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Michigan Ross MBA Essays: Analysis and Tips

If you learn better by doing rather than in the classroom with a traditional lecture or a case-based method, then Michigan Ross is the place for you! In the last seven weeks as a first-year student, you are consulting with the top companies around the world.

For an Indian applicant, it’s a great way to get exposure to US companies even before their internship begins. Dean Scott DeRue believes “that business is no longer a functional sport, and in today’s business world, you need to work across business and just not in one function.” And that’s what they are looking for in their students. This year Michigan Ross essays have two compulsory and one optional essay prompt.


In this article, we will analyze and provide tips to approach the Michigan Ross Essays. Here’s an outline of the article:

Expectations of the Admissions Committee


In the Michigan MBA admissions blog, Soojin Kwon, Managing Director full-time MBA admissions and program, states that the purpose of essays is to get a sense of who you are and learn about the experiences that have shaped you.

Here are some of the points that were highlighted by Michigan Ross Admissions team in a webinar to keep in mind while approaching the Michigan Ross essays:

  • You can include professional instances in your essay but make sure you provide information that is new and not represented in other parts of your application, i.e., Resume, letter of recommendations, etc
  • Essays are the only way by which the admissions committee get to know who you are before your interview, thus make sure you provide authentic information and highlight what can you bring to Michigan Ross community
  • Make the admission committee want to meet you by narrating an interesting story about you which is unique

In an interview with the GMAT Club, Michael Lippert, Senior Associate Director of Admissions at University of Michigan (Full-time MBA Program), has pointed out what kind of attributes the admissions committee at Michigan Ross looks for in an applicant:

  • They are looking for someone who likes to get their hands dirty. The person should be a problem solver, who learns and grows as a person by doing things. In other words, an action-based leader.
  • They are looking for a person who is interested in diversity in terms of business background and looking to collaborate with others. Michigan Ross is looking for leaders who can cross boundaries and work cross-functionally to help an organization thrive.
  • They are looking for applicants who take charge of activities outside the classroom. Michael states that “We thrive off the people who take the bull by the horns and want to create things and take leadership roles.” Every student at Michigan Ross is a leader, and the university also provides them with various opportunities in terms of extra-curricular activities.

Michael Lippert also points out that “At Michigan Ross, everyone is immersed in extra-curricular activities and what happens outside the classroom, and they require applicants that have the energy to do that.”

When it comes to approaching the Michigan Ross Essays, Michael states that “Its quality over quantity.” He points out that he would rather hear about two or three projects or things that you are passionate about or made a difference rather than twenty different things you have accomplished in the past year. Providing specific examples feels more meaningful and will make your essay stand out from other applicants.

Michael also states that the admissions committee believes that everyone has a different story, and by providing the applicants with an option to choose the story that impacted them immensely helps in knowing the applicant better.

Advice for Indian Applicants by Michael Lippert

In the interview with the GMAT Club, Michael Lippert points out the key things that an Indian Applicant should keep in mind while submitting their Michigan Ross MBA application:

  • Be authentic: Indian applicants generally feel this overwhelming pressure to make their work stories exceptional and stand out in a very academic sense of the world, which is essential and makes them stand out. But it does not provide a full picture of what are they passionate about or what differences they have made in their communities.

Thus, just highlighting your achievements and not explaining the impact that you made will not set you apart.

  • Self-reflection is key: Know your weaknesses and be honest about it. You should take responsibility for your shortcomings. Thus, being able to tell your story through your weakness and strength is a good strategy while writing an essay.
  • Don’t be too scripted: Tell your story in your own words rather than involving too many people to help you tell your story.

Application Deadline for the Michigan Ross MBA Application


Below table provides information regarding the Michigan Ross MBA Application deadline

Michigan Ross MBA Application Application Deadline Decisions Announced
Round 1 September 30, 2019 December 18, 2019
Round 2 January 6, 2020 March 18, 2020
Round 3 March 30, 2020 May 8, 2020

Learn more about Michigan Ross School of Business  Class Profile | Career and Employment Reports | Notable Alumni

Guidelines towards Michigan Ross Essays 2019 – 2020


There are few guidelines towards the Ross MBA Essays 2019- 2020:

  1. The essays need to get uploaded in the online application form. The file can be in a .pdf, .rtf, .doc or .docx format
  2. You need to put your full name, and the essay question asked at the top of each page
  3. You need to use at least an 11-point font and 1.5 line spacing for each essay question
  4. Plagiarism is not allowed, and the essays will be submitted to a third party to detect plagiarism.
  5. Do not include any self-identification information in your essays such as the date of birth or security number
  6. There is a word limit for each essay question:
    • Michigan Ross Essays: Question 1: 300 words (100 words for each group of the question)
    • Michigan Ross Essays: Question 2: 300 words
    • Michigan Ross optional Essay: no word limit

Michigan Ross Essays 2019 -2020 Questions

This year, the set of questions include two compulsory and one optional question. The optional essay is for applicants to highlight any issues or weaknesses in their application or any additional information.

Ross MBA Essays – Question 1: Short Answer Questions

This section of the essay requires you to answer one prompt from each group below within the word limit of 100 words or less:

Group 1

    • I made a difference when I:
    • I want people to know that I:

Group 2

    • I was humbled when:
    • I am out of my comfort zone when:

Group 3

    • I was challenged when:
    • I was aware that I was different when:

Ross MBA Essays – Question 2: Michigan Ross is a place where people from different career goals and backgrounds can thrive. Please share your short-term career goal, and why is this career goal the right choice for you? (300 words)

 Ross MBA Optional Essay Question: Is there something in your application or resume that could use an extra explanation? Then this is the chance to elaborate.

In the following section, we will analyze each essay question and will provide tips to approach the Michigan Ross Essays 2020.

Ross MBA Essays: Question 1: Analysis and Tips



Unlike other MBA essay questions of business schools, where they have one essay question for 300-500 words, Michigan Ross essay question 1 is divided into three groups with a word limit of 100 words or less. With a tight word count, the admission committee is hoping to understand the applicant’s distinctive personality in a straightforward manner. So, don’t be tempted to exceed the word limit; instead, think strategically about who you are and provide specific examples that help in explaining your personality.

As stated by Soojin Kwon in the Michigan MBA admissions blog, you can share personal examples that will help the admission committee to learn more about who you are as a person. Thus, this essay question is more personal and provides a glimpse of your personality.

However, it doesn’t mean that you cannot include professional examples. According to Nisha Trivedi, senior consultant at mbaMission, you can address professional topics in this essay. However, you need to be careful about what you choose to write. The point of the application is to paint a multi-dimensional view of yourself. Thus, why make sure your responses are not focused on a general story, idea, or area of your life, that’s already covered in your application. You need to provide something new while answering each prompt question.

Poonam Tandon, from MyEssayReview, states that “you need to introspect and dig deeper for specific stories and life experiences where you made a difference or when you taught someone a valuable thing or when you were humbled. The responses to each question that you choose should showcase your unique personal traits:

    • Group 1: You need to highlight the impact you have made and your interests
    • Group 2: An experience that humbled you and put you out of your comfort zone.
    • Group 3: Your learnings in challenging situations. This relates to your self-awareness as a leader

The key to answering all these responses is to demonstrate how you respond in the face of different situations and emerge as a stronger person.

Key Takeaways towards approaching Michigan Ross Essays – Question 1:


  • Brainstorm ideas on each prompt and evaluate which are your three best stories
  • Formulate your responses, which need to be specific and within the word limit. It is advisable by mbaMission to follow a narrative approach to paint a dynamic picture of yourself and narrate a compelling story that has a clear beginning, middle, and end to it. For example, while talking about a project rather than just including the people involved and what the project was about, be sure to include how the project made you feel, the challenges you faced, and the impact you made.
  • Own your answer: Use examples to be more specific and elaborate.
  • Focus on the challenges you faced, the actions you took, and the impact you made that make you stand out of the crowd. Follow a STAR Approach:
    • S – Situation
    • T – Task
    • A – Action
    • R – Results
  • Make sure that your responses for each group are different and not a continuation of one story.

For example: If you had answered, “I made a difference when I volunteered for community service by …”, make sure that while answering group 2 questions, you don’t relate to the same story.

Ross MBA Essays: Question 2: Analysis and Tips


Ross MBA Essays Question 2: Michigan Ross is a place where people from all backgrounds with different career goals can thrive. Please share your short-term career goal, and why is this career goal the right choice for you? (300 words)

As stated in the essay question, the admissions committee has specifically asked you to share your short-term career goals and the reason for those goals. To answer this essay question, you should have an idea about what your post-MBA goals are and specify the industry and function you are interested in it. But this doesn’t mean that you are required to mention the specific company or job profile you want.

In a webinar section held by the admissions team at Michigan Ross, they point out that it’s a good thing if you know what you want exactly and highlight the same in your essay. But merely saying “I want to be a marketing manager at P&G” does not influence the admissions committee. What they are looking for is a cohesive and coherent plan about the field you are interested in and how you are going to get into that industry.

In the same webinar, the admissions team at Michigan Ross states that it is not required for the applicant to explain ‘Why Ross’ in this essay question. ‘Why Ross’ can be justified when the applicant comes for the interview, but at the same time, if your answer cannot be completed without answering ‘Why Ross’, then it is considered by the admissions committee.

Keep in mind that listing the courses that Ross offers to answer the ‘Why Ross’ is not recommended by the admissions committee.

Nisha Trivedi, a senior consultant at mbaMission, points out the underlying question while approaching this essay, i.e., How have your experiences sparked your interest in your short-term goal? In other words, you need to explain how did you decide on your career goals? To answer these questions, you need to describe how your work experiences or personal choices have inspired your career plan.

Once you have highlighted your career goals and explained how your goals are inspired, the second part of the essay question asks you to explain why do you believe that you would thrive in your desired industry or role?  To answer this, you need to discuss any gaps in your existing skills or any weaknesses that would be filled by an MBA degree.

Key Takeaways towards approaching Michigan Ross Essays – Question 2:

  • Briefly describe your short-term career goal by linking it to your work experience and by summarising your skills/strengths.
  • Do not forget to explain what has led you to pursue an MBA degree
  • Describe why is your career goal the right choice for you
  • To provide a holistic view of yourself, use the Michigan Ross essays question1 to demonstrate who you are as a person, and Michigan Ross essays question2 to describe who you are as a professional.

Ross MBA Optional Essay Question: Analysis and Tips

Ross MBA Optional Essay Question: Is there something in your application or resume that could use an extra explanation? Then this is the chance to elaborate where you might want to discuss the completion of supplemental coursework, academic issues, employment gap, etc.

You can use the optional essay to provide more information about an area in your application that may need an explanation — for example, a career gap, low GMAT score, low GPA, etc. You need to ask yourself if any information provided in your application would raise additional questions for the admissions committee. If so, address those gaps by opting for the optional essay.

Read about What is a good GMAT score for Michigan Ross?

This essay question can be used to address weaknesses in your profile, such as low GMAT score, poor academic performance, any employment gap, or an unusual choice of recommenders.

Note: opt for optional essay only if you have any additional/new information to share with the admissions committee.

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