The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business has released its MBA application essays and deadlines for the Class of 2016. Ross is the latest top MBA program to shed an essay, going from four required essays last year to just three this year. The school has also trimmed word counts on a couple of its essays. However, the school’s most interesting question (its first one) remains unchanged.
Without further ado, here are Ross’s admissions deadlines and essays for the coming year, followed by our comments in italics:
Michigan (Ross) Application Deadlines
Round 1: October 1, 2013
Round 2: January 2, 2014
Round 3: March 3, 2014
Ross has moved up its Round 1 deadline by nine days this year. While the school’s R1 deadline is still (barely) in October, it’s knocking on September’s door. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you will receive a decision from Ross before Christmas, giving you at least a couple of weeks before most other business schools’ Round 2 deadlines, should you need to set a “Plan B” in motion. Ross’s Round 2 and Round 3 deadline are almost exactly the same as they were last year.
Michigan (Ross) Application Essays
- Introduce yourself to your future Ross classmates in 100 words or less.
This question has been around for several years now, and so our advice remains pretty much the same. Think of this essay as your “elevator pitch” to the Ross admissions committee. You have just a few sentences in which to highlight what the admissions committee absolutely must know about you. Do NOT think of this as 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) help you stand out vs. thousands of other great candidates and 2) demonstrate your fit with Ross.
Although you’re writing this as though the audience will be your future classmates, put yourself in the shoes of an admissions officer as you draft and edit this essay: What do you absolutely need them to know about you? This essay really is sort of a 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.
- a. What about your professional experiences has led you to determine that business school is the right next step? (150 words)
b. As you have researched MBA programs, what actions have you taken to learn more about Ross and what has led you to believe that Ross is the right MBA program for you? (150 words)
c. What career do you plan to pursue after business school and why? (150 words)
This question is new this year, although it really is an updated version of the essay prompt that it replaces. At its core, this three-part question is a “Why an MBA? Why this school?” question that many schools ask. Last year’s question asked, “Describe your career goals. How will an MBA from Ross help you to achieve those goals?” and this one breaks that down into separate, more specific questions. It does approach the first part a bit differently this year– by emphasizing your professional past — but your strategy for this question won’t change dramatically.
Obviously, you don’t have a lot of words to work with here. A 450-word essay will take up about a page and a half, so consider this essay prompt a challenge to fit your career path, reasons for wanting and MBA, and passion for Ross in that space. Although Ross ordered this prompt as: “Past… Fit with Ross… Future goals,” we actually tend to find that the most successful way to present this argument is this way: “Past… Given the past, this is where I want to go (future goals)… This is why Ross makes the most sense as an MBA program to get me there (fit with Ross).” If it helps, try writing it that way first, and then you can move the pieces around so that it flows more closely to the way the Ross admissions team describes it here.
Regarding the last part of the question, this essay is about more than showing that you know how to use the school’s online course and faculty directories… What about Ross makes it a school that you would choose over other top-ranked MBA programs? It’s hands-on approach to academics? It’s student culture? If you’re struggling to find an answer, then you probably have more homework to do before you begin drafting this essay!
- 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? (400 words)
This question carries over unchanged from last year, although Ross actually dropped the word limit from 500 to 400 words. Our advice mostly remains unchanged: 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.
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 your own life experiences.
- Is there anything not addressed elsewhere in the application that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about you to valuate your candidacy? (300 words)
Ross even chopped words from the optional essay, dropping the limit from 400 to 300 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!
For more advice on getting into the Ross School of Business, download our Essential Guide to Ross, one of our 14 guides to the world’s top business schools. If you’re wondering what your chances are at Ross and at other elite business schools, fill out a free profile evaluation and speak with an MBA admissions expert. And, as always, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!
By Scott Shrum