The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business recently released its application deadlines and essays for the Class of 2014. After making big changes to its essays last year, Ross has only made small tweaks this time around. We’ll dig into the school’s essays and deadlines below, followed by our comments, in italics:
Michigan (Ross) Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 10, 2011
Round 2: January 4, 2012
Round 3: March 1, 2012
Virtually no changes since last year. Note that, unlike some other top-ranked MBA programs, Ross does not notify Round 1 applicants before the end of December (notifications are released by January 13). So, if you apply to Ross in Round 1, you will need to pull the trigger on Round 2 applications in early January before you know where you stand with Ross.
Michigan (Ross) Application Essays
- Introduce yourself to your future Ross classmates in 100 words or less.
This question essentially carries over from last year, although Ross tweaked the phrasing this year to include the “… to you future Ross classmates” part. Think of this essay as 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 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? What is your vision for how you can make a unique contribution to the Ross community? (500 words)
This is another question that carries over from last year with some changes. In this case, the entire third sentence is new. Remember 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. So, while you shouldn’t dwell on the past, you should plan on succinctly discussing what you’ve done until now as a way to “set the stage” for your career plans.
The addition of the last sentence (about making a contribution to the Ross community) does mean that you may need to take a fairly dramatic left turn in the course of your essay in order to work in this message. Given that this question related to your career goals, we interpret the “contribution to the Ross community” question to be about how you’ll contribute over the next 50 years, not during your two years in Ann Arbor. The obvious answers involve being a donor, helping out as an alumni interviewer, or a getting involved with your local alumni club… What else do you have to offer?
- Describe a time in your career when you were frustrated or disappointed. What did you learn from that experience? (500 words)
This question is a verbatim repeat from last year’s third question. This new question gets 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 have 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 is really what Ross admissions officers most want to know.
- Select one of the following questions:
- What are you most passionate about? (300 words)
- Describe a personal challenge or obstacle and why you view it as such. How have you dealt with it? What have you learned from it? (300 words)
The first question carries over from last year, although in last year’s application it also included “… and why?” Perhaps Ross decided this was a little too “Stanford-ish,” and dropped it for that reason! Regardless, this question requires an honest response about something that truly moves you. And, even if they dropped the “Why” part, you still need to answer that. 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!
The second question is new this year. It’s an interesting addition in that Ross already asks about a time when you were frustrated or disappointed in your career. However, note that this question asks about a personal challenge, so keep the focus on something other than a professional challenge. As always, the most interesting part is what you learned from the experience, and — ideally — how you put that lesson to use down the road. The Ross admissions committee here wants to see introspection, maturity, and evidence of personal growth 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!