Michigan Ross Fall 2018 MBA Essay Tips

The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business is a program that emphasizes learning both inside and outside the classroom, and is seeking candidates that are intellectually curious and able to accomplish their goals.

Ross is also a close-knit community and fit with the program is important to demonstrate in the application process. Visiting Ross or learning about the program through current students, alumni or faculty would be helpful before starting this set of essays.

Michigan is introducing a new format for the first essay question, a series of short answer questions that you can respond to in 100 words or less. Read more about Admissions Director Soojin Kwon’s thinking at the invaluable Admissions Blog, and stay tuned for her video tips on this new format.

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Select one prompt from each group. Respond to your selected prompts using 100 words or  fewer (<100 words each; 300 words total).

Group 1
• I want people to know that I:
• I turned an idea into action when I:
• I made a difference when I:

Group 2
• I showed my resilience when I:
• I was humbled when:
• I am out of my comfort zone when:

Group 3
• I was aware that I am different when:
• I find it challenging when people:
• A valuable thing I have taught someone is:

Take note that these short answers are about getting to know you as a person, not as a collection of accomplishments. Your values and personal life will ideally shine through.

Some of the personal attributes most valued at Ross include community engagement and interpersonal, communication and teamwork skills. When you think about your short answers you may want to write about an important extracurricular moment, a challenge you overcame, or an event in your life that highlights something unique about your background.

Looking at each group in turn, Group 1 might be an opportunity to talk about impact and action. It reads as a place to highlight accomplishments. The first prompt is entirely open ended and allows you to talk about something you are proud of, a personal quality, or an experience. For the next two prompts, you could describe when you made a difference to an organization or person, turned an idea into action (e.g., an accomplishment).

Group 2 is more about your reaction to events in your life and your character. How do you interpret what happens to you and how do you handle adversity and discomfort? This is certainly a place to talk about some of the unique experiences in your life, like living outside your home country, working with people different from yourself, or facing a challenge at work or in your personal life.

Group 3 is an opportunity to highlight how you are unique as compared to other people you know. These questions ask for some self-awareness as you describe who you are and how others may view you. What makes you different from your peers? What is a particular challenge to you that may not be to other people? And what did you teach someone (implying that you had knowledge or insight different from theirs)?


Please share your short-term and long-term career goals. What skills/strengths do you have that will be relevant to your career goals? How will Ross prepare you for your goals? (300 words)

Admissions Director Kwon updated this question after last year’s more open-ended career goals essay resulted in some candidates writing about short-term goals and others writing about long-term goals. This year they are asking for both.

This essay is straightforward and Ross is not looking for extra explanation. Ideally you can describe your career path in a sentence or two and use the remainder of the space to elaborate.

Answering “why” you chose your career path is crucial. As you describe your career path make sure you explain what has led you to pursue it, and why it resonates with you. The answer doesn’t need to be elaborate or dramatic, but it should be convincing and real. Kwon adds that the admissions committee does not expect you to have all the experience needed for your career goals right now, but “We want to know that you understand the skills that are important for your desired career.

Recruiters assess whether you’re able to bring relevant skills/strengths to the table, so we do the same. Some of the skills and knowledge you’ll need will be developed during your time in the MBA program, but students are more successful in their career search if they understand the skills required to succeed in their chosen field.”

Finally, a successful essay will explain why Ross is the right program for you. Thorough school research will help you compose the best answer. Make sure you connect with current and former students personally if possible.

If you cannot find people to speak to through your network of friends, family and colleagues, most MBA students are open and willing to speak to interested prospective students. To find current Michigan Ross students you can reach out through student clubs or the admissions office.

Optional Statement:

This section should only be used to convey information not addressed elsewhere in your application, for example, completion of supplemental coursework, employment gaps, academic issues, etc. Feel free to use bullet points where appropriate.

Take it directly from the Ross admissions director: “The optional essay should only be used if there’s something in your background that requires a brief explanation. It’s not the place to submit an essay you wrote for another school, or to tell us how much you love Ross.”

Think about anything that may raise questions while reviewing a resume, transcript or recommendations. Typically the kinds of gaps that raise questions are significant gaps in employment (more than a few months), anything below a C on your college transcript (particularly in quantitative coursework) and low test scores.

Do you want to stay on top of the application process with timely tips like these? Follow our discussion group.
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