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The Common Application provides space for 650 words worth of “additional information.” Must students use this space? To what end should they use it?

The Additional Information essay is just as the name indicates—students should use the space to provide additional information that students have not been able to address somewhere else in their application, or that they have only been able to address in passing. But the emphasis here is definitely on “additional information.” If students do not have new additional information to include, there is no need for them to attempt to fill the space. Following is a closer look at when and why students should use the Common Application’s Additional Information section.

Why use the Additional Information Section?

Students who have circumstances that cannot be fully explained in the general application will want to use the Additional Information section.

Students who have been subject to discipline, who have sharp drops in grades, or who have experienced extenuating circumstances (illness, hardship, family crisis) that affected their performance in school should use this space to elaborate on those situations so that admissions officers can contextualize poor performances in school or other potentially negative information.

Students who have been deeply involved in extracurricular activities that do not get fully explained on the application or in one of the other essays can use this space to do so. For instance, students who have conducted research in high school might use this space to further describe that experience. They might also use it explain other activities that are not self-explanatory.

What is the difference between essays that colleges label “optional” (but should not be skipped) and the Additional Information section on the Common Application?

Most essay prompts that colleges request, even if they are labeled optional, should be included in the application; applications that fail to include these “optional” essays will be judged as lacking, so students must write them to keep their applications competitive.

The additional information essay is different in that students should only use the “additional information” space on the Common Application if there is something that students must clarify or explain further, or that they did not have a chance to mention elsewhere on their application.

Will it look bad if I leave the Additional Information section blank?

No. If students do not have additional information that they need to share with colleges, they should not attempt to fill the space with information that they’ve already mentioned elsewhere on the application. Admissions officers will not appreciate having to read repetitive information or essays that do not legitimately share additional information.

The bottom line:

Students should include additional information in this section if they have not had a chance to convey that information elsewhere in the application. This space is where students can explain poor performance in school, disciplinary action, or other extenuating circumstances that need to be clarified.

Students can also use this space to provide additional information about extracurricular activities that require further elaboration to demonstrate student initiative.

Students who do not have real additional information to share, however, should not fill the space with redundant information simply for the sake of filling up space.

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