Law School Application Weaknesses: Addendum or Personal Statement?

LSAT Blog Law School Application Addendum Personal StatementThe below excerpt about handling weaknesses in your law school application is from A Comprehensive Guide to the Law School Personal Statement.


Weaknesses should sometimes be addressed in an addendum to the application, sometimes in the personal statement, and sometimes not at all. You should decide where to address the weakness in your application based on its degree of severity.

If the weakness in your application is moderate, and you think your explanation will help your cause, you should address it in the addendum. Your discussion in the addendum should be brief and to the point. It's not a second essay.

Examples of moderate weakness include: a semester in which your grades dropped steeply, a year or two away from college, or lower than expected LSAT scores.

Now remember, you have to think that explaining the weakness will help your cause. If your grades dropped after a major personal setback or because you were working 30 hours a week, write about it in the addendum. If you took time away from college to have an important experience, include it. If you think your LSAT scores were low because you have a learning disability, it might be good to include. However, if your grades were low because you were drinking heavily, if you took time off of college and wasted it, or if your LSAT scores were low because you didn’t study, leave it out!

Personal Statement
If the weakness in your application is severe in degree, you have to address it in your personal statement. As they say in politics, you want to get ahead of the story, to put your spin on it.

You have to put it in context, explain why it happened (without shirking responsibility!) and crucially, you have to explain what is different now.

You can explain what you learned from the experience, how it changed you, and why you are ready to succeed in law school and beyond. In the best-case scenario, you turn your weakness into a strength.

Make it the “struggle” in your story of “struggle and triumph," meaning: “Stealing a car to joyride with my friends was unquestionably the stupidest, most immoral thing I have ever done. However, my rehabilitation process, which included jail time, parole, and mandatory therapy, has been incredible—one of the best things that has ever happened to me.”

If you address your weaknesses with sincerity, contrition, and positivity, even severe weaknesses will not bar you from law school.

Examples of severe weaknesses in your application include: having faced disciplinary action from your college, having a criminal record, having years of very depressed grades, having attended an unaccredited or shakily accredited undergraduate institution (including online colleges) or having a huge, multi-year gap in your record.

Not At All
If your weakness is mild, do not explicitly address it in your personal statement, or the addendum. If you spend time and space explicitly addressing mild weaknesses, you run the risk of annoying your reader, who will think, “Who cares!? This person is too obsessive!” Everyone has mild weaknesses in their application. Don’t dwell on them. Instead, highlight your strengths.

Examples of mild weaknesses include an outlying low grade in one class, having an unexciting extracurricular record, or having attended a less-than-stellar college.

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