What Other Materials May I Submit in Addition to the Common Application?

We had a student who had a particular obsession with baking. He specialized in creating these incredibly intricate lattice tops for pies. This student also designed and executed those kinds of pie crusts that have various cookie cutter shapes on top, layered in such a way that is so impressive. A true sight to behold. This was a passion of his and when it came time to submit their college application…he wanted to send a pie. Listing “avid pie crust designer” in the additional information section just wasn’t going to cut it. We were a little bit stumped but ultimately decided that sending an actual food item to an admissions office might result in being flagged for anthrax or something insane. Instead, we helped this student create an art portfolio of sorts, but instead of photographs of human subjects or still life paintings, we staged a photo shoot for his pie crusts. The photos came out wonderfully and we submitted all of the photos along with his application. He got into his top choice school. Maybe it was because of the pie crusts, maybe it had nothing to do with them. What we are pretty sure about is that it at least caught the admissions readers’ eyes. Because who else could have submitted a photography portfolio filled with images of beautifully designed pie crusts? We’d venture to say literally not one other applicant.

OK, don’t get all insecure on us now that you know that this student can out-bake your grandma (we’re kidding, obviously no one can top Nana’s pies—we didn’t mean that) and your unique talent is something different or more run of the mill. Or, maybe you just don’t know what, if anything, you can submit in addition to your application materials. Here are a few suggestions:

Additional recommendation letters

But be careful. No need to get yet another teacher recommendation letter. Think about your application like the table at Thanksgiving. You already have mashed potatoes and creamed corn—your two most amazing teacher recommendations—on lock. You don’t need regular corn as well. So don’t ask your English teacher if you already have recs from your History and Biology teachers. They’ll just write more of the same. You don’t need more of the same. If we’re not being absolutely crystal clear: do not send three teacher recommendation letters. No exceptions.

On the other hand, if you have someone in your life who can provide a unique perspective or shed light on a part of your personality that hasn’t come through in your application, then perhaps you could submit a letter from them. For example, we had a student who had been playing piano his entire life. He wasn’t going to be a concert pianist, but it’s something he had been doing his entire life, and it was in his additional information section. He had the same piano teacher come to his apartment every week to help him practice since he was 5 years old. This person could provide an account and a certain set of observations about this student after nearly 13 years of knowing them that a teacher just plain could not. It ended up being a lovely recommendation and spoke to this student’s evolution from a true child into a caring, passionate, committed almost-adult. This is an example of a great additional recommendation.

Arts supplement

You don’t need to be majoring in art to submit an arts supplement. As we mentioned above, if you have a unique creative outlet that you think should be highlighted in a format different from the additional information section then you could submit an arts supplement or portfolio. Let us know if you have a talent you’d like to showcase and we can help you come up with a great presentation format.

Test scores

We really mean, if the school does not require or recommend a test score, such as the SAT II, but they say that they would consider it if submitted, then submit that. Otherwise you really should be submitting all relevant test scores. Unless perhaps you got both a 36 and a 1600 on the ACT and SAT respectively, then we’d advise submitting both.

We could go on, but the question here with any additional content is—is it there for a reason? Does it add meaningful depth to your profile and application, and is it crucial to understanding who you are? Or is it kind of, sort of, just fluff? You know in your heart if it’s fluff.

If your heart and brain are confused right now and you need an honest opinion, call us. Seriously. We’re always honest, if you couldn’t already tell.