A couple of weeks after releasing its application deadlines for 2010-2011, the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business has released its admissions essays for the coming year. Ross has made some very significant changes to its essays this year. While the school’s Round 1 deadline is still more than three months away, now is a great time to start mapping out your application strategy, starting with these essays.
Here are Ross’s admissions essays, followed by our comments in italics:
Michigan (Ross) Admissions Essays
- Introduce yourself in 100 words or less.
Wow… Short and sweet! This question is new this year, and it’s the quintessential “elevator pitch.” 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 several key points that 1) demonstrate your fit with Ross and 2) help you stand out vs. the competition. This essay will be a super-summary of the rest of your application, so don’t be bothered if some of the content here seems to overlap with what’s in your other essays.
- Describe your career goals. How will the Ross MBA help you to achieve your goals? (500 words)
This question is also new this year. It is essentially the typical “Why do you want an MBA, and why this school?” question. Remember to keep it 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. So, you should plan on succinctly discussing what you’ve done until now.
- Describe a time in your career when you were frustrated or disappointed. What did you learn from that experience? (500 words)
This question is also new, and replaces a question on last year’s application that asked for an applicant’s most significant professional accomplishment. This new question gets much more at the “emotional intelligence” that we hear admissions officers talk about wanting to see in applicants. 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’ve dealt with adversity. And remember that the second half of this question is the most critical: What did you learn from this rough patch in your career? (And, how did it make you a better person or more successful professional later on?) That’s what Ross admissions officers most want to know.
- Select one of the following questions:
- What are you most passionate about and why? (300 words)
- We expect that Ross MBAs will not only be effective leaders, but also effective teachers. How will you contribute to the learning experience of your peers at Ross? (300 words)
Both of these questions are new. The first one is very much like Stanford’s famous “What matters most to you, and why?” question, and requires an honest response about something that truly moves you. Again, the second half of the question is the meatiest part: 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… All in 300 words!
Regarding the second question, when you hear the word “diversity” used to describe a business school classroom, this goes beyond race or gender. This also refers to the experiences (both personal and professional) that you bring to the classroom. Your job here is to demonstrate those experiences and convince the Ross admissions office that you’ll actively contribute these in the school’s “action-based learning” environment. Ross doesn’t want wallflowers in the classroom, so don’t look like one!
- 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!
If you want to learn more about the Ross School of Business, download our Ross Annual Report, one of 15 completely free guides to the world’s top business schools, available on our site. And, as always, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!