Okay, So What Do I Write?
As with everything application-related, there is no one right way to go about using the Additional Information section. At its core, this section is designed to give students the opportunity to discuss aspects of themselves or their application that are vital to understanding the applicant and aren’t presented in their personal statement(s). Thus, for many students, it is quite clear what should go into the Additional Information section.
If you are a person with a particular story or history that has defined you or affected you significantly, then the Additional Information section is where you can write about it. Oftentimes, this can be a personal story that did not make it into your personal statement.
Another approach to this section is to use it as an opportunity to clarify aspects of your application that you feel need explanation. If, for example, you found that the 150 characters allotted in the activities section was not enough to explain your most time-consuming or important commitment, you can elaborate on that here.
Likewise, if you think that some aspect of your application looks unflattering or inconsistent, and that you could be served by providing some sort of explanation of that aspect, the Additional Information section is an apt forum to further explain your situation.
If, for example, your grades dropped one semester because of some extenuating circumstancesoutside of school, or you consistently spent your summers doing something meaningful that you think admissions officers would like to hear about, you can talk about these topics at a bit more length. Bear in mind that while this could be academic or extracurricular in nature, it often won’t be.
Indeed, the Harvard initiativeMaking Caring Common emphasizes that the application process should not be an exercise in desperate over-exaggeration on the part of students who feel the need to posture themselves as overachievers. Instead, it should simply allow applicants to elucidate their personalities and interests for admissions committees. In this light, any summer experience that you may have had that taught you something about your family, yourself, or the world is worth sharing, even if it didn’t come with a hefty price tag.
If it made more sense for you to work a job in your hometown rather than travel abroad, the Additional Information section is the perfect place to expound upon this — you surely learned plenty at your job that you couldn’t have learned elsewhere, and adcoms would love to hear about this!
Likewise, if you spent your summers watching your younger siblings or caring for an older relative, here is the place to talk about it! Your summer experiences certainly do not have to be expensive to be valuable, and if you haven’t already discussed them in your personal statement or a supplemental essay, the Additional Information section is an apt opportunity to write about them.
Words of Caution
Most importantly, you want to make sure that you are using this section wisely. Do not write an essay for this section simply to fill up space. Adcoms will not appreciate being provided with “additional” information that is actually redundant. If you have already mentioned something in your personal statement, the Extracurricular Activities section, or in another supplemental essay, leave it out of the essay you write for the Additional Information section.
In addition, you should be careful to prepare this section with as much care as all the others on your application. Just because it is optional does not mean it is unimportant. If you decide to make use of this valuable forum, you should do so with care. Edit and craft the essay you write for the additional info section with as much care as you devoted to your personal statement. You should fill in this section because you need to, not because you think you should.
Still have questions about filling out the Common Application? Check out our blog post How to Write the Common Application Essays 2017-2018.
Every college application has a section where you have the opportunity to provide additional information. Often times, it is a question about “special circumstances” or additional honors, but what should you really write in this section?
I advise students to use this opportunity to highlight information that is not presented anywhere else in the application. Of course you should use this section to explain any extenuating circumstances that created a negative impact in your grades. When doing so, it is not only important to highlight the situation that affected your grades, but to also describe how you improved your grades. Taking responsibility for a grade drop is significant, however you should also show that you are motivated to over come the challenges that you have faced.
Lately, I have also advised students to use this section to explain any issues with course selection that they faced. With many schools enduring budget cuts, students have not been able to take all of the AP courses they wanted to because they are not being offered as often. If you were not able to take precalculus because it conflicted with your AP Bio course, let colleges know.
Some “special circumstances” covered in this section may be deeply personal. You may need to discuss a medical condition or a family situation. Keep in mind that while revealing this information may be difficult, it is important for colleges to know what affects your life. Maybe you have to watch a younger sibling after school, so you have not been able to obtain a job or play a sport. Maybe you tragically lost a relative and the loss briefly affected your grades. Whatever the situation, know that college admissions officers need to be able to see a complete picture of who you are.
If the colleges you are applying to are truly taking a “holistic” approach to reviewing applications, then providing this information is just one piece of the puzzle they are trying to put together to picture who you are. If you leave out this piece of information, then the picture will not be complete and they won’t have all of the information they need to make a decision.
Former Application Reader
Filed Under: Application TipsTagged With: additional information essays, Admission, admissions, Application, college, College admission, College essays, Educational Consulting, Essays