In the past, we have discussed how challenging competing against a faceless mass of fellow applicants can be and how disadvantaged people can feel if they do not seize every opportunity to do so. Although we want you to make the most of every possible chance to set yourself apart, you also need to be judicious in choosing those opportunities. Some can actually work against you and thereby turn into negatives. Allow us to elaborate…
Not every applicant needs to write the optional essay, and by neglecting to write it, you are not putting yourself at any kind of disadvantage. This extra essay is an opportunity for you to discuss problems that the admissions committee will likely notice in your profile, and it can allow you to “get ahead of the scandal,” so to speak. So, if you earned an F grade, had a bad semester in college, received a low GMAT score, or have been dismissed from a position, the optional essay will allow you to proactively address and explain the issue. Similarly, if you are applying with a partner, and the admissions committee may not be aware of this, you could use the optional essay to inform them of this relevant and potentially interesting information.
MBA candidates have many reasons for writing the optional essay, but you should absolutely not feel that you must write one. If you have nothing to explain and have generally performed well, do not use this opportunity to submit an essay from a different school just to fill the space or write a new essay repackaging your strengths. If you have nothing new or important to share, you are in an advantageous position and should take a step back and appreciate it, rather than fretting.
For more information about optional essays, check out our free mbaMission Optional Essays Guide.