Are you an artist or musician? Do you have a published poem under your belt? Have another noteworthy talent? You might be wondering which boxes on your college application to check to represent these achievements. Learn about the benefits (and risks) of submitting supplementary materials to colleges.

What are Supplementary Materials?

If you have a skill or an exceptional achievement that can’t be demonstrated on your application, some colleges give you the option to submit visual, audio, or video samples of original work. Depending on the school, supplemental materials may include:

Supplemental material
  • Audio recording
  • Musical score
  • Art portfolio
  • Short film
  • Dance video
  • Creative writing samples
  • Academic paper
  • Research abstract
  • Extra letters of recommendations
  • Expanded high school resume

Keep in mind, most admitted students do not submit supplemental materials (unless required by or recommended by a program such as Music or Fine Arts). Admissions committees still place the most weight on required materials like essays and test scores.

Before You Submit College Supplements

1. Check college policies.

There is no blanket policy when it comes to supplemental materials. Check the admissions website for every school you are considering. If they don't accept supplements, don't send any!

2. Who will review?

In some cases, faculty members—not admissions committees—evaluate supplements. So if you submit a short film, expect that a film professor might be the one critiquing your directing skills. You should feel confident that you work is strong and an a necessary piece of your overall application.

3. Think carefully before submitting anything extra.

Admissions committees read thousands and thousands of applications every cycle. Use caution before giving them more to read! An additional letter of recommendation from another teacher won't necessarily tell colleges anything new about you but a letter from an employer might.

4. Follow the directions.

Colleges that accept supplements will list guidelines on their website for how many art pieces to include in a portfolio, acceptable file formats, and how to submit. There might even be a small submission fee. Keep in mind that you will not get your work back, so don’t send originals.

5. What's your story?

College supplements should complement what you say about yourself in the rest of your application. Are you a future STEM major? Consider submitting a recommendation from your summer research mentor. Did you write in your application that you have a passion for creative writing? A carefully curated selection of original poems could be a good addition to your application, especially if you plan to enroll in creative writing workshops in college.

6. If you’re not sure, ask your college counselor.

It’s always a smart idea to schedule a meeting with your college counselor before hitting “send.” A college counselor can help you strategize how to play up your strengths to your target schools.


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