The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business recently released its application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2015. While Ross hasn’t made changes quite as big as those at some other schools this year, the school’s total essay word count has slimmed down a bit, continuing the trend we have seen among most top-ranked business schools. We’ll dig into the Michigan’s essays and deadlines below, followed by our comments, in italics:
Michigan (Ross) Application Essays
- Introduce yourself to your future Ross classmates in 100 words or less.
This question carries over unchanged from last year, and so our advice remains pretty much the same. Think of this essay as your “elevator pitch” to the Ross admissions team. You have just four to six sentences to highlight what the admissions committee absolutely must know about you. This is not an exercise is seeing how much information you can cram into 100 words. Instead, your challenge is to distill down your candidacy to no more than a couple of key points that 1) demonstrate your fit with Ross and 2) help you stand out vs. the competition. Note that, although the new wording this year changes the audience from the Ross admissions committee to your future classmates, your goal remains the same here. This essay will be a super-summary of the rest of your application, so don’t be bothered if some of the content here overlaps a bit with what’s in your other essays.
- Describe your career goals. How will an MBA from Ross help you to achieve those goals? (300 words)
This question is sort of a repeat from last year, but Ross made two big changes: First, it dropped half of the question (“What is your vision for how you can make a unique contribution to the Ross community?”). This is interesting since that dropped question was introduced last year, but apparently it wasn’t doing its job for the Ross admissions committee. And, the word count has dropped from 500 to 300 words. For the part that’s left, you need to keep your response realistic and to demonstrate that you understand what a Ross MBA will and won’t do for you as a young professional. Note that many similar questions start with “Describe your career progress to date,” but this essay is only forward-looking. Still, any discussion of your career goals will likely include at least some background on what you’ve learned and accomplished, although you will need to do it succinctly. You shouldn’t dwell on your past, but you should plan on succinctly discussing what you’ve done until now as a way to “set the stage” for your career plans.
- Describe a time in your career when you were frustrated or disappointed. What advice would you give to a colleague who was dealing with a similar situation? (500 words)
This is another case of a question that carries over from last year, but with a notable change. In this case, Ross changed the second sentence from “What did you learn from that experience?” to what you see here. While it’s actually not a substantial change, we actually like this version a little better. While this isn’t explicitly a “failure” essay, an example of a time when you failed is fair game here. Other possibilities are a time when you had to deal with a difficult co-worker or a time when you had a hard time winning others over to your way of thinking. These would all make for good demonstrations of how you have dealt with adversity. And remember that the second half of this question is the most critical: How would you impart this knowledge to others? This sort of maturity and emotional intelligence is what admissions officers look for. yes, you may be young, but you’re already far enough along in your career that you can help others… Show the Ross admissions team how you would do that using these life experiences.
- What are you most passionate about and why? How will this passion positively impact Ross? (300 words)
This question is an evolution of an optional one that Ross offered last year. The entire second part is new, which suggests to us that, while the school was getting interesting answers from applicants, the admissions team wanted to see these passions tied back to Ross a little more explicitly. This question requires an honest response about something that truly moves you. You can be passionate about anything, but what really makes great responses stand out is when the “Why” part is memorable, believable, and contains specifics about how you have acted on that passion. Are you passionate about bicycling? Great. Now explain why, using specific examples. Now, convince the admissions team that your passion is something that you’ll share with your classmates… That doesn’t mean you will start a cycling club, but maybe the endurance you have built up in your cycling training will make you a valuable study team member when the clock strikes midnight. Don’t be afraid to get a little creative here!
- Optional question: Is there anything else you think the Admissions Committee should know about you to evaluate your candidacy? (500 words)
As always, only use this essay if you need to explain a low undergraduate GPA or other potential blemish in your background. No need to harp on a minor weakness and sound like you’re making excuses when you don’t need any. More generally, if you don’t have anything else you need to tell the admissions office, it’s okay to skip this essay!