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Applying to Michigan Ross

The key to getting accepted into Michigan Ross is to demonstrate balance across the four dimensions (leadership, innovation, teamwork, maturity) throughout your application. Regardless of the application component(s) in which you emphasize these dimensions, they should each make a couple appearances. It is imperative, therefore, that you take time to analyze your strengths and weaknesses for each of the dimensions before beginning the Ross application.

Ross is consistently recognized for its innovation and its focus on applying business principles to real-world scenarios. Both of these attributes are integrated in the learning model along with a solid dose of general management courses. A good example of this combination is Ross’ Multidisciplinary Action Project (MAP). Students are required to work on teams in completing a seven-week project for companies pre-selected by Ross. The projects are highly analytical and allow students to apply the skills they learned in the classroom to a variety of companies. For those who have inclinations that are more international or entrepreneurial in nature, Ross offers its IMAP and EMAP programs. The latest example of Ross’ application-based learning is The Tozzi Center. The Tozzi Electronic Business and Finance Center features a trading floor, an elliptical classroom, and a computer laboratory. The trading floor allows for dedicated, real-time access to the global markets. It is used for a multitude of financial class exercises and student projects. Having and displaying knowledge of these types of programs should be a major component of your Ross application process.

Demonstrating the ability to apply business principles in a rational manner is especially important. Recruiters repeatedly complement UMBS grads on their practical approach, which has been a large reason for Ross’ success in the business school rankings. One applicant, who was recently accepted, displayed a practical approach by explaining how she identified a neglected growth opportunity within her business segment. The applicant took initiative by creating a marketing plan that focused on the opportunity and was able to see her idea through to implementation. These are the types of applicants Ross seeks.

Given Ross’ focus on professional excellence, it is not surprising to see that accepted students have an average of five years of work experience. This should not discourage applicants with less professional work experience, but recognize that Ross will especially want to know how you can contribute to the program if you have less than three years of work experience. You should anticipate being questioned on this point during your interview.

Almost all activities at Ross are team based, so check your ego before beginning the application. Providing one or two examples of your teamwork capabilities should go a long way toward establishing fit with the program.

Overall, if you meet the baseline criteria, express the four dimensions, display knowledge about the learning model and exhibit passion for the school, you should be in a much better position to receive an acceptance letter from Ross.

Insider Information

Over time, entrepreneurship has received greater attention at Ross and it is now a major aspect of the learning model. The school has vast resources for aspiring entrepreneurs, such as the Samuel Zell-Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, which supports students as they explore their own business plans and start-up ideas. Ross will continue to expand its support of entrepreneurial activities because it produces a virtuous cycle. Successful ventures led by students reflect positively on the curriculum, thereby attracting more potential students.

The Ross application process allows for ample opportunity to discuss innovative entrepreneurial ideas and those opportunities should be capitalized on. That is not to say that all applicants should be aspiring entrepreneurs, but to the extent that you can display entrepreneurial spirit, do so. That spirit can be expressed through an idea for a new business or through an idea for your current company. The admissions committee will certainly take notice of your penchant for entrepreneurship and hopefully recognize your ability to augment the Ross brand. Being recognized as a potential brand builder is a great way to move your application into the “yes” pile.

What Makes Ross Different?

Ross takes great pains to distinguish itself from other top business schools, and it is largely successful in that effort through its distinctive offerings.

“Action-based learning requires a great deal of open-mindedness, agility, and teamwork to succeed.”
Former Ross Dean Robert Dolan
Multidisciplinary Action Projects. The hallmark of the action-based learning approach is the cross-functional Multidisciplinary Action Project. Ross is working hard to break down silos, and MAP projects are an experiential learning opportunity for students to apply theory to the real world. Every spring, Ross MBA students break from traditional coursework and focus entirely on the MAP program, which is a required component of the Michigan curriculum. The school fields opportunities from a variety of sectors, including corporate America, nonprofit organizations, and start-ups. MAP teams are composed of between four and six Ross students who are tasked with solving a very real, very current organizational problem. Faculty advisors guide the way, but the MAP program is said to require a great deal of “by your bootstraps” fortitude on the part of the student teams. Projects end with both a formal written report as well as an oral presentation.

Active Social Responsibility. More than many other schools, Ross, and especially its students, has embraced the responsibility of being advocates for the earth and its people. This is evident in the approach the school takes to constructing new buildings, and to constructing new programs. About a third of full-time MBA students are members of the Ross Net Impact Club. Founded in 2005 (earlier than chapters on many other campuses), RNI has been a Gold Chapter – a special rating indicating very active membership and a record of results – every year since then, and has won the National Chapter of the Year multiple times. RNI initiatives have shaped the student experience at Ross, including corporate responsibility units and practicums in the core curriculum and the annual Leadership Crisis Challenge , a real-time simulation of an environmental or ethical crisis that unfolds over 12 hours. Boston Consulting Group has also partnered with RNI for the Mission-Driven Case Competition. The Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, jointly managed with the School of Natural Resources and Environment, and to a lesser extent, the William Davidson Institute for emerging-market economics, are key resources for Ross students interested in this dynamic area of study.

Ross defines action-based learning as ‘an approach to business education that requires us to continuously create relevant, challenging ways to connect our students with the world of practice.’
Ross Leadership Initiative. It is difficult for an elite business school to distinguish itself with regard to leadership training, since leadership is at the core of all MBA programs, but Ross has a unique offering in this regard: the Ross Leadership Initiative (RLI). A program that lasts for the entire MBA experience and is required of each MBA student, the RLI attempts to put students into situations where leadership strengths are fostered and weaknesses are exposed (and addressed). If the description or mission of the program sounds vague, know that Ross has a very detailed roadmap for how RLI develops students.

It begins with what is called a “foundation session,” which is a six-day orientation process (mandatory for all students) that starts with theory, ideas, and self-analysis. From there, students are exposed to a variety of leadership opportunities (variously known as challenges, odysseys, exploratories, workshops, and programs), highlighted by the Leadership Odyssey, which is an outdoor training program held at a new location each year (2009 was at the Utah Canyonlands). All of these activities are buttressed by a student advisory board and an ongoing peer feedback program. Again, “leadership” is a buzzword at all top schools, but Ross really does take it to another level.

Location & Size. Obviously Ross is not in a big city – and they actually feel that’s an advantage. Attending business school in Ann Arbor is the best of both worlds: students are part of one of the largest university populations anywhere (41,000 students, 5,200 faculty), while being conveniently located just blocks from the abundant dining, shopping, and entertainment options of Ann Arbor. While the entire student population at Ross is much larger than many schools, because of all the undergrads, the full-time MBA program is about the same size as Stanford’s, with about 400 graduates in each year’s class. The Ross administration feel that students benefit from the location because there are fewer distractions than would be found in the big cities of Philadelphia, Boston, New York or LA, which means that students are able to focus more, and get more involved in the campus community. If you’re interested in going to Michigan for business school, you should think about how Ross and Ann Arbor might be an advantage for you, and try to express that succinctly in your essays.

Faculty advisors guide the way, but the MAP program is said to require a great deal of ‘by your bootstraps’ fortitude on the part of the student teams.
Friendly Admissions Policies. Ross does not follow the pack in terms of how they manage their admissions process. A variety of unusual policies and recommendations are in effect at Ross that are not found elsewhere, including:
  1. Ross encourages candidates to apply in Round 1. Most other schools emphasize that a candidate’s chances are the same between their earlier rounds (the October and the January rounds are usually in this category), however at Michigan, the admissions office says that Round 1 candidates have an advantage in competition for scholarships, and that waitlisted Round 1 candidates get additional consideration since their applications are reviewed more often.
  2. Ross is more flexible on English language proficiency requirement. Most schools require the TOEFL exam for international students, though exceptions are common when the applicant earned an undergraduate degree in an English-speaking institution. Ross takes this one step further and does not require the TOEFL if an international applicant has worked in the U.S. full time for two of the last five years, regardless of her academic background. This obviously benefits only those who are applying just to Ross, since this is the only top program with this leniency.
  3. Ross will consider an appeal if they reject you. While Veritas Prep does not necessarily recommend this, it is very interesting that they will actually allow one. Other schools are quite adamant about all decisions being final. Ross will only review an appeal if it contains information about new developments or extenuating circumstances that directly affect their candidacy and which would warrant a re-examination. (Of course, a candidate could just try again as a reapplicant the next year, a more conservative strategy which we feel could have potentially better payoff.)
  4. Ross will consider an application from someone who already has an MBA. A few other schools will, too, though several will not. You would need to explain why you need another MBA if you’re in this position, and this is rarely an argument you can successfully make.
  5. Ross will consider a request for a deferral. If you’re accepted to Ross, and then some life-changing event gets in the way that prevents you from matriculating on schedule, you can request a one-year deferral and if approved, start the program the following year. Like appeals, most schools flat-out refuse to consider such requests, primarily due to the potential for abuse (this idea tends to occur to people who’ve been accepted at one school, yet are still waitlisted at a “better” school – they ask the school who accepted them to defer for a year so they can see if they end in at the other one). Ross does state that deferrals are “rarely granted” but at least they offer the option to request one.
  6. Ross still calls accepted candidates. Not all of candidates, but many of them, will receive a congratulatory phone call from the admissions team. Some other schools do this, too, though many have a rather impersonal process.
Many of these policies do not impact most applicants, however they are worth noting as they demonstrate the openness and flexibility of the school in its admissions process. Veritas Prep sees these policies as student-friendly and we believe they reflect the overall culture you can expect to find at Ross.