Tuesday Tips – Michigan Ross MBA Essay Tips

As Dean Dolan advises applicants on the Michigan MBA website, the “Ross difference is action-based learning.” Ross is a program that emphasizes learning both inside and outside the classroom, and is seeking candidates that are both intellectually curious and able to accomplish their goals.

When you are approaching this set of essays think about how you will best illustrate your fit with the unique Michigan MBA program.

Don’t forget to check your deadlines before getting started!

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

The first thing to ask yourself is what you would want to know about your future classmates as potential teammates and friends? That is the information you should communicate here. If you have worked on your application strategy and thought about your personal branding, this question is just one part of the whole. You will be discussing career goals and other professional aspects of yourself in the next few essays, so this is your opportunity to tell your future classmates something about you as a person. Do you have a unique background you will be able to share with your classmates? What about hobbies and personal accomplishments? Think about this question as the “elevator pitch” to adcomm, and one that should be more personal than professional.

Essay 2
Describe your career goals. How will an MBA from Ross help you to achieve those goals? What is your vision for how you can make a unique contribution to the Ross community? (500 word maximum)

This career goals question is fairly standard, yet focuses more on the future rather than the past. Since you are not specifically asked to explain your entire career path, focus on the high points that will provide the relevant context to your goals. When did you face a turning point or make a big decision about your career? What were some of your proudest accomplishments?

When you describe your goals it will be important that they are both aspirational and credible. Because you are investing in an Michigan MBA, you will want to show how your career goals warrant the time and money you will spend. A promotion to the next level is not enough of a reason to spend two years at the Michigan MBA program, but perhaps your goal to run the company one day is. Think about the goal that will represent the pinnacle of your career in the next 10-20 years, and then describe any other sub-goals that will help you get there.

Having done your research on Michigan MBA’s academics and resources will help you answer the question about your motivation to pursue an MBA at Ross and how you will contribute to the community. Choose specific classes, professors and programs that fit into your career goals. Think about clubs and conferences that are unique to the Michigan MBA and will advance your career. This question is about more than how Ross will help you achieve your goals, you’ll also need to show your unique value as a member of the community. Can you share your career expertise? Your network? Personal hobbies or skills? Think again about what you would want from a future classmate and apply that filter to your unique talents.

Essay 3
Describe a time in your career when you were frustrated or disappointed. What did you learn from that experience? (500 word maximum)

Behavioral questions like this one are meant to illustrate how you have acted in situations in the past, as a predictor of future behavior. Your answer should be concise but detailed, and clearly lay out both the situation and what you did and thought as you navigated the outcome.

Often a tough experience is an excellent learning opportunity and contributes to your growth and development. Don’t be afraid to admit that you have faced frustration and disappointment, because you are only human. The important part of this story is how you reacted and what you learned. Think about the type of person who will be successful in a Michigan MBA program and as a manager and a leader. What skills do you share with a strong leader, and were any formed during a challenging interpersonal situation like this?
Similar to the HBS essay, this is an opportunity to show how you handle challenging situations. Everyone faces frustrations and challenges at work; it is how you decide to react that creates learning and growth. Revealing your emotions and thought process in this essay will provide a window into how you process difficult experiences and emerge from them with a new direction.

The key to a successful essay is to demonstrate how, specifically, you navigated the experience. A lesson learned or beneficial outcome to the experience would end the essay well and allow you to illustrate your leadership, teamwork or social skills.

Essay 4
Select one of the following questions:
Ӣ What are you most passionate about and why? (300 word maximum)

Since you have only 300 words you will want to focus on one aspect of your personal, professional or extracurricular life that really excites you.

Overall, this essay is meant to show how introspective you really are. Have you thought deeply about your passions and motivations in life, and do you know what truly makes you happy? If you can show that you understand yourself and are most motivated by your own passions rather than the expectations of others, you can demonstrate both self-awareness and maturity in this essay.

If the open ended prompt is intimidating you can try brainstorming over a period of a few days. Ask friends and family what most excites you when you go about your day to day life. Keep a notebook by your bed so you can record your first thoughts upon waking up, or dreams that might help you understand your passions.

Ӣ Describe a personal challenge or obstacle and why you view it as such. How have you dealt with it? What have you learned from it? (300 word maximum)
This essay question is similar to Essay 3, but focuses on a personal challenge or obstacle. This question is the perfect opportunity to bring up a pivotal moment in your background that has shaped your personal development. Challenges often reveal quite a bit about character, and your story should convey how you handled the situation, and reflect upon the key lessons of the situation. If you are describing a challenge that was external to you rather than self-imposed be sure to avoid blame or excuses. Everyone faces challenges or obstacles in life, and your response will reveal a tremendous amount about your character. This kind of essay is ideal to seek a third-party opinion on tone and approach.

Optional Essay
Is there anything else you think the Admissions Committee should know about you to evaluate your candidacy? (500 word maximum)

If there are any areas of concern, this is the correct place to address them. Strike an upbeat tone here and avoid excuses. Explain your issue clearly and focus most of the essay on the correction for the issue. For example, if you had a disciplinary issue in college, spend most of the issue demonstrating that you learned from the experience and have been an ideal citizen ever since.

If you do not have a weakness to address here, it’s an ideal opportunity to provide any information that you were unable to work into the other three essays. If you have an unusual background, hobby or extracurricular experience, this may be an opportunity to provide that information to the adcomm.

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