How to write an addendum.

Writing the news. (From ElvertBarnes on Flickr.)

“What is an addendum?” and, “how do I write one?” are two questions often posed by students when completing university applications for either undergraduate or graduate work.

An addendum is used to address certain parts of your application– either grades, attendance records, disciplinary records, and other areas– that may need further explanation due to extraordinary or extenuating circumstances. Usually an addendum is included in an application to explain issues with low grades, standardized test scores, absences, disciplinary action, or other areas that need to be answered.

The idea behind an addendum is to give insight to an admissions committee that they would not otherwise have regarding a possible problem with your application. Whether it’s a lapse in grades, poor test scores, or a long medical absence, your addendum should ideally provide answers to any possible questions or ambiguity that your application may have.

It’s important to note that, by writing an addendum, you are essentially asking the admissions committee to make an exception– that is, you’re asking them to reconsider these issues and to evaluate your application differently than they would have ordinarily.

So, as you can imagine, it is especially crucial that addenda are well written, truthful, and concise. Here are a few tips on how to write an effective addendum:

Decide whether you need an addendum.

Let’s say you did poorly during a particular semester: normally, your grades are above-average but, during a particular semester, they dipped under 3.0, due to circumstances. Why did this happen? Whether it’s because your grandmother had passed away, you missed two weeks of class due to illness, or you were stricken by a series of personal crises, these are all good and acceptable reasons to write an addendum. An addendum would address that, due to extenuating circumstances, your normally good grades suffered and, for a brief period of time, you did not do as well as you normally would have.

If you feel that a particular part of your application warrants an explanation, then you should consider writing an addendum. However, if you don’t have an actual explanation for a discrepancy in your application, then writing an addendum may not be the best idea. Addenda are to elaborate on legitimate circumstances, not excuses.

Also, don’t feel that you have to write an addendum. If your application is fairly solid and without glaring discrepancies, then, great! You are free to devote that time to something else (like your personal statement!).

Be factual.

Regardless of what your addendum is about, you must disclose all facts IN FULL. By no means should you assume that the admissions officer will simply “get” what you’re trying to say. Your goal is to explain the situation and its detrimental effects to its fullest extent and to do so as factually as possible.

This means, however, that you should not write a full-fledged argument as to why you should be considered. Argumentative tangents or emotional pleas are NOT what admissions counselors want to read, nor will they sway their decisions positively– in fact, you could risk doing the opposite. An addendum should explain what happened, as it happened, and how it affected you. That’s it. If you have a truly burning desire to argue your case and cannot go forward without presenting your argument, then perhaps this is better suited for your personal statement.

Be honest.

I addressed honesty in my previous post, but it is especially relevant in this instance. If you feel that your circumstances are so unusual that the committee might not believe you, elaborate on why they should. However, if you feel that your reason is somehow unsatisfactory, do not exaggerate. To do so would be, essentially, cheating. Also, admissions counselors pour over thousands of applications a cycle and will see through excuses and nonsense immediately. That is their job, and they do it well. If you can’t get away from possibly stretching or exaggerating your explanation, then perhaps you should reconsider writing one at all.

Following my first point, you are to explain what had happened, and how this affected you, but without embellishment or exaggeration. You can certainly make your reasons compelling, but by no means should you exaggerate them.

Be concise.

While you should write your addendum as completely as possible, its also important that its as concise as possible. Addenda should never exceed a page; in reality, they should actually only be a paragraph or two. So, in the essence of space (and the counselor’s attention span), your addendum must be to the point. There is literally no room for long, flowery prose, nor opportunity as this should be only a disclosure of facts, not an argument.

Remember, an addendum should disclose facts only as this is NOT the place to pull heartstrings or ask for absolution. Your addendum should be also be short, to the point, and, most importantly, honest.

Stefanie Arr

3 Responses to How to write an addendum.

  1. […] sent in their recommendations. Now, you’re tying up loose ends: editing and proofreading your addendum, your diversity statement, your resume, and, most important of all, your personal statement.  […]

  2. […] the diversity statement does needs extra consideration– certainly more thought than, say, an addendum. Chances are, your diversity statement will be dealing with some pretty sensitive issues. Take time […]

  3. […] Addendum for freshman year “open container” issue […]

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