In the past, we have advised MBA candidates to exercise caution in choosing to write the optional essay. (See our Monday Morning Essay Tip: The Optional Mistake.) Our philosophy has not changed on this point, but we do want to make MBA candidates aware of certain circumstances, other than discussing a problem area, that may necessitate writing an optional essay.
For example, if you have achieved something absolutely extraordinary that is relevant to your candidacy—something that truly strikes at the essence of who you are—but that will simply not fit as an answer to any of the school’s essay questions, then you should consider writing the optional essay to illuminate the experience and its importance to you. We would advise a candidate to make this exception only in the most unique of circumstances and remind applicants that they should still be quite conservative in their use of this space. Again, this is not the place for a 500-word “extra” essay, but a few sentences illustrating the extraordinary experience and its significance would be appropriate. Such an experience should be able to stand on its own, so you do not need to belabor the point and agitate the admissions committee with a long essay detailing a variety of themes and accomplishments.