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9 months ago
Admissions Advice

MIT's "additional" information sections--what are they looking for here?

So I just looked over all of the MIT application written-response questions, and noticed there are a LOT of "optional" "additional information" type sections. I know if you're applying to competitive schools via the CommonApp, many people use the Additional Information section as an additional short essay, and that typically when schools say something is optional they still want to see it, but I'm super confused just due to the sheer volume of these questions--it feels like if I wrote something for all of them it would be excessive and just make my application a nightmare to get through, but I don't want to leave all of them blank if it would help me to write something for them.

In case it helps, I'll include the "optional" questions below, and the ideas I brainstormed in case I had to fill them out. If anyone knows how MIT wants us to use these, if at all, or could let me know how many/which of these ideas warrant using the extra info section, that would be a lifesaver, I'm just super confused.

1) ***If you think that additional information about your family will give us a more thorough impression of your background, please include it here.***

I would talk about growing up in a medical needs foster family and how caring for others from a young age/recognizing that when I struggle with something, others need help too taught me to prioritize empathy and how that connects to some of my current ECs/initiatives

2) ***If there is anything we should know about your school's grading system or course offerings, please use the space below.***

I will have taken 5 AP classes independently by the end of senior year, since I go to a smaller rural school where AP offerings are limited. This won't be included on a "school profile" where MIT can see what AP classes are offered at my school, because my guidance counselor says we don't have one of those. This also connects to a current initiative I have started to make AP STEM classes more accessible.

3) ***If you have or had any extenuating circumstances (including disruptions due to COVID-19), please tell us about them here. (250 words or fewer)***

I had to quit my job since my little brother is high-risk and had some competitions cancelled but tbh I'm dreading writing this one (if I have to) since I feel like it's so cliche at this point.

4) ***We understand that sometimes things outside of your control impact your ability to complete tests. If you have an extenuating circumstance, such as exam cancellations or illness, please let us know here. (250 words or less)***

I have one mediocre AP score from this year I could explain with the weird test format but I feel like it's just going to sound like complaining since obviously they know what the AP tests were like this year.

5) ***No application can meet the needs of every individual. If you think that additional information or material will give us a more thorough impression of you, please include it here. (500 words or less, optional)***

I could write a longer essay here if I needed to since I do better with long essays anyways, but I don't have any specific ideas so I probably won't use this unless using the space they give you here is important.

So that's that. Does anyone know a good way to approach this and/or have opinions as to which (if any) of these warrant including?

Thanks so much for reading through, I hope this question makes sense :)

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2 answers

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9 months ago[edited]

So one important thing is that colleges DO NOT want you to write another essay in the additional information section (this especially for the 5th question). The additional info section is simply where you explain thing on your application that need more detail like what an award is, why you got a bad grade, etc. It is not a place to showcase your writing ability but just to share information. Thats why there is a separate essay section. Admissions officers are reading so many essays a day that the last thing you want to do is make them read another essay where its not warranted. As for the other questions, answer them if they pertain to you. These questions are optional but if you feel that they are applicable and will help them understand you better , answer them! If they aren't applicable then dont. I'd say your answers to the first 3 questions are reasonable and should be included. The one about how covid affected one ap exam is a stretch though and I'd reframe from including that since ap tests are so minor and it's only one. And colleges are already aware of what happened with AP so you dont need to explain it to them.

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9 months ago

I agree with @Itdogodown that the first 3 seem applicable to the Additional Information sections. You absolutely don't need to write a whole essay either, just a straightforward explanation is fine.

For #5, you actually could write an essay if you wanted, since it's more open-ended and has a longer word count. This would be the place for something important that you couldn't mention or do justice to in the rest of your application. For instance, maybe Model UN is super important to you, and you didn't get to write an essay about it, and it was instrumental to your growth. Or maybe you have an unusual hobby that needs more explanation, like repairing motorcycles.

Hope this helps, and best of luck!

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