Tips for Answering the Optional Question in your MBA Application Essays

The optional essay in the MBA application always has an added benefit. It provides you a platform to discuss those things which you think the admissions committee must know, but you did not get enough room in your essays to mention it elsewhere. It is suggested that you always answer the optional question as it provides an opportunity explore more about yourself in your essays. Your optional essay might also contain some facts about you that can help to distinguish yourself amidst the crowd of applicants. However, remember that you are not obliged to write the essay. Never copy an essay written for another school to fill the blank here. Muse, spend some time and find facets, which can augment your candidature.

You can use your optional question for the following purposes: 

  • To explain about a set-back in your profile. For example – A low GPA, or modest GMAT score or a gap in your academic or professional career.
  • To illustrate an unique aspect of your profile or an achievement that you could not include in other essays due to word limits.
  • You can also address how your academic background, professional experiences, personal character and career aspirations align with your interest in the MBA program you want to pursue.
  • You can discuss how you can contribute to the MBA experience of your classmates, if you have not discussed it in any other essays.

The optional essay does not have to be necessarily negative. What if you don`t have any weaknesses to address? Lucky you! You can always discuss about an experience or quality that you think will add value to your application. You can also discuss about any specific skill of yours that you could not give adequate attention elsewhere in your application. For example – You play basketball and have lead you university team. You don`t need to be a winner all the time. You can discuss the leadership and team work skills developed from these activities.

The optional essays can also help to discover a different personality of yours. You can discuss your hobbies, contributions to society/community, a short time experience in politics or any significant extracurricular activity, if you consider them to be important. Make sure you do not squander it by merely repeating material found elsewhere in the application or offering some kind of grand finale summary. In that situation, it is better not to be. Doing so simply irritates admission people. They seek finding out the best in you. So try highlighting your best attributes giving it the best possible uniqueness. The bottom line: The optional essay is an opportunity for you to provide additional reasons for the admission committee to admit you. But remember the optional essay is not an option if there is a weakness or inconsistency in your application. 

B-schools are not only concentrated on your professional skills but they are also interested in finding out you as a person. No doubt professional skills are important, but your personal background gives an overall idea about you as an efficient person and will help the admission people to predict how successful you can be at work. Your profile consists of your academic background, professional experiences, personal interests and activities. As much as possible, try to keep the components of your profile multifaceted and consistent with the overall theme. Share your thoughts and experiences to give the admission committee a clear picture of your leadership skills, career goals, achievements (academic, personal or professional), failure story, and your motivational sources. Your essay, if written skillfully, will enable the admission officers to see you as an asset for their institution. 

Frame your answer in a manner that gives equal weightage to your personal and professional skills. All of us have a different story to tell, a story of our unique experiences, dreams and choices. Your application carries your story to the admission people. So before writing sit and think carefully, what different in your application will divert the admission committee towards your essay will compel them to take a note of you. Focus on highlighting your uniqueness and projecting yourself as an asset to the school. Portray yourself faithfully. Display some aspects of your past experiences that makes you stand out in the crowd. Unless the admissions committee gets to know you fairly well, they are certainly not going to offer you a place. 

Take this question for its face value and furnish the information, expose the surface which admissions committee wants to see. Make an effort to make them see what you are and what you actually dream for. Use it wisely to increase your chances of getting admission into MBA program of your choice.

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Any one essay, 500 words, single round reviewing with detailed feedback for improvement, no editing.