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How to Use Optional Essays to Stand Out from Other Applicants?

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Finding techniques to differentiate oneself from other applicants is essential in today’s highly competitive employment and higher education markets. Utilizing the potential of bonus essays is one such method. These essays are optional, but they offer a great chance to set yourself apart from other applicants by discussing topics that aren’t included in the normal application. In this article, we’ll discuss how to use these supplementary writing assignments to set yourself apart from the crowd and boost your application’s chances of being selected.

Why do colleges offer optional essays?

We should understand why schools have this choice before we delve into the specifics of how to handle this monster. The statement that comes with the Optional Essay at most institutions gives some insight into its purpose; it serves largely to clarify any special circumstances your profile may have. Here is your chance to explain your previous mistakes, so go ahead and invent an excuse or two.

We’ll soon dig into a variety of similar cases and discuss strategies for handling them. However, in rare cases where such caveats are not present, the optional essay might focus on a more favorable aspect of your profile that you may need more time to fully develop in your CV, other essays, or the remainder of the online application.

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That being said, why do institutions of higher learning implement such practices? The reason for this is because they prefer to give you the benefit of the doubt than to provide room for ambiguity. Recognize it, and move forward with care.

When and how to use optional essays in MBA applications?

Before we go any further, let’s take a little grammar refresher (that italicized option in the previous paragraph wasn’t an accident). As a noun, the term “option” refers to a potential course of action among several possibilities.

On the other side, the word “optional” describes anything that is not required and is up to personal preference. It only implies you aren’t required to complete the extra essay. Only use it if you genuinely need to bring up a new point or if there is a good rationale for the special circumstances.

You’re not going to win any friends by giving the MBA college admissions officer yet another essay to read simply for the joy of it. The emphasis here should be succinct and factual rather than creative and innovative (barring extraordinary situations). Feel free to stick to the word count, if there is one. Let’s take a look at why, when, and how you might need to submit an optional essay, as well as some pointers on what to include.

An optional essay is an additional component of an application that allows applicants to provide further insights into their qualifications, experiences, or personal circumstances. Unlike required essays or application components, which usually have specific prompts, the optional essay offers more flexibility regarding topic selection. It allows applicants to choose what they want to address, allowing them to personalize their application further.

The Value of an Optional Essay:

Now that we understand what an optional essay is, let’s delve into why it is a valuable asset in your application:

Showcasing Uniqueness:

One of the primary reasons to include an optional essay is to stand out from other applicants. It allows you to highlight your unique qualities, experiences, and perspectives that may not be fully captured in other parts of your application. By taking advantage of the optional essay, you can present a more comprehensive and authentic picture of yourself, setting yourself apart from the competition.

Addressing Weaknesses:

An optional essay provides a platform to address any weaknesses or gaps in your application. It allows you to offer an explanation or provide context for circumstances that may have affected your academic performance or professional trajectory. By addressing potential concerns proactively, you can mitigate any negative assumptions and demonstrate your ability to reflect, learn, and grow from challenges.

Providing Additional Context:

Sometimes, the standard application needs to provide more space for you to elaborate on certain aspects of your background or experiences. The optional essay allows you to provide additional context and delve deeper into significant events or circumstances that have shaped your journey. This extra space enables you to convey the full extent of your achievements, personal growth, and unique background, offering a more comprehensive understanding of who you are as an applicant.

Demonstrating Passion and Fit:

An optional essay can also demonstrate your passion for the institution or organization you are applying to. It offers an opportunity to showcase your knowledge about their values, programs, or initiatives and explain how they align with your aspirations and goals. By emphasizing your genuine interest and fit, you can demonstrate your commitment and increase your chances of being considered an ideal candidate.

Exhibiting Strong Communication Skills:

Writing an optional essay provides a chance to demonstrate your written communication skills. It showcases your ability to articulate your thoughts effectively, organize your ideas, and present them clearly and coherently. Admissions officers and employers highly value these skills, and the optional essay allows you to showcase your proficiency in written expression.

Displaying Initiative and Effort:

Including an optional essay demonstrates initiative and a willingness to go above and beyond the minimum requirements. It shows that you are serious about the application process and willing to invest the time and effort required to make a compelling case for your candidacy. This proactive approach can leave a positive impression on admissions officers or employers, showcasing your dedication and enthusiasm.

Why You Need an Optional Essay:

Now that we understand the value of an optional essay, let’s discuss why you need it in your application:

Stand Out from the Competition:

In a highly competitive applicant pool, standing out is crucial. The optional essay provides a unique opportunity to differentiate yourself from other candidates by sharing aspects of your experiences or qualities that make you truly exceptional. It allows you to make a lasting impression and leave a memorable mark on the admissions officers or employers reviewing your application.

Address Potential Concerns:

An optional essay allows you to proactively address any potential concerns or weaknesses in your application. Whether it’s a dip in grades, an employment gap, or any other aspect that may raise questions, the optional essay gives you a chance to provide context, explain the circumstances, and showcase your ability to overcome challenges. By addressing these concerns head-on, you can present a more comprehensive and favorable view of your candidacy.

Tell Your Full Story:

Standard application components may need to provide more space to convey your story, experiences, and achievements fully. The optional essay allows you to delve deeper into important aspects of your life that have shaped your journey. It allows you to highlight unique experiences, personal growth, or significant accomplishments that may need to be adequately captured elsewhere. By telling your full story, you can paint a more vibrant and compelling picture of who you are as an individual.

Demonstrate Fit and Interest:

Admissions officers and employers are looking for qualified candidates and want genuinely interested individuals aligned with their institution or organization. The optional essay provides an avenue to showcase your knowledge about the program, institution, or company you are applying to. It lets you articulate why you believe you are a good fit and how their specific offerings and opportunities align with your goals and aspirations. Demonstrating this fit and interest can make you a more appealing candidate.

Express Creativity and Passion:

Unlike standardized application components, the optional essay offers more creative freedom. It allows you to express your individuality, creativity, and passion in a way that captures the attention of the reader. By choosing a topic that resonates with you and using engaging storytelling techniques, you can make your essay come alive and leave a lasting impression. This creative approach helps you stand out and showcases your unique personality.

Display Strong Writing Skills:

Writing skills are essential in academia and many professional fields. The optional essay provides an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively through the written word. Admissions officers and employers look for candidates who can express their thoughts clearly, concisely, and persuasively. By crafting a well-written and compelling optional essay, you can showcase your writing skills and leave a positive impression.


While the optional essay may not be mandatory, its inclusion in your application can significantly enhance your chances of success. It allows you to stand out from the competition, address potential concerns, tell your full story, demonstrate fit and interest, express creativity and passion, and display strong writing skills. Utilizing the optional essay effectively can make a memorable impact on the admissions officers or employers reviewing your application. Embrace this opportunity to showcase your unique qualities, experiences, and perspectives, and maximize your chances of securing your desired college admission or job opportunity.

You can also read: How to choose the right MBA Program based on your profile?

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