When You Should Write an Application Addendum

Update: Gradvocates is pleased to offer Law School Addendum Editing

An addendum is a useful addition to an application when used in the correct circumstances. This short document of one to three paragraphs should only be used to explain legitimate reasons for weaknesses in your application. An addendum is optional but should be clearly titled ADDENDUM if used. This will prevent any confusion between your addendum and your personal statement or essay by the reader of your application. Remember, an addendum is only necessary to explain any weaknesses in your application for which you have a legitimate reason.

The following are examples of weaknesses that would be appropriately addressed in an addendum by a satisfactory reason (See second list below):

  1. Low standardized test score that under normal circumstances would be significantly higher
  2. An undergraduate GPA that does not accurately represent your true academic abilities
  3. An unusually low letter grade in a certain class
  4. A withdrawal or extended absence from school
  5. An extended period of unemployment (if far-removed from undergraduate or graduate school)
  6. Any sort of criminal record

This is not an exhaustive list of weaknesses for which you might want to write an addendum. The key is to pinpoint the glaring holes in your application that if left unexplained would raise significant doubt in an admissions council member as to your worthiness as an applicant. If you are trying to explain away minuscule weaknesses in your application with an addendum, this may backfire. Admissions council members may have thousands of applications to sift through. Not only does this make application readers focus on weaknesses they otherwise may have glossed over, but it also aggravates them for having wasted their time reading an additional unwarranted addendum. Only provide as much information as necessary. Too much information will not make admission board members happy and will most likely be seen as a negative aspect of your application.

You may be wondering: What are some legitimate reasons for having gaps or weaknesses in your application?

The following are some examples of legitimate reasons to write an addendum:

  1. Death or extended severe illness to a family member or relative
  2. Severe personal illness or injury over an extended period of time or that required hospitalization
  3. Documented physical, mental, or social disability or disorder
  4. Financial hardship
  5. Military service (combat deployment, reserve call-up, etc.)
  6. Vehicular accident
  7. Extenuating circumstances regarding standardized tests (e.g. – a history of bad performance on standardized tests that do not act as good indicators of academic success)

These are not a comprehensive set of justifiable reasons for glaring weaknesses on your application. The main point is to recognize what an admissions council member would regard as a permissible reason for a weakness. Also, try to remember that the context of your reason and weakness have to match. Stating that you missed classes for an extended period of time because a relative died might work if you missed all your classes during that period; however, if you just missed one of your classes but was able to attend all others, this may not seem as legitimate a reason as it should be. Also, trying to explain away glaring weaknesses with reasons that seem illegitimate may hurt you even more than if left unexplained, so do not write an addendum unless you have a good reason (in the eyes of an admissions board member) to explain a significant weakness.

Military service (combat deployment, reserve call-up, etc.)

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