Jenifer: I think there are a few different circumstances when it makes great sense, one of which is when you have taken that bad boy more than the law ought to allow. So you've taken it a whole lot and you might want to explain what's up with that. I think when you've had a big difference in scores, so whether that be that you've dropped off between or you even increased your score, believe it or not, you want to explain like, "Hey, I buckled down, I said I needed a tutor in Logic Games," or whatever the case may be. You want to explain those sorts of things.
I don't think that it is necessary to, I get a question a lot and maybe it might pop up in the chat. People want to know, like if they need to kind of use an addendum to disclose whether they had like testing accommodations and things like that. And my answer is always no, that's not what that's for. It really is just kind of like, okay, explain some struggle that you've had with the LSAT in terms of like why your score isn't coming out the way that you desire, maybe why you have attempted the test more than three times, and big score differences, whether positive or negative, are the sorts of things that I suggest an LSAT addendum for.
Tajira: Anything to add, Kott?
Jennifer: I would sort of support Finney in terms of sort of her response. I think it's important to, again, take ownership of it, y'all. Like, I mean, if we see that you've taken the LSAT like five times, well, tell us that. Like, especially if there's, there was a few years in between you took the LSAT, right? Like, owe that to yourself, especially y'all, if you jacked up your score like 10 points or six points, like from the second time than you took it the first time, own that. Call out the admissions committee and say, "Dear admissions committee, I'd like to look that, like, I've increased my LSAT score," and maybe because your GPA isn't as strong. So you want to applaud yourself in that, acknowledge yourself in that.
But then also own, like, again, let's say you've taken the LSAT and you just can't seem to crack, right, that one score that you've been getting consistently. I think it's okay to support that voice, that testimony, but make sure you're direct, you're simple, to the point. Again, no narrative, just the facts.
Jenifer: I think a lot of cancellations oftentimes need to be explained in an addendum too, and I'm curious to see how that is going to ramp up now with the new cancellation policies. So yes, there can be too many Cs for cancellation. I think once you've kind of canceled more than once, you kind of need to explain what's going on there as well. So whether it be that you went in, you took it anyway, you didn't want to waste the time, the effort, the money that you studied, but you had the flu or you ran over your cat on the way to the test or whatever the case may be, which is horrible, but I actually have read that before in the application file.
Those sorts of things. It makes a difference because here I am, 15 years later, like, man, remember that girl that ran over the cat on the way to take the LSAT? So explain those things. Just, again, very matter of fact, you don't have to tell us your whole life story. Probably shouldn't go beyond a paragraph, but just let us know. Oh, and time differences sometimes can contribute to all those cancellations, when students are having to travel from places where the LSAT isn't administered there. I've seen those sorts of an addendum that have been effective.
Jennifer: Yeah, especially, I was going to say like the snowstorms that had kind of happened. Do you remember that a few years ago, and people were like stuck in traffic and they couldn't get to the LSAT and that. I got one for you, Finney. I had a candidate talked about marching band that was practicing outside the testing center. And so like, they were like, "No, my LSAT, like, it was horrible. Like it had the drums in my head." Anyway, but it's better than the cat, poor cat, like, anyway.
Tajira: That's crazy. The one thing that I was going to add to what Finney shared is, and we keep calling her that, that's just a nickname, but when Finney was talking about we can see the number of cancellations, we can also see absences, and they are marked differently on our CAS report that we receive on our end. And so know, like, whether you were a no-show or you canceled before the test or there was a cancellation after the test, we will see all of that.
It is important at some point to give context if there are multiple times where you were registered for the LSAT and then ultimately did not take it. It does at some point become a question mark for us of why is this person not showing up or not taking the exam? What's going on? That explanation, like, that's purely exactly what an addendum is for. If there's something that you think we're going to have a question about, then you need to explain it. And Finney, outside of the LSAT or GPA, are there other instances where you might suggest an addendum?
Jenifer: A common one that I suggest is the gap in employment. A, it's a good idea because a lot of law schools ask for it in the instructions for the resume, which can be sometimes very easily glossed over, even though you should be reading all those instructions, but you're like, a resume? Yeah, got that. Everybody wants a resume, but many of them do say, "Hey, if you have a gap of more than three months, you need to explain it." So it is a good idea just to explain it across the board for every school that you're applying to.
And I have seen with some of my clients at 7Sage, especially with the pandemic having interruptions and things with employment, that that can be a great space to kind of just talk a little bit about maybe something innovative that they did as a result of a layoff or something like that connected to the pandemic. So that's a space where you can kind of get a little pat on the back or toot of your own horn in a very factual context, just to put another little layer of what's going on with you in the application.
Tajira: That's great. Thank you so much for that. I think we've reached that point in the evening where we're going to go ahead and start opening up for questions. We have over 40 in our Q&A section, and so I'm going to hit some of these first and then we'll do some hands, and then we'll come back to more of these.
For anybody who's asking questions about character and fitness, we're not going to address that tonight. That actually is going to be the subject of next month's webinar, so stay tuned because we're going to have a lot to talk about. That entire session is on character and fitness. There's a lot to cover, and so just be ready for that. But for tonight, we're focused on addenda and diversity statements. Question that I have here is, how can you deliver a diversity statement without appearing as if you're seeking pity? Finney?
Jenifer: I think a lot of times it, you have to turn the story around. You have to talk about overcoming, you have to talk about how it's built you up and made you stronger as a result. It's a short amount of space, so I do realize that sometimes you, like you tell all the stuff that you think is relevant and then you've left out that part, but you cannot leave out that part because some of those, you come away from it and you're like, okay, and the dog died. My goodness. Like, what good came of this? And there has to be something because you picked yourself up enough to be forward looking enough to enter a profession like law where you are in a helping and service-oriented profession, but you can't make me assume anything. You have to tell me that.
Tajira: And Kott, is it true that these statements should not contain content that's too traumatic?
Jennifer: I mean, I've read some pretty traumatic diversity statements over my career, some that I could relate to, some that hit a chord, struck a chord with me. Some that, at the end, like I just wanted to hug my computer and hug that person for just being so brave to share that information. Again, I think it's about tone. I think it's about language. I think there should maybe be some barriers set up in terms of what's too, too personal. So be mindful of that.
Again, this is, you're trying to make a favorable impression on the admissions committee, okay? Like, you sort of don't want to get into this habit that you run over dogs and it like deeply, gravely impacts you and to the point you get really depressed and then like accidentally start running over cats. Like, I mean, I think that there are the sort of guardrails that need to be put up, but I think it's okay to get personal and to share that vulnerability.
Again, I kind of echo like the song of LL Cool J, like don't call it a comeback. Like it is a comeback. Like, that setback, you learned something from it, you grew from it, and you take that lesson or that experience with you, and you contribute that to the world or you contribute that to another person or you serve that in another manner. But I do think you need to kind of set up some guardrails of really what's too, too personal to share.
Again, you want to leave a favorable impression on the admissions committee, but I, more times than 10, like I've really connected with people that shared the diversity statement, and it helps me just as a person in general, if I feel like I think I'm having a bad day, if I read someone's diversity statement in terms of what they've overcome, and I'm like, Jennifer Robin, get it together. So again, it's part of your story. There's only one you. You cannot be replaced. So keep that in mind when you share that, and as my colleagues have continually said throughout the evening, if you don't think it's important, we think it's important, so share that.
Tajira: Finney, should a diversity statement also address why law, or should they leave that in the personal statement exclusively?
Jenifer: I think it's more at home in the personal statement. Sometimes it might also tie into your diversity narrative, but you certainly don't want to be repetitive. And if you're only going to have it one spot, I think it should be in the personal statement. That's just my personal opinion. I can be a lot, I can be really structured, though, about how to put together an application. I'd be curious to see what Kott thinks about that.
Jennifer: Yeah, I mean, I think it's okay to reference it, but remember that's sort of what the personal statement's for, right? Like, you're sort of conveying that message of why you want to, why you need the tools, right? Why you want these tools in your toolbox to help you get to the profession to do great things, right? And so I think, I think I would definitely support maybe referencing that somewhere in the diversity statement. Don't have it be the entirety, but maybe provide another spoke of what's motivating you to get to law school and how that diversity factor plays into what you want to do in the profession, and more importantly, how you want to contribute in that setting within the law school community you hope to join.
Tajira: Should we focus on single diversity topics when writing the diversity statement? As a person, obviously we have intersections, and should we talk about those intersections or other factors contributing to diversity, or should we focus on one?
Jenifer: I think intersectionality is welcome. It definitely is literally a big part of what makes you you and what makes your story unique. However, and this goes for anyone, you have to be careful when you're putting together your diversity statement because the landscape is so small, you don't want it to sound like it's just this laundry list of, like, look at all the boxes I can check. I have read some that I'm like, you might as well have just copied an ancestry profile in here, because I'm like, you're not giving me any meat on the bones. You're just telling me about potential boxes you can check. But if you really can, in a very real or even scholarly almost way, talk about how you've lived life at the intersection of your identities, I'd love to know about that as an admissions officer.
Jennifer: I would even, I would agree with that. And even if you really sort of want to scale it down, three points, right? Maybe three points of this intersectionality that you could share with us, right? Like, so I would definitely agree with that, but then I would also support a single topic, right? Like, so just, again, just be mindful in terms of, again, that horizon that is very, very small, very small compared to that large landscape that the personal statement offers. So just keep that in mind.
Tajira: Yeah, I would join in and say, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how many you share, it matters the perspective and what's influenced your perspective. So it may be that some of those things cause greater influence than others, and it doesn't mean that leaving some of them out makes you any less than in terms of your identity. It's important to consider what the takeaways are supposed to be for these particular documents.
I'm going to go ahead and bring up our patient hand raiser, Miranda. Hi there, Miranda.
New Speaker: Hi. Thank you so much. Thank you for having us tonight. It's been really great hearing all of your advice and, yeah, so my question is more related to what if my diversity statement could also like address an addenda issue? So the one big thing for me, and I guess, so like I was a mature student going into university, but I actually have autism and I did not disclose at the beginning of my undergrad degree. I really desperately wanted to be seen as normal.
I know that's something that, as I went through university, I learned that maybe some of my younger generation, the younger generation has a better understanding of and a better grasp of than maybe mine did. But it did have a really big impact on my GPA. However, I did recover, like I did come back from it and I actually finished my last full year taking the most classes I had with a 3.9, but I did very well.
And so, but the one thing I, I think, struggle with trying to understand of like how to write about it is it was not something that was ever celebrated in my life, and it wasn't until I, yes, I did get accommodations in the form of like exams and stuff like that, but it was more like the process of learning how to advocate for myself, not from a place of shame. And so that's what I think has been the most challenging. And then also not being ultra repetitive, between both of, I guess, continuously writing the addendums and then also like the diversity statement, perhaps like repeating too much from, or, sorry, the diversity statement, maybe repeating too much from the personal statement, I guess, is kind of where mine, my issue lies. Sorry, if that was not clearly articulated.
Tajira: One of the Jens?
Jennifer: Well, first and foremost, Miranda, thank you, thank you for sharing that information with us. There's a lot of non-traditional applicants that sort of kind of talk about that space, and that's something that we didn't even kind of touch on in terms of maybe that gap in your education, right, or an interruption or a setback because of a diagnosis or a disability. You are welcome to talk about that in the sense of what you encountered, those accommodations that you had, and how much you've grown from it, and like the upward trends, like you want to be proud about that.
And again, that's sort of why I talked about like, you want to own this. I mean, come on, Miranda, share this. This is, law schools would love to hear something like this. Like non-traditional applicants are very welcome in the sense that law schools love to see applications from non-traditional applicants, like, the average age, unless it's changed, correct me if I'm wrong, colleagues, but the average age entering law school is 24, and you'll find some of my colleagues out there, other law schools, the median age is 27 or 28.
So you bring a wealth and a vast amount of experience and life knowledge and lessons into the classroom and in the law school classroom. And so part of that is also to share your story of this diagnosis and how you've grown from it and the sort of help that you saw, and how it helped you, right, like perform better. So I would definitely sort of encourage you, this, I think, depending on the school that you're applying to and what they're offering as it relates to welcoming an addenda academically or a diversity statement, I think in some capacity, maybe you could encompass, right, the intersection of this, you can talk about that, and one platform as opposed to two.
Tajira: Thank you for that, Jen. Thanks so much for your question, Miranda.
New Speaker: Thank you so much.
Tajira: Okay. Our next question is kind of, this one is interesting. Would growing up in an unstable household that includes perhaps mental illness or alcoholism be considered worthy of a diversity statement, or could disclosing such information hurt the applicant? Finney?
Jenifer: Included in a personal statement, if it isn't the applicant's direct struggle, they aren't the one struggling with the mental illness or anything like that. In a diversity statement, I'm kind of having a hard time seeing it, but it definitely is an experience that is unique to you. I guess if it comes along with something else. I guess while we're on, we've been talking about the thread of intersectionality, but if that sort of environment maybe led to there being issues with you having enough food in the house or having other needs met, certainly could tie into kind of like a socioeconomic sort of traditional diversity statement because of these things, or perhaps some other angle. I definitely think it can be touched on. Whether it is more at home in the personal statement versus the diversity statement would really depend, I think, largely on the facts.
Tajira: Addenda, would you recommend writing an addendum for multiple LSAT scores? They took the LSAT four times, there's three scores and a cancellation with a constant increase. The total increase is 11 points over time.
Jennifer: Yeah, absolutely. You've got to share that story, right? Because you're on an upward trend. You've been increasing each time, and again, you want to fill in that gap. You want to fill in that hole. I'd be curious to know what you did different. I'd be curious to know sort of how you've prepared differently from the first, the second, to the third. Maybe kind of share what happened with the cancellation. But it, there's a story to tell, but make sure that that's very brief, direct, to the point, but especially if it's got an upward trend, I think it's worthy of sharing with an admissions committee. No doubt. Let me put it to you this way. You'd be doing yourself a disservice in your candidacy if you didn't own that. So own it. This is your one shot, folks. Like, put it out there.
Tajira: Okay, Finney, the question is, in your experience, can a strong academic addendum make up for a poor GPA at high-level schools?
Jenifer: It could explain it, it could add some context. It can never fully make up for it because the GPA number does play a large role in the process, but it can help to instill a little bit more confidence in the admissions committee about why the GPA looks the way it looks. If left totally unaddressed, folks could assume the worst, they could assume that school wasn't a priority for you. They could assume that you're lazy or a partier or whatever the case may be. So it definitely needs to be explained, but there's always still going to be a price to be paid for a lower GPA, but the explanation does help.
Tajira: That's great. Thanks, Finney. Kott, have you admitted a candidate with a very strong diversity statement but an average LSAT and GPA?
Jennifer: I have because I believed in their story, because a lot of circumstances, just me as an admission professional, I was so, I was high contact, I was high relationship with my applicants. Like I was the, I was your recruiter behind the table that was like, "Here's my card, keep in touch." And I would, I would remember you. The interactions that I had with applicants, getting to know them through virtual forums or fairs or on-campus visits, I'd get to know them through emails and their tone and their temperature as a person, especially as, like, I'm building the class, right?
Like, if I see that this person, like, has really sort of made some growth with their LSAT and it's, again, it's below maybe our 25th, they've got some really nice work experience, their commitment to serve their community, yeah, the diversity statement has played a huge factor in that decision, but I've put my neck on the chopping block to fight for that candidate in the sense that I know that they're going to do massive things at the law school.
Tajira: I love that answer. Thank you for that. I just dropped something in the chat. If we're unable to get to your question, and I'm telling you now, we're not going to get to all of them, there's 48 open questions right now, if we're not able to get to your question, ask it in the discussion forum. I put the link in the chat. If you want to ask your question privately because you don't want the information that you're sharing to be public, when you're in that discussion forum page, you can click on my name and send the message to me directly. That way it stays private and we can get your question answered and have you still feel comfortable. Just know that that's an option for you.
And remember, this particular event was just about diversity statements and addenda. Next month we'll touch on character and fitness, but I will do one more question for those that were so patient and waiting. Let's see. This is a fun one. Will an addendum be needed because LSAC canceled your score for misconduct, or should we leave it to LSAC's report completely? Finney, I'm going to start with you.
Jenifer: Get your side of the story out there. You do not want that report sitting there without a committee hearing from you because, I mean, in a way it kind of looks like, yeah, their side is the only side that's the absolute truth, or it looks like you thought, "Well, maybe they won't find out about it." So, yeah, we need to hear from you on that. And again, factual, don't make a whole lot of excuses for yourself. But on that one, I would say take the space that you need. Don't limit yourself to just a paragraph sort of thing, like I said before, because that can really have very big and major consequences. So you want to make sure that you're advocating for yourself. You'll be your first client in that regard. So, yes, don't stay silent on that.
Jennifer: Well, as a former member of the Misconduct and Irregularities Subcommittee for LSAC, yeah, let's be up front, let's own it. Again, like, just own it. Put your side of the story out there. Be truthful, be factual. And again, use that space because, again, when admissions committees see that, they're going to want to know. And so you'd be, again, huge disservice to yourself not to address it. Go ahead and jump on it, own it and be direct, straight to the point.
Tajira: As another former member of the Misconduct and Irregularities in the Admissions Process Subcommittee, you have to give your side of the story there. Do not leave it to us to make an assumption that your side is correct when you haven't spoken on it. It only makes sense where there's anything about your application that you feel we're going to question or have issues with that you give us the context, give us your story, give us your version so that we can consider that with our committee and try to make an educated decision rather than trying to make up the story on our own. Remember that at the end of the day, the goal is to get us to yes, and it is very hard to say yes if we're left with a bunch of questions at the end of the day.
And with that, I want to thank my panelists for joining me tonight. This has been a wonderful conversation. For anybody who's present, know that this was recorded, and so we will be posting this to our podcast as soon as it's edited. Again, if you did, if we didn't get to your question, please ask it in the discussion forum or send me the message directly and we'll be able to make sure that your questions are addressed. But thank you again for joining us, and have a wonderful evening.
J.Y.: Hi, it's J.Y. again. Thank you for listening. As always, if you are studying for the LSAT, applying to law school, studying for your law school exams, or studying for the bar, come visit us at 7Sage.com. We can help.
That's it for this episode. Take care of yourself, and see you next time.