Do you need to complete the college application essay prompts? What if you’re at a loss for words? The readers may view this as unprofessional. What would be the repercussions of not submitting it to a school? Is it even more likely they won’t like your response if you write it? Where do I find the rules?

All of your worries are well-founded. Instead of ignoring the optional essay and hoping for the best, let’s investigate it. Let’s dig headfirst into the supplementary essay and how it affects your college application.

Instead of leaving questions up to the interpretation of an admissions examiner, the point of optional essays is to give you (the applicant) the benefit of the doubt. Keep in mind that not all universities require applicants to submit an essay. That’s why it can be done without.

But you’re true that you shouldn’t write them off entirely. Including an optional essay on your college application is a smart idea for several reasons. It can be really useful in some circumstances. Remember that it might be a great chance to set the stage for your narrative before you delete it to save time.

How to handle it?

In the most typical form of optional essay, you’ll be asked if there’s anything extra you’d want to offer. These are all free-form queries, the answers to which might be about anything. Here’s a timeless example:

When asked, “Is there anything else we should know about you?”

You might provide a written response in a few different ways. First, make sure that you haven’t included any information that has already been included elsewhere on your application. After all, the admissions readers aren’t asking you to repeat anything to fill out this part since it isn’t required. It’s great to be proud of your achievements, but you shouldn’t include them here if they may be mentioned elsewhere in your application. If you don’t have anything to contribute, you can skip it.

Nonetheless, don’t worry much about “bothering” the admissions readers with more details. As long as it helps your case as a potential student, they are interested in what you have to say. This is why there is a question. If you can’t make up your mind, put pen to paper and think it out. Having more data to work with is always preferable.

If you choose to explain any negative extenuating circumstances with this response

If you must talk about a bad thing that happened, focus on the broad picture: how you overcame the obstacle, what you learned from it, and why it won’t happen again. Show them that you’ve improved or grown by defeating them. Give some background or proof if you’re going to bring up poor performance on tests. Simply making excuses or airing grievances isn’t an adequate solution.

If you have a particular, sensitive personal scenario in mind for “anything else,” once you’ve finished the first pass, have someone else read your draught. It might be a classmate, teacher, coach, or tutor who doesn’t know you well. It can be challenging to discern how much detail is necessary when describing a personal situation. If you or the person you’re talking to seems uneasy throughout this interaction, the admissions committee may feel the same way. Ultimately, you shouldn’t feel obligated to tell a coworker anything you don’t feel comfortable telling them. There may be other contexts and triggers. Below is a breakdown of when you should, maybe, and never submit an essay answer.

Should you submit that optional essay?

Yes, write the optional essay if:

  • If the query is a “why us” or “good fit” kind, then you should compose the essay. To what extent did you research other schools before deciding on this one? Explain why you feel this institution is a suitable fit for you and your plans. and [Why do you think you would fit in well with our student group and/or campus community? In response to such questions, the essay should highlight why you want to attend that particular institution… nonetheless, DO NOT reuse anything without extensively modifying it. You want to be as comprehensive and clear as possible in achieving your objectives.
  • Anywhere in the page’s or prompt’s phrasing, you’ll find the phrases “recommended,” “highly recommended,” or “encouraged.” These are all indicators of the significance that will be placed on the items. Continue with anything you have to hand in under this rubric.
  • Your application essay needs extra glue to keep it together. For example, if you decided to switch your focus from science and technology to history midway through high school, there may not be another place to explain your decision adequately. An extra essay may work well there.
  • You have something else to offer a college that you haven’t got the opportunity to exhibit fully. The application might not provide you enough room to elaborate on your participation in self-directed initiatives or unusual extracurriculars. This additional out-of-the-box data might be provided through a voluntary essay answer.
  • Many schools (including Harvard and Pitt) provide additional space for you to express yourself through optional questions. Use this chance to show your mettle by writing some witty articles in response. After all, the original meaning of the term “essay” was “to try.”

Also read: USC Marshall MSBA Program: Complete Overview

Maybe, potentially write the optional essay if

  • Unless it expressly specifies that it is mandatory and you should not waste reviewers’ time (sometimes they are that blunt), you should probably not write the optional essay. As to whether or not you actually should write, it depends entirely on you.
  • You’ve got a concept for a business, and it involves your ideal educational institution. If that’s the case, you should think about what you might write about for another writing supplement before dismissing the idea.
  • You sense that you are a “splitter” candidate who falls on the fence. Providing additional background about your performance shows maturity in identifying your strengths and flaws and developing a strategy to improve.

No, don’t write the optional essay if

  • If you don’t have a suitable topic in mind straight away or if the question doesn’t relate to you (like the Duke diversity prompt), then you shouldn’t write the optional essay. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not just to look like a good prospect.
  • You cannot make that essay as good as the rest of your work if you finish it now. If you’re in a rush, the quality of your writing will suffer and it might even backfire.
  • All you’ll do is repeat what’s in your other application sections.
  • You’re acting on the assumption that you ought to. The readers will be able to see that something is off, and they won’t like it.
  • You’d have to be vulnerable and share information about yourself with individuals you don’t know very well. [If you don’t want to share something on the app, you don’t have to.]
  • Nothing except excuses and gripes would fill it. Your reputation and performance will suffer as a result of this. In reality, it’s a sign of a lacklustre personality.