You’ve Submitted Your Application … Now What?: Sending Additional Information to Colleges
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Common sense seems to dictate that the hardest part of the college application process is actually completing the application: writing essays, mastering the poetry of extracurricular descriptions, asking teachers for recommendations, and finally clicking the “submit application” button at the end of it all. However, for many students, the hardest part isn’t the application at all – it’s the wait!
Not all schools force you to wait in agony for 3 months until your admissions decision is released, however. Many give you the option of submitting additional information, such as an updated resume or additional letter of recommendation, online.
You can usually send such information as late as mid-February or March, which allows you to inform colleges of developments or accomplishments that you weren’t able to include on your original application due in November or December). But will sending additional information actually boost your chances at admission? Read on for a breakdown on if, and how, sending additional information can give your application a boost.
What Sort of Materials Can I Send to Colleges?
It’s important to note that these portals should not be used for required application materials; if you forgot to include your essay or a letter of recommendation on your application (which we sincerely hope you didn’t!), you can’t just send it in a portal and hope no one notices.
If you forgot a required component of your application, call the school in question’s office of undergraduate admissions as soon as possible to see if they’ll accept a late submission. Assuming you’ve already submitted all the required parts of your application, there are several things you can submit post-deadline.
Many students choose to send updated resumes, especially if they’ve won a significant award after submitting their additional application. For example, if you’re captain of your school’s Mock Trial team, and you go on to win the state competition in late February, you might consider sending your top choice schools an updated resume to reflect that accomplishment.
If your full list of accomplishments and extracurriculars doesn’t fit into your application, you can also send a resume, but keep in mind that adcoms limit the number of extracurriculars for a reason: they’re trying to keep their workload manageable while also forcing you to prioritize which activities have been most meaningful to you. Unless your application has forced you to leave out some truly memorable activities, it’s probably in your best interest to leave it as is.
Letters of Recommendation
Portals can also be used to send in additional letters of recommendation from a figure other than a teacher or counselor. You can read more about additional letters of recommendation here, but a few general words of wisdom: the person you select to write an additional letter should be able to speak in detail about some aspect of your personality or accomplishment not otherwise reflected in your application (examples for good writers: a boss for an off-campus job, or the director of a non-profit you’ve been substantially involved with). You should never ask a family member or friend to write an official letter of recommendation, and we do not recommend submitting more than one.
If you’re skilled in the visual arts or in musical performance, you can submit a supplement to demonstrate your accomplishment in your field. You can find more information on arts supplements here, but many of the same rules apply: avoid submitting a supplement unless you feel it can substantially add to your application and demonstrate high proficiency in your field.
Students who have conducted research in high school may choose to submit an abstract of their research to colleges through such portals. If you’re planning on majoring in a field related to the research you’ve conducted, including more information about the research you’ve already conducted is a great way to show off your expertise and experience, and developing an elevator pitch for your research can be a helpful primer when seeking out research opportunities on or off campus later on.
Does Submitting Additional Information Give My Application an Extra Boost?
There’s no one answer to this question; the impact additional materials will have depends largely upon the materials you send and the school you send them to. In general, if you cannot identify a meaningful way in which sending additional materials will add to your application, it’s probably not worth sending them.
Additionally, submitting any additional information or supplements to colleges will probably afford you a greater benefit for less selective colleges than for extremely competitive ones: at competitive schools, excellence in your field is expected, rather than exceptional.
In fact, sending an excess of additional materials might do more harm to your application than good – any applicant who has sent in a load of additional application materials has increased the workload of already busy admissions committees, which could lead to disgruntled admissions officers and an unfavorable attitude towards your application. Furthermore, as these materials are not required components of your application, some schools don’t even guarantee they’ll be evaluated.
However, if you’re an extremely gifted artist, accomplished researcher, or recent recipient of a prestigious award, submitting additional information is a smart idea. The option to submit these materials allows for students to highlight a certain aspect of their skillset. If you’ve described your passion for biology or love for debate in your essays, sending in evidence of your accomplishments in that region corroborates your application and demonstrates to admissions officers passion and accomplishment: a winning combination.
Finally, it’s important to note that no additional materials can make up for fundamental weaknesses in your application. The first things colleges consider will always be basic statistics like test scores and GPA; if you fall short in these areas, you’re much better off relying on a strong extracurricular record or a moving personal essay to compensate. An extra letter of recommendation or an award is unlikely to make much of a difference.
At the end of the day, the decision to submit additional information or materials comes down to your personal discretion. We advise being generally conservative when sending additional materials, but if you have the opportunity to include something that will make your application truly stand out, use it!