Tuesday Tips – Michigan MBA Essay Tips

Unlike many of the top programs, the Michigan MBA program remains consistent with its 2010 essay questions. This year the Michigan MBA program has kept a cornerstone career goals essay and an accomplishments and challenge essay with a few short answers. One of the short answer questions is a fairly creative question asking for your “Plan B” if you were not pursuing an MBA.

Key to answering the first question is a strong understanding of the program at the Michigan Ross Business School. Action-based learning is “an essential element of leadership” for Ross. Contemplating your fit with the program that emphasizes inquiry, critical thinking and leadership will be important to your strategy when answering this set of questions. Think about the key strengths you have identified that you want to communicate to the admissions committee, and how you will utilize each question to reach that goal. The Michigan MBA has two questions (Short Essays 3 & 4) that will allow you to express your personal attributes, and several opportunities to discuss your professional and leadership skills.

Long Essays (500 word max)
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?

This is Michigan MBA’s version of the fairly standard career goals essay. Make sure to answer all of the questions posed by this essay by describing what your career goals are both in the short- and long-term, why an MBA is a logical next step and why the Michigan MBA is the right choice for you.

In discussing your goals, focus on the future. Craft a concrete plan that will bridge your MBA, your short-term idea for immediately after graduation and your long-term career dream. The story should fit together logically and naturally, and also arise clearly from the career progress to date you will articulate in the next part of the question.

This question offers flexibility when discussing your career thus far. By not asking specifically what you have been doing, you have the choice to select the highlights that relate specifically to your plans for an MBA and your future career goals. When discussing past career experiences, think about the important pivot points in your story such as promotions, job changes or high profile projects that also fit in solidly with your career goals and MBA plans. Laser focus on a few vivid examples will help your application stand out from the crowd. There are many valid reasons to apply for MBA programs at this point in your career. Perhaps you have reached a plateau, are ready for a career change, or realize that you need the specialized skills of an MBA to reach the next level on your current path.

In addressing part three of this question, why the Michigan MBA program, make sure to highlight the people and experiences you have had. Specific information gathered from school visits, the website and course curriculum will help you answer the “what” part of the question, while networking (at a Ross Reception for instance) with current students and alumni will help you understand the culture at Ross and give you personal examples to highlight your fit with the Michigan MBA.

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 essay is the perfect opportunity to both address a significant accomplishment and to provide a solid example of your leadership qualities. The example must be from work or another professional arena.
A key part of this question is bringing the example alive through describing the actions you took and the result of your accomplishment for both you and the organization. The STAR framework is a great way to approach this question. First briefly explain the situation, then the tasks that the situation required, the actions you took and the result. Solid (and preferably quantifiable) results are a satisfying way to end any situational essay.

Self-reflection is a great aspect to contribute to this essay as you elaborate upon your leadership skills. What type of leader are you? Do you mentor and teach others? Direct your team towards results? Or ask questions to achieve buy-in? Whatever your own personal style is, this is an opportunity to reveal how you operate and why.

Short Essays (300 word max)
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?

Have fun with this one. This Michigan MBA essay is an opportunity for you to discuss some of your extracurricular activities and hobbies, while illuminating the influence they have had on your life. Think about the activities you most enjoy outside of work, preferably an activity you have been involved in over time, and reflect on the ways this activity has affected your approach and thinking over your life.

While explaining your alternate career path, think about the professional applications of your passion. You may have once dreamed of being a rock star, and can you take that influence and creativity and apply it to your work in marketing? If you were a history major in college, how has that contributed to your problem-solving as an investment banking analyst? Demonstrating that you are more than one dimensional will be a great asset to your application.

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

Challenges can be the catalyst for change, and this essay asks you to describe a key point in your life that may have been a personal development moment for you. This is a great opportunity to highlight your resilience and ability to learn from even the most difficult circumstances.

The question allows the flexibility to pick a self-created challenge (a mistake or misstep) or to address an external challenge like an illness, being laid off, or family issues. In describing the situation, explain what happened briefly. Then focus primarily on your response to the situation and how the experience has changed your approach and attitude since the event.

Our tips on the HBS mistake essay may help with your approach to this one as well.

Optional Question: Is there anything else you think the Admissions Committee should know about you to evaluate your candidacy?

Use the optional Michigan MBA essay if you have an issue that needs to be addressed through a short essay, such as low GPA, gap in work history or unconventional recommenders. Explain the situation clearly and succinctly, and provide explanations rather than excuses.

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