By Barbara Selmo | August 31, 2012 I have been blogging about how to embark on the MBA application process as a research project.
But a recent conversation I had with a colleague (thanks, James) inspired me to jump right to an aspect of the application that many of you may not be ready for: the optional essay.
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“Grey area” topics Some topics are not as straightforward and in these cases, we suggest you run your ideas by someone you trust.
In some situations, what you consider a weakness might not be an issue and writing about it in an optional essay might draw more attention to something that wasn’t even noticed.A few common areas that we get questions about are college suspensions, trouble with the law, or marginal grades or GMAT scores.Fortuna’s co-founder, Matt Symonds, even published a recent article in , called “50 Shades of Admissions Grey”.Topics to include in most optional essays There are some topics that a school will expect you to address in the optional essay.Examples of these are poor grades in college (or in masters degree programs), low GMAT score (particularly on the quant section), breaks in education or employment, and recommenders who may not be considered your managers.In this article he discusses common admissions concerns and advice for how to handle them.In these situations, we take the time to understand the circumstances and help our clients make the best decision.Applicants are eager to share unique information about themselves but now due to word count constraints there’s less space to communicate this kind of information.While in some cases we can easily determine whether or not to write an optional essay, in other cases the answer requires more thought and discussion.Like a lot of other business schools, Babson offers you the opportunity to submit an optional essay, that is, an essay to the three required. What is constantly surprising to me, though, is how few applicants really use this essay to their full advantage. Don’t use this essay just to explain your low GPA, or why you did poorly in your major, or why in one semester you earned 3 D’s, an F, and a Withdrawal. Or, conversely, have some stupendous successes on the job?Here are five ways in which you can successfully use this option, plus: a stylistic tip and a few examples of how misusing the optional essay can diminish your prospects as well as potentially alienate a very busy Admissions Committee. Use it to explain what happened, how you overcame your performance. All these points can be masterfully addressed in a pithy, example-laden essay. Special circumstances College, test taking, work settings—your performance in all of these settings can easily be affected by a major life crisis or personal challenge.