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Articles / Applying to College / Should I Send Colleges a Letter About My Family Situation?

Jan. 12, 2016

Should I Send Colleges a Letter About My Family Situation?

Question: Under the additional information section of the Common Application, I mentioned my family situation where my parent's illness had affected my ability to focus on my studies in school. However, I left out some details that I think might be important and also neglected to mention my complicated home life. Should I consider contacting the colleges I applied to in order to explain this in more depth, or should I just try to bring it up at the interview process?



“The Dean" can't say for sure what your next steps will be without knowing exactly what your situation is and what you've already told your colleges about it via the Additional Information section. But, from what you've said so far, it sounds like it would be a good idea to write a letter that provides more depth and then send it to all of your target colleges.Back in the old days when I read applications at Smith College, I found it confusing when students made vague references to illnesses or problems at home but without providing enough information for us in the admission office to really understand what was going on or to gauge the impact of such issues. Occasionally however, students provided TOO MUCH information (e.g., a play-by-play account of what led to their parents' divorce). So while you should not provide excessive detail, it isimportant to be specific and not leave the admission folks guessing. If you're not sure if the letter you write is saying enough … or TOO much … perhaps you can show it to a trusted adult confidante who can offer feedback before you send it.

You can certainly bring up these same issues in an interview, but a direct letter will probably be more effective, especially if you'll be interviewing with alumni or students rather than with admission staff members.

Good luck!


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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