Many people get to the last of the Common Application’s main section and see the burgundy title: Additional Information. It invites applicants to provide details of circumstances or qualifications not reflected in the application (emphasis mine).
The first reaction is to try to upload a resume, cram in more details, or over explain what is already in place. I know families think they can highlight it better here, but that is hardly ever the case. In fact, in the last thirteen years, my private clients have hardly ever resorted to the Additional Information section. Here’s why.
College admissions officers don’t have time for repetition. They have between 5-15 minutes per student to look over the complete folder. They don’t want to see three versions of the same thing. It is irritating and shows the student doesn’t have that much to talk about.
If a student plans strategically, they can honestly talk about everything that is important via their:
- main Common Application essay
- their supplemental essays for various colleges
- the activities section
- the honors section
It does take planning and skillful consolidation, but it can be done. If a family homeschools, most unusual things can be explained in the school documents or counselor letter.
So, when do we use the Additional Information Section? Here are a few of the infrequent examples:
Activities or Awards – Sometimes there are major awards or activities that honestly won’t fit anywhere else. For example, we don’t need to list every debate award as we should have consolidated those in the activity section. But, if we don’t have room to list Speech and Debate at all in the Activity Section, it is perfectly fine to put it here.
If it is a small commitment that happened back in early high school, do not list it. Do not include any activity or honor that happened prior to 9th grade in any part of the application.
Unusual Educational Background – Homeschoolers have plenty of opportunity via the counselor letter or the school profile to explain an unusual educational progression:
- Interrupted coursework
- Multiple schools
- In and out of various types of schools
- Starting college at a very young age
However, students in public and private school don’t have this advantage. Thus, the Additional Information Section could be utilized to explain a crazy transcript over which the student has no control.
Unusual Parental Requirements – Sometimes family dynamics impact the student’s life in a way that a college admissions committee wouldn’t understand without an explanation. Perhaps finances have made it necessary for the student to hold down a part-time job in support of their family. Maybe families value a solid work ethic and expect their children to pay their own way. Sometimes kids must work to pay for their AP classes or babysit a houseful of younger siblings for hours a week. Again, we have more room to talk about these variations within the homeschool documents and, in the past, we have even explained them via the activity section. But, traditionally educated students may have to revert to the Additional Information Section to make this clear.
Job or Entrepreneurial Venture – If a student cannot clarify in an essay or the activity section, they might have to resort to sharing their real-world experiences here.
Catastrophe – I have had students whose communities were destroyed by hurricanes or floods right at application time. I’ve worked with kids that have recently lost a parent, or the single earner in the family lost his job, or the family lost their home. Horrible things happen and sometimes we must provide context for the application so admissions officers understand all that a student is dealing with.
The Additional Information Section is there in the rare event we need it. Proceed with care. Misuse of it will convince colleges that student cannot discern what is important and what is not.
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