An addendum is an additional written statement provided with your law school application. Its purpose is to highlight any legitimate reasons for weakness in your law school application. Some schools limit the scope for addenda and allow other optional statements to address things like multiple LSAT scores, an upward trend in grades, and/or character and fitness issues that must be reported in the application.
If you prepare an addendum, remember to make it as concise as possible and stick to the facts. The facts are more persuasive than your conjecture or belief that you will excel in law school despite issues in the past. Lawyers argue with facts: start now.
Determining Whether You Need to Prepare an Addendum
If you believe that a member of an admissions committee would benefit from an explanation about part of your application, you should submit an addendum. Addenda will usually explain problems with, or unusual aspects to, your application. Typical reasons for an addendum are: a poor semester of grades, a terrible grade on a particular course, a gap in college attendance, or an LSAT or GPA that isn’t indicative of your true abilities. If you have a minor in possession or other criminal charge, or sometimes even a traffic violation, you may need an addendum. Check each school's application questions and instructions to see what is necessary in this case.
Only file an addendum if you can contribute useful information to the admissions committee. For instance, if you have a low LSAT, and you can demonstrate academic excellence despite other examples of low standardized test scores, you might provide that information. Or, it may be useful to tell the committee that you believe your GPA would have been higher if you didn’t have to work full time during school. You might also file an addendum if you had a drop in grades surrounding a death or illness.
When You should not Prepare an Addendum
Not all applications should have an addendum. If you don’t have a good explanation (not excuse) for a weakness in the application, or compelling information to tell the committee about why you want to attend the law school, skip the addendum. Admissions officers will be turned off by excuses, and you want everything in your application to be strong.
Do not prepare an addendum for minor weaknesses. There is no need to prepare an addendum because you made B’s in optional honors courses instead of taking the easier courses where you know you would have made A’s. Admissions committees do not care that you think you could have made a 170 instead of 168 on the LSAT if you hadn’t been sick that day.
Finally, do not write an addendum if the information is already described elsewhere in the application. For instance, the Columbia Law application asks about working more than part-time during college and requests disclosure of the number of hours you were working during each year of college. In that case, the addendum would be redundant. It would also be redundant to write an addendum about why the school is good for you if you apply for early decision. The purpose of such an addendum is to tell the school that you would accept a seat if offered—early decision already does this.