Written by James J. Frick, Director, MBA Admissions, Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University
I tend to be very enthusiastic about essays—they present an incredible opportunity for candidates to reflect, share their goals, and articulate a great fit with the schools they are considering! Over the years, I have learned that most candidates don’t share my enthusiasm for essays. As such, I can appreciate that candidates who have already completed multiple essays in an application might not be overly excited at the prospects of writing yet another one. However, I’d like to encourage you to think of this question as a terrific opportunity for you to proactively address concerns the admissions committee may have about your application or shed insight into another aspect of your candidacy.
Before hitting the submit button on your application, it’s a great idea to take a moment and put yourself in the admission committee’s shoes. Are there any concerns they might have in considering your application? If so, this is the ideal space for you to provide the committee with the necessary context. If, for instance, you worked throughout your undergraduate education and your GPA suffered slightly as a result, I would recommend that you speak to this in an optional statement. Don’t use it as an opportunity to make excuses. Rather, acknowledge the committee’s likely concern, provide the necessary context, and discuss lessons this experience taught you or point to other areas in your application that might assuage their concerns (e.g., subsequent courses that you have taken).
This optional question can also be a wonderful opportunity for you to share a story or an experience that was meaningful in your professional or personal development that you simply haven’t had the chance to address in the larger application. Likely, this example will serve to further illustrate larger themes you’ve outlined in your essays. You may, however, also choose an example simply to offer insight into another side of your personality or interests.
While this statement should be succinct and maintain good focus throughout, you can address multiple items in this space. Keep in mind, though, that it is, in most cases, optional. As such, you should not feel obligated to use the space to reiterate points you have already made in the application.
I doubt that I have converted you all to enthusiastic essay writers; however, I do hope you’re thinking about this as an opportunity rather than a burden, and that you now have some strategies for addressing this question should you choose to do so.