Michigan Ross changed slightly its first question this year and reduced the number of words available to you for the second essay question. It also allows you to write an Optional Statement. I’m not sure if that was available last year.
Before you sit down to write the essays, review Ross’ Evaluation Criteria and Admissions Director Soojin Kwon’s excellent blog post on last year’s questions, which are similar but not identical to this year’s prompts. 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.
What are you most proud of outside of your professional life? How does it shape who you are today? (400-word max)
The first part of the question is fairly straightforward. What are you truly proud of? This experience’s influence on you — the second part of the prompt — require thought and soul-searching. And of course, you only have 400 words.
Ross added to this question the phrase “outside of your professional life.” They can assess your achievements from your resume and job history. This question is about non-professional interests, contribution and achievement.
Possible examples: Contributed significantly to your sports team, church, 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, overcame a significant personal challenge.
When appropriate, quantify the impact or provide context. 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.
The question doesn’t ask why you are proud of your achievement, but I believe the question is implied as indicated in Soojin Kwon’s post about this year’s questions. She wrote 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.” Briefly discuss reasons that genuinely reflect who you are and also show fit with Ross and its values.
For the last 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. An effective response will show how this crucial experience has molded you.
What is your desired career path and why? (250 word max)
This question has 150 fewer words than it did last year when Ross had a 400-word max.
What do you want to do after you earn your MBA? This question doesn’t limit itself to your first job. It asks for the “path,” how would you like to see your career progress. Why is this path appealing to you? You can point to an experiences (don’t focus on the same one used in your response to #1) that convinced you that the desired path is right for you. That experience preferably will show you in a team setting, demonstrating leadership, and showing aptitude for Ross’ MAP. Analyze the impact of this event. Highlight 1-3 aspects of this experience that you enjoyed and that will also be part of your desired future direction.
Write 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 is the missing link between what you have done in the past and what you want to do in the future.
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.
Use this statement if necessary to provide context surrounding circumstances that affected your performance or that may lead admissions readers to the wrong conclusion about your abilities.
Ross doesn’t provide a word limit, but keep it short.
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.
* All applications are due by 11:59 PM
By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted 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.