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  • Bentham Team

How to use the Additional Information Section

You’ve revised your essay a hundred and ten times until it is a glittering gem. You’ve chased down recommenders, arranged and rearranged your activities list, and just when you think you’re done, you are confronted by the optional Additional Information section.  You are perplexed. Do you need to write something here? And if so… what?

What is it for?

The additional information section was created during the COVID-19 pandemic so that students whose grades suffered because of challenges with remote learning, such as lacking adequate technology, depression, and illness, were given the opportunity to explain why their grades or test scores had suffered. The question was left open-ended, and now you have the good fortune to be able to use it if your academic performance suffered for a reason they should know about. It doesn’t have to be Covid!

So what can you write about in this section?

First of all, it is truly optional, so if your academic performance hasn’t suffered, or it suffered because you let your study time TikTok away, you don’t have to respond to this prompt. You’re done! Click “send”. Commence celebrating.

If your performance has suffered, due to sickness or a chronic health condition, a family emergency, a natural disaster, a financial crisis, or anything else beyond your control that brought your grades or scores down, write about it. 

How should I write in this section?

This is not another essay. Be brief, precise, and make clear the connection between your extenuating circumstance and your academic performance:

Yes: During the second semester of my sophomore year, my parents decided to get a divorce. There was a lot of shouting and tension, which made it difficult for me to focus on my studies. I also began moving back and forth between two houses, and there was a period of adjustment when I would forget something I needed to complete an assignment. During that semester, my grades suffered as a result.

No: My parents' divorce affected me deeply. I cried myself to sleep every night. It was such a pain to move back and forth between two houses, and listen to them fight. But, I decided I wouldn’t let their stupidity affect me. I buckled down and worked harder.

In the second version, the relationship between the divorce and the student’s academic performance isn’t made clear. It’s too little information and too much information at the same time.

Write simply and honestly.  If an applicant precisely explains a medical condition and how it affects their schooling, and how it will continue to do so in the future,  the reader will respect their maturity and honesty and will want to go to bat for them.

What should I not write in this section?

Think of how many essays the admissions committee is going to have to read, and how many additional information responses they’re going to read, as well. They have given you an opportunity, in good faith, to explain how an extenuating circumstance affected your academic performance.  How are they going to feel about you if you use this section to try to shoehorn in more of your accomplishments and honors? How are they going to feel if you use this section to simply make excuses, such as telling them your grade in an AP class was much higher than your AP Score? There is a big difference between explaining a circumstance and giving an excuse.  

Don’t use this section to fit in more activities and honors. If they wanted more than ten of these, they would have asked.

Don’t blame your performance on teachers. You might justly feel that your AP Bio teacher was terrible, and that is the reason you did poorly in the class, but you aren’t going to be able to persuade the admissions committee of that, and students blame teachers unjustly often enough that your excuse won’t be credible.

Don’t try to explain things that the admissions committee already understands. They already know that a B in an Honors course means as much as an A in a regular class, or more. They already know that the first semester of Senior year is very intense and you are too busy to do everything perfectly. 

Don’t camouflage a boast. Students sometimes use this section to mention the things they did well, in spite of adversity, such as moving to the United States midway through high school and having to take a lot of extra courses - if you handled all this well, it shows in your transcript, and will be mentioned in recommendations. They don’t belong in the additional information section. 

There are always exceptions.

If there is something really interesting about you that you couldn’t cover anywhere else in your application, you could use this section to discuss it briefly. Are you taking a gap year before college to hike the Appalachian trail or build houses for Habitat for Humanity? Go ahead and tell them. As it is not something you’ve already done, it isn’t covered anywhere else on your application. If you have a talent that will make a unique contribution to the campus if admitted, you can share that here. If you want guidance concerning whether something should be included in the Additional Information section, contact Bentham Admissions!


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