Does it help to include supplemental materials with your application?

College Admissions

Our counselors answered:

Does it help to include supplemental materials with your application?

Nina Berler
Founder unCommon Apps

Supplemental Materials

Based on what I've seen with students, it is a nice touch to include supplemental materials with an application, particularly if a student's talent is in a non-athletic area. Supplemental materials may included a DVD, CD, website or other means of helping college admissions officers - or perhaps members of the appropriate department - learn more about the candidate. Colleges are very straightforward about what to submit and how to submit it, so students should seek guidance on the college website. The most common answer is that the college welcomes submissions but does not give back any materials. Certainly, a talented student should try to submit materials but only following the instructions of the particular college. He or she has nothing to lose and perhaps something to gain. There are even independent counselors who advise students in the arts and might change his or her advice depending on the talent and profile of the candidate.

Helen H. Choi
Owner Admissions Mavens

Does it help to include supplemental materials with your application?

What are supplementary materials? In college applications, supplementary materials could include CDs of your musical performances, DVDs showcasing your acting skills, blogs highlighting your writing skills, and websites presenting your artwork or writing, etc. Visual artists, writers, and performing artists can really benefit from submitting supplemental materials because the quality, depth, and breadth of their talents can be difficult to ascertain within the four corners of an application. If you feel that supplementary materials can enhance the admissions staff's picture of you as an applicant, you may want to consider submitting them. However, be sure to keep in mind that supplementary materials most likely will be forwarded to the appropriate departmental staff for review. For example, if you submit a CD of you playing the piano, it will be forwarded to the music department for review. If you submit a link to your art portfolio, it will be forwarded to the art department. In other words, experts in the field will be reviewing your work so make sure you submit your best efforts.

Suzan Reznick
Independent Educational Consultant The College Connection

The thicker the file, the thicker the student

is an old expression that admissions officers use. Be careful and strategic as to what additional , unrequested, information that you might include. If the school allows you to send/upload forms/resumes that support a specific talent such as music, art, theater, sports, then it is indeed in your best interests to include such information. Even if you do not plan on majoring in music, dance or theater, all schools hope to have a diversity of talent on their campuses. As for sending in some additional recommendation/reference letters, consider asking individuals who can write from a new perspective that might enhance your overall application. Those letters need to be adding new information about either your character or talent to your folder, whether from an employer, someone who might have supervised your community service or an acting/dance/art teacher.

Laura O'Brien Gatzionis
Founder Educational Advisory Services

Follow the directions

Research the admissions page of the college's website. Most admissions officers do not want supplemental materials--they are having a difficult time filing all of the required bits of information in any case. Of course, in some cases (such as the arts supplement) certain materials may be required such as a portfolio or a CD. Follow the directions always. If you have a specific question, then contact the admissions officer responsible for your area by email and they will be happy to answer your questions.

Donna Landreth
HS Counselor/Educational Consultant Founder and Owner of Expert College Planning

Supplemental material submissions

Submitting supplemental materials can be positive, depending on what the student's sending to the school. Portfolio's, examples of artwork, music, personal video related to achievemnets, etc...would enhance your application. It's not guaranteed that it will be reviewed by the receiving school.

Corey Fischer
President CollegeClarity

That depends

Some colleges allow it, some don't. If you send supplemental material it must actually add substance to your application. You don't want to waste the time of the person reading the applications by sending something frivolous that does nothing to enhance your application. It should also not be big and bulky, nor should it be long (they are trying to get through a large number of applications and may not have the time to watch/listen to a lengthy recording).

Chip Law
Co-founder Managing Director Educational Avenues

More info? Think before you submit it.

This is always a matter of circumstance. If a school is bombarded with a large number of apps, adding " nice to know" info will actually hurt your admission chances. If you are using the Common App you can always add information that you think is really important in the proper area of the writing section. You should make sure that this info does NOT repeat what you have already revealed. It COULD be very beneficial in the following circumstances: - you have a special interest or skill that you could not find a place for on the app - you need to show depth in an area where you only barely mention it on the regular app - you have special talent, usually the arts, and are NOT applying as an arts student. The submission of a CD or DVD or web link would be appropriate and possibly have a positive impact on your chances for admission.

Reena Gold Kamins
Founder College, Career & Life, LLC.

Supplemental materials don't help.

In general, supplemental materials are not required. Therefore, it would not be fair for committees to evaluate them for some students and not others. Most counselors don't even have time to look at the supplemental materials. However, if you are applying to a program that requests supplemental materials, it is critical that you follow the guidelines for submission precisely.

Mollie Reznick
Associate Director The College Connection

If necessary

I would encourage students to include supplemental materials only if they would be essential in giving an admissions officer a better sense of you (pertinent photographs or drawings, for instance) or to explain circumstances that might have affected your school performance (severe illness, death of a relative, etc.)

Nancy Milne
Owner Milne Collegiate Consulting

Does it help to include supplemental materials with your application?

I counsel my clients to use caution when adding extra materials to an application. It is one thing if a school has requested further documentation. Otherwise, it is a case of less-is-more when it comes to your file. Admissions offices have only so much time to read each folder. A fat folder could be viewed as a burden, a red flag or a really interested applicant; depending on the reader/college. Always check with the institution for their policy and you'll be fine.