Do you need to write the optional essay?
Before we get into the specifics of optional essays, we wanted to share some general guidelines around the optional essay prompt.
- Do not feel obligated to write this essay
The application is designed to get to know the most important aspects of your candidature, and if you feel that you’ve covered everything important through the other aspects of the application, don’t write the optional essay. The Admissions Team will thank you!
- Be clear and concise, offering brief explanations or descriptions of the circumstances
- If your profile has any clear and gaping (extenuating) issues, which are described below, ALWAYS write the additional essay.
- Before deciding to include some topics in this essay, ask yourself if your application is truly incomplete without this information.
Typically, there are two kinds of optional essays you see in MBA applications.
First, the ones that are open ended and give you some space to tell the admissions committee about anything you might deem necessary.
Second, and the far more popular choice recently, the optional essays that colleges want you to use to ONLY explain if there are any extenuating circumstances in your application.
We are seeing more and more schools lean towards the latter when it comes to an optional essay prompt.
Let’s start with the second option – extenuating circumstances and what they are. The following situations fall under this category, and you should only write this essay if you have to explain a serious issue with your overall profile.
- Low GPA in school or college or any other academic weakness/issues
- Low GMAT Score
- Gap in your professional or academic history
- Your recommender is not a traditional one, such as your boss or client
If you do have any of these circumstances, you should ALWAYS write the optional essay. The best defense is a good offence, and this allows you to get ahead of any surprises the Admissions team might get.
The first option is more open-ended and gives you an opportunity to add more to your candidature. Remember, even though this is open-ended, ask yourself if you truly need to add this information to your application before including an optional essay. Now, you can use this space to talk about some passion project you initiated and its impact, an entrepreneurial gig, a hobby or activity you engage in regularly or an unusual background, this would be the place to highlight it. Again, we urge you to keep the essay crisp and to the point, bringing out diversity in your profile, your strengths or weaknesses and achievements through these activities.
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