University of Michigan (Ross) Essay Analysis, 2013–2014

Michigan Ross has streamlined its essay questions for this season, dropping its previous Essay 4 completely, reducing the word count for Essay 3 from 500 to 400 (though the wording remains the same) and reframing its approach to Essay 2 while increasing the word count from 300 to 450. What can we deduce from these changes? The most important nugget of information is that Ross wants to gain a more thorough understanding of its applicants’ goals, aspirations and fit with the school (evidenced primarily in the 50% increase in word count for Essay 2). Our analysis follows…

Michigan Ross

1. Introduce yourself to your future Ross classmates in 100 words or less.

How many words is 100? This sentence alone accounts for ten percent of that allowance. Because this essay’s word count is so tight, many candidates will struggle with it. Still, in 100 words, you can write a brief vignette/story that broadly represents you—that stands for who you are. Or, you could offer several short/clever sentences that capture your personality. You might even present a theme or two with supporting anecdotes. In short, you have plenty of room to be creative and to reveal what makes you interesting. (We strongly recommend not offering a historical statement that summarizes your biography/resume.)

By the way, the paragraph above is exactly 100 words.

2. 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)

Michigan Ross’s director of admissions, Soojin Kwon, explained to Bloomberg Businessweek that the admissions committee has increased the word count for Essay 2 and divided the question into three parts, because the responses the school received in the past to the more general version of the question lacked focus. So, know that the school’s admissions committee is looking for you to be definitive. You will need to present clear goals, show detailed evidence of your research and explain—in an unequivocal manner—what inspired you to pursue business school. In short, give the admissions committee what it wants and is clearly asking for!

Because Personal Statements are similar from one application to the next, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. We offer this guide to candidates free of charge. Please feel free to download your copy today.

For a thorough exploration of Michigan Ross’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

3. 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 word maximum)

By specifying “in your career” here, the admissions committee is asking you to share an instance of professional disappointment/frustration. However, that moment need not be the disastrous collapse of a project you were working on (though that could definitely work); you could instead discuss a personal disappointment related to your work, such as your inability to foster a collegial community around you. For this essay, you do not need to have been culpable for the frustration or disappointment—the school is not asking you to admit to or explain a mistake—but you nevertheless need to be honest, which may require that you explain your responsibility for a frustrating situation.

Regardless of the challenge that you choose to discuss in your essay, showing how you navigated the personalities and circumstances involved is important in optimizing your results. Even if you did not “turn lemons into lemonade,” as the saying goes, your story can still present you in a positive light, revealing your strengths in the areas of diplomacy, persuasion, maturity, ethics, creativity and more. As we have noted in discussing other, similar questions pertaining to frustrations/disappointments, the key to writing an effective essay is revealing a certain thoughtfulness and problem-solving ability as you overcame and did your best to advance. In the last part of the question regarding advice you would give a colleague, be sure to reflect in a sincere manner on how this experience changed your perspective on your own strengths, weaknesses or abilities, and how someone else might benefit from your perspective.

4. Optional question: Is there anything not addressed elsewhere in the application that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about you to evaluate your candidacy? (300 word maximum)

However tempted you might be, this is not the place to paste in a strong essay from another school or to offer a few anecdotes that you were unable to use in any of your other essays. Instead, this is your opportunity, if needed, to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer may have about your candidacy, such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT score, a gap in your work experience, etc. In our mbaMission Optional Statement Guide (available through our online store), we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay to help you mitigate any problem areas in your profile, and include multiple examples of effective optional essays.

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