This was my son’s first acceptance and came by email! He completed the Golden application and submitted September 3. He was excited that they did not require an essay but the version of the application he submitted had two optional essay topics. He did them both bc I pretty much told him that there is no such thing as an optional essay and he MUST do it. He is OOS and received a merit award of $12,000 a year, I believe in part because he took the trouble to write two essays and submit early. His GPA is not the strongest (freshman year was not spectacular) but rising each year. He had a 32 ACT and a ton of ECs with depth - music and photography and tech clubs. Also some internships with local engineering and tech firms.
My recommendation to anyone applying CSM is to submit early and also absolutely submit a quality essay. If nothing I think it gets you seen and potentially gets you money.