The University of Chicago Law School’s increasingly helpful blog A Day in the Life has posted a particularly interesting bit of advice regarding addenda and supporting materials in the application process.
There is a great deal of confusion in the law school community as to whether addenda items are allowed as part of the application. Some schools welcome them while others forbid their inclusion and will refuse to review anything outside of the required components.
So whenever a law school comes out and makes a clear statement on this issue, it is extremely helpful. Here, Chicago is stating that addenda items are allowable and seem to actually be encouraged as a device to explain inconsistencies or weaknesses. The value of this stance should not be overlooked.
For starters, having the opportunity to mitigate a weakness outside of your personal statement preserves valuable space to tell a positive story in your application. Minor weaknesses are often best left alone and major weaknesses demand a forward approach, so there is almost no downside to being frank and forthright in a separate document. Again, even though addressing the issue in addenda calls more attention to the weakness in question, that isn’t a problem since the issue in question will stand out regardless (otherwise you wouldn’t be writing about it). Dealing with the negative factor (examples could include a wide gap in LSAT scores or low letter grades from an exchange program that was pass/fail for your program) on its own allows you to address it, move on, and deal explicitly with your strengths in the actual personal statement.
Additionally, it is helpful to note that Chicago Law is open to the idea of addenda because it may serve as a way to update your application should something eventful transpire during the review process. Addenda items are often a great waitlist tool and knowing that a school is open to the instrument allows you to position yourself aggressively should you land on the waitlist.
Chicago’s stance should not be assumed at other programs, but it provides clarity on that particular application and it establishes a baseline of inquiry at other schools. The most important thing is to discover how each program handles this component of the application process so that you can maximize every available resource in telling your story.