The answer is: completely and absolutely optional.
In case it’s not clear, we’re talking about the “additional information” essay that most schools give you the option to write. It usually goes something like this:
“Please provide any additional information that you would like to present to the admissions committee if you feel it is not appropriately reflected in your application and essays to better represent you.”
Yet, while the essay prompt might be clear enough, many applicants wonder if admissions committees truly intend the essay to be optional, or whether it’s not perhaps some final test of commitment (Do you care enough to write that extra essay?) or a precious chance to give them an extra reason to admit you (Give us another reason to let you in).
While it’s tempting to start thinking along these lines, you should resist the urge to use the optional essay unless there is truly something you need to add that isn’t otherwise covered in the application.
Good examples include:
- Unexplained gaps in your work experience
- Poor undergraduate performance
- Absence of a recommendation by your current supervisor
But for the majority of applicants, don’t waste your time (or the admissions committee’s). If you don’t have anything meaningful to say, writing that extra essay will not improve your candidacy in any way.