As seniors begin to apply to college this fall, they might find tremendous disparity from the approach one college takes to their application process to the next. One of the biggest differences they might find is the kind of information that is required on an application. Indeed, one school might require a piece of information while another lists that as optional. So, this concept of optional information usually taunts seniors with the question, do I send it or not?
These applications can ask for any one of a number of things. It’s probably safe to say that if it’s optional, it’s pretty far down the list of criteria the college will use to accept you, but how can it not make at least a little impression on the person that is reviewing the application?
AP scores are a great example of this. I’ve never heard a college representative tell me they intentionally use AP scores for admission purposes and I’ve asked them about this directly before. However, I have heard representatives reference AP scores in the context of ancillary information that could provide additional information about a student who is right on the line for admission. So, yeah, they don’t seek them out for the purposes of admission but if you have two students who are otherwise equal and one has an average AP score of 1.5 and one has an average of 4.5, that better score could be a real edge.
For the record, I think AP scores and other optional information are far more likely to be meaningful to highly selective schools (think Ivy League) than others. For most schools, optional information is just something a little extra to look at. It only makes sense that the colleges are going to be most interested in the information they require. Think about it, if you loved to cook, and you had to buy a house without seeing it in-person and could only look at five pictures from the inside, one of those pictures has to be of the kitchen, right? You might be able to live without seeing the inside of the garage though.
So, do you send optional informational or not? I generally believe that unless something is glaringly bad for you, go ahead and send it. I’m talking really bad. If your writing score is a little lower than your reading and math, but still in league with them, go ahead and send it. If your AP scores are kind of mixed, go ahead and send them. On the other hand, if something optional for you is just truly awful, then maybe don’t send it. I think we are who we are and the colleges appreciate transparency. If the realtor of that house wouldn’t even let you look in the garage, don’t you think you’d suddenly be a little curious about what was going on in there, even if it wasn’t a room you felt like you’d use a lot?
There is a thin line to walk here. You are who you are and if you’re meant to get into a college, you will. If you don’t have a perfect score or whatever, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad score or whatever. Be realistic about where your optional information truly lies statistically and unless it really is at the bottom of the barrel, maybe it’s better to send it.