Do I Need to Write the Optional Essay?

Pete and I just finished our Berkeley MBA Information Sessions in Chicago, New York, Washington, and Boston, and we had a number of questions about the optional essay. For those of you wondering whether or not you should write the optional essay, the decision is a highly personal one. The optional essay should be used if—and only if—you feel that you have something more to tell us after you have completed your other essays and short-answer questions. For example, if you feel that you have not adequately conveyed your professional accomplishments and personal qualities elsewhere in the application, the optional essay can be used to share more about yourself with the Admissions Committee. The optional essay can also be used if you wish to offer an explanation for any perceived shortcoming in your application. However, if you believe that the rest of your application has allowed you the opportunity to tell us your story, you needn’t feel compelled to write the optional essay. Many applicants choose not to write the optional essay, which is completely fine. In fact, it’s better not to write the essay than to use it to reiterate information you have already provided.

—Peter Johnson

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