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 places 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 “Additional information” (550-character limit) at the end of the “Academic history” section, which should be used to address anything related to your academic records. The second is “Additional comments” (550-word limit) at the end of the “Personal insight” section, which can be used to address anything else you think is important for the UCs to know about you. If anything you have to explain about your academic records is too long to fit into “Additional information,” consider putting an abbreviated explanation there and refer the application readers to a longer explanation in “Additional comments.”
If you have nothing extra to add to the UC Application, it’s perfectly fine to leave those sections blank. You should not use “Additional comments” as overflow for the Personal Insight Questions or a place to add a resume, an extra Personal Insight Question, a recommendation letter, or links to websites (the UCs have very specifically said they don’t want to see any of these things). I should mention though, that the director of admissions from UCSB did once say during a conference that she expects students to have SOMETHING EXTRA to say in the space, but then again, Berkeley always advocated AGAINST putting information in “Additional comments” for the sake of just putting something there … so try to find a happy medium … however you may define it.
Below are some examples of what you may want to explain in these boxes:
- If you are from a low-income and/or first-generation family, you may want to explain how the lack of financial resources and/or family support has created obstacles for you in your pursuit of academic and/or extracurricular endeavors.
- If you had issues with your grades (inconsistent performance, improving grade trend, declining grade trend, one or more C’s, one or more non-passing grades, or a string of W’s – basically anything that would raise questions), you may want to explain the circumstances that prevented you from achieving your full academic potential (remember, this is not a competition for who has the best sob story or an opportunity to badmouth your instructors; be factual and aim for “presenting evidence to a judge” rather than “rallying reality TV show audience”).
- If you have a learning difference and/or medical condition that affected your academic performance and/or extracurricular participation, you may want to explain the practical impact of your condition and how you worked around that (focus on the impact, not the description, of your condition – avoid gross details because no one wants that).
- If you had family issues, financial difficulties, and/or other obstacles that affected your academic performance and/or extracurricular participation, you may want to explain the circumstances that prevented you from achieving your full academic potential (again, this is not a competition for who has the best sob story or who can win the most sympathy; be factual and aim for “presenting evidence to a judge” rather than “rallying reality TV show audience”).
- 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, you should provide a simple explanation (don’t get flowery about this, aim for practicality).
- For freshman applicants: If you changed school since 9th grade and that affected your ability to take Honors/AP courses at the new school and/or interrupted your extracurricular activities, you may want to describe the challenges and what you did to work around them.
- For freshman applicants: If you took a gap year and didn’t talk about it in a Personal Insight Question, you need to explain 1) why you took a gap year, 2) what you did during the gap year, and 3) how the gap year helped better prepare you for the UCs.
- 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, you need to provide a detailed explanation of what you were doing (the UCs ask for this information in multiple places on the application and transfer admission officers regularly completely miss the explanation you provide, so be prepared to repeat yourself multiple times, on the application and even after you submit the application, as you may get an email request asking for the same information).
- For transfer applicants: If you have consistently enrolled part-time, you may want to explain the reason and what you are doing to work toward enrolling full-time after you transfer (regardless of how you may feel, the UCs expect you to enroll full-time after you transfer).
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