Michigan Ross 2016 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines

Click here for more top b-school application essay tips!Michigan Ross essentially condensed last year’s two required questions into one and added a goals essay question.  

Review Ross’ Evaluation Criteria and Admissions Director Soojin Kwon’s excellent blog post on the new questions before you sit down to write the essays. Most importantly remember: your essays should reveal the qualities Ross seeks — not just mouth them. Show that you walk the walk, not just talk the talk. 

My comments are in blue below. 


1.  What are you most proud of and why? How does it shape who you are today? (up to 400 words)

The first part of the question is fairly straightforward. What are you truly proud of? The reasons for your pride and the influence of this experience require thought and soul-searching. And of course, you only have 400 words.

Possible examples: Contributed significantly to your team, department, company, or club. Raised money for a favorite charity. Organized a political event. Engaged in interfaith dialogue that broke down communications barriers. Led a sports team to victory.  Or perhaps, overcoming a significant personal challenge.  

If possible, quantify this part of your answer. Numbers are a great way to show both contribution and impact.  However, if your #1 achievement is qualitative or difficult to quantify, don’t let lack of numbers stop you from using it.

Your response to “why?” is extremely important.  As Soojin Kwon writes on her blog “We want to understand what makes something important to you. It gives us a glimpse into how you think about and process things, and what your priorities and values are.” Choose the reasons that genuinely reflect who you are and also show fit with Ross and its values. 

For the third part of the question (how did it shape who you are today?), think and then focus. Choose one or two lessons from this accomplishment that changed how you think or behave and describe those changes.  You don’t have room for many lessons learned, so select the most important.

Please don’t write that you learned you can do anything you put your mind to. That response is cliched and not really true. There are limits to what you can do. A good response will show how this crucial experience has molded you.

2.  What is your desired career path and why? (up to 400 words)

What do you want to do after you earn your MBA? This question doesn’t limit itself to your first job. It ask for the “path” and is asking how would you like to see your career progress.  Why is this path appealing to you? You can point to 1-3 experiences (don’t focus on the same one used in your response to #1) that convinced you that the desired one is right for you. Analyze the impact of these events. Highlight 1-3 aspects of these experiences that you enjoyed that will also be part of your desired future direction. Right genuinely about your future career, but realize as Soojin Kwon says that Ross uses the answers to see if business school makes sense. Ross doesn’t want to admit you if its MBA won’t help you go where you want to go professionally.  Show that a Ross MBA in the missing link between what you have done in the past and what you want to do in the future.

If you would like professional guidance with your Michigan Ross MBA application, please consider Accepted’s MBA essay editing and MBA admissions consulting or our  MBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the Michigan Ross application. 


Check out our other school-specific MBA Essay Tips

* All applications are due by 11:59 PM


MBA Admissions A-Z: 26 Great Tips - Download your free copy!


Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

  • Yasser Clor

    Hello Linda,

    Thank you very much in advance for agreeing to field our questions and give us profile evaluations.

    (1) Currently working as a legal consultant with Genentech as part of a recent acquisition of another Biotech company. I have only been there 6 months so far. Since I did law school full-time right after undergrad, I did not have much time to work full time. I have done several quality internships throughout law school with law firms and the Department of Commerce.

    (2) 670 (42 Quant and 40 Verbal)

    (3) Graduated from UC-Berkeley in 2010 with a 2.8 GPA and a BA in Political Science. I have some unique circumstances that are a bit too detailed to get into here. However, I raised my GPA dramatically after my first year when I was depressed and not attending classes. I was placed on probation that first year and then had a wake up call that motivated me to take my academics very seriously. It was a dramatic turnaround that I will explain in my application.

    (4) I played three years of Division one baseball at UC-Berkeley and took full courseloads to graduate in four years. I was drafted twice by the MLB (once out of high school and once out of Cal). I did not sign either time since I wanted to go to law school. I immediately went to law school and graduated Cum Laude with my JD in 2013. I then received an LLM specialization degree in business and finance law from George Washington Law School, which sparked my interest in getting into business.

    (5) California Attorney

    (6) I would like to become a securities analyst and eventually work myself up to a Portfolio Manager.

    Your feedback is appreciated greatly. While Ross is my number one, I am also interested in Tepper, Johnson, Emory, McCombs, Georgia Tech, and Foster. Thanks so much!

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


      You are hard to assess, but my reaction is that you are stretching. If you can, I recommend you retake the GMAT and raise that score, especially the quant. If necessary first improve your quant skills and prepare again and retake even if it means postponing your application a year. But given your goals, you need a competitive school.

  • CivilianN00b

    Hi Linda,

    1. I’m a 12 year Army Officer veteran, currently working as a government contractor. Managed various teams in sizes from 5 – 50 people and equipment worth over $5 million in both combat arms and intelligence. Always worked on improving upon, or implementing, systems and processes to lighten workload and increase efficiency. I’ve been stationed and/or deployed overseas for 11 of those years including Europe and South Korea.
    2. I’m taking my GMAT in August, working towards a 700.
    3. I have a hodgepodge of schools I went to over the years. The last 100 credit hours GPA is a 3.8 with a 4.0 in a few graduate classes I’ve taken over the years. My BA is in Foreign Language and Literature with a minor in Computer Science.
    4. Minor volunteering around Army communities.
    5. Just Army certifications.
    6. Enter the civilian business arena. I’d like to focus on operations in the tech industry (Operations/Business Development/General Management). I took a few Master’s level classes in Cybersecurity. My goals need some more fleshing out as I look into what all is available in the civilian world and I’m hoping to get some internships to further refine my goals.

    Thanks for the advice.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      Civilian N00b.

      Certainly your GPA is competitive. Military experience is valued, especially when it involved international exposure and leadership as yours did.

      If your GMAT comes in as a balanced 700, then you have a competitive profile for Ross. Also consider CMU Tepper, Broad, Kelley, Darden, UNC, and Duke.


  • CivilianN00b

    Hi Linda,
    when does the application window for Ross open? At other schools we can already start populating our applications and have the system send requests to our referees.

  • Neeraj Agarwal

    Hi Linda,
    1. 3.5 years in Financial Control and Audit
    2. GMAT 760 with percentile (QA – 79, VA – 98)
    3 GPA – Hard to tell 68.28/100 from India, though I was also doing Chartered Accountant Course at that time. Also, I am doing CFA as well – writtem level III in June this year.
    4. Leadership roles – 2 people were reporting to me directly in Macquarie; Lead in a project for team of 7 people; mentored 5-6 graduates at the start of their internship
    5. CA completed, CFA result due
    6. Most MBA goal – Consulting industry with a focus on strategic consulting. Long term – I want to stay to help young and coming ventures/ entrepreneurs to successfully launch their product and stay competitive.

    I like Ross because of its strong focus on consulting and I would like to pursue a joint degree at Ross on Economics (Behavioral Economics).

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      You have a competitive profile for Ross.


  • jam2016

    Brief description of your full-time work experience. : I have 7 years of US experience within manufacturing arena in increasing responsibility. I led several technological, product launch and innovative cost saving projects across the organization. Some of projects exceeded saving of $750K. Beside that lead cross functional team (including shop floor employee) to achieve business cost out targets that required significant leadership and employee mobilization efforts to reach targets. Leadership included to mobilize and hold accountable teams of more than 50+ people from various cross functions in my projects over the years without any direct reports.

    2) Your GMAT ( 690). Percentiles preferred (85%).

    College info: Undergrad in Mechanical Engineering from India , GPA : 3.2, Grad from US university , GPA : 3.7 and majored in M.S. in Manufacturing Engineering; year of graduation : 2006.

    4) My most leadership experience came from professional work. Worked for two years in Women rehabilitation NGO.

    5) Important certifications : Completed Course in Project Management and Six Sigma certification. Both helped me to improve the results and helped me to gain skiils to achieve business targets.

    6) Your post-MBA goal : Want to do a career transition into Front end business unit leader like GM/VP within manufacturing company.

    7) MBA SCHOOLS : ROSS, Kellogs, Tepper, Cornell, Duke, Darden,

    Are my schools a realistic selection.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


      I think Kellogg and Duke are unlikely acceptances. Your GMAT and undergrad GPA are low for these programs and that’s hard to overcome. Ross, Tepper, Darden, and Cornell are a little more realistic. Also consider Emory, Vanderbilt, and Indian Kelley.

  • Coop

    Hi Linda, thanks for taking a look.

    1) Worked at a renewable fuels startup for 4 years, starting as an engineer before moving into a business development analyst role. For the past year been working as a product manager at an SaaS company in the energy industry

    2) 740 (78-Q, 97-V, 97-Total)

    3) Brown University, 2009 (3.7/4.0)

    4) 3 months post-grad volunteering for an NGO in Tanzania. Volunteer teacher with Citizen Schools. Volunteer consultant for Pivot Non-profit consulting. Mentor for Cleantech Open Northeast startup accelerator.

    5) Certified scrum product owner

    6) Work at the venture arm or BD unit of an energy or industrial company making investments/partnerships in the cleantech space (e.g. GE, Chevron, ABB)

    7) Ross (Erb), Fuqua (MEM/MBA), Sloan (LGO), Haas, McCombs

    • Coop

      Sorry, hit post too soon. On #3, degree was in mechanical engineering.

      • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


        You have chosen your schools well and are applying appropriately.

        If you would like help with your applications, please let me know.

  • Indigo11

    Hi Linda,
    I’m an early career-changer:
    1) I have worked for 2 years as a research coordinator in public health (homelessness, addiction, criminal justice, mental health sectors)
    2) GRE:V160 (85 percentile), Q158 (71 percentile)
    3) Villanova University, c/o 2013, GPA:3.67, Psychology
    4) Designed curriculum and taught computer skills, domestic violence, and healthy living classes in nearby prisons.
    5) N/A
    6) Interested in operations management for social impact businesses/venture philanthropy


    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


      Your GPA is good, but your GRE (and work experience ) are on the low side for Ross. I’m also concerned that they are going to be concerned about lack of quant skills given the highly quantitative nature of operations management vs your psych background and quant score. And Ross is a pretty quantitatively demanding program. I suggest you spend some time taking courses to beef up your quant skills, including calculus and then apply next year to matriculate in 2017.

      Also, be ready to explain how your interest in operations management developed and how you would use these skills in a social impact venture.

      With add’l work experience and improved quant skills ( and maybe a retake of the GRE), you will have a competitive profile.

      • Indigo11

        Thank you for the thoughtful reply. I am the lead statistician on my grants, but unfortunately my quant skills have trouble coming through on standardized tests! I did place out of calculus in college, so with that in mind do you still suggest I take that? Any additional business courses you would recommend?
        Thank you again!

        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          If you think you can do well in calculus, it may help you both show you can do the math and then handle the match in b-school. Also consider stats for business, accounting 1 and econ 1.

          • Indigo11

            Thank you!

  • MiKayla

    Hi Linda,

    I am going into my senior year at Tulane University, I am a dual major in Business Marketing and Health & Wellness and my GPA is 3.62. I am a member of the division 1 Cross Country and Track & Field teams. Also, I am the Finance Vice President (executive board member) of my sorority.

    I am planning to take my first GMAT at the end of September then based off of that score I’m planning to decide what schools should be in my target range.

    Do you have any recommendations for MBA programs that accept students straight out of undergrad with no professional work experience? I am hoping to begin school fall of 2016 and I’d like to attend a top 20 program (depending on my GMAT score, but the ). I know this may be a long shot, but any school suggestions or recommendations for a student like me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


      First of all several schools have MS in Management programs which are geared to early career applicants. Check out LBS, Duke, Kellogg, and Ross for starters.

      Then some programs have deferred admission programs for college seniors (HBS, Stanford, and Yale come to mind).

      They there are a few that I believe do take some straight from college, among them Chicago, Stanford, CMU Tepper among others but please double check me on this. It changes yearly. NYU Stern has the Berkley Scholars Program for college seniors who want to get an MBA and then immediately start their own business.

      FYI, almost all want to see some relevant experience at least in the form of summer internships. If you really mean “no experience,” acceptance would be tough.


  • Yun Greene

    Dear Linda,

    Hope you’re having a nice day! All ears for your recommendations:

    1) Automotive F500 Asia Pacific region 4 yrs, promoted to business analysis manager, led 3 international strategic planning projects in Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia;
    2) GMAT Q 97% V 91%
    GRE Q 92% V 98%
    3) USST & U of North Dakota dual BBA, GPA 3.5;
    4) Gold medal, best speaker – Int’l Entrepreneurial Debate Competition 2011;
    SIFE World Cup 5th place – presenter, project manager;
    5) None
    6) Consulting, Emerging Markets

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      You have a competitive profile for Ross and are applying appropriately. also consider Berkeley, Yale, Duke. if you want to stretch, consider MIT Sloan and Stanford.

      • Yun Greene

        Thanks Linda. You’re always so kind. Could you elaborate a wee bit more why Berkeley seems a good fit?

  • Sweta Agrawal

    Hi Linda,
    10+ years of full time work experience with 6+ in US and canada as functional consultant/business analyst in IT.
    GRE 162 in Quant, 152 in Verbal. Equivalent GMAT 610 from ETS website
    GPA – 3.89/4 in undergrad, bachelors in Technology from india in one of top tier institute NIT.
    Trained people to secure a job in US and India
    CFA, Level 1 only. I am also preparing for PMP certification (does it help for MBA?)
    To be a Financials product manager in High tech company like Oracle, SAP, Microsoft etc.
    My target schools are Ross, Kelley, McCombs, Tepper, Tuck Dartmouth.
    Do you have any suggestion for applying to any other school?

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham


      I think you’re aiming too high. If you really want to have a shot at these programs, retake the GRE. Yes, the PMP will help. You may also want to consider Rotman, Washington Olin, and UNC, but I still encouage you to retake.

      • Sweta Agrawal

        Thanks for your feedback Linda. UNC and Olin are more difficult I thought. I dropped Rotman because its in Canada. I am looking to work in US after MBA.


  • Divya Rajpal

    Hi Linda,

    Do you think it is appropriate to highlight CPA accomplishment in the above Essay 1? My concern is that it’s purely personal and does not highlight teamwork or community engagement skills, or interpersonal communication skills.

    Appreciate your feedback.

    Thank you.

    • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

      I share your concerns. I’m also not sure it will help distinguish you. But as always, what you actually say could make a difference.

      • Yun Greene

        Dear Linda,

        Is it possible to focus Essay 1 on a quality rather than a feat?


        • http://www.accepted.com Linda Abraham

          I don’t see why not, but if you don’t show how you reveal that quality through action, I am afraid it won’t work.