Stanford says, "If you are unable to provide a letter from your current direct supervisor, include a brief note of explanation in the Additional Information section of the online application. It is up to you to choose an appropriate replacement."
A certain MBA program says, "You must obtain at least one recommendation from your current direct supervisor. If you are unable to provide a letter from your current direct supervisor, include a brief note of explanation in the Additional Information section of the online application."
Virtually all top business schools offer applicants the opportunity to address anything unusual or problematic within their profiles. MBA candidates can use either the additional information section of a school’s application or the optional essay to proactively explain any irregularities/inconsistencies so that the admissions committee understands the circumstances behind these issues and is not left trying to solve a mystery. Common reasons to write the optional essay include explaining or revealing the following:
When working in admissions departments at top MBA programs, some of the questions that we were asked each year were whether a candidate should write an optional essay, and what kinds of topics should be addressed in the optional essay space. In the last few years, as many MBA programs have reduced the number of required essays and essay count, the answers to these questions are less clear-cut. 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. Judith Silverman Hodara, former Acting Director or MBA Admissions at Wharton shares her own advice around this topic in our new Fortuna video “Latest trends in MBA Admissions” so to hear her tips. We will also provide some guidance here to help you determine how to approach the optional essay.
It’s important to read the information presented for the optional essay at each school since some schools can treat this application component differently. Do your research and read postings on the schools’ online admissions pages and blogs as these can sometimes provide suggestions for how to handle the question. At University of Michigan Ross, for example, after removing application questions from prior years about applicants’ goals and reasons for pursuing an MBA, the Admissions Director’s blog requests that applicants NOT use the optional essay to write about these topics. Instead, Ross prefers to discuss career goals and reasons for an MBA in an interview where they can ask follow-up questions and get a deeper understanding of each applicant’s plans in person.
I suggest you focus on “people", such as a particular professor, current students and/or alumni. For example: "I have known Mr. A before, during, and after he attending School X's MBA program. I saw how it impacted him in terms of (specific hard and soft skills). I have also seen how he applied those new skills and perspectives in his career. I hope to have a similar transformative experience that only (this program) can provide."
The key to getting your admissions essays right is knowing what each question seeks – what the school expects from your response in each case, and what bonus information can legitimately be added. But schools each ask different questions. Or do they? They appear different but if you look closely they are just variations on a few classics and the most common of all is "Why an MBA?"
I suggest you focus on “people", such as a particular professor, current students and/or alumni. For example: "I have known Mr. A before, during, and after he attended School X's MBA program. I saw how it impacted him in terms of (specific hard and soft skills). I have also seen how he applied those new skills and perspectives in his career. I hope to have a similar transformative experience that only (this program) can provide."
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Too many international you use American editors to "sophisticate" their own words. This can work against you. As any writer knows, tone is hard to master. Your essays need to sound like they were all written by the same person - you. Are you too busy to write your own essays? If so, how do you expect to graduate from HBS, MIT, Stanford, Wharton, LBS, or any other rigorous MBA program, let alone lead your industry someday? Presidents and CEOs might hire speech writers, but the smartest ones also know how to produce their own content, and do so whenever time permits. Take the time to make your application the best it can be, and never trust someone more than you trust yourself. Use your own voice.
Instructions: Use this section to include any additional information that you believe is important for the MBA Admissions Board to have in evaluating your application, but that you were unable to include because of the constraints of the online application.
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Wharton’s instructions for the optional essay invite applicants to use the optional essay (up to 400 words) to “highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy.” Judith suggests that applicants not use the optional essay to reiterate content covered in other parts of the application for this section. If, however, there’s something that you could not fit into the first essay which you believe is integral to help demonstrate a clearer picture of who you are, this could be the place to include it. It’s important that you use good judgment in what you write about and ask yourself if this information is worth another ten minutes of time by the person reading your application. Do you think that this information cannot be garnered from other parts of your presentation?