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7 Tips for the Additional Information Section of the Common App

by Alexis Schaitkin, on Jul 15, 2019 12:00:00 PM

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The Common App's Additional Information Section is a helpful way to share more details about yourself. But for many students, it isn't clear what should go here, and they end up under-utilizing the space or even hurting their candidacy. 

The directions for the Additional Information section are open-ended and vague: 

“Please provide an answer below if you wish to provide details of circumstances or qualifications not reflected in the application.” The section often perplexes students. Is it like an optional essay, where it’s better to write something than to leave it blank? Are you a lesser candidate if you can’t think of anything additional to say about yourself?

For the majority of students, leaving this section blank is 100% appropriate. This is a section to use only if you feel you must. Not sure what circumstances or qualifications merit mention? Here’s our list of 7 Do’s and Don’ts.

Do use the Additional Information section if….

1. You had a significant medical or personal situation that affected your academic performance: The emphasis here is on significant. If this describes you, explain the situation in a couple of short, professional sentences. For example, “You’ll notice a dip in my grades in the spring of my sophomore year. I had bacterial pneumonia which caused me to be hospitalized for two weeks and miss a month of school.”

2. You have significant accomplishments that would benefit from further explanation: Again, emphasis on significant. An Intel semifinalist should spend a few sentences explaining the research project. An artist who painted a series of murals in her urban neighborhood should describe this unconventional work.

3. You have a truly complex educational history: All of your transcripts will be included in your application, but transcripts are often confusing. If you have an intricate educational history (beyond simply transferring schools or taking a community college class), it is helpful to outline it. For example, a rural student who maxed out of her school’s offerings in tenth grade, then took a mix of independent studies, community college classes, and online courses, should outline her course of study here.  

Don’t use the Additional Information section if…

4. You have a disappointing grade you’d like to explain: This isn’t the space to justify your transcript. Got a fluky low grade in English and you think it’s because the teacher didn’t like your outspokenness? You’ll appear more mature to admissions readers if you don’t attempt to explain the grade. If you’re upset about something like this, you might mention it to your college counselor; they will be able to frame it positively in their letter.

5. You only have three activities but want to make sure colleges understand your commitment to them: This will already be reflected in the hours you list for these activities. Be proud of the way you took action in the arenas you care about most; let your experience speak for itself.

6. You have more than ten activities to list: If it’s not one of your ten most important activities, it’s probably not important enough to you to mention in the application.

7. You wrote another essay that you’d like to include: If you wrote multiple college essays, bravo! The one you chose as your main essay is probably a powerful piece that captures who you are. While it can be tempting to use Additional Info as a space for other essays, understand that colleges are deliberate about the number of essays they ask you to include. Respect that and don’t add another one here.     

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Topics:High School and College

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