Tuesday Tips – Michigan MBA Essay Tips

The Michigan MBA program has left their essays largely unchanged since last year. Two key differences are that Essay 1 no longer includes a reference to Ross’ “Action-Based Learning” approach and that Essay 2 asks for one major accomplishment rather than several, which will allow you to be more precise and focused for that question. For Essay 1, it will still be important to understand the Michigan MBA approach to learning and the Action-Based philosophy.

When approaching any set of MBA essays it will be important to refer back to your overall strategy and story. 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 and similar to the question posed by both the Kellogg and Wharton applications. 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 Ross is the right place 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.

You will need to describe a bit of your career progress thus far to get into why now is the right time for you to attend an MBA program. 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, 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, and in a departure from last year, the Michigan MBA is asking for only one significant accomplishment.

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. When approaching any question that asks you to describe a situation, think about the most important aspect of that situation and focus your attention on describing it succinctly, with a focus on your own actions, thoughts and influence.  Most of the words should be used for your actions and reactions, results and processes rather than describing the facts.

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?

This question suggests an interest by the Michigan MBA program in admitting students with passion. This 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?


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 contribute greatly to developing maturity, and this essay asks you to describe a key point in your life that may have created wisdom and a mature approach to life and work. 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, focus primarily on your response to it and how it 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 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.

As you tackle this set of questions, virtual support from the many MBA applicant bloggers may help you tap your creativity!

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