How to Respond to the Additional Information Section of the Common App
The Additional Information section of the Common App is reserved for extra information that you could not fit anywhere else in your application. In this section, you’re essentially being asked “what else would you like us to know?” This section has a 650-word limit, and you’ll find it at the end of the Common App. Keep reading to learn what should be included in the Additional Information section of the Common App.
Is the Additional Information section required?
No, you’re not required to complete the Additional Info section. Just because the section exists does not mean that you have to include anything. In fact, you should only make use of the section if you think the information you’re sharing is essential to your application. Avoid repeating information that you’ve already included in other parts of your application. Let’s go over some topics that are appropriate to include in this part of the Common App.
What should I include in the Additional Information section?
When it comes to this section, the information you should include generally falls into two categories. There’s (1) important details regarding your extracurriculars or academics and (2) extenuating circumstances that may have affected your performance in school.
Important details regarding extracurriculars/academics
If you feel like your application didn’t capture the importance of certain high school experiences, the Additional Info section is a great place to elaborate. With all of these, make sure that you’re bringing something new to the table and you’re not simply repeating yourself. Moreover, keep it brief (use bullet points) and avoid writing a second personal essay.
1. Major achievements
Sometimes it’s tough to describe your achievements in 150 characters or less. If you didn’t have space to explain something of importance in the Honors or Activities sections, now’s the time to do it. Maybe you helped establish the first robotics club at your school, which inspired you to pursue a STEM degree in college. Or perhaps you reported an important story for your local newspaper, and now you’re committed to majoring in journalism. By briefly elaborating on major accomplishments, admissions committees gain a bigger picture of your passions and goals.
2. Unique or niche organizations
Well-known organizations like Model UN, Key Club, and JROTC need no further explanation. However, feel free to touch on unique organizations that are out-of-the-box or largely unknown. For instance, maybe you founded a health food cooking club or you joined an organization dedicated to wildlife rehabilitation. Elaborating on niche organizations is a great way to show off a bit of your personality.
3. IB extended essay topics, thesis, or research project
If you dedicated a significant portion of your high school career to an academic project, feel free to include the title of the project and a brief explanation. If your project shows commitment to a specific field (especially one you plan to study in college), this should be noted in your explanation. Let’s say you wrote your IB extended essay on the relationship between advertising and popular culture, and now you’d like to study public relations in college. That would be great information to include in this section.
4. Quirky or unusual classes
Did you take a class in high school that was super out of the ordinary? If so, you may want to briefly describe it (especially if the class was meaningful and enriched your education). Maybe you took a class dedicated to cinematography in foreign films, or you took a crocheting course. Describing any unique classes (and their impact) can help your application stand out from the pack.
You can also use the Additional Info section to describe any extenuating circumstances that impacted your performance in school. Avoid writing with a tone that makes it sound like you’re making excuses. Instead, confidently and concisely explain the situation and its effects, how you dealt with it, and what you learned from it. Keep in mind that the following list isn’t comprehensive, so consult your counselor if you think you have extenuating circumstances not listed here.
1. Health problems
If you struggled with health issues that prevented you from achieving your academic potential, say a few words about it. Just remember to focus on the facts and avoid adding fluff. What was the health problem? How did it affect you and for how long? How’d you make up the work and did your grades go up afterward? Address these questions and you should be in good shape.
2. Physical or learning disabilities
If you have a diagnosed physical or learning disability, you may want to include some context to help clarify the challenge. Consider specifying the diagnosis, when you received it, and how you’ve navigated the effects. By no means are you required to disclose this information, though. If you’re unsure, ask your counselor to see what makes sense for your application.
3. Financial obstacles
If you experienced major financial obstacles that affected your education, include them in this section. Examples include food insecurity, homelessness, or a parent’s unemployment. If the financial difficulties were temporary, include the dates they occurred (especially if they line up with a semester when your grades dropped). If the financial obstacles were long-term, describe the challenges and their impact on your education.
4. Childcare responsibilities
You may have served as a caretaker for younger siblings, nieces, or nephews. Childcare responsibilities can impact your ability to participate in extracurricular activities and perform well in school. Describe how much time you spent as a caretaker, how it affected your education, and how it helped you grow as a person.
5. Low grades or test scores
This isn’t the place to “explain away” the one B- you received in Algebra during your sophomore year. But if your grades were consistently low over a period of time due to a particular reason, feel free to address that. Maybe you experienced a family tragedy, moved across the country, or dealt with health issues that affected your academic performance. Or perhaps you simply weren’t ready for the rigorous course load of high school during your first year and your grades reflected that. Whatever the reason may be, explain the facts clearly and concisely.
Also read: How to write an essay about yourself
What should I NOT include in the Additional Information section?
Now that you have a sense of what to include in the Additional Info section, let’s quickly cover some things you should avoid.
1. Another personal statement
When it comes to the Additional Information section, the key word to remember is brief. Keep your explanations quick, to-the-point, and free of fluff. You shouldn’t use this section as an opportunity to write a second personal essay. It’s perfectly acceptable to use lists and bullet points here.
As we’ve mentioned, the Additional Info section isn’t a place to make excuses. Take responsibility for any potential red flags on your application, but do it in a way that’s not defensive or whiny. It’s totally acceptable to describe legitimate extenuating circumstances, but don’t say that you got a bad grade in English just because you didn’t like your teacher. If you can’t come up with a good explanation for something, it’s probably better not to mention it at all.
We can’t stress this one enough. Do not use the Additional Info section to repeat information that you’ve already covered in other parts of your application. It’s fine to revisit things you’ve already mentioned, but just make sure that you’re elaborating and adding important new information. And if you can’t think of anything new to include, don’t worry! Remember that you’re not even required to complete the Additional Info section in the first place.