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What Can I Send as Supplementary Materials?

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As you are preparing to apply to colleges, you’re likely focused on writing the required essays, obtaining glowing recommendations, crafting incredible descriptions of your extracurricular activities, and sending out your test scores. However, there may be one thing you’re not sure whether or not you should submit: a supplement.


Supplementary materials are just what they sound like: additional content that is not required by colleges, but that provides information that you feel is either necessary to, or would greatly benefit, your overall college application.


However, when does it become worth it to send in a supplement? After all, colleges are reviewing thousands upon thousands of documents submitted by students during each admissions cycle. At what point does sending in additional materials become burdensome on the admissions officers reviewing your app, and ultimately detract from your overall case? Read on to find out whether or not you should submit a supplement at all, and if so, what kinds of supplementary material you should and can send.


How Do I Submit Supplementary Materials?

First off, it is important to note that schools typically do not guarantee that supplementary materials will even be reviewed, because they are not a required part of the application. Schools are receiving applications from tens of thousands of students every year, andare poring over hundreds of thousands of required documents.


Just these required documents take a tremendous amount of time to review, and as such most school cannot promise that they will look over materials that they didn’t ask for. An admissions officer may just chose to not to review content if they do not have the time, or if they feel it is not necessary to evaluate the application as a whole.


In addition, every school has individual requirements about what may be sent, and the format that it may be sent in. Failure to follow these instructions will likely result in your materials not being evaluated at all, and can potentially risk aggravating admissions committees, which is never a good thing.


If you are planning on submitting supplementary materials, make sure that you read the associated instructions with great care! You need to follow the school’s suggestions to a T. If you do not, you are inadvertently communicating that you do not care enough about your application to this school to even bother to review and follow their guidelines. You certainly do not want to send this message to the individuals deciding whether or not to give you a spot at their school, so make sure you find each specific school’s instructions on supplementary materials and follow them exactly as written.


What Should I Submit as Supplementary Materials?


Now that you understand the logistics of submitting a supplement, you may be wondering what, exactly, you should submit. Your first consideration should be whether or not whatever you are submitting will seriously benefit your application. Supplements should be serious game changers when it comes to your application; if you do not think that it is conveying information that’s extremely important for whoever is evaluating your candidacy to know, then perhaps that supplement does not need to go out at all.


Additionally, you can’t just send anything as a supplement. We’ll be going over the types of submissions that make for the best kinds of supplementary materials, and are the best received by admissions officers.




One option you have is to submit a resume. This can be particularly useful if you feel that the extracurriculars section of the Common Application, or a school’s own application portal, does not give you enough space to express the scope of your extracurricular activities. If you have more than ten extracurricular activities that you are extremely involved in and passionate about, you can choose to list the additional activities on this resume.


Additionally, if some of your activities are more complex and require further expansion to wholly understand them than you can provide in the limited description section of the Common App, you can use a supplemental resume to describe them more thoroughly. Not sure how to write a compelling resume? Check out the CollegeVine guide to resume writing!


Skills based supplements


Another option is to submit a skills based supplement. For instance, if you are a very talented musician, you may choose to submit a sample of your musical performance to the admissions committee. This can be beneficial as it allows you to directly communicate a unique skill that you posses, and brings to life an element of your application.


However, keep in mind that there are usually very specific guidelines when it comes to submitting music supplements, and that these guidelines vary greatly by school. For instance, some schools require that students submitting an arts supplement turn in their entire application before the normal due date. Other schools have detailed instructions on the form, length, or content of these kinds of supplements. You should always pay attention to a school’s guidelines, but in this case especially it is imperative that you follow these instructions very closely, or you risk having your materials not reviewed and potentially antagonizing the admissions committee.


What’s more, submitting your arts supplement will not always help you. It is a decision that needs to be made strategically and with a great deal of thought and deliberation. Supplements should only be sent if you are completely confident that they will be beneficial, and so you must seriously consider whether or not sending in an arts supplement is the best move for you and your application. For more information on the logistics of submitting a music supplement, you can review to our post on the process.


On a related note, if you are a visual artist, an architecture student, or a graphic designer, you may decide to submit a sample of your work. This can be especially helpful if you’re a applying to a university, or a school of a university, that specializes in that respective field. For instance, if you’re submitting an application to the University of Southern California’s School of Architecture, you could greatly improve your chances of admissions by submitting a spectacular set of blueprints you designed to the admissions committee.


Keep in mind that usually, this type of work needs to be sent digitally. Depending on specific guidelines, many schools will not review physical copies at all, so it is crucial that again, you review your school’s guidelines before submitting any materials.


There are other types of skills-based supplementary materials you may decide to submit. Talented creative writers may decide to send in some sample pieces, for instance. Or, if you have completed a major technology project, such are designing a website or launching an app, you may choose to send materials related to such endeavors. In these types of cases, you should contact your specifics schools for guidance, but most times you can make a video or write a brief paper describing and demonstrating the function of this project.


As a rule of thumb, the more the supplement relates to whatever you hope to pursue in college, the more of an impact it will have on your application. Students pursuing a dance major can send a video of a dance performance, for example. Similarly, students who intend to major in the sciences can demonstrate their interest and experience in the field by providing additional information on past research endeavors. For instance, if you’ve conducted scientific research you may choose to submit an abstract of your project, or send in an additional letter of recommendation from a research mentor.


General Guidelines on Supplementary Materials


Note that many additional submissions are processed through third party sites or services, and thus may require an additional fee. You should consider the extra costs associated with supplements when deciding whether or not to submit one.


Additionally, as we’ve mentioned before, you should consider how the supplement will be received by the admissions committee. At the end of the day, admissions committees already have their hands full with the required components of your application. By sending in additional information, you are giving them even more work. Thus, you need to think very carefully about what you choose to send and why.


As a general rule of thumb,you should only send in a sample of your research, research, art, or similar materials if it has been recognized in a significant way. On a related note, you should only submit an additional letter of recommendation if it presents a very unique perspective on your accomplishments and character that is not reflected anywhere else in your application.


Finally, keep in mind that some schools, in general, are less receptive to additional materials than others. With that in mind, above all we recommend looking at each individual’s schools policies whether considering whether you should sent a supplement to that specific school.


We hope that this guide has helped answer some of your questions regarding supplementary materials. Ultimately, supplements can be helpful towards your overall application if they help communicate positive information that is not contained elsewhere. However, make sure to think about all of the considerations that go into submitting supplementary materials before choosing to submit them to your schools.


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Lydia Tahraoui
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Lydia is a Social Studies concentrator at Harvard University who is deeply committed to helping guide students through the college admissions process. In addition to writing for the CollegeVine blog, Lydia enjoys analyzing Middle Eastern and North African politics and keeping up with all things pop culture.