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Law School Addendum: When & How to Write One (2024)

The law school addendum. What is it, who should write one, when is it a good idea, could it hurt me, what should you even say? Should I do an LSAT addendum? Is a GPA addendum a good idea? 

Law school addenda (ps: addenda is plural for addendum! I just got you some brownie points on your law school application now, you’re welcome) pose a minefield of questions every year.

No wonder, because there is very little guidance on when they are required and what kinds of things law schools want to hear about. Law schools often have very vague descriptions of what an applicant can include, or sometimes they leave it entirely wide open.

So this begs the question: what looks good on a law school addendum? 

I’ll go through when you should write an addendum later. But first, let’s talk about some general rules of the road for writing any law school addendum. 

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What is a law school addendum? 

A law school addendum is a short (usually no longer than one page and often one to three paragraphs long) essay that you can include with your application to address any unusual or significant aspects of your law school application that are not covered elsewhere in your application. It is, most often, an optional part of the application, not required, but it can be important in some circumstances.

What is the purpose of an addendum?

The purpose of a law school addendum is to provide additional context or an explanation for particular aspects of your profile that might be seen as weaknesses or red flags. For example, you might explain gaps in your education, significant fluctuation in your academic performance, or disciplinary issues. With your addendum, you give the admission committee a better understanding of your history. 

When should you write an addendum for law school?

There are essentially two categories of addenda: (1) Required addenda, where the law school explicitly asks for an explanation, and (2) Discretionary addenda, where it is within your discretion to write one or not. 

Let’s talk about when you will have to or when you strategically should write an addendum for law school. 

A. Required law school addendum

For most law schools, you will be required to write an addendum for things involving your character and fitness—such as academic probation, criminal records, other disciplinary infractions including some traffic violations—and gaps in your education.

Academic probation, honor code violations 

If you’ve been on academic probation or had an honor code violation at any time in your undergraduate or graduate career, you must disclose this. Typically, a student gets these if his/her GPA falls below 2.0, or if he/she was involved in plagiarism, cheating, or something along those lines. 

Occasionally, I’ve seen international students who get an honor code violation because they didn’t know they had to cite source materials. If you had an honest cultural mistake, and then never had any other incidents after, explain that. It will likely not hurt your application much since this is an understandable error. Remember, the key though is that this only happened once, and then you learned.

Sometimes your undergrad or grad institution might tell you they scrubbed the record of it (though this is rare for academic probation), but you still need to disclose it. Even if it is minor, schools take this very seriously. Follow the rules of the road above, and remember, just state the facts, tell the truth, and explain how this will never happen again.

Charged with a crime 

All law schools will ask some version of whether you’ve been charged with a crime. Note that they say “charged” not convicted. This means that even if you were found not guilty, or if it was a “noelle prose” (the DA decides not to pursue anything), or if you were a minor and it was expunged, you still need to write a law school addendum explaining what happened. The only exception is if a law school explicitly excludes a certain category, like if it was expunged or you were a minor. 

The most common types of charges that my clients have had to explain are driving under the influence (DUIs), minors in possession, use of a fake ID, shoplifting, or possession of illegal substances. 

Now, the questions I always get are: Can I get into law school if I have a DUI? Or how will my criminal charge affect my law school chances? 

First, yes, you can absolutely get into law school even if you have a criminal record. I’ve worked with many applicants who have had them, and still gotten into their dream law schools. 

Now the second question of how much will a criminal record affect your law school chances is more difficult to definitively answer. Does it look good? No. Can a criminal record hurt your application? Yes. How much it hurts your application typically depends on the severity of the crime and how recent it was.

Law schools tend to not care much about minor underage drinking incidents, especially if it wasn’t a repeat pattern. They know what happens in college, and these kinds of charges rarely have much impact, as long as the applicant is forthright and takes responsibility. 

Other charges, like DUIs or serious drug offenses (particularly if you were a distributor) can have a serious impact on your law school application. Law schools will be much more forgiving if it was a one-time incident that happened multiple years ago. In this case, if you can show how you changed after the incident, it won’t impact you significantly. But if an incident has happened in the last year, then I would suggest seriously considering postponing a year before applying. 

Remember, you are ultimately being tested on your honesty—do not lie.

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Disciplinary incidents 

These are different from honor code violations in that they typically don’t involve academics in any way. They’re typically raucous, rebel-rousing type of actions where some college official or other disciplinary authority gave you a citation on behalf of your school. These are not a big deal if you don’t have a million of them, and if you come clean and take responsibility. 

You may often wonder, is this even worth writing about? If you’re wondering, it probably is. Even if it’s really stupid, even if it’s really minor. I myself had to write one of these. In college, I was written up for throwing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate therapy ice cream at a fire alarm . . . and breaking it. 

Embarrassingly, I wasn’t even drunk. My roommates and I were just pissed because it wouldn’t turn off and we were trying to study. That was awkward to explain because, well, it was just DUMB. But in the end, it didn’t make a difference. 

Give your admissions officer a good chuckle and move on. But as always, just tell the truth, state the facts, and take responsibility.    

Gaps in education 

Not all schools will require you to explain gaps in your education, but most will. And realistically, if you have a gap in your education, you should explain it.

Traffic violations 

Some nice schools will specifically exclude minor traffic violations from things that have to be reported, but oftentimes the language is generic enough that traffic violations still apply. Err on the side of including if you’re not sure. You won’t get dinged for having them. 

Don’t worry if you don’t know or can’t figure out the exact dates or circumstances surrounding your violation. For instance, if you know you received at least two speeding tickets at some point in your driving history, but have no memory of when, you could write something like:

While I do not recall the exact circumstances or dates of my violation, sometime between 2018-2020, I received two speeding tickets, resulting in minor fines. Neither violation was significant enough to impact my license. 

If you can recall, or gather from your DMV, the exact dates, name of the citation, the fact that you paid the violation, etc., then go ahead and include that. Remember, as always, be matter-of-fact, and just state what happened.

B. Discretionary law school addendum

Law school applicants want to explain EVERYTHING. They had a hangnail while taking their LSAT, so the score is not reflective of their capabilities; they have one B amidst all As on their transcript because their printer wasn’t working and they missed an assignment; their dog’s third cousin’s best friend ran away and they got the news right before they were supposed to turn in their law school applications, hence why they are submitting so close to the deadline.

Obviously, these are exaggerations (other than the one about the single B), but the point is, you will have something about your application that you’re not happy with. Resist the urge to assume you should therefore explain it. Most things are better left unexplained. 

The few circumstances where I do suggest writing an addendum to explain are the following:

Poor academic performance 

If you have a low GPA or an outlier bad grade or a bad semester of grades (the outlier being it is below a B, and everything else is primarily As), then you should consider if you have a valid explanation. 

The following are some valid explanations for poor academic performance:

  • Working While in College to Support Yourself. For this to be a valid explanation, this needs to be significant work experience, not just a few hours a week. But if you were someone who had to support yourself through school and were working 20+ hours/week while also in school full-time, this is an understandable and legitimate reason for a lower than desired GPA. Law schools will not entirely forgive your GPA, but they will be much more understanding. 
  • Personal or family difficulty. If you went through a personally difficult time that legitimately impacted your performance, schools will be sympathetic to that. But make sure the narrative checks out. For instance, if you talk about your GPA being impacted by a tragedy, your grades before the tragedy should not be similarly lackluster. I’ve advised clients to explain lower grades for things such as: sexual assault, family/friend death, serious illness of self or family member, witness to violence.
  • Trouble acclimating to college. If your grades were poor at the beginning of your college experience, but then you turned them around, this is definitely a trend worth highlighting and pointing out. Many students struggle to transition to college, and if you have proof that you then were able to thrive and succeed after finding your footing, law schools will be pretty forgiving of the lower grades in the beginning.
  • Participation in intercollegiate athletics. This reason for low grades can often feel more like an excuse than an explanation. But if you were a Division 1 athlete and spent significant time training and traveling for competitions, that is a big time commitment that you cannot spend studying and is something worth explaining. 

Something I often find is worth explaining for athletes, is if they were over ambitious in what they thought they could handle at the beginning of their college career. Maybe they took too many courses, or pursued too rigorous a major, underestimating how much time their athletics would take up. This is a great explanation if you have a positive grade trend on your transcript (i.e., your grades improved as you learned how to manage your time and expectations better). 

Just know that there are still many top athletes who still do perform well academically, so this won’t entirely forgive you, but it will help give law schools context and will help separate you from those who were just partying too hard.

  • Nontraditional applicant with successful career or real-world experience. If you are a nontraditional applicant (typically at least five years out of college) applying after having a successful career, or having gained significant real-world experience, and had a low GPA in college, you should definitely write an addendum explaining how you have changed since undergrad. Law schools are very forgiving to nontraditional applicants if they have then proven they can handle rigorous environments (especially if related to the skills you’ll use in law school). 

You will want to demonstrate how your GPA from college is a reflection of your immaturity, and show how what you’ve done since college has given you a new set of skills and understanding of what it takes to succeed. For instance, maybe you joined the military and learned discipline and leadership. Or you then went on to grad school or took further college courses and succeeded. Maybe you became a parent or thrived in a professional job, and now know what it takes to succeed.

  • Undiagnosed or unmanaged learning disability – that is now managed. This can be a tricky decision on whether and how to explain a learning disability. You don’t want to sound like you’re making an excuse, and you certainly don’t want to show that you cannot succeed in law school. So I suggest you write an addendum about a learning disability in order to explain low academic performance if it was diagnosed in the middle of your college experience (and you can show that your grades improved after you received accommodations) or you can show that you have a diagnosed learning disability but were denied the proper accommodations. Using the latter—being denied proper accommodations—can be tricky to write without sounding like you’re just bitching. 

The best way to support this kind of claim is by attaching a letter from a professional saying you should have received accommodations and that with proper accommodations you can thrive. Be wary of including too much detail about your disability. Just state the facts simply and succinctly and don’t provide any room for law schools to doubt your ability to succeed in law school.

LSAT Performance 

Almost no one likes their LSAT score. Even so, very few people should provide an explanation for their LSAT scores.

I recommend explaining the following:

  • Significant change in LSAT score. If you have scores that are more than three points from each other, you should explain why you think the higher score is the most reflective of your capabilities. The more specific reason you can provide the better. Were you sick on the first test? Did you take it before properly studying? Did you just have a bad test day? Etc.
  • Odd pattern. If you took the test multiple times (3 or more) and didn’t see the increase in score you expected, explain why you kept taking it. Or if your score kept jumping all over the place, explain that and explain why the highest is the most reliable indicator of your capabilities. 

A more recent odd pattern I’ve seen is where someone does really well on the GRE but not the LSAT, or the reverse. Explain why you think that is. Was it you did not prepare as much? Do you find one to be more suited to your strengths, etc.?

  • Significant responsibilities while taking the LSAT. Were you parenting three toddlers while also working and studying for the LSAT? Did you have a more than 40 hour/week job and had to squeeze studying in on the weekends? If there was a significant and unique reason that you weren’t able to devote as much time to LSAT studying as others, then it might be worth explaining.
  • Poor standardized test taker with valid explanation. Many people feel they’re not a good standardized test taker, but there are only some circumstances where this is appropriate as an explanation for a low LSAT score. If you have a history of low standardized test performance, but you’ve always done well academically, then that is something worth pointing out. For instance, if you did poorly on your SAT but then kicked ass in college with your grades, show that as proof that you will do the same in law school despite the lower LSAT score. But if you didn’t do exceedingly well in college, then do use this explanation. Essentially, you can only use this explanation if you actually have evidence that standardized test scores are not accurate predictors of your academic performance. 

Another valid explanation is if you come from an underprivileged background and have never had the necessary support or resources to compete well on standardized exams. Did you never have enough money to take any kind of test prep courses, or did you go to under-resourced schools, etc.?

How to write a law school addendum 

What should be included in an addendum to law school? 

No matter whether you’re writing a mandatory or optional law school addendum, your statement should:

1. Be brief & get to the point

Be extremely brief and get to the point immediately. This is not the time to share your life’s story or try to give a long-winded background explanation for why something happened. 

2. State the facts

Pretend you’re a lawyer—state the facts around what happened, don’t get overemotional, and then end with a short sentence or two explaining why this won’t be a problem for you in law school or your legal career, and be done.

3. No sob stories

If the facts happen to be sympathetic, great. But please do not talk about unnecessary details to try to make yourself look better. These will get huge eye rolls. Instead, take responsibility for your actions. That will get you a lot more credit than a sob story.

4. Group related issues into a single addendum

You don’t need to write a separate addendum if issues are related. For instance, if you were on academic probation for a low GPA, you don’t need to write essentially the exact same explanation for a low GPA in two separate addenda. Just group them into a single addendum.


This tip is last because I want you to remember this: Do Not Lie! These questions are testing your honesty more than anything else. Your ability to answer truthfully about something difficult, and to take responsibility for it, will show your depth of character and conviction and the kind of stand-up lawyer you’ll be. Schools often don’t care what happened, as much as how you tell them what happened. Be mature, be an adult, and tell the truth. 

And regardless, even if a law school doesn’t find out you lied, it will come up during your bar exam and the fact that you lied on your law school application can prevent you from ever getting barred. If you lie, you might as well throw the hundreds of thousands of dollars you’re going to spend on your legal education down the toilet. So please, just don’t do it.

Check out the real law school addendum examples I provide at the end of this blog post to see how to implement these rules in practice.

How long should your addendum be? 

Most addenda will not need to be longer than a paragraph or two. You have enough space to explain the situation without going into unnecessary detail. 

Law school addendum examples

The below are real applicants’ law school addenda, for various reasons. 

Academic dishonesty

During my sophomore spring semester in 2019, I was enrolled in Plastics Process Engineering Lab II. In lab, students are assigned to small groups in which raw data is compiled and reports are subsequently written on an individual basis based off the findings in the group lab.

On May 8, 2019, the instructor noticed I had an identical table to a lab partner. The syllabus stated that anyone involved in sharing/copying would be given a grade of zero and a formal report will be filed with the Office of the Provost. The incident was recorded as “sharing/copying tables with another group member.” Along with receiving a zero on the lab report, both myself and the other student needed to fulfill one hour of tutoring once a week the following semester. Upon completion, I was notified that “the record will be kept until [I] graduate from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.”

 I take full responsibility for copying data from a classmate. Ever since, I have remained in high academic standing with no further instances of academic dishonesty and will continue to uphold the highest of standards as I hope to continue in law school.

Disciplinary incidents

I was involved in two minor disciplinary actions while in college. In December 2018, of my freshman year, I volunteered to be a sober monitor for my sorority’s winter formal event. As sober monitor, I was responsible for monitoring the behavior of the event’s guests and ensuring that all attendees acted in a safe way. Prior to the event, one of my friends invited a small group of girls in my sorority to meet in her dorm room before heading to the venue. Although I was not drinking and was a sober monitor, there was alcohol present in the room, and thus I was written up for disciplinary action by my housing fellow who discovered that alcohol was present. As a result, I was required to meet with a member of the Dean’s office to discuss my actions and sanctions, and was assigned to write an essay explaining what I learned from the incident and how I might behave differently in a similar situation in the future.

In September 2019 of my junior year, I was at the lake with friends who were drinking. The Madison water sheriff issued me an underage drinking citation, despite the fact that I had not consumed alcohol, nor was I in possession of it. When I went to my court date, the judge dismissed the ticket, finding the officer did not have any grounds to issue it. Despite the judge’s findings, the citation was still reported to the school, and so as a result I met with a member of the Dean’s office to discuss the incident. I explained to the school representative the circumstances of the event, and had a very productive conversation about how the situation came to be and how to best avoid similar ones involving alcohol in the future. I was issued a disciplinary reprimand and assigned a reflective education activity to complete, which included a short online course about safe drinking practices.

GPA addendum – Recent college grad 

During the Fall 2017 semester at Penn State my freshman year, I sustained a serious concussion. I had to return home to be cared for by my parents, and where I was treated by Dr. Shetty at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery as well as Dr. Merlyn Hurd. The effects of the concussion lasted for more than six months. The University allowed me some leeway in some of my classes but due to the extent of the concussion and the ongoing symptoms, I had to drop a large portion of my course load. The concussion occurred after the add-drop deadline which led to the course being listed as “Late Dropped”.

One of the classes that I did not drop was Spanish 2. At the time of my concussion, my grade was significantly higher than the final grade. I did not drop this class because it would have put me under the 12 credit threshold necessary for a full-time student. The effects of the concussion, which included extreme headaches and an inability to focus for long periods, made it extremely difficult to learn a foreign language. The result of the poor grade continued into the higher level of Spanish the next semester where the class was more advanced and I didn’t have sufficient grasp of the basics from the prior class. The grades of D in my Spanish courses are not a reflection of my capabilities. As my transcript reflects, after I healed, my academic performance significantly improved. 

Attached is a letter from my doctor, explaining the effects of the concussion. 

GPA addendum – Non-traditional student

My GPA from over ten years ago does not reflect my current work ethic, nor does it properly reflect my academic abilities. The past decade of my life has been one of profound growth, both personally and professionally. During my years in undergrad, my priorities reflected my immaturity. It was easy to skate by, do the bare minimum, and eventually graduate with my teaching degree. Eleven years later, I am regretful that I did not take full advantage of all there was to be gained from these academic years.

My current desire to learn and take on new opportunities of academic growth and leadership, can be clearly seen from my years in the classroom. During my time of professional work experience, I have gone above and beyond to ensure my goal of preparing my students to be intelligent, creative thinkers. I put in multiple hours of overtime daily, serve on different committees to engage in decisions being made at the school level, and participate in a variety of professional developments to ensure I am providing my students with the most up to date educational practices and utilizing the newest technologies. I will bring that same energy and work ethic to my legal studies and future career.

LSAT performance

Given the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, I made the decision to commit the majority of my time to serving my clients at the New England Innocence Project (NEIP) where I currently work as a case analyst and intake fellow. I was thereby unable to devote the necessary time to prepare for the LSAT and for this reason, do not believe the LSAT accurately reflects my capabilities.

As a result of the pandemic, NEIP was busier than ever. I alone handled the dramatic increase in intake calls, assisted in the many emergency filings to release high risk clients, helped organize facemask drives, and personally delivered the masks to prisons. I was scheduled to take the LSAT in June and expected to commit many hours to studying, yet my increased work responsibilities made that impossible.

I understand and respect the importance and significance of performing well on the LSAT, and in being prepared for such a critical piece of my law school application. I humbly request that you consider the difficult and burdensome responsibilities I shouldered on behalf of NEIP during this unprecedented and terrifying time for many marginalized individuals suffering in prison. 

Next steps

There you have it! Now you know when and how you should write a law school addendum.

However, the addendum is just one part of your application. If you want to get accepted by a top law school, your overall application needs to stand out – even if you have a great GPA or LSAT scores.  


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Hope you enjoy this blog post! Want to know how to use the power of your personal statement to get into your dream law school, even if you aren’t the “perfect” applicant?

Mara has helped countless law school applicants get into their dream law schools, even without a perfect GPA, the highest LSAT score, or most unique story. Mara used to be a litigator at one of the top law firms in the world and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School as a prestigious Toll Public Interest Scholar.

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