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Michigan Ross MBA Essays: Tips & Strategy

Michigan Ross's new modern building on campus

The 2024-2025 application cycle brings some significant changes to the University of Michigan Ross MBA essay prompts. Gone are the concise 100-word replies to open-ended prompts such as “I was aware that I was different when….” The new Michigan Ross essays offer more generous word counts and are seemingly more focused on eliciting a demonstrated interest and understanding of the MBA program at Ross.  

How to Tackle the Michigan Ross MBA Essay Questions

Question 1:  Ross Experiences in Action-Based Learning 

At Michigan Ross, we believe the best way to learn is by doing. In our Full-Time MBA Program, you will put your skills and knowledge to the test in real-world situations with real stakes. How will this learning environment benefit you, and how do you plan to contribute to the action-based learning experience? (300 words) 

For this Michigan Ross essay, Fortuna Cofounder and Director Caroline Diarte Edwards offers this insight: “The question about how you will benefit from the learning environment and what you will contribute is a classic MBA question — what will you get from the MBA and what will you bring? Ross may have added this as they want candidates to do some more research into what is special about Ross and really understand how the school is different from its competitors,” she says. “They also want to be making offers to candidates who are genuinely motivated to attend, and this can shine through in this essay.”

My advice would be to “show and tell” what you have researched about the REAL curriculum, how it resonates with your learning goals and how hands-on learning opportunities are critical to what you seek in your b-school studies. What distinct academic offerings are of particular interest to you?  What unique co-curricular opportunities will you leverage to augment what you are learning in classes? How will the culture and community at Ross nurture and support you throughout your two years in Ann Arbor and beyond? 

Repeating information from the program’s own website will not land well with this highly competitive program; take the time to talk with student ambassadors, attend virtual admissions sessions and connect with the school in person at admissions events. 

Most top MBA programs host “on the road” events to connect with prospective students. Attending MBA fairs and admissions events is another way to demonstrate interest and meet with admission staff personally. When you attend, jot down names and impressions and find creative ways to weave your first-hand accounts from these connections into this essay to really show how Ross resonates with you.

Be sure to connect this to areas where you see yourself adding value, whether it’s leading class discussions where you have an area of expertise or taking on a leadership role in a student organization.

Question 2: How will you make an impact at Michigan Ross? 

Michigan Ross is proud to support a community of leaders and impact makers. As a future member of this community, we want to know more about who you are and what drives you. Please choose 1 of the following prompts to tell us more about what makes you stand out beyond your academic and work experience. List the prompt you are answering at the top of your response. (200 words) 

  • What makes you unique? 
  • Can you provide a specific example of how you’ve overcome a personal challenge? 
  • What makes you excited to get up each morning? 
  • Describe a time when you made a difference in your community or with an individual.

Again, from Diarte Edwards: “In this Umich essay prompt, there is quite a bit of flexibility given the different options. I found it interesting that they say they want to learn ‘what makes you stand out beyond your academic and work experience.’ This means that you should not pick something evident from your resume, as they are looking to go beyond that,” she says.

Ross wants you to dig deep and share something that highlights what makes you tick. What are your underlying values, motivations, and passions? Two of the prompt options give you a chance to highlight a story when you’ve achieved something, but given the overall framing of the question, try to go beyond the facts and figures of what you did and talk about what motivated you and what this achievement or effort meant to you. Notice the essay framing around ‘leaders and impact makers’ and give a sense of what kind of leader you are and how you have grown as a leader/impact maker.

I love these kinds of questions because they demonstrate to me that the program cares about shaping an incoming class comprised of individuals who are not only academically and professionally accomplished but are also interesting and will share unique life experiences.

Rest assured that there is no underlying “trick” or favored choice among the prompts offered. It’s not which prompt you choose that’s being evaluated but what you share in the content of your response.  Moreover, I would suggest that a response to any of these prompts would, to some degree, address the “leader/impact maker” point, referencing not only how what you write about impacted you but how you then went on to impact others.  For example, if what makes you unique is your love of music and playing an instrument, you could share how this feeds your soul and how being part of a chamber music group taught you about teamwork while also bringing joy to audiences.

Finally, based on our previous conversations with the admissions team at Ross, these prompts were crafted to reveal traits that are valued at the school. Specifically, Michigan is a place for those who like to push themselves outside their comfort zone, enjoy learning by doing, and don’t mind “getting their hands dirty.” The essay prompts are essentially behavioral-based questions to evaluate how actions and activities from an applicant’s past mesh with a “fit” for Ross. The program’s emphasis on fit is more than a marketing tactic; the Ross MBA admissions team really is evaluating candidates to see if traits are aligned.

Part 3: Career Aspirations 

What is your short-term career goal, and how will Ross help you achieve it? (200 words) 

In getting at the “what and how,” the Admissions Committee wants to see that applicants are thoughtful about their career aspirations. This is a great place to share how previous experiences inform your short-term goal and that you also have a realistic understanding of your future intended industry and/or functional role.

It’s suggested to name a company or two as part of the short-term goal; it’s even better to cite companies that recruit at Ross and show that you know what kind of positions/pathways newly minted Ross MBAs secured. This prompt is a bit tricky because they have intentionally not asked about long-term career goals, so while including a sentence on this topic would be acceptable, it should be high-level and aspirational, not overly detailed.

Optional Essay 

Is there something in your resume or application that needs a brief explanation? Appropriate uses of this essay would be the explanation of an employment gap, academic outliers, choice of recommender, completion of supplemental coursework, etc. You may use bullet points where appropriate. (250 words) 

This Ross supplemental essay is a standard question for applicants to address any factors in their application that might need more explanation. My advice here is to keep it simple and succinct.  For example, in addressing a low GPA, describing factors that contributed to it is useful, but don’t go too far into the weeds. Rather, share briefly what happened (think: explanation, not excuses). What’s more important to convey is what was learned, how study skills have improved, and cite factors that bolster the admissions committee’s confidence that an applicant can handle the rigorous coursework at Ross (e.g., a strong GMAT, passing CFA exams, additional postbaccalaureate coursework).

Let’s Get You In

Fortuna Admissions is a dream team of former MBA admissions directors and officers from top business schools. With our unparalleled collective expertise, we can coach you to develop a clear vision of your goals for business school and beyond. We work closely with you throughout the application process and provide expert guidance at every stage to maximize your chances of admission to a top school.

Our free consultations are consistently rated as the best in the industry. To learn more about Fortuna and assess your chances of admission to a top business school, book your free consultation session now.

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  Fortuna’s Sharon Joyce is an MBA Senior Expert Admissions Coach and former Berkeley Haas Associate Director of Admissions.  She was ranked as a Top MBA Consultant in Poets and Quants 2023 survey.

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