(Post updated August 24, 2017)
Welcome to the third post in my series intended to provide guidance to law school applicants looking to submit a standout application. Once you have tackled your personal statement and secured outstanding letters of recommendation, it is time to stand back and look at the “pieces” of your law school application objectively. It is helpful to view your application as a puzzle to be understood by the readers (those evaluating your potential for success in law school and in a legal career).
In most cases the readers will only get to know you from the items in your application file. There will be no interview and no other way to assess your potential. So, stand back and objectively determine – with everything that will be seen in my admissions file, what raises questions? What are the missing puzzle pieces to understanding why I am a good candidate for admission?
If you feel that your application, when viewed as a whole, is missing an important piece of information that could answer the above questions, you should consider writing an addendum. Below are the most common types of addenda we see:
Character & Fitness
The first and most common law school addendum is a “Character & Fitness” addendum (C&F). A C&F addendum is absolutely required if you respond to any school C&F application prompts in the affirmative. This addendum is NOT optional in any situation where full disclosure is requested. It is also highly recommended, even in situations that do not seem to require full disclosure – better safe than sorry! The C&F addendum must provide full and complete disclosure including the nature of the occurrence, relevant facts, dates and other event details including final disposition of the event. C&F statements are important, as all state bar requirements deal with character and fitness of an applicant at the time he or she seeks certification to register for a state bar examination.
A disclosure of this nature does not necessarily make you inadmissible for law school. It is not uncommon for Admissions Committees to see disclosures that many may consider ‘youthful indiscretions’. However, non-disclosure of such an event is a far more serious problem than the impact disclosure may have upon your application outcome. It is not necessary for you to express remorse or shame when providing these disclosures. But, if you have learned a lesson, or if a further discussion (beyond the basic required disclosure described above) helps the reader(s) get to know you better or helps to complete the puzzle that is your application – be sure to discuss the event(s) in greater detail.
Another common type of law school addendum is a GPA and/or LSAT explanation. Most schools, including Seton Hall, provide you the opportunity to submit a supplemental statement to describe any experiences or circumstances (including any physical and/or psychological difficulties) that might have adversely affected previous academic performance or standardized test results. Addendum of this nature can be very helpful to those evaluating your application, as it can explain circumstances that present questions during the admissions review process.
A good example is poor performance during a particular period in school. Were there circumstances that led to poor academic outcomes (i.e. illness, family problems, over commitment, etc.). Help us solve the puzzle! Tell us what the issues were. It is important that you address whether the circumstances that you describe still prevail and if so, how they might (or might not) impact your success in law school. Help us understand anything that potentially detracts from making your application stand out. Never assume that reviewers won’t notice something. Our job is to notice these things!
Although most schools (including Seton Hall) place the weight of admissions decisions on the highest LSAT score (in cases where multiple exams have been taken), if your scores show a disparity of more than five points – I highly recommend submitting an addendum. Lacking any further explanation, evaluators will be left to come to their own conclusion about the score difference. Provide the reader with the puzzle piece!
The Diversity Statement is another writing sample that you can utilize to make your application stand out. Diversity statements are usually optional essays that allow you to illustrate how you will bring diversity to the law school and highlight ways that your unique perspective can add to the richness of the learning experience. Diversity statements are not just for underrepresented minorities.
Consider your background, culture and unique aspects of your upbringing. But, bear in mind that this is an optional statement and you should not force yourself to feel unique. Additionally, remember that this is not intended to be an adversity statement – admissions evaluators will want to use this statement as another puzzle piece to understand your full picture. We won’t be expecting all applicants (or even all of the applicants who submit Diversity statements) to have overcome some great challenge. Diversity statements help to provide us another avenue to get to know you. Knowing you a bit better, can lead to positive outcomes for your application!
Lastly, there may be other reasons to submit addenda. Some law schools welcome additional/optional statements about various topics. One common prompt for this type of addendum is “why is this particular law school a good fit for you?” (or something along those lines). When considering these additional submissions, remember that “optional” means exactly that. You are NOT required to respond to optional questions and you should not fear that by not responding you will somehow be at a disadvantage. However, if you have something to say (that isn’t said elsewhere in your application) – say it! If the above prompt is given by your first choice law school – let the reader know it is your first choice law school! It is certainly another piece of the puzzle.
Like your personal statement, these submissions are writing samples. Be sure they are written professionally, free of grammar and spelling issues. To be clear, I often place substantial weight on the writing style in these submissions as, often they present as more honest (less scripted) additions to the application. So, you should be sure to place sufficient effort into preparing these statements. Addenda should above all be accurate and honest. Do not submit this type of information last minute ‘on the fly’.
Here are a few more pointers on how to write an addendum that will enhance your application:
- Be honest and speak in your own voice. In most cases these submissions are optional – so make it worth your while by being yourself.
- Be sure to carefully review the application instructions from each school. Provide what they ask for and answer prompts appropriately.
- Generally speaking, optional statements and C&F required disclosures should not be more than one to three paragraphs (or one page) in length.
- Like your personal statement, these submissions are writing samples. Be sure they are written professionally, free of grammar and spelling issues.
In addition to your personal statement these addenda help to give your application depth beyond the quantitative measures used for admission evaluation. And, these submissions help us to complete the puzzle that is your application.
Thinking of applying to Seton Hall Law? Check out our application requirements using the link below.