Addressing negatives

A Special Situation – Coming To Terms With Negatives

Every component of your application file should convey the image of a positive person. Avoid emphasizing negatives. If you must mention negatives try to show what you learned from the experience. There may be situations where you wish to place low grades and/or LSAT scores in perspective. The law schools are interested in your ability to do academic work. Your job is to convince the school that such grades or LSAT scores are not indicative of your academic ability.

LSAT Scores

If your grades are competitive, argue that in spite of your LSAT score you have strong academic ability. This ability is proven by your good grades. Under no circumstances should you attack the validity of the LSAT in general.


You may be able to minimize the effects of a semester of low grades if you can show that they were an aberration. If you have grades that are high, there may be room to argue that the law school should consider only the high grades. This may be possible if you can demonstrate that the low grade(s) were the result of a temporary external problem and that the problem has gone away. Perhaps you started in the wrong academic program. For example, many students change programs (Arts to Sciences) because they didn’t like the first program. Poor grades are often the result of a program that is not liked. If the student switches to a new program and the grades improve:

  • 1. The student has a proven ability to get good grades; and
  • 2. The problem that caused the poor grades has gone away.

What follows is a good example of a student dealing with a “false start.”

“I am asking the Admissions Committee to overlook the false start I experienced during my initial university studies.

I think of my academic career as being divided into two distinct chapters, the first chapter being when I enrolled at University X in 1986. In my first year of studies I obtained a C+ average in the four credits I completed. The following September I transferred to University ‘Y as a visiting student on a letter of permission for one year. Late planning prevented me from registering in courses that matched my academic interests and my grades suffered. As a result, I decided to leave university life altogether. The next September I enrolled in the two year Financial Management Program at Community College Z. At its conclusion, I was a half credit short of a diploma and had some major decisions to make regarding my future.

During my time at University Y and Community College Z, I was an immature young man who lacked career goals and objectives. While these traits were exhibited by many in my age group I must admit that if this young man were applying to law school today I would advise the admissions committee to reject his application without delay Fortunately however, a dramatic transformation occurred in the second chapter of my academic career and I believe that my academic accomplishments during the last three years prove that I have the academic ability to be an excellent law student.

The second chapter of my academic career began with my decision to return to University X in the fall of 1990. I was determined to succeed in my second attempt at university and entered fall classes with a good attitude and the motivation to succeed.

I am now twenty-six years old and will earn my Honours BA. in the spring of 1993. Maturity and self-direction have vastly increased my academic success and the marks I have achieved during the last three years attest to this change. I know that I will be a first rate law student and would ask with respect that the Admissions Committee disregard or assign less importance to the academic results I experienced during my initial university studies. I know that my enthusiasm, motivation, interest and goals will ensure that I will make a positive influence on the law school and the community”

The above has been reproduced and/or adapted from Mastering The Personal Statement by John Richardson. Copyright remains with the author.

Copyright © 1998, John Richardson. All Rights Reserved.

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