Should I Send Colleges a Letter About My Family Situation?

Question: Under the additional information section of the Common Application, I mentioned my family situation where my parent's illness had affected my ability to focus on my studies in school. However, I left out some details that I think might be important and also neglected to mention my complicated home life. Should I consider contacting the colleges I applied to in order to explain this in more depth, or should I just try to bring it up at the interview process?

“The Dean" can't say for sure what your next steps will be without knowing exactly what your situation is and what you've already told your colleges about it via the Additional Information section. But, from what you've said so far, it sounds like it would be a good idea to write a letter that provides more depth and then send it to all of your target colleges.Back in the old days when I read applications at Smith College, I found it confusing when students made vague references to illnesses or problems at home but without providing enough information for us in the admission office to really understand what was going on or to gauge the impact of such issues. Occasionally however, students provided TOO MUCH information (e.g., a play-by-play account of what led to their parents' divorce). So while you should not provide excessive detail, it isimportant to be specific and not leave the admission folks guessing. If you're not sure if the letter you write is saying enough … or TOO much … perhaps you can show it to a trusted adult confidante who can offer feedback before you send it.

You can certainly bring up these same issues in an interview, but a direct letter will probably be more effective, especially if you'll be interviewing with alumni or students rather than with admission staff members.

Good luck!

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