This is the second installment of a four-part series. See Part I: Pick Your Major for how your choice of major may affect your application and chance of admission, Part III: Personal Insight Questions Tricks for tips on how to quickly shorten and improve readability of your responses, and Part IV: Application Fee Payment for a detailed explanation of the fee payment options and fee waiver.
There are two Additional Comments sections in the UC Application where you can add an explanation about your grades, personal situation, or anything else that you feel the application readers need to know about you. The first is in the “Other Academic History” section (550-character limit), which should be used to address anything related to your academic record, and the second is in the “Personal Insight Questions” section (550-word limit), which can be used to address anything else that is important for you to mention. If anything you have to explain about your academic record is too long to fit into the Additional Comments in the “Other Academic History” section, put an abbreviated explanation there and refer the reader to a longer explanation in the Additional Comments in the “Personal Insight Questions” section.
If you have nothing extra to add to the UC Application, it’s perfectly fine to leave the Additional Comments sections blank. You should not use Additional Comments as overflow for continuing your Personal Insight Questions response or a place to add a resume or an extra essay. I should mention though, that the director of admissions from UCSB did once say during a conference that she expects students to have something to say in the space, but then again, Berkeley always advocated AGAINST putting information in Additional Comments for the sake of putting something there … so try to find a happy medium … however you may define happy medium.
Below are some examples of what you might want to put in these boxes:
- If you changed school since 9th grade and that affected your ability to take more Honors/AP courses (at the new school).
- If you are from a low-income and/or first-generation family and how that may have created obstacles for you in your pursuit of academic and/or extracurricular endeavors.
- If you had some issues with your grades (inconsistent performance, improving grade trend, declining grade trend, one or more C’s, one or more non-passing grades, a string of W’s, etc.; basically anything that would raise questions).
- If you have a learning difference and/or medical condition that affected your academic performance and/or extracurricular participation.
- If you have some family issues, financial difficulties, and/or other obstacles that affected your academic performance and/or extracurricular participation.
- If you used other names on official records that you will need to submit (such as transcripts or test score reports) and/or if you need to clarify citizenship/visa issues.
- For freshman applicants: if you took a gap year and didn’t talk about it in a Personal Insight Questions response, explain 1) why you took a gap year and 2) what you did during the gap year.
- For transfer applicants: if you have one or more gaps in your educational history, such as a break between high school graduation and college or breaks during college.
- For freshman applicants: if you have low test scores (arbitrarily, I would say less than 1100 on the SAT or 21 on the ACT), focus on talking about the time and effort you put in to prepare for the test(s) and the improvements you made.
- For transfer applicants: if you have consistently enrolled part-time, explain the reason and what you are doing to work toward enrolling full-time after you transfer (UCs expect full-time enrollment).
- For freshman applicants (for the most part): if you start/stop extracurricular activities (especially if you do that frequently and/or the activities you start/stop require extensive time commitment).
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