After hearing all kinds of messages about when or if one should take advantage of the optional “Additional Information” section, I took some time out to do some canvassing of a variety of professional resources. Every resource supports what I have been advising my clients for years: If there are circumstances that have not been explained elsewhere, this is the place to use to explain them. If there are unusual qualities, experiences, or elements of your activities or interests that you want to share (but don’t want to write about in THE essay), do it. It is NOT the place for a fluffy, useless essay.
This section is often overlooked although it appears at the very bottom of the “Writing” section. It is a perfect opportunity to provide a glimpse into the candidate’s issues, strengths or some aspect of his or her history that will be of value to the admissions officers.
The Additional Information section allows up to 650 words, with no minimum. The prompt is:
“Please provide an answer below if you wish to provide details of circumstances or qualifications not reflected in the application.”
Although originally this section was meant to allow the candidate to explain a weakness, personal issue, anomaly in a transcript, etc., it now gives you a chance to expand upon a “qualification” that could range from a personal interest to a major social action project.
The Common App Help Desk says: Use this area “TO SHARE RELEVANT INFORMATION ABOUT YOURSELF THAT IS NOT CAPTURED ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE APPLICATION.”
Here are some things that the resources give as examples:
1. Send something related to an area of interest: Work on a charity, newspaper issues you have covered, an article you’ve written, a project that became a passion.
2. Something that shows your personality, a tremendous learning experience, a real change of circumstances and what you’ve learned from it (positive or negative).
3. A family or personal (as in health) situation that affected your performance.
4. Important details about your activities that won’t fit into your activities list, especially if the scope of your involvement has not been communicated fully in the list.
5. Additional languages, honors, scores, or college-level courses that couldn’t fit into the required spaces in the drop-down menu.
6. Unusual grading systems used by your school
7. Unique class experiences or projects in which you were involved
8. Intel abstracts, IB Extended Essay topics, etc.
9. Information that just didn’t fit anywhere else: I.E. more siblings than the drop-down menu allows, special awards that are not academic, reasons why you don’t have a lot of extra-curricular activities, parents’ disabilities or unemployment, student disabilities, etc.
10. Significant work hours while in high school.
The key is that this is INFORMATION. It could be an essay, it could be a list, it could even be a sort of a resume (although you can’t upload it). The point is that it should be something important you want to share. Think carefully about this! It shouldn’t be another personal statement, but it can be a thoughtful and detailed explanation of something that could just make the difference. If you have absolutely nothing to add, then don’t add it.