Optional Essays and Addenda
If a law school gives you the opportunity to submit additional essays, you should take it, so long as you genuinely believe you have something important to say. Consider these essays an opportunity to demonstrate your writing skills and particular interest in a school.
The two most common optional essays are “Why X Law School?” and a “Diversity Statement.”
Why X Law School?
You should write the “Why ‘X’ Law School?” essay if given the option. Prepare for it by researching that law school’s particular focus or ethos. More specifically, research classes you would like to take, professors with whom you would like to work, and clinics in which you would like to be involved. If you cannot write this essay after carefully researching the school, reconsider your decision to apply!
The key is to match some aspect of your identity with what you like about the school. For example, you might say that because of your X (experience, skill), you’re especially excited to contribute to the school’s Y or be involved in or learn from Z. Even an essay that’s ostensibly about the law school is also an opportunity for you to highlight your strengths.
The Diversity Statement asks applicants what diversity they would contribute to an incoming class. In the context of this essay, diversity is not limited to race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, etc. Diversity is any personal characteristic or experience that gives you a unique perspective.
Once you identify what makes you distinct from other applicants, you must articulate how your perspective will enrich the law school. Like the personal statement, the Diversity Statement is not merely a description of who you are; it’s an argument for why the law school should admit you.
Writing an addendum is your opportunity to address an element of your application that could raise genuine concern, such as an atypically poor-performing semester or an incident of misconduct. If you write an addendum, it should be factual and brief. Describe the concerning issue, explain how you resolved it, then tell the reader how the lessons you learned will make you a successful law-school student.
Do not write an addendum if doing so will unnecessarily highlight a minor flaw. For example, if you missed an entire semester of final exams due to illness, you should explain the situation in a short essay. But if feeling nervous before a final exam resulted in your only “B” in college, that doesn’t merit its own essay.