MBA Application Optional essay has stayed the same despite the change in the word limit, and the number of essays. The word limit for optional essays is in a 300-500 word range and comes at the end of the application. The space is reserved for explaining the weakness in the profile, even though other explicit questions about weakness exist in most MBA Application essays.
Here are seven reasons to write the MBA application optional Essay:
1) Criminal Record
The first nature of weakness relates to law and order. It would be tough to explain serious crimes that would question your judgment, but mention DUI punishments, and fines that did not lead to a serious offense. Most Business Schools will perform a background check on the candidate through third party agencies. Criminal records are accessible through Govt. database including DMV and other national crime bureaus; most of which are available online. Come clean with your records, instead of finding out later that you have received admission to a premier MBA program, but disqualified due to lack of disclosure.
2) Getting Fired
Although you can explain getting fired through setback essays, not all Business Schools have them. You can either explain like Mark Cuban (read the Chapter Fired Before MBA Admissions: Tell Story like Mark Cuban) – rationally or include a little bit of backstory on the chain of events, and circumstances that led to this decision. It would be easier for the Business School to check the exact events that led to the firing. Therefore, don’t make up any story. Stick with what exactly happened, and give your perspective.
3) Gap in Employment
MBA applicants use the Optional Essay to explain the Gap in the employment. Getting Fired might be one reason for this gap, or maybe you found a new interest in traveling or worked in a non-profit. Whatever be the reason, include the facts, and if you had a chance to explain your gaps in other essays, don’t repeat yourself again.
4) Low GMAT/GPA/Unbalanced Score
The optional essay was designed to include academic weakness because most essays never directly give the applicant the opportunity to explain the unbalanced/low GMAT score or varying grades in undergraduate courses. The weakness essay is meant for work experience, and this essay is the only space where applicants can be open about their academic weaknesses. Again, offer counter- evidence for low GMAT verbal score or low grades in a certain set of courses. Include scores in other competitive exams where you have excelled in English verbal. For low grades in undergraduate courses, show how you took extra classes to improve the comprehension in those courses. Include additional transcript for the courses as evidence, and mention that in the essay.
5) Less Experience
Most top Business Schools take applicants with 3-5 years of experience. For applicants with less than 2-Years of experience, this is a chance to include their competency despite less experience. Include achievements that are at the college level and related to academics. Use the other essays to explain achievements in work.
6) Lack of Reference
This can happen if the applicant has worked only with one employer or if she does not have enough experience to demand a legitimate reference letter. Whatever be the case, Business Schools have recommended that Academic reference can only be used as a last resort. If the applicant had no other choice, explain their decision to include an academic reference in this space.
7) Job Hopping
Job-hopping is common among millennials, who find it unappealing to stick to one job if it does not meet their financial, creative, and aspirational needs. It is normal to switch jobs two or three times in a five-year career. But anything more than three in five years will seem odd and give the impression that you don’t get along with others. Include the reasons for the shift, and don’t make any excuses. If it was an unbearable boss - be open about it. Be careful about the tone. Don’t get emotional or overly critical when you explain how you reached the breaking point, and decided to move on to other opportunities.
4 Best Practices for MBA Application Optional Essay
With 300-word limit, applicants cannot go on about their academic or profile weaknesses. Pick the most glaring weakness in the profile, and include it in the most concise manner. To get a third-party perspective, use our Detailed Profile Evaluation Service. 300-word is less than half a page. Therefore, include bigger weaknesses in other essays and academic weaknesses here.
2) No Excuses
The tone of the essay says a lot about the applicant. If the essay gives the hint that the applicant is complaining about the circumstances or individuals, it shows poorly about the applicant’s ability to take ownership of her action. Don’t give any excuses – own up to your mistakes, and show how you fixed it.
3) Be Honest
No matter how much you spin the events that led to your firing, or your DUI arrest, be honest, and show remorse. AdCom will show empathy if you address your weakness with honesty. When you have demonstrated your abilities and leadership potential in other essays, this incident will be just as a small blot in your application.
4) Write it Last
Most applicants answer the essays in a haphazard manner, picking first the essays that are applicable to other Business Schools. Whatever be your process, keep the optional essay for the end. When you complete the essay writing process, you will have a clear understanding on what is missing in your application. This will give you the opportunity to include your real weaknesses in other essays.
Download Winning MBA Essay Guide and Learn how to answer Optional and Main Essay on your Weakness without sounding defensive.
The Guide has an extensive set of Chapters on Storytelling that will make your narrative interesting
Confused about optional essays? If so, you are not alone. Here are some guidelines about the optional MBA application essay.
You shouldn’t tell an elaborate, personal story, or write creatively. You want to use this space judiciously, and to communicate succinctly. This is also not the right place to recap your entire candidacy, or to attach an essay that you wrote for another school.
If you need to discuss your undergraduate record, for example, be specific. Reference that F in Calculus in the Fall of 2010, as well as the Berkeley extension course that you took and got an A in last Spring. Don’t say something vague like “You may have some questions about my ability to handle the work.”
Clarify Gaps, Discrepancies and Deviations.
This is your opportunity to explain why there is a six-month gap between jobs, or why you aren’t asking your direct supervisor for a recommendation even though the school asks you to do so. You do not want to ignore these issues; the schools may think that you are being evasive. It is also a good space to acknowledge a very low GPA or GMAT, and to point to other factors that are more indicative of your potential.
Don’t Tell The Committee What To Think.
However, it is not a good strategy to tell the school that they shouldn’t be worried about your grades, test scores or lack of work experience. They will draw their own conclusions about your candidacy, and insisting that they overlook potential flags can make you seem arrogant and lacking in self-awareness.
Don’t Feel Obligated To Use This Space.
Really, please don’t write anything if you don’t need to address confusing timelines, low scores or grades, an unusual choice of recommender or other core issues. The admissions committee will not welcome a gratuitous additional essay, and will thank you for understanding that that the optional essay is designed for people who need to explain specific aspects of their candidacy.
Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Over the last three years, clients have been awarded more than 10.3 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 95% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.