Optional or Not?

23 Nov

Just a quick, short post before Thanksgiving.  Hope that everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday celebration with friends, family, and loved ones.  After this four-day weekend, it is crunch time for preparing college applications as we roll inexorably towards the January deadline.

We’ve been discussing this question in our household lately: when is optional really optional?  Or, put another way, when is the optional not optional?

Many colleges have one or more required essays or short answers in their supplements, usually asking why an applicant is applying to their school.  Then there are colleges that list optional essays, like Tufts University.  On their website, it says, “We invite you to choose one of these topics and to prepare an essay of 250 to 500 words.”  Of course, when they put it like that, as an invitation, it’s hard to refuse them.

When it comes to writing optional college essays, it may not really be optional (sorry kids).  I have this from independent sources: my daughter’s guidance counselor and college discussion forums like www.collegeconfidential.com.  The reasoning behind this is to show the college or university that an applicant is really interested in the school, that he or she has made the extra effort.  As for how colleges regard candidates who do not answer the optional question, I wish that I had asked about that at the information sessions.  This is something to think about for those of you with younger children.

When it comes to applying to colleges, nothing is ever what it seems.

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