Most law schools provide optional space, an addendum, to explain your LSAT score and GPA. While it can be tempting to “explain away” poor performance, consider these 5 things.
- You never want the committee to ask the question “why?” and not answer it in your own words.
While you should be applying to schools that are realistic given your credentials, if you are a “splitter” – one of your scores is at or above the median and one is below – then an addendum is advisable. Use this opportunity to answer “the why” in your own words. Clients have used the GPA addendum to explain that a semester was particularly bumpy due to a death in the family – understandable and can be noted by a dip in the grades. Testify to whatever occurred being an anomaly and move on by indicating an upward trend or solid work otherwise.
- Don’t say it. Do it.
Law schools use grades and LSAT scores as indicators of projected success in law school. They are tools. Statistically significant tools. Thus, if you can do better, do it. Re-take the LSAT and, if still in college, work hard to improve your GPA.
As a side note: If you have a documented disability and are entitled to extra time or other accommodations on the LSAT, take it. This information is not reported to schools, so all the admissions committees will see is your (higher) score.
- Be concise.
Law schools differ on how they will consider multiple LSAT scores. While most assess based on the highest score; all scores will be reviewed. If you bombed your first LSAT (and hopefully it only happened once), you should explain why — if there was a concrete reason, e.g. you were ill, you filled out the answer sheet incorrectly, or you had a testing issue. Explain the situation in the most concrete way possible, and be brief. Whatever you do, don’t make excuses or try to justify your performance in a lengthy diatribe.
- Be accurate.
If you were on academic probation, you should say so and provide context. Don’t try to conceal problems. It will likely be on your transcript anyway. Law schools value honesty and integrity above all qualities. Also, needless to say, any addendum should be grammatically correct and clear.
- Upward and onward.
Emphasize upward trends. For the LSAT, the scores speak for themselves. For your grades, if your grades improved over time, you should point that out to the admissions committee as it may not be obvious and you can speak to how you made the change and how that will inform your time at law school. If a bad semester or year lowered your GPA, you may even want to calculate your GPA without that period and share it, thus providing evidence of what your grades would be like had you not dealt with whatever you were dealing with.
It’s tempting to use the addendum space to justify your scores or performance. But, admissions committees read these sections for context, so use this opportunity to answer the “why?” If you have extenuating circumstances, say so, but don’t belabor the point.
Get personalized guidance on how to approach your low stats in your law school application when you work one-on-one with an Accepted law school admissions expert!Jessica Pishko graduated with a J.D. from Harvard Law School and received an M.F.A. from Columbia University. She spent two years guiding students through the medical school application process at Columbia’s Postbac Program and is a former Accepted admissions consultant. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!