1. A second personal statement

While some counselors argue that the Additional Info section is a GREAT place to put a whole essay, I side with those who feel like this section should be reserved for, well, additional information. The exception is those 50 to 100ish-word statements that add factual, succinct context or information (see tip #7 above). 

“When we see that a student has completed the additional information section, we surmise that the student has something to share that could not fit anywhere else in the application,” says Patricia Peek, Ph.D., Dean of Undergraduate Admission at Fordham. “If a student takes the time to complete this section, it should signal that the content is important. This is also a good place to share context about an element, or elements, of the submission that may need explanation (change in grades, extra activities not reflected or lack of activities, etc.). We do not ask for an extra essay, but even if we did we would not see this section as a place for that type of response.”

2. Details that show you might be overly obsessed with academic perfection

If you have straight As, or near straight As, and you got a B+ in one class, don’t explain that B+. Why? It may backfire, revealing qualities that are not super flattering. It’s like when you walk into someone’s house and it’s in immaculate condition (but it’s clear someone has cleaned the place recently) and they’re like, “Sorry the place is such a mess…” and you’re thinking, Come on, really?

3. Excuses

If something happened during high school that might raise a red flag on your application or transcript and it’s appropriate to take responsibility, do so! But don’t make it sound like you’re whining. Make sure to confidently and matter-of-factly explain the problem. Example: 

“Freshman year I wasn’t ready for the rigorous course load of high school. Because of this, my grades during the first semester don’t reflect my true potential. Second semester I worked hard to develop new study habits and became more disciplined. As a result, I brought my grades up.” 

You can take responsibility in many ways–this is just one way.

If you can’t give a good explanation for something (e.g., you got a bad grade in math because you didn’t like your teacher, you dropped football because you wanted to chill more during the summer), it may be better to not mention it at all. Will the reader wonder about that thing? Maybe. But if you really can’t come up with a good reason, maybe don’t write anything. 

4. An overly complex abstract from a scientific paper

Telling the reader that you worked with metastatic malignant neoplasm involving the cervical region of the esophagus may not mean that much without context. If you’re going to share information that sounds like it might be from an abstract, consider offering a short explanation. 

A small exception to this rule: you can use a little geeky language to explain the particulars, especially if applying to a highly specialized program. But just a little.

Example: I contributed to Dr. Li’s review article to give an overview of the types of skin diseases typically seen with IBD and their respective pathogenesis, proposed mechanisms, and treatments; my contributions were significant enough to earn me recognition as a second author.

Notice how succinct, how factual.

5. Pasting a resume that repeats everything you’ve already said in your Activities List

Why is this bad? Because: 

  1. It’s redundant. 

  2. Admission readers are reading SO much and this wastes their time.

  3. It looks insecure, like you’re saying, “See what I did? Wait, look again!”

  4. It’s redundant. (That’s a joke, btw.)

Sometimes students will even paste a resume (or a link to a resume) instead of filling out the Activities List. Don’t do this.

On that note, some students provide a link to information such as a scientific abstract or published work. The reader often won’t get that information because they can’t click the link or don’t have time. Basically, assume the reader won’t click it. Instead, write a short summary of what’s at the link.

What if I feel like I’m struggling to come up with stuff to add? 

It’s your call, but if it starts to feel like you’re stretching to add random things, stop, take a breath, and remember what I said at the start: 

You do not have to use the Additional Info section. 

That’s right: leave it blank! In fact, see if you can be really succinct and fit all your information into the areas provided in the Activities List descriptions. It’s possible! And your college reps will thank you.