An addendum is usually written to address an aspect of your application that you feel warrants attention or might raise a red flag. Many applications ask an open-ended question that allows you to address unique circumstances or irregularities that might better help an admissions committee assess your readiness and capabilities for graduate school. The question might be phrased like this: “Please provide the admissions committee with any additional information you feel may help them understand your qualifications and allow them to best assess your application.”
The kinds of issues that can be explained with an addendum if you haven’t addressed them in another part of the application include the following:
- Low grades that improved over time. Perhaps you struggled in your freshman year with living on your own but once you had established a group of friends and a community, your grades improved as you moved on through your undergraduate years.
- Low grades during a particular quarter. You might have had a difficult illness during a quarter or semester that impacted your performance.
- A substandard grade in one class. If you have a “C”, “D”, or “F” in a class but are generally a good student, you may want to explain the circumstances surrounding the grade with an addendum.
- If you do not have a good GRE score (or another test score) and don’t have time to re-take the test but you have an excellent GPA, this is an issue that could be explained with an addendum.The addendum should be brief and clear. It is not an essay but a short explanation that will help the admission committee understand the circumstances. Explain the issue, why it happened, what changed or shifted and the result. Conclude with a statement as to how the committee should view your application and what aspects of your application truly reflect your abilities and dedication. For example, if you are explaining a substandard GRE score you might write a sentence that paraphrases the idea that “my grades are a more accurate reflection of my commitment to a graduate school program and a better indication of my abilities.” On some applications you may not be asked to provide additional information, however, if there is a link on the electronic application that allows you to attach or upload an additional document, you can add an addendum to this link, clearly labeling it “addendum.” However, you should not that using an addendum to explain low test scores for graduate school programs that highly value the pre-admissions test scores — such as law school and medical school — will probably not be helpful.
Below are two example addendum. Both of these students gained admission to advanced degree programs.
Example 1: In this addendum to my application, I would like to address some aspects of my educational record. In 2013, I took a Macroeconomics class and received a “D”, however I do not think the grade is a good indication of my abilities in this subject matter. Unfortunately, I purchased an old edition of the textbook and did not realize until late in the quarter that the reading assigned for the class was not covering what was on the exams. When I discussed this with the professor, she would not allow me to re-take the exams. I also did not do well in a Spanish class I took in 2012. However, this only made me more determined to improve my language skills. This was the motivation for my living and working in Spain and I now speak and write Spanish at an advanced level. Lastly, I did not do well on the GRE and I have historically not done well on standardized tests. I hope that I will be assessed on my overall educational record and my grades, as well as my dedicated work experience and letters of recommendation. I believe these aspects of my application are a better indication of my commitment to advanced degree work and the ability to succeed in a Masters degree program.
Example 2: As an economics major at a prominent research university, I was required to take prerequisite math courses in statistics and calculus, and a number of economics courses utilizing math and reasoning skills. I did well in these required classes and received grades that aggregate to a 3.58 GPA. As a summer participant in the Public Policy and International Affairs Program at UC Berkeley (PPIA 2011), I also excelled in the quantitative classes offered, receiving an A+ in Quantitative Methods in Policy Analysis and an A in Introduction to Economic Policy Analysis. I have excellent recommendation from both instructors, including the comment that I was in “the top of the class.” My work at the PPIA garnered me the “Top Quanter” award for the cohort that summer session. However, I have historically tested low on standardized tests and my GRE scores are indicative of this. Therefore, I believe that my UC Davis grades, my work at the PPIA, and my recommendations from faculty are a better reflection of how I will perform in my graduate studies.