I was planning to write a wonderful 400-word optional essay addressing an unemployment gap, when I noticed that Stanford and Harvard do not accept optional essays.
Both schools have a section to include additional information, but Stanford's form explicitly states "Do not include essays", and Harvard's form is limited to 500 characters.
So it seems that optional essays are no longer accepted. What would you recommend to address my unemployment gap in the application?
I think most people over analyze the purpose of the optional essay. It needs to be very concise. 400 is generally way too long for something like that. I imagine that if you try, you could explain your situation in 500 characters (~100 words) or less.