Conquer the Common App: Additional Information Section Advice

Georgia Tech’s admissions blog is quickly becoming one of my new favorites. You can read the full post “WHAT THE…?!,” but I wanted to include just the end of it below. Many applicants want to try to include information in the Additional Info section of the Common App (and other apps), but it is not always appropriate. That section is not there to explain something they won’t care much about (why you dropped a club senior year that is not a significant part of your profile), or to include an extra essay or piece of creative writing (you can do this on many portals AFTER you apply), or to paste in your full resume (warning: this never works with the simple formatting of the CA and other apps so please do not do this). See part of Rick Clark‘s article below for what I agree is appropriate:

Significant Life Events

You had mono as a junior and missed the first two months of school. Your parents’ divorce was finalized in the summer before senior year but the end of eleventh grade was filled with turmoil. You moved three times during high school due to a parent’s job transfer, promotion, or loss. These are just some of the examples we see in this section. Readers appreciate the perspective you can provide and they will make notes or highlight pertinent pieces they believe are relevant to their review and admissions decision, especially as it relates to overcoming challenges, persevering, or demonstrating tenacity/grit. In some cases, this information may lead them to add to or revise their notes from prior sections.

Academic Context

Readers want to know if your schedule choices were impacted during high school. Are some courses only offered at certain times? Was a class you had hoped to take canceled due to low enrollment? If you moved multiple times during high school, readers will see that on your transcript, but you also have an opportunity to tell them what impact that may have had. If your move precluded you from being able to take a certain course or begin on a particular curricular track upon arriving at your new school, feel free to elaborate in this space.

Additional Activities

There are times when the activity section is too limited in space for you to demonstrate the extent to which you contributed. Often this surrounds a business you started, a fundraiser you need to provide more details about, or additional levels of achievement from an activity you listed earlier in the application. Remember, this is “additional” for you—and to an extent it is additional for admission committees. HINT: Put your strongest, most compelling information FIRST in the activity section. Do not intentionally bleed over into additional information unless it is absolutely essential to convey the depth of your work or time.

Still unsure?

Ask your school counselor for their advice. See what their experience has been in the past with students who have used this section. You can also simply call or email the school you are applying to and ask them for their advice.

This is a section about necessary whys or what else—not the place for another essay. Instead, readers evaluate this section looking for pieces of information that provide valuable context (inside or outside the classroom) that you cannot convey elsewhere. Do not over think it! If you believe you have something noteworthy to add, then use this section. Readers will incorporate what they deem helpful and dismiss what they do not. It is as simple as that. It will not hurt you if you do not complete this section (again, most students do not), or if you include something that is deemed irrelevant.

It is called “extra” or “special” because it is not standard. Readers will not combine those two words in their head and assume any applicant completing this section is “extra special.”

 

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ED II and RD – Quick Checklist

As you finish up apps for 1/1:

  • Have you interviewed everywhere you can interview?
  • Have you followed up/checked in with your regional rep?
  • Have you completed all optional materials (essays, resume uploads, videos, portfolios)?
  • Have you obtained an extra LOR?
  • Have you started to plan out your interest letter research and outreach?
  • Have you been opening up and clicking through the emails the schools on your list send you?
Contact us if you would like to discuss how we can help you get to the 1/1 finish line!

 

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Make The Best of It

I am “borrowing” this image from an email I received a while ago from Bulldog Drummond; I think I am on this listserv because I also closely follow The YouSchool.

Anyway, time for some real talk now that early application decision releases begin in a few short weeks or less.

In most cases, three things happen with early applications:

-You get in
-You get deferred
-You get denied

If you get in, congrats! Celebrate! For most of you, the process of applying to college is now over. If you get deferred, and I know this sounds negative, in most cases you need to consider this a denial. Very few students get admitted off deferral at top colleges. If you are denied, I actually think this is better than a deferral. Why? Because it makes it much easier to move on and focus on the schools that are next on your list whether that is an ED II school or a select group of RD schools.

Now back to the quote. A deferral or denial is not the end of the world. It simply is what it is. The best thing you can do if you fall into one of these two pools, and remember—you are one of many who do—is to look positively forward toward the other schools on your list and flip any negative feelings you have into energy that you can use to make those apps the best they can be if you are still working on them. There is really no time or need to wallow in a denial or deferral; you can’t change the outcome. What you can control is your reaction to it. Use this time wisely and don’t spend much if any time or energy on thinking about why things did not work out. Instead, think about how you can ensure they will for the schools left on your list!

 

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Focused College Applicants Beat Well-rounded College Applicants Any Day

Being well-rounded is nice generally, but colleges are looking for students with something unique, a specific talent, skill, or interest to add to their next class. Students who drill down on their interests early on in high school will be better positioned to tell a clear, focused story in their college applications. By doing so, you hand the reader of your file exactly what they are looking for—you make it easy to see your value add.

You may love all five clubs you are in and the three sports you play, but how much can you meaningfully contribute to all eight activities? Suggestion: try to narrow down your interests and corresponding activities by the end of 10th grade, and think about how you can engage more meaningfully and at a higher level in the one or two things you love the most. It’s a bonus if these activities relate to your potential college major, or support it in some way!

Drilling down on your interests to develop a clear story or narrative for your college apps will go a long way in the admissions process, and is one of the focus areas of our college counseling work with high school students!

Remember, colleges seek to build a well-rounded class comprised of students with unique talents and skills, not a class full of generalists.