When discussing MBA admissions, we often mention how challenging it can be to compete against a faceless mass and how one can feel disadvantaged if he/she does not seize each and every opportunity before them. And, of course, we want you to seize each and every opportunity, but not attempt to seize opportunities that do not exist and thus turn them into negatives. So, once and for all…
The optional essay does not need to be written by everyone and, by neglecting to write the optional essay, you are not at a disadvantage.
Many candidates feel compelled to write the optional essay, concerned that neglecting it means that they are sending the message: “I am out of additional fascinating stories.” The truth is that the optional essay is an opportunity for business school applicants to discuss problems that the admissions committee would notice anyway and thus “get ahead of the scandal.” So, if you have an F in a class, one particularly bad semester, a low GMAT score or have been dismissed from a position, you should write the optional essay to simply explain why, and not to make excuses. We suggest that you be as brief and direct as possible, while still conveying all the necessary information.
There are many other reasons to write the optional essay (if you are applying with a partner, for example, or if you have achieved something extraordinary that could not fit as an answer to any of the school’s essay questions), but you should absolutely not feel that you need to write it. Unless you have something vital in your candidacy that MUST be discussed, you should approach the idea of submitting an additional essay with caution. If you have nothing to explain and have generally performed well, you should not submit an essay from a different school just to fill the space or write a new essay repackaging your strengths. If you have nothing to write, you are in an advantageous position and should take a step back and appreciate it, not fret.