When it comes to your admissions package, sometimes more documentation can be your best friend. At other times, though, it can be your worst enemy. Learn when it’s acceptable to add additional paperwork to your portfolio and when you should trim back to just the basics.
Pros of Padding Your Portfolio
In some cases, adding extra documentation to your admissions package can actually help you. Let’s say your high school or college transcripts are less-than-stellar – what you lack in grades and academic excellence you can make up for with rave reviews. An Admissions Officer will be more willingly to forgive flawed transcripts if your teachers have nothing but positive, affirmative things to say about you. Bad semesters and even bad school years happen. Maybe your dog died the same month that you came down with pneumonia, preceding the several weeks that you spent clearing out your parents’ basement after a flood. Admissions employees are people too – they’ll likely forgive a dark spot on your transcripts if everything else about your application is dazzling.
Two more benefits of super sizing your application package? First, going the extra mile shows a commitment to getting into college. Second, it simply looks good to know a lot of people who are willing to say exceptional things about you. The key is to avoid sending in ten generic letters of recommendation that all say the same thing. Instead, pick the two required letters and then one or two more that each have something valuable and unique to say.
Cons of Having an Admissions File on Steroids
“Sounds like there are only good sides to jam packing my admissions envelope!” Not so fast – sometimes having an overfull application can work against you instead of for you. Here’s why:
1. The more materials you submit, the easier it is for your paperwork to get lost. Admissions Processors – the ones who sort, scan and file away your very important documents – have a ton of work to go through on a daily basis. Sure, their job is to keep track of everything that comes across their desk, but the more inundated they are with work, the higher the chance of something getting misplaced. If you send in five necessary documents and five unnecessary documents, it’s possible that a piece could get filed incorrectly, still leaving your crammed admissions file incomplete.
2. Admissions Officers are very busy people. While their job is to help you get into college, there are a lot of applicants who they need to work with every week. Submitting eight extra letters of recommendation or photos from every science fair you ever participated in is both unnecessary and kind of irritating. If you want to brag about your many accomplishments, that’s great – just do so in a succinct way.
3. Your admissions essay has a word count for two specific reasons. First, your Admissions Officer has to read every single applicant’s essay. Writing an extra 500 words makes it much harder to get through an essay swiftly. Second, your essay is the chance to showcase your writing skills, which every college is interested in. Being able to say what you have to say well and in a pre-set number of words will help determine how skilled a writer you are.