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Should I answer the “optional” essay on my college applications?

Numerous college applications such as Elon University or College of William and Mary will include questions noted as “optional.”

Elon’s application reads: You may also write an optional personal statement if there is more you would like to tell us about your background or any circumstances that might inform your academic information.

College of William and Mary has this optional essay: Beyond your impressive academic credentials and extracurricular accomplishments, what else makes you unique and colorful?

Does this really mean that you can skip this question? Well, “yes” and “no.”

On the “Yes” side . . .

If you skip this optional question, then it will save you that extra hour that you would have spent writing a response. Instead, you will have an hour to do something that you really enjoy. Senior year is already busy enough without doing “extra” essay prompts on college applications. Right?

On the “No” side . . .

When you see the word “optional” think “opportunity” instead. You may also note on the Common Application that there is an optional section for additional information. When you review your Common Application in its entirety, if there is any information that’s missing or a low grade that needs explaining, then please include that additional information in the optional section. Do you want to have an opportunity to attend that college with the “optional” essay? If your answer is “yes” then that essay prompt is an opportunity to have your voice heard, it is NOT optional.

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This blog is valued by busy parents of college-bound teens. The topics covered in these posts are mined from years of listening to parents talk about their dreams for their children’s education.

This blog is written from the heart… as it’s my passion and life calling!

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