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The Additional Information Essay

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It is not much discussed, but the Common Application offers students the opportunity to complete another essay in addition to the personal statement. (No, this is not a random bonus round.) This space is reserved for additional information and while it is tempting to use it to explore another random subject of your choosing, students should use it sparingly. With that in mind, let’s take a look at an example of instructions you might see:

“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.” 

In other words: Unless you have something crucial to add or explain – and there is absolutely NOWHERE else on the application for you to write about it – you should skip this essay. Think about it: If you were an admissions officer, would you really want to read more than one Common App essay per applicant? Still, this space is useful for students whose high school career has been affected by a major life event or circumstance and don’t want to use the personal essay to tell that story. Did an illness during your sophomore year cause an overall drop in your GPA? Do you have a learning difference that wasn’t diagnosed until your junior year? A drop in grades and the reasons behind it does not define you. Write about it in the additional information section and use the personal statement to paint a bright picture of the things that do. Remember to make the additional info essay not about the things you couldn’t control, but the actions you took to improve the situation. You don’t want to come off as a victim of circumstance, but as a competent person who can take steps to positively affect his or her situation.

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