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The optional essay – should you write it?

There is a lot of speculation on the part of candidates in terms of whether or not to write the optional essay.  Here are some thoughts on when to write it and what topics the AdCom would actually like to read if you submit it.

First, it is truly optional.  We don’t want to read one for every candidate, so please don’t fill the space with random facts or information about yourself.  In reality, about a third of candidates probably “need” to write it.  The types of things we want to hear about include:

• Large/frequent employment gaps – what happened and how did you fill that time when you were not working
• Recommendation letter explanation – explain if you choose not to have your current supervisor write a recommendation due to a more discrete B-school application process
• Poor undergraduate performance – particularly if it was during a particular period of college or if you have compelling evidence that it is not predictive of your capabilities
• Anything else that you feel the AdCom might find particularly concerning about your candidacy

Tips for success and pitfalls to avoid:
• Keep your essay brief – stick to the facts and supporting information • Don’t write an essay on why you are a poor standardized test-taker
• Don’t share random personal information that might be interesting to you but irrelevant to your B-school candidacy • Don’t get too innovative in your essays – this is not the time for creative writing, you are applying to B-school
• Proofread your essays carefully and have a close friend or family member review as well

Rebekah S. Lewin

Rebekah S. Lewin, MBA ’02
Executive Director of Admissions & Administration
Univ. of Rochester, Simon Graduate School of Business
Rochester, New York 14627-0107
Phone – 585-275-3533
Fax – 585-271-3907

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