June 16, 2022

To Write or Not to Write?: Tackling the Optional Essay

After the arduous process of completing business schools’ required essays, one more obstacle stands in your way – the enigmatic optional essay.  While there are many opinions from admissions directors to admissions consultants, Admitify recommends viewing the optional essay as an opportunity to proactively strengthen your application.


Below are a few examples of the optional essay prompt:


  • Tuck – (Optional) Please provide any additional insight or information that you have not addressed elsewhere and may be helpful in reviewing your application. Complete this question only if you feel your candidacy is not fully represented by this application. (300 words)
  • Fuqua – If you feel there are circumstances of which the admissions committee should be aware, please explain them here (e.g. unexplained gaps in work, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance). Note that you should NOT upload additional essays nor additional recommendations in this area. The Optional Information section is intended to provide the admissions committee with insight into your circumstances only
  • Wharton – Please use this space to share any additional information about yourself that cannot be found elsewhere in your application and that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee. (500 words)


Traditionally, optional essay prompts invite two approaches:


  • The Art of Damage Control. In the case of prompts that explicitly limit you to explanations of matters that need explaining, you can tackle the essay by making a case, with evidence, that what appears to be an issue really is not, or acknowledging the weakness but building the case that you have grown past it.  Admitify’s advice for damage control essays is to be brief and specific about the topic of concern, explain your case for viewing the issue in the most positive light, and provide examples of how you have offset the issue.
  • Additive Essays. For optional prompts that do not limit you (”any additional information”) you can use the essay to shed new light into your achievements or the multiple dimensions of your candidacy.  If the school’s required essays mostly focused on your professional accomplishments and leadership, for example, you could use the open-ended optional essay is to describe your extracurricular or community involvements.  Just make sure the new information you provide adds value and has substance.


What “Not” to do for optional essay questions:


  • Lie. Do not put a fictional spin on your poor GPA or GMAT scores.  Tell the truth, keep it simple and brief.
  • Whine about an unhappy outcome. This is an opportunity to show maturity and resilience, not an opportunity to phone the complaint hotline.
  • Repeat topics that were covered in the required essays. Reinforcing a story that you just wrote about in the required essays is not needed.  In that case, go back to the required essay and review that it tells your intended story.
  • Explain deeply personal stories. Remember to keep essays relevant to business school.  Discussing failed relationships or deeply personal events in a vacuum could potentially make the reader uncomfortable and also not help your candidacy.


For additional support and guidance for writing the optional essays, contact Admitify today!