The Ivy Coach Daily

June 9, 2022

Superfluous Material in Admissions Files

Make the most of the space you’re given in your college application — but don’t create extra space.

Is your child thinking of submitting an art portfolio to showcase her artistic chops even though she’s interested in studying chemistry? Is your child considering submitting a fourth letter of recommendation from a former trustee who has never met your child or maybe even a famous person your child met for ten minutes three years ago? Is your child reaching out weekly via email to his regional representative at the schools to which he’ll be applying just to say hi and establish a relationship? If so, you are absolutely going about this all wrong and you’re ignoring a basic tenet of the highly selective college admissions process: “The thicker the file, the thicker the applicant.”

It’s a basic premise of elite college admissions — applicants should not inundate elite colleges with superfluous materials. If a student isn’t applying as an art student, why submit an art portfolio? An extra letter of recommendation from an influential person? There’s a very good chance that letter will rub admissions officers the wrong way — and rightly so. Weekly emails to admissions officers? You don’t think they’ll view this approach as sycophantic? You think your child is the first to think about reaching out directly to an admissions officer? A single email, fine. But weekly emails? Yikes is right.

As we were recently quoted in Town and Country in a terrific piece by Norman Vanamee entitled “Will A Letter of Recommendation from a Famous Person Help You Get Into a Top School?,” Does that mean you should never include additional letters? Of course not, said [Ivy Coach’s Brian] Taylor. But keep in mind that old expression used in admissions circles: ’The thicker the application file, the thicker the student.’” Too many students (and their parents) are inclined to submit tons of superfluous material, thinking the more the merrier. But, when they do so, they’re violating an age-old tenet of elite college admissions and risking becoming unlikeable to the very people weighing their case for admission.

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