Additional Information Common App Essay

Last month, we wrote about 6 College Admissions Essay Hacks. Today, we share 7 Tips for the Common App's Additional Information Section.

The 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 Do’s and Don’ts.

Do use the Additional Information section if….

…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.”

…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.

…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…

…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.

…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.

…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.

…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.     

Does this sound overwhelming? Story2 EssayBuilder helps you plan, organize and complete all your college essays.

The Additional Information section is a chance for applicants to showcase information about themselves that isn’t present elsewhere in the application. There are a lot of questions on The Common Application, but there is also a lot that isn’t asked. For example: are you planning a fundraiser that hasn’t completely come together so you didn’t include it? Have you been pursuing an independent project outside of school just because you absolutely love the topic? Did you have spotty attendance because of a health problem? Do you have additional testing information? This is where you discuss and organize other interests, pursuits, and information that don’t fall under the categories of “Testing,” “Extracurricular Activities,” or “Internships.”

Who is it for?

Every applicant with a diverse set of interests inside and outside of the classroom. So, likely, you.

Why Use It?

While more information is not always better, this is a great space to illustrate your diversity of interests and ability to prioritize important information. There is no way that an application can properly convey who you are as a person, but this section gives you an opportunity to shed a little bit more light on the complexities of who you are and what makes you tick.

How does it factor into admissions?

It will only add to the appeal of your application if you use this section correctly. Here, it’s all about impact and prioritization. It won’t look great if you prattle on about how you had the flu and the teacher was super unfair in her grading of your U.S. History final, so that’s why you got a D. On the other hand, did you self-study, independently register for, and receive a 4 on the AP Latin exam because it wasn’t offered at your school and thus is not on your transcript? That’s information that an admissions officer would like to know that truly illustrates a unique brand of commitment, interest, and follow-through in a student.

We’ll help you figure out what’s good to include and what’s not good to include so that you feel confident and equipped to tackle the Additional Information section.

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