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Common App Additional Section

The Common App additional section offers applicants a space to further contextualize their applications and provide additional information that was not included elsewhere. This guide offers guiding questions to consider as you decide whether or not to fill out the additional section and what to include if you do!
In addition to the Common App essay and Activities List, the Common Application includes space for applicants to provide additional information about their life in and outside of the classroom. This section is called the “Additional Information” section, and it provides the following prompt:
“You may use the space below to provide any additional information you would like to share.”

Unlike college-specific supplements which are occasionally optional but always strongly recommended, the additional information section is truly optional. If you’re having trouble deciding whether or not to fill it out, or if you’re wondering what you should write if you do choose to fill it out, here are some questions you can ask yourself as you complete the additional information section:

Does this information add necessary context to my application?

The additional section is an appropriate space to include things such as sickness, disabilities, injuries, and deaths of loved ones that directly impacted your academic performance or extracurriculars. For example, quitting a sport might make admissions officers think that you don’t stay committed to communities that count on your involvement—but if you quit your sport because you tore your ACL and physically couldn’t continue to play, then you should let your admissions officer know! This can justify your discontinuation and allow admissions officers to empathize with you. A sudden drop in grades or a lack of test scores could be a red flag, but if that was a consequence of you grieving the loss of a family member or experiencing complications of a chronic illness, your application won’t be at a disadvantage when compared to straight-A students who did not face similar challenges in high school. Other circumstances to include could be changes in your family dynamics (like a divorce or moving to live with a different parent), transferring schools, language barriers, and any other aspect of your personal life that had a significant effect on your student life.

As you share these experiences, keep in mind that you should not take a defensive or overly self-pitying tone—you should explain these circumstances factually and sincerely, without seeking to emotionally sway the admissions committee.

Can you describe what you plan to write about elsewhere?

When considering a topic for the additional information section, ask yourself whether you could write about it in the awards and honors section, activities list, or school specific supplements. There are plenty of spaces in your application to describe your accomplishments, personality, and activities. If there isn’t space in any of those sections or if it doesn’t make sense to include the detail in those areas, you should consider the additional information section. Think of the additional information section as a place to include information that doesn’t fit in any of the required sections. It’s a useful extra tool, and should be thought of as such.

How can I make this more efficient or engaging for my reader?

There are two ways to approach this essay: writing only the essential information in the most efficient way possible, or taking risks and writing something really engaging for your reader. If you choose to get right to the point, your essay should be well under 650 words. It can be a sentence, a list of bullet points about your activities that weren’t included in your Activities List, or a paragraph. Alternatively, some students choose to provide links to their personal project websites or portfolios in the additional information section. Alternatively, you can take this as a space to really set yourself apart from the other candidates and write an essay that’s both informative and entertaining.

Is there a special or unusual grading system at your school that most admissions officers won’t be familiar with?

This is something your counselor should address in your school report or in his or her letter of recommendation, but in case they don’t, you can explain your school’s special grading system (even if it is simply that they don’t have grades).

Do other aspects of your application provide enough insight into your intellectual or academic life?

Even with the activities list and supplements, you may feel that there is an important part of you missing in your application that could shed more light onto who you are as a student. If that is the case, you can mention other examples of your intellectual curiosity here, such as your IB extended essay topic or a description of your lab work. You should only include these topics if you are truly passionate about them and they will help your admissions officer picture you on their campus in the future.

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