What are Supplemental Materials for College Applications?

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


Are you a high school graduate preparing to apply to colleges? You’re probably wondering what the application process would look like. Many blogs recommend mastering how to write top-notch essays, getting good test scores, obtaining excellent recommendations, and crafting creative descriptions of your extracurriculars. While all these are great, there’s one aspect people often neglect: submitting a supplement material. What are supplemental materials for college? When should you submit supplemental items? We’ll find out in this article.

What is the Purpose of College Supplementary Materials?What is the Purpose of College Supplementary Materials?

One of the first questions students often ask when they first hear about supplemental materials is why they need it, especially considering all the documents they’ll usually need to send alongside.

One of the best ways to understand its need is to look at the supplemental materials meaning itself. As the name implies, supplemental materials are additional content that provides necessary information that may not be captured in your college application essay and resume. Of course, most colleges do not require it as a necessity, but students often still submit it, considering all the numerous benefits it brings to college applications.

However, what is the purpose of submitting supplemental materials? Naturally, you’d want your college application to stand out, especially if you’re an ambitious and high-achieving student. But it’s often hard to know how to set yourself apart for top college admission, especially when most students applying to top colleges boast of excellent test scores, great grades, and numerous extracurriculars. This is where supplemental materials for college applications come into play.

They’re an opportunity to stand out of the crowd and make admission officers notice you. However, supplemental materials differ based on several characteristics, and it’s important to know what makes a good supplemental material before sending any. (More on that in the later parts of this article).

What are Some Examples of Supplemental Materials for College?

What are Some Examples of Supplemental Materials for College?

Now that we’re clear on what supplemental materials for college applications are and their purpose, you may think about what to submit as supplemental materials.

Firstly, before submitting, you should consider how beneficial a material would be to your admission chances. If supplemental material does not show your desire to be in a college and your standout qualities, there’s no point submitting it in the first place. Your choice of materials should serve as serious game changers when juxtaposed with what others are submitting.

Additionally, it’s important to note that you can’t just send everything as a supplement, as some materials can even detriment your admission chances. That said, we’ll review some materials you should submit and offer relevant examples under each type.


Resumes are the most popular type of college admission supplemental materials. They are especially useful for moments when the application portal limits your ability to tell more about your qualities. It’s also the perfect place to list and talk about some of your extracurriculars.

There will be instances where your extracurriculars would be too complex to list. In such cases, a supplemental resume allows you to talk more about the activity and how it’ll impact your college stay.

Skill-Based Supplementary Materials

Unlike resumes, this type of supplement allows you to express your skills and talents in ways relevant to your stay in a college. For instance, if you’re a gifted artist, musician, or sportsperson, a skill-based supplement will help you submit the best sample of your skill. This is typically beneficial because of the level of exposure it gives to your skill set. Besides, it brings your skills to life as a part of your application.

Some examples of skill-based supplemental materials include:

  • Audio recordings
  • Art portfolios
  • Musical score
  • Dance video
  • Short film
  • Creative writing samples
  • Sports video, etc.

However, note that most colleges have specific rules that guide the submission of skill-based supplemental materials, and these rules vary from school to school.

For example, the admission officers at Yale University expect applicants to submit their Yale supplemental materials through SlideRoom. This third-party website facilitates the submission of digital files to the office of undergraduate admissions. Other schools have their own rules and detailed instructions that you’ll usually find in the admissions section of their websites. It’s important to always follow specific guidelines listed on their websites, or you may risk losing the opportunity to impress the admissions committee with your skills.

Notwithstanding, it’s not just enough to submit your skills supplements. You must be as strategic as possible while submitting it. Only send supplements that you’re completely confident will benefit your admission ambition.

Research materials

Here’s another type of supplemental material for people who have completed serious academic research. If you’ve had any of your previous research materials published, include them as supplemental material. However, not all schools request or accept this material. Some schools that may accept research materials as supplements include UChicago, Columbia, MIT, Havard, Yale, and UPenn.

Some examples of supplemental materials that fall under this category are:

  • Research abstract
  • Academic paper

Note that there’s usually no difficult rule for submitting this type of supplement, but here are recommendations that will help:

  • Ensure that your research is original
  • Your research should be completed in collaboration with a published mentor
  • Ensure to polish whatever you’re submitting as much as possible

When to Submit Supplemental Materials?

When to Submit Supplemental Materials?

First, let’s point out that there’s no guarantee that your school will even review your supplemental materials, especially since they are not required for admission. Besides, schools always receive tens of thousands of applications yearly, with hundreds of thousands of required documents pouring in along with these applications.

These documents take much time to review; thus, most schools will rather not request supplemental materials or guarantee they’ll read them. However, if your supplemental material beats the odds and gets to the desk of an admission officer, it increases your admission chances. This is where knowing when to submit supplements comes into play.

Every school has their requirements about what you should send and when you should send it. Failure to follow the required timeline may likely lead to the throwing out of your supplements. Besides, it can also grieve the admissions committee, which is not a great thing to start with.

Again, we recommend checking your school’s website for their specific timeline. Most schools accept supplements between mid-February and March. At Columbia University, the admission committee expects applicants to submit their supplements by November 1 for Early Decision applicants and January 1 for Regular Decision applicants.

Does Supplemental Materials Help With Your Application?

Does Supplemental Materials Help With Your Application?

The direct answer to this question is sometimes. Yes, it helps, but usually only when a college makes specific provisions. Unfortunately, despite the importance of supplementary materials, students hardly know whether an admission committee has seen their supplemental materials or not. The truth is that every institution has their unique approach to supplemental materials.

There’s so much to tell about a college or an institution just by their approach to supplemental materials, i.e., are they bureaucratic or personal? Do they see you as a student they can impact or just another means for generating more tuition dollars?

Some institutions have specific ideologies, and knowing the person you are outside your grades helps them predict whether you’ll fit into their ideologies and be an asset to their community or not. In such cases, yes, your supplemental materials can influence admission decisions.

It boils down to knowing the ideology of the institution you’re applying to. Once you know their ideologies, you can make it clear to them (via a personal statement, creative essay, extracurricular resume, skill-based supplements, etc.) that you know about their college and have what it takes to thrive there.

However, it’s also important to note that many college admissions committees are under pressure to sort through thousands of applications within the shortest possible time. So don’t submit supplements that’ll trigger their anger.

Doing this can be counterproductive and get you on the wrong side of their emotions. So, it boils down to proper research. If you can, contact an advisor from the school and ask their opinion about supplemental materials and how they can impact your admission chances.

Wrapping Things Up: What are Supplemental Materials for College Applications?

So far, we’ve covered important answers to the question, “What do you need for college applications.” However, an important point is that you should only submit supplemental material if it gives a unique perspective on your character and accomplishments that is not reflected in any part of your application.

Finally, it’s important to note that some schools will be less receptive to supplemental materials compared to others. With that in mind, look at a school’s specific policy before submitting any supplement.

We hope the information in this guide answers your most pressing questions about supplemental materials. Ultimately, always ensure that every material communicates positive information not contained elsewhere.

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...

Is AP Chemistry Worth Taking?

Is AP Chemistry Worth Taking?

Perhaps you’re a high school junior or senior considering to take AP Chemistry and are weighing the merits of this challenging yet rewarding course. Known for its rigorous academic demands and significant time investment, AP...

Read More
How Old is Too Old to Go to College?

How Old is Too Old to Go to College?

One common misconception about college is that only students in their teens and early twenties attempt college. Unfortunately, this misconception has stopped many older people from enrolling in college to further their education. But the...

Read More