Should You Submit Optional Materials When Applying to International Universities?

by | Apr 11, 2023 | Admissions

The specific application materials required for international universities can vary depending on the institution and the program to which you are applying.

The most commonly required materials for college applications abroad include:

In some cases, some of the application materials required may be optional. It’s up to you, as the applicant, to decide whether to include those materials or not.

Some commonly required optional application materials when applying to international universities may include:

  • Additional essays or writing samples: Some universities may provide an optional essay prompt or allow you to submit additional writing samples beyond the required personal statement.
  • Supplemental materials: This could include a portfolio of your work, additional letters of recommendation, or any other relevant materials that you believe would strengthen your application.
  • Standardized test scores: Some schools are standardized test optional for domestic and international students. That means you don’t have to include SAT, ACT, or GRE scores in your application.
  • Interview: Some universities may offer optional interviews with admissions officers or faculty members.

Probably, the top question on your mind is “Should I include optional materials when applying to universities abroad?”

Let’s explore.

The most important thing to remember is that Just because an item is listed as “optional” does not mean that it is not important.

When you come across “optional”, it’s wise to read it as “required” or “strongly recommended.”

You don’t want to miss your shot at admission because of not including “optional” materials. For highly competitive schools and programs, every little thing you can add to show that you’re a great fit counts.

Submitting additional materials could potentially enhance your application and set you apart from other applicants. For example, a supplemental essay may be what convinces the admission officials to give you a spot.

General rule of thumb: If the optional materials can strengthen your application and provide additional information about your qualifications, then it’s a good idea to submit them.

That said, submit supplemental materials only when they’re of high quality and truly add value to your application. If the optional materials you have don’t add value to your application or are poorly executed, it may be better to focus on the required materials and ensure that they are as strong as possible.

By the same token, avoid submitting any materials that the school has explicitly asked applicants not to include. For instance, if a school asks you not to include multiple teacher recommendation letters, it’s best to adhere to their guidelines.

Final Word on Optional Materials

The decision to submit optional materials should be based on a thoughtful assessment of the university’s competitiveness and the strength of your other application materials.

If in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of submitting optional materials with your application. If you choose to include optional materials, put as much effort into making them just as high-quality as the non-optional application materials. 

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