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Articles / Applying to College / Am I Supposed to Fill In the "Additional Information" Section on My College Applications?

May 26, 2010

Am I Supposed to Fill In the "Additional Information" Section on My College Applications?

Question: As I was looking over the Common Application, in preparation for next year, I found the "Additional Information" section.

On the College Confidential forum, I've noticed a few people say that it's absolutely necessary to fill up this entire section, while most people don't pay much attention to it.

So what's the answer? Should you only fill up the space if you have a really pressing issue? Or should it be filled out regardless, and, if so, what type of information do you suggest filling it with?

Most admission officials will tell you that students who provide unnecessary information are annoying. The admission folks don't want to see your toilet-training certificates from pre-school; they don't need newspaper clippings from every lacrosse game you ever played; and they certainly don't need to read your "Additional Information" if you truly have nothing meaningful to impart.

The Additional Information section, which you'll find on the Common Application and many others, can be a handy, catch-all place to explain the sorts of things that the rest of the forms may not cover. Are there irregularities on your transcript, such as a repeated class--or a skipped one--that require clarification? Did your parents go through a nasty divorce that torpedoed your sophomore grades? Did you win a highly competitive curling competition that is virtually unknown to anyone but avid curlers? The Additional Information space might be just the spot to provide insight into such anomalies.

The guidance counselor reference can also be a good place to spell out unusual situations. If you self-studied Spanish 2 over the summer so you could jump ahead to Spanish 3, your counselor can note that in the recommendation. Family problems, as well, can be appropriate fodder for these letters. So if you have any information that you want your counselor to pass along to admission committees, don't be shy about telling him or her. Some explanations that can seem whiny or unreliable in the "Additional Information" section (i.e., "My calculus teacher is a nut job and his grading was extremely erratic" or "My mom has a drug problem and I have become the primary parent to my two young sisters" ) can have more credibility if they come from the counselor--instead of (or in addition to) just from you.

Many students also use the Additional Information section to upload resumes, research abstracts, etc. This is perfectly appropriate, although a small handful of schools (e.g., Stanford) clearly ask that candidates NOT submit unsolicited materials. So read instructions carefully.

Don't, however, confuse optional additional information with the optional essays, which some Common App supplements (or other applications) include. In most cases, an optional essay isn't really optional unless the college is treating it much like the "Additional Information" section. (In other words, if the instructions tell you to write it ONLY if you have critical extra information to share.)

But definitely DON'T feel as if you MUST fill that Additional Info space. If you ramble on unnecessarily, it can only work against you and--as with many things in life --- often "less is more."

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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