The following is an excerpt from the Extra Application Materials chapter of our Best Book.
In addition to the essay and application, some schools will provide supplemental questions for you to answer. Sometimes they are optional, but you definitely need to make use of any blank space to try and demonstrate who you are. So don’t think of the supplementary materials as optional. They are a chance to show what a great applicant you are.
In addition to all the applications, there’s one thing that’s not required but which I submitted anyway. It was a photo album of myself. I think these applications are all about words, and I’m a very vivid human being in person, so I created a photo album to set my application apart. It focused on all the extra curricular activities I had. The goal was to present myself well without words, so the admissions counselors had a great picture of who I was. So I put all the important things about me in this album.
For example, one page was about the student council and what I did. I had pictures of all the events I planned and things I did. As a class president, I had all the happy family class pictures and other things I organized. There’s another page for chess where I show pictures of me in Spain and all around the world.
People tend to like other people they are more familiar with, so this can be a great way for them to see you over and over and become familiar with you. It will help your impression and they will feel like they know more about you, so it will help your chances of getting into school. The fact that you spent all this time preparing the huge album shows that you really take the application process and the school seriously.
I also use a page tailored specifically to the school. For example, when I applied to Stanford I had a page all about why I love Stanford and everything about it. It gives a very personable feeling.