When is an Explanatory Essay Necessary for Law School?
Last week, I promised a quick rundown on explanatory essays. This week, I make good on my promise. Because I’m a trustworthy guy.
No one wants to write an explanatory essay. You should have thought about that before you passed out drunk in front of your house at the ripe old age of 17. What, you were just a dumb kid back then? I know; that’s why you passed out drunk, right in front of your house!
As much as it might suck, this essay is another opportunity to show off your writing skills and give the admissions committee a little insight into who you are. Turn this problem into an opportunity with a well-written essay.
Before getting into content, the first issue to resolve is whether or not one is necessary. In order to write an explanatory essay, the following criteria have to be met:
1. There is a problem
No, your 3.4 GPA doesn’t count. No, your 2 point jump on the LSAT doesn’t either. And don’t even come to me with the idea that you have a history of poor standardized testing AND a lower than average GPA.
In short, something that would raise an eyebrow if I wasn’t aware of your history needs an explanation, and nothing else.
So what makes me raise an eyebrow? School transfers. An arrest. A gap in your resume. A significant LSAT increase (5+ points). An upward trend in your GPA; however, it has to be significant. Going from a 3.3 to a 3.5 just lets me know that you finished your math and science requirements (damn you and your easy major, Mr. PoliSci!).
In short, don’t force it if it isn’t there. It’s easy to come across as whiny and paranoid if you start explaining away a single bad grade – just suck it up. Unless, of course, you had a sick family member during that semester.
2. It has an explanation
Your recently developed taste for Scotch or newfound love of keg stands doesn’t count here. A death in the family, an illness, or some other life altering event does. If you had trouble adjusting to college because you were too hung over to go to classes, how do you think you’ll handle law school? There’s more free booze there than at an Irish wedding.
3. The issue will be resolved by law school
Most often, time will allow you to show that the issue will be resolved by the start of your matriculation. A stupid underage drinking charge followed by several years of legal sobriety (i.e. don’t get caught) will help mitigate a school’s worries re: your drinking habits. A strong upward trend in your grades will demonstrate your newfound study habits and academic abilities.
Next week, I’ll provide a quick rundown of what you should cover in a good explanatory essay.