What to Write in the Additional Information Section of the Common App + Examples

01/11/202311 minute read
What to Write in the Additional Information Section of the Common App + Examples

The Additional Information section is an often-overlooked part of the Common Application, or the Common App. This section is your opportunity to provide important context for your application's overall impression. Used incorrectly, it can make your application feel frazzled or redundant.

In this blog post, we'll explain the purpose of the Additional Information section of the Common App. We’ll also provide guidance on how to make the most of this valuable space. By the time you finish reading, you'll know how — or whether — to use this section to enhance your college application.

What is the Additional Information Section on the Common App?

Before we dive into the specifics of how to complete this section, let's clarify what the Additional Information section is and why it matters. 

The Additional Information section is a freeform text box on the Common App. In allows you to include any information you want the admissions committee to know. This might include:

  • Details about extenuating circumstances.
  • Additional achievements.
  • Context for aspects of your application that require further explanation.

It's an opportunity to provide the admissions committee with a more comprehensive understanding of your background, experiences, and circumstances. It’s also a chance to elaborate on any part of your application that may be unclear or incomplete. 

For example, maybe you had a significant medical issue that affected your academic performance during a particular year. Or perhaps you spent a substantial amount of time outside of school pursuing a personal project or family responsibilities. The Additional Information section is the place to include details about these circumstances.

Where to Find the Additional Information Section on the Common App

  1. When you log into the Common App website, click on the “Common App” tab. 
  2. Select “Writing” from the sidebar.
  3. Scroll down past the “Personal Essay” section and click on “Additional Information.” 
  4. You’ll see the following question: “Do you wish to provide details of circumstances or qualifications not reflected in the application?” Select “Yes.” 
  5. A text box will appear.
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Note that as of 2023, you also have the opportunity to share information about the impact of COVID-19 by selecting “Yes” as the answer to the first question. If you do so, an additional text box will appear.

What to Put in the Additional Information Section

Consider the “big picture” of your application. Is there anything missing? Is there anything you need admissions officers to know about you that didn’t quite fit into any other section? This is your opportunity to include it.

Here is a list of things you might include in the Additional Information section:

Academic Information + Examples

  • Gaps in Your Academic Record. If there are any significant gaps in your academic history due to medical issues, family matters, or other circumstances, you can address these here.
  • Course Choices. If you've taken an unconventional or particularly challenging course load, you can explain your choices here.
  • Standardized Test Scores. If your SAT or ACT scores don't accurately represent your abilities, provide context. You might mention if you have test anxiety or faced challenging conditions on test day.
  • Showing Academic Rigor. If you've engaged in learning opportunities outside those courses included on your transcripts, include them here.

Examples 1:

Online courses taken:

“Justice,” taught by Michael Sandel. Access provided by HarvardX, on EdX.

Example 2:

Academic Curriculum/Rigor: Concerning my academic school curriculum, the option for extended inquiry through honors designations allows students to dive into more challenging coursework. It is my school's highest level of study and is designed for students who want to take their learning to a higher level. On my transcript and school profile, the two stars next to my grades represent the courses in which I earned an honors designation through extended inquiry for the full year by pursuing advanced projects and assignments individually. I have continued to pursue honors in my STEM courses and French throughout high school as those have continued to pique my curiosity out of the classroom.

Courses Taken:

Disease Cluster Class Certificate - Earned by Johns Hopkins University on Coursera (June 2020) Grade received: 98%

Intro to Modern Nanotechnology Certificate - Earned by MEPhix on ed (July 2021) Grade received: 99%

Extracurricular Activities + Examples

  • Significant Commitments. If you have extensive extracurricular commitments that have consumed a significant amount of your time (e.g., caring for a family member, running a business, conducting research, or pursuing a personal project), this is the place to explain those commitments and their impact.
  • Leadership Roles. If your extracurricular involvements include leadership roles, provide context for these responsibilities and their significance.


Comic Series: I created my own Comic Series based on three different medicines to teach children about overlooked topics in STEM.

Comic Link: [link}

[News Agency] Segment: Featured in a segment on [News Agency] for my fundraising efforts for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as a Student of The Year Candidate, including the [Corporate Sponsor] event I led for my entire grade, family, and friends.

Link to Segment: [link]

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Personal Circumstances + Example

  • Challenging Life Events. If you've experienced personal challenges that affected your academic or extracurricular performance, such as family issues or a personal crisis, you can provide an overview of these challenges.
  • Diversity and Identity. This is the space to share relevant aspects of your background, identity, or experiences that contribute to your diversity and perspective. 


Student Research Positions

Faced with initial challenges in securing a research position due to my young age, I expanded my search and reached out to many professors across US and Canada. I have since held three research assistant positions:

  • [Position 1]
  • [Position 2]
  • [Position 3]

Note how the student described the challenge in factual language and took responsibility for confronting the challenge.

Additional Context for Achievements + Example

Ideally, you’ve listed your most impactful extracurriculars in the Activities section and the Honors tab of the Education section. Here, you may wish to provide more information than what you’ve already given. 

For example: Say you published a research paper. You’ve already put the name of the paper and the professor(s) you worked with in the Activities section. In the Additional Information section, you can include a few details about the paper or a link to it.


Research Internship with Professor [Name]: Brief on the research paper.

Secure the Basics: A Gendered Argument for Universal Basic Services

Pervasive low quality and precarious employment in the [country] market have translated to insecure livelihoods for most of the population. While past studies consider the value of schemes like Universal Basic Services (UBS) to develop [country] employment infrastructure, they do not sufficiently examine the scheme's discriminating impact on various identity groups.

Thus, for my research, I considered UBS' gendered impact by analyzing occupational segregation in sectors where UBS has been proposed to assess the potential effects on female employment. Following from the large female representation in the education (30.05%) and health (45.78%) sectors, my paper reveals how expanding these services through UBS would generate crucial employment that caters specifically to women across educational levels.

Cracking the Common App (Part 1)

What NOT to Include in the Additional Information Section

The Additional Information section provides a valuable opportunity to enhance your application. But there are certain things you should avoid.

In the words of Jeremy Parks, a Former Admissions Officer from Johns Hopkins University: “This section should be curated — it’s not a place for another essay, a resume, or every award you’ve ever received.”

Here's what NOT to include:

A “Kitchen Sink” of Honors and Awards

If you've achieved noteworthy accomplishments such as publications, significant projects, or recognition outside of school, they should be included in the Activities or Honors sections of the Common App. If they aren’t, consider why not before including them in the Additional Information section.

Think of the Additional Information section as a place to provide context rather than completely new information.

Repetitive Information

One of the most common mistakes  students make here is duplicating information from other parts of their application. Remember: Admissions offices already have your academic transcript, extracurricular activities, and awards! Reiterating these details in the Additional Information section is unnecessary. Don’t squander this precious character count on repeated details.

Instead, focus on providing unique insights or addressing particular circumstances.

Negative Explanations, “Whining,” or Excuses

It’s acceptable to explain academic or extracurricular challenges in factual language. Avoid dwelling on negative circumstances without emphasizing your growth, resilience, or lessons learned from those experiences. Admissions officers are more interested in your ability to overcome challenges than in the challenges themselves.

Excessive Length

Be careful not to let the Additional Information turn into a full-fledged essay or an extension of your personal statement. Admissions officers are looking for concise, informative, and purposeful content. Avoid including excessive details. Keep your explanations straightforward and to the point.

How long should the Additional Information section on the Common App be?

Ensure that your Additional Information section is no longer than one page. After one page, admissions officers may start to see it as less valuable to your application.

Do I HAVE to fill out the Additional Information section on the Common App?

No, you don’t! You can leave the Additional Information section of the Common App blank. Only use it if the information there provides crucial context. It’s possible to include everything admissions officers need to know in the main sections of the Common App!

The Bottom Line

The Additional Information section of the Common App is a space to offer curated details that enhance your college application. You can use it to demonstrate academic rigor, make your most impactful extracurriculars come alive, or explain personal circumstances that affected your academics or extracurriculars.

This section should NOT include every honor or activity from your high school career. Rather, let it enhance the details you’ve already provided in the rest of your application. And if you decide your application is complete without using the Additional Information section, that’s perfectly fine!

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