To Add or Not to Add? That is the Question.

October 4, 2015



At the end of the Common App, the UC application, and others, there’s an opportunity to add some additional information about yourself.  Here’s the Common App prompt:
“Please provide an answer below if you wish to provide details of circumstances or qualifications not reflected in the application. You may enter up to 650 words.”
While this is not a required part of the application, you may be wondering if you should add something.  The answer is a definitive yes and no.
If your application contains everything you wanted to say about your academics, your extracurriculars, and who you are, by all means DON’T add anything.  Repeating yourself won’t enhance your application.
However, if there's an issue or circumstance that you feel has not been communicated in the application, but that could help the reader get a better picture of who you are, then DO add something.
Some examples of things that are appropriate to add:
1. Transcript issues:  Did your grades drop one year due to a family issue or an illness?  Explain this, and comment on how you’ve regained your footing.
2.  Attendance at more than one school:  If you changed schools or attended multiple schools, you may have not have had the same academic opportunities at each school.  It would be helpful to let the reader know that you didn’t have access to AP courses or Honors courses during some portion of your high school career.
3.  An extracurricular that breaks the mold:  You may have talked about your editorship on the literary magazine.  But if you also had a short story published in a literary journal, make sure you tell the admissions staff about it.   If you participated in orchestra all four years, great. If your orchestra traveled to Vienna where you won a youth orchestra award, here’s your chance to talk about it.
4.  You have a learning difference:  Disclosing a learning difference and talking frankly about how you’ve handled it and managed to maintain your grades can be a good thing.  It shows self-awareness and maturity.  It also shows that once you’re on campus, you’ll be prepared to self-advocate.  This kind of confidence is valued by admissions staff.
5.  You have a physical disability:  Again, being clear about how you make your life work while managing your disability is a positive.
6.  You have a job:  If you have been working significant hours in order to help your family meet expenses, this is the place to talk about it, especially if it has affected how many outside activities you’ve been able to take part in.
7. You have family responsibilities:  Some students help out with childcare or eldercare and are therefore needed on the home front.  If this has affected you during high school, here’s the place to describe your experience.
8.  AP test scores:  If you haven’t been able to report these anywhere else, and they are in the 4-5 range, mention them here.
9.  Something about you that simply