Have some weaknesses in your law school application?
You’re not alone!
So many people do.
But there’s something you can do about it.
Weaknesses or discrepancies in your law school application can be explained in a short, one-page essay called an addendum.
Addenda can be written for many reasons, including but not limited to:
- Low grades
- Low LSAT score
- Withdrawal from classes
- Leave of absence in college
- Academic misconduct
- Disciplinary action in college
- Criminal record
Just because an addendum can be written, should it be written?
In the case of reasons #3-#7, yes, you should write an addendum.
In the case of reasons #1 or #2, not always.
For example, I’ve met many applicants who have transcripts that show two initial years of mediocre grades due to taking premed course requirements, as well as two later years of better grades when they stopped taking premed courses. Law school admissions officers can spot a “failed premed” from a mile away—they don’t necessarily need or want you to explain it in an addendum.
On the other hand, maybe there was something else that contributed to you getting low grades. Perhaps you had to work 40 hours at a job because your father was laid off at work? Or your mother became seriously ill and you missed classes to visit her in the hospital? Or maybe you contracted mono and missed a lot of class?
In the case of unforeseen events causing and/or contributing to low grades or a low LSAT score, you should write an addendum.
Still not sure if you should write one?
If you’re not sure whether your issue should be explained, contact the admissions office at the law schools you want to apply to. If you want to remain anonymous when contacting a law school, call them rather than sending an email. Ask you and you shall receive. It’s the best way to make an informed decision.
Want more tips for writing the addendum?
Check out my No B.S. Guide to the Law School Addendum. This guide provides detailed advice on writing the law school addendum, as well as nine sample essays for the most common situations, including reasons #1-#7 listed above.
Sad man photo by George Hodan.
I am applying for Law School for the next fall term and I am not sure if I should write an addendum. I took the LSAT my senior year of college and got a 153. I definitely did not study enough and did not know then what it truly takes to prepare for the test. At the same time I was applying for Teach for America. I got in to Teach for America and have spent the past two years teaching. This year I decided I still wanted to attend law school, rather late in my decision, I had to take the February test. I studied like crazy for this test while working around 55-60 hour weeks. My practice tests were consistently in the 160-165 range (I took around 12). On test day, I let test anxiety get the better of me and really bombed the test. Looking back on it, I should have cancelled my score but I just wasn’t sure and I didn’t. Cancelling my score would have meant waiting a whole other year for law school. My score was a very disappointing 155. Not at all what I know I’m capable of. My GPA in college was a 3.61 – I was a double major, very involved in the school, and graduated with honors (one semester of lower grades due to illness of a family member and having to travel a lot because of it). I have never been a strong test taker, but academically, I am a very strong student and always am very involved/a leader in whatever I am doing. Even in high school I got a 1290 on the SAT and a 27 on the ACT, but graduated from the IB and AP programs with a 3.8. Should I write an addendum explaining any of this or just accept my scores and move on? Please help! I really do not want to come off to law schools as a person making excuses, but at the same time, I know from past experiences that those numbers to not accurately represent my performance.
Thanks for explaining your situation in detail, Cate! It’s so frustrating when your LSAT score doesn’t match your ability or your potential. Test anxiety on the LSAT has been challenging for so many pre-lawyers. It can be overcome but only with targeted, ongoing prep and professional help. I will email you separately about an LSAT prep resource person who works on test anxiety.
Should you write an addendum to explain your lower LSAT scores? No. I don’t think you should.
Here’s why. Law schools will see that you have a solid, strong GPA of 3.6. They will see from your academic transcripts your double major and your honors. This is good. They will know you are an academically strong student. Then they will see your LSAT scores and they will either assume that you didn’t prep well for the LSAT or that test anxiety got to you.
If you didn’t do well on the LSAT due to an unforeseen circumstance (illness, car accident, etc.), then you need to write an addendum. In your case, your academic record and testing results do not, in my opinion, constitute writing an addendum.
That said, I do think the BEST thing you can do is actually take the time to prep well and prep longer for the LSAT and take it a third time. I think with the right prep and with more time to REALLY get to know the test inside and out, you will do well and you will get a score that is reflective of your potential for law school.
That is the way I was leaning too so thank you for helping me to confirm that decision. I think the best thing for me to do is just trust the strength of the rest of my application and see what happens. If I don’t get into my “goal” law schools with my application package this year, then I agree with you that I need to take it again – with more time to study and more focused preparation. Teaching 190 tenth graders, coaching cheerleading, and sponsoring creative writing club doesn’t leave much time for LSAT prep! I was stretching myself too thin and was honestly burnt out by test day. Thank you again for your advice!
You’re very welcome, Cate. I’m glad that my advice confirmed what you were already thinking. Your strategy sounds good to me. I wish you all the best with your applications! 🙂
After reading your book I have a few questions for you. I am writing an addendum for my low LSAT scores. As you mentioned in the book you’ve come across very few people that had low enough SAT scores and college GPAs high enough to form a legit addendum for poor standardized test taking skills. My college GPA is a 3.7 and my highest LSAT score is a 149. My highest SAT score was a 1020 out of 1600, and a 1530 out of 2400. I also feel like it’s worth mentioning that I started out at a community college and due to my high academic performance I was able to transfer to a well ranked university (although I transferred from there after a semester). Regardless, my question is the following, is the discrepancy between my GPA, my LSAT scores and my SAT scores valid enough to constitute a valid addendum for poor test taking ability?
Thanks for posting your question, Brianna! You have a complex question and I can understand why you’re not sure if you should write an addendum for your law LSAT scores or not.
I am not as familiar with the SAT score scale so I consulted Professor Google and read several articles on getting 1020/1600 and 1530/2400 and what these scores mean. I found that both the 1020 and the 1530 are right at the average for both score scales. So, about 50% of test takers scored lower than you and about 50% scored higher than you. Your SAT scores put you nearly right at the middle. That said, trying to make a correlation between your SAT test-taking abilities and your LSAT abilities might not be a strong arugument.
Definitely your LSAT score of 149 is very low compared to your GPA of 3.7. Schools are going to wonder at that. But before you write an addendum for your LSAT score, it’s important to assess the reasons for the score.
What do you think were the key reasons why you scored a 149? Did you adequately prep? Did you have test anxiety during the LSAT? Did some unforeseen circumstance occur prior to the test or on the test day?
I don’t believe it was a lack of preparation on my end. I learned the importance of prepping “smart” and understanding the basic foundations of the test early on. I started studying in July for 5 days a week, ranging from 4-8 hours a day. If anything I may have over studied. I believe that test anxiety might have played a crucial role in my score. As an English major I am rarely timed on my tests and due to a more recently diagnosed learning disability I am now allotted extra time if I need it.
I definitely feel as though my application needs an addendum, I just don’t know what my strongest approach with the addendum would be.
Good to hear that you feel your adequately studied for the test. Test anxiety happens to a lot of people and it can make a huge difference in terms of what kind of score you’re able to earn on the LSAT. There are resources for addressing test anxiety if it’s something you want to work on before taking the LSAT again. If you do, email me and I will refer you to a LSAT test anxiety resource that I know.
If you’re set on using your LSAT of 149 to apply to schools, you could write a “LSAT Addendum” that explains how your learning disability and test anxiety affected your score. It would be good to give details as to when you were diagnosed with your learning disability, what resources you use to help yourself with your disability, and how it, along with your test anxiety, impacted your test taking ability and performance on the day of your LSAT. Hope that helps, Brianna. Let me know if you have any other questions.
Thank you SO much! I really appreciate all of your insight and advice!
You’re very welcome, Brianna. I wish you all the best with your applications! 🙂
I’m considering writing an addendum to explain that my GPA did not start fresh when I began at my university. I took three courses as a dual-enrollment student when I was in high school and I didn’t do very well. I received one A, a C, and a C+ so my GPA started at a 3.0. During my first semester, I struggled to adjust and ended up failing three credits as well as having to drop four credits. Since that semester, my GPA has steadily risen and I’ve reached a 3.334 after retaking the class I failed. Do you think it’s worth writing an addendum?
Good question, Liana. This happens to a lot of students. They have one term of low grades during freshman year and they have to work hard to bring it up during the next three years. So, just know that you’re not alone!
Thing is, I don’t recommend writing an addendum. Your grades are not low enough. I only recommend writing a Transcript Addendum if you received a D, a F, an Incomplete, or you withdrew from the class or the whole term, or if you took a leave of absence (not including summers) from your college/university. Hope that helps.
I did receive an F in one course my first semester as well as a DR for two courses (a lab and a lecture which totaled 4 credits). I did not retake the DR courses, but I did retake the course I failed and ultimately received a B in the course. Do you still recommend that I do not write an addendum?
Sorry about that, Liana! I read your first message too quickly. I reread your original question. Yes, you should write a Transcript Addendum to explain the F in one course and the drops for the other two. Definitely mention that you retook your lab and lecture courses and received a B. Keep your addendum to one page or less, double-spaced.
I was wondering what I should I include on an addendum about a low LSAT score (139) because of test anxiety when it comes to standardized tests. I have struggle with this for all my life even though my grades were A’s and B’s. When I started college, I was prescribed medication for my anxiety and it has help with my social anxiety but not my test anxiety. Also, I have studied extensively for the LSAT completing a full LSAT prep book along with multiple practice tests which I received dramatically higher scores on than I did the actual LSAT. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
I’m really sorry to hear about your test anxiety, Brittany. It can be so frustrating to know the material but not do well due to anxiety.
Yes, you can write a LSAT Addendum to explain your history of anxiety, and the fact that you have used medication. It might help your argument about not doing well on standardized tests if you also didn’t do well on your SATs or on the ACT. Did you take those tests in high school? If yes, what were your numbers?
I received a 21 on my ACT.
After a quick search with Google, it turns out that a 20 or 21 on the ACT is the national average. Thus, arguing that you’re not good on standardized tests is not going to help your addendum.
I’m wondering–are there law schools that you’re willing to go to that will accept your 139? Or are you willing to prep part-time for a longer period of time in order to master the LSAT and manage your anxiety?
Test anxiety can be challenging but it is something that can be managed with practice over time. Cognitive behavioral therapy has also been proven to help. You mentioned that you completed a test prep book and several practice tests but often, that is not enough prep both for students with anxiety and students without it. I recommend to everyone to take 20 timed practice tests once you have learned the three sections of the LSAT.
I think there are few schools that might accept me. I can’t take it because of time restrictions that wouldn’t allow me to study enough for the next time. Does every school weigh the LSAT differently? Are there ones that weigh GPA or the personal statement heavily?
Every law school is different depending on who is on the admissions committee. Some lean a bit more towards the GPA and some more towards the LSAT. All schools want to see a great personal statement!
The only way I’ve been able to figure out who leans towards what is to talk to admissions officers directly at law fairs, at workshops that they sometimes give, and in meetings when I visit the schools. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend attending a law fair at one of your local universities and/or attending one of LSAC’s law forums so you can talk to the admissions reps one to one. More info at: http://www.lsac.org/jd/choosing-a-law-school/law-school-recruitment-forums
Good luck, Brittany!
Should I provide an addendum for a score discrepancy on the LSAT? Some of the schools to which I wish to apply request an addendum explaining scores which are 6+ points apart. I have three scores: 159, 162, and 175. For the last score, I was granted extended time accommodations for a disability. Is it best to tell the committees about the accommodations? Or, could I not mention the accommodations and only mention something related to my disability that may have affected the scores (pain). Or is it best not to imply a disability at all? Is simply ignoring the requests in their LSAT FAQs viable? I am worried that the admissions committees will not view my score as on par with others who took the test without accommodations, and that I will thus be given less consideration. If I do mention the disability, that would also be used to explain a somewhat lackluster performance later in college (GPA is ~3.45). Thanks!
Congrats, Michael, on improving your LSAT score over time form a 159 to a 175! That is INCREDIBLE! Fantastic work!
Should you write a LSAT Addendum explaining your scores? Generally, I say no as long as the second or third score shows an improvement, but since some of your schools would like to have an explanation for a 6+point span, then yes, you should write the addendum. It is not necessary for you to say you received accommodations from LSAC–it’s completely your perogative to keep it private–however, I think you should disclose. It sounds like you have chronic pain. Is that right? If yes, disclose it and let them know that you received accommodations from LSAC. You do not have to say what kind of accommodations you received.
Also, I think you should seriously consider writing a Transcript Addendum to explain why your grades decreased later in college if it was due to your chronic pain. Hope that helps, Michael. Good luck with everything and let me know if you have any other questions. And sorry it took me so long to get back to you–I just got back from my Christmas vacation.
Should I provide an addendum for what LSAC has listed as “Academic Action” regarding my transcript? I had one semester at the begining of my college career where my GPA dropped to slightly below the college minimum and I was put on probation. The semester after, I had a 3.7 and brought it right back up.
Thanks for writing in, Josh. Yes, you should write a short addendum (one paragraph should suffice) explaining that you were on academic probation during that one semester. Not a biggie but you should do it.
I was wondering if it would be appropriate to write an addendum to the law schools I applied for. My situation is this: I applied to schools before writing the LSAT and in this time frame, I have received a rare medical diagnosis that has impacted my studying and work (I work full time). I don’t think I could of reached my full potential for the LSAT because of this. I would be open to writing the test again but I don’t know what my medical condition will be like come that time, if that difference in time would make a difference for my score. Otherwise, my undergrad and extra curriculars presented in my applications are quite strong. What would you recommend?
Great question, Adam. Yes, I think you should write a LSAT addendum. Medical reasons can definitely impact your performance on the LSAT, especially if you received your diagnosis during your months of LSAT prep. Write it. Keep it brief and name the date (month, year) for when you found out your diagnosis (you don’t have to disclose your specific condition if you don’t want to), and how it impacted you physically and/or mentally as you got ready for taking the test.
I cannot decide if I should include an addendum or not for my low LSAT score. I got a 29 on the ACT and because of the amount of classes I took each semester, I was able to get a college degree in three years with a 3.6 GPA. However, I got a 146 on the LSAT because I had very little time to study. This summer I studied abroad in Germany and I took 20 credit hours fall semester, which left me with very little time to even sleep. I know if I had the time to put into studying I would have done much better. I was also diagnosed with anxiety after my December test. I feel like graduating in 3 years and having a 3.6 are more indicative of my abilities than than a 146! Am I making excuses or should I write an addendum? Thanks!
Hi Laura, thanks for writing in. After a quick search on Google, a 20 or 21 on the ACT is the national average. Thus, if you were thinking of writing about it, you can’t argue that your 29 on the ACT is low.
That’s great that you earned a 3.6 GPA! Good work on that.
It’s not a compelling argument to write an addendum saying that you didn’t do well on your LSAT because you took 20 credit hours. Law schools will just wonder why didn’t you take less credits and prep more for the LSAT. So, I wish I had better news for you but I do think you are making excuses and don’t have a valid reason for writing an addendum for your LSAT score. Please do consider taking the test again after you’ve had time to get help with your anxiety and time to prep well.
I wanted to know if I should write an addendum for my 2 LSAT cancellation and my one score of 145. I have a gpa of 3.2. When I took the first canceled test I was not prepared then I took it a 2years later and got 145 however I got the flu and was taking medication and I feel anxiety also played a major role. I tried talking it again however I couldn’t deal with my anxiety and decided to cancel since I didn’t finish the problems I usually do. I contacted the admission counselor for the law schools I am interested in and they told me to apply with an LSAT score of 145 since it still falls under the range of admitted students
Sorry to hear about your LSATs not going well, Maggie. Yes, you need to write a LSAT Addendum to explain what happened at each administration. It’s fine to admit that you didn’t prepare well for the first time and you cancelled, but then let them know that you got the flu and also had test anxiety during the second time, and that you had anxiety again during the third time. Please note that you will need to write something about what you are doing about your anxiety and how you are going to manage it during law school. Otherwise, the law schools will wonder how you’re going to handle tests and the rigors of law school.
Hi, I took the LSAT in October for my first time and received a 147. I honestly probably did not prepare as much as i should have and did not take the test as seriously as i should have. I retook the LSAT in February and received a 151. I had studied, worked with and LSAT tutor and prepared much more for the February test however I still score below my goal of 156/157. My GPA is a 3.98. I am a student athlete and a Captain of my team with a rigorous schedule. I typically get very nervous for standardized tests of this magnitude. My SAT score was 1020 out of the 1600 and 1540 out of the 2400. I feel my LSAT score does not accurately portray my abilities and potential as a student. I wanted to know if I should write an addendum for my LSAT scores being lower then I hoped. The average LSAT score at the school I’m applying to is 156. Thanks for your help
Thanks for writing in, Craig, and giving me more details about your academic record. It’s fantastic that you are a student athlete, captain of your team, and have a 3.98 GPA. That’s wonderful! Great work!
Regarding your SAT score, a 1000 out of the 1600 test is actually considered the median; about half score higher and half score lower. For the 2400 test, 1500 is the average. So, your 1020 and 1540 are not considered low. I don’t think you can write an effective addendum drawing a connection between your lower LSAT scores and your average (good) SAT scores.
Was there anything else that happened leading up to the test, or something that happened during your second test, that you think could have prevented you from doing well?
Thank you for your blog posts! I am debating on whether I should update my application with an LSAT addendum.
I retook my fourth LSAT this February and received a 157. I honestly do not understand what happened. I have been constantly scoring 168-171 on the practice tests under timed situations, so I was pretty confident on test day.
My history is:
February 2014: cancelled (after I realized that I misbubbled on one of the sections mid-way through the exam)
September 2014: 155
June 2015: 159
February 2016: 157
However, I graduated college with 3.7 gpa and honors in three years. I am thinking of explaining my low LSAT in context with my sat score. According to my undergrad’s website, the middle 50% of SAT scores ranged from 1260 to 1420, and my sat score was 1260 (note: both scores only count the reading and math sections). Clearly, I have not performed at the bottom of the 50% of my classmates if you look at my GPA.
Should I send in an addendum?
Also, would mentioning how I received an A in calculus I and calculus II as a political science major to demonstrate my strong analytical skills help? How about the fact that I finished my last semester with a 4.0?
I apologize for the multiple comments! Thank you!
No problem for the multiple comments, Becca. You don’t need to mention your calculus grades (bravo on those!) in an addendum because law schools will see your grades on your transcript, as well as all the classes you took. They will see that you challenged yourself with Calc I and II and that you did well in both.
You’re welcome for the blog posts, Becca! Thanks for writing in about your situation and giving me more details about your academics and past LSAT scores. Regarding your SAT score of 1260, is that out of the new SAT with a high of 1600 or the old SAT with a high of 2400?
Technically it’s the old SAT, but my undergrad doesn’t include the writing section, making the total out to be 1600
Becca, with your 1260 on the SAT (out of 1800, but without the writing section), can I assume that you received something around 630 on both your math and reading sections? If yes, that’s not considered low. In fact, if you had also scored around a 630 on your writing section (had it been included by your undergrad college), you’d have near a 1890, which is considered “excellent” and in the top 25% of the scorers who took the 1800-scored SAT. Am I getting this right?
I scored mid 500 on reading, high 600 on math, and high 600 on writing. I do realize that my SAT scores may not be low on national standards, but wouldn’t comparing the scores against my peers to make a case about my potential as a student acceptable?
No, it would not make an effective argument in an addendum.
I see. Thank you so much for your advice!
You’re very welcome, Becca.
Thank you so much for your blog, it is very helpful. I am having a hard time deciding if I want to write an addendum about my low GPA, which is a 3.2. I started off premed which is what can explain my freshman year along with the fact I had a hard time adjusting. The rest of my three years’ GPA ranges from 3.1- 3.6, where I would do significantly better the more classes I had. I am not really sure what to do. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
I’m glad you’re finding my blog helpful, Nusrat! Good to hear. Your GPA of 3.2 is not low. It might seem low to you, but trust me, it’s not. I would not write a transcript addendum for your GPA.
If you have some grades that are D’s or F’s (0.0-1.0), or if you have an Incomplete (I) or Withdrawal (WD), then yes, you should write an addendum to explain those particular grades.
Oh thank you so much for letting me know that, I was really worried it was. I do not have any D’s or F’s, Incomplete or Withdrawals so I think I am good to go on the addendum. Thank you so very much for taking the time to reply back and helping me figure that out!
You’re very welcome! 🙂
Hi! I recently took the LSAT for the second time and scored the exact same as the first time I took it. 142. The first time there were outside factors (literally) that disrupted the test but I wanted to receive my score to see how I did. The second time I took the test I used the 7Sage program for help and studying rigorously for the months leading to the next LSAT only to have the same score. This is very frustrating as you can imagine. I started noticing though, in the weeks leading up to the exam and the days after that I had and have been experiencing serious amounts of anxiety. Everything from shortness of breath and rapid heart beat, to feelings of inadequacy and constantly fearing the worst, to having disrupted sleep patterns and even irritability and fear related to school and work. I have been crying more in the past few months than I have my whole life pretty much. I am beginning to think that I may be experiencing signs of General Anxiety Disorder and I am looking into finding more answers about this. Would this be something to include in an addendum about my most recent score?