March 9, 2015

College Application Supplemental Material | What to Include, What to Leave Out

Aside from all the required parts of the college application, there are the supplemental / optional parts. One of these is the option to include something extra that will give the admissions committee added insight into who you are, beyond the main parts of the application. Examples of extra material that you might include: poems, pictures, stories, tapes, and articles you've written — the sky really is the limit. But, how do you decide what, if anything, to include?

First of all, remember that less is more. I know that this can be frustrating — you are a complex person, and a few pieces of paper can hardly begin to sum you up. It might be tempting to add as many extras as possible, to try to show the admissions committee every facet of yourself. However, please, do not give in to this urge.

Admissions officers only have a limited amount of time to spend on each application, and if you add too much, they will be more annoyed than impressed. One Ivy League admissions officer I knew had a mantra, “the thicker the application, the thicker the applicant.” Don’t be that thick applicant—be selective about what you include.

What should you include in your college application, then? The best things are those that show off a creative talent or important aspect of your personality that can not be captured by the main parts of the application. Have you been playing piano since you were two, and your piano teacher thinks you are the next Beethoven? Include a CD of your best song. Are you a gifted photographer/painter/writer? Great! Include a photo/painting/poem/short story. Just don’t include your whole portfolio---choose one or two of the best!

What should you leave out? Articles detailing awards you won are unnecessary—you can list those in your application and on your resume. Also, if your talent is something you dabble in and not a real passion, it might be better not to bother. You can still list whatever it is on your resume. Be conservative about extra materials that you include. The last thing you want is for the admissions officer to wonder, “Why is this applicant wasting my time?”

Remember that including supplementary materials is exactly what it sounds like—optional. The application is designed to include al the information that the committee really needs to know. There is no harm in not including anything at all. Only include things that you consider to be really important and special. Do not include things just for the sake of it!.

Finally, if you decide to include something, make sure it represents your very best work. This is your one shot---put your best foot forward. Good luck!

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for the helpful tips. I'm starting to apply to colleges, using acceptedge to help my reduce my application list. Whats the average amount of universities students apply to?

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  2. Brianne at Savvy StudentOctober 27, 2009 at 2:45 PM

    Great post. It's easy to forget the 'less is more' when compiling your college resume since you want the college to know exactly who you are, and that's typically quite complex. But when you go with less and make sure it's all your best, that shows you put a lot of thought into each piece you included. Reviewers know that it's easier to throw everything in there, so when they see a resume that's smaller but high quality, they'll see you're a thoughtful person. 'Quality over quantity', if you will.

    Thanks Steve!

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  3. Thanks, Steve! Question: I wrote an 80 page history/photography book last summer. Should I include a copy with my application? Should I give them a link to my website?

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  4. A link to your website should be sufficient. I wouldn't include the entire book - they just won't have time to read it.

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    1. Thanks, Steve! I found this post to be very helpful. Question (preceded by several statements): I want to be a journalist and I have been on several publications since my freshman year. I am now a rising senior and I plan on applying as a journalism/communications major to several universities' journalism schools, like USC Annenberg. This summer, I also have an internship at the local city paper and have written some great articles for them. Would it be appropriate to include several clips in my application?

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  5. Thanks, Steve! I found this post to be very helpful. Question (preceded by several statements): I want to be a journalist and I have been on several publications since my freshman year. I am now a rising senior and I plan on applying as a journalism/communications major to several universities' journalism schools, like USC Annenberg. This summer, I also have an internship at the local city paper and have written some great articles for them. Would it be appropriate to include several clips in my application?

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  6. A link to your website should be sufficient. I wouldn't include the entire book - they just won't have time to read it.

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