University of Michigan (Ross) Essay Analysis

Note: The following essay questions pertain to the previous academic year. This section will be updated when the new question are released in early to mid-July of 2008. 

You must answer the following four questions:

Long Answers (500 word max)

Essay 1: Briefly describe your short-term and long-term career goals. Why is an MBA the best choice at this point in your career? What and/or who influenced your decision to apply to Ross?

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It is important to note that Ross includes the line, “what and/or who influenced your decision.” Increasingly, MBA Admissions Committees (Chicago, NYU, Haas) want to know that you have completed a priori research and you are not merely whimsically applying. In this essay, you should not just delve into the resources the school offers but also explain how your interest was generated, via interactions with alumni, faculty, students, admissions officers and possibly even educated outside parties.

Essay 2: Describe your most significant professional accomplishment. Elaborate on the leadership skills you displayed, the actions you took and the impact you had on your organization.

This is a relatively straightforward essay, but it is important that you offer more than just your accomplishment to the MBA Admissions Committee. Ross is seeking to understand the “leadership skills you displayed, the actions you took”; a solid essay will reveal your leadership skills via your actions. Thus, it is vital that you have a process-orientation in your writing, as this will ensure that the committee experiences your leadership style. If you create a narrative structure, the committee will gain a window into your personality and recognize not just that you are effective, but HOW you are effective. 

Short Answers (300 word max)

Essay 3: If you were not pursuing the career goals you described in Question 1, what profession would you pursue instead? (for example, teacher, musician, athlete, architect, etc.) How will this alternate interest contribute to your effectiveness in solving multidisciplinary problems?

Through this essay, Ross is attempting to understand alternative aspects of your character. Indeed, the examples in the question are telling because “teacher, musician, athlete” are not typical post-MBA careers. So, it goes without saying that you should not write about how you would consider banking, if consulting were not to work out.

It is important that you be creative in your response, but that you also connect your response to existing experience. If you have no background as a teacher, it becomes far more difficult for you to make the connection to this hypothetical career. (Thus, when you write about your proposed career, you need to strike a balance – you cannot afford to be too whimsical, and at the same time you cannot afford to be dull either.) Further, if you are not profoundly connected to this alternative career, you will find it quite difficult to answer how you will use this interest to attack multidisciplinary problems.

Essay 4: Describe your experience during a challenging time in your life. Explain how you grew personally, either despite this challenge or because of it.

Harkening back to our Monday Morning Essay tip “Conflict is Good,” Ross substantiates our point that it is not all that interesting to read about a smooth and easy ride toward success. Indeed, Ross wants to understand that you have faced obstacles and that you have the strength of character to overcome. While you are free to draw from personal or professional experiences, it is important that you avoid “sympathy plays” and clichés about “learning resilience.” Write with candor and honesty and discuss the abiding impact that a challenging experience had on your life – a successful essay will show that you have substantively changed your mentality or actions and that the experience had an enduring and positive effect. 

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