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?

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).

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.)

Margaret Tung
Strategist Yale University

Does it help to include supplemental materials with your application?

It depends. Supplemental materials might help tip a strong application over the edge into the admitted pile, but don't send just any old thing. The office is cluttered with enough information--they don't need to see the blanket you crocheted your junior year UNLESS it's something you're completely passionate about, you've won awards for it, or you run a startup that donates one blanket for every blanket bought to someone in need. Catch my drift? Now, supplemental materials like that might help an otherwise weak application (weak on stats, good or medium essay) as well. So if you're going to send something along, be judicious about it.

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.

Bill Pruden
Head of Upper School, College Counselor Ravenscroft School

Does it help to include supplemental materials with your application?

If the material is substantive and helps fill out the picture of you being presented to the colleges than it can be helpful. In general, the application should be focused on portraying as fully and as effectively as possible who you are, what you have done, and what you have to offer that school community. If you have supplemental material that does that, that reinforces and strengthens the central components of your picture than it is all to the good, but if it little more than a list of additional activities, things in which you have dabbled and adds no substance, than it can only serve to blur the core picture you seek to present and ultimately distract the reader and detract from your application. Quality over quantity is no small factor in an admissions process that involves the review of literally thousands of applications annually.