Ross MBA Essay Questions Analysis 2016-17

By - May 31, 14:54 PM Comments [0]

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The University of Michigan  Ross School of Business has released its essay questions and deadlines for the 2016-17 application cycle.

Dates & Deadlines:

Application Deadline Decisions Announced
          Round 1 October 03, 2015 December 16, 2015
          Round 2 January 02, 2016 March 17, 2016
           Round 3 March 20, 2016 May 12, 2016

Admissions Criteria:

The Admissions Committee seeks to bring together talented students from a broad range of academic and professional backgrounds. Applications are reviewed holistically; no single factor – e.g., GPA, GMAT/ GRE score, or years of work experience— determines the outcome. Applications are reviewed with three broad criteria in mind:

  • Intellectual ability
  • Professional and personal achievements
  • Interpersonal, communication, and teamwork skills”

 Essay Questions:

Like last two years, Ross requires its applicants to write two essays. However,  instead of 800 words for the two essays (400 words each), they now have to answer these two questions in only 650 words. Last year’s essay question # 1 offered the applicants the option to choose either personal or professional accomplishment.  This year’s applicants are not given that option. They need to discuss what they are proud of outside of their professional life which means they CANNOT share their professional accomplishments.  The second question (goals question) remains unchanged from last year, but alas the word limit for goals essay question has been reduced form 400 words to 250 words.

Let’s take a closer look at the two essay questions:

  1. What are you most proud of outside of your professional life? How does it shape who you are today? (up to 400 words)

This question allows you to choose your story from your academic, personal, or community  experiences . You will need to do a lot of self-reflection and come up with a story (accomplishment)  that best showcases your growth/development. Create a list of your two proudest personal or community achievements. Then reflect on how each of these accomplishments helped you demonstrate your values and priorities. You may also choose an experience that is meaningful to you because it gave you an opportunity to make an impact on other people’s lives and demonstrate your personal values of resilience, honesty, and integrity. Sometimes, the personal setbacks in our life teach us more valuable life lessons  than any other experience or adventure that we might undertake and make us stronger individuals. If you are proud of how bravely you handled a personal setback ( e.g. sickness, death of a dear one) you may share that story as well.

Whatever story you choose, please remember that the “what” of what you are most proud of is as important as the ‘why’ of it. That is, it is important to demonstrate what challenges you have faced, and how you stepped out of your comfort zone to overcome those challenges. In addition, don’t forget to explain the ‘significance’ of the experience. The Ad Com would like to know how have grown or transformed from that experience to emerge a better person or a member of community.

When the school asks you “What are you most proud of and why?” they don’t want to know about your entire life story (some of my students actually made this mistake); instead, they want you to share a single accomplishment that makes you feel proud of yourself. Ross admission director Soojin Kwon explained in her blog last year: “Don’t write two paragraphs of introduction before stating what you’re most proud of. You can even start with, “I am most proud of….” Write as you would speak. To a real person. We, who read the essays, are real people.” 

As always, I recommend that you follow the 4 part structure to organize your story:

  1. Situation
  2. Action
  3. Outcome
  4. Significance


“I consider this experience as my most significant achievement because it was the first time I had conceived an idea, influenced others to accept my plan and implemented it to create a positive impact on society. Combining my passion for running and my intent for helping the underprivileged, I formed a team of like-minded colleagues and accomplished a fundraiser 8K. Ross would find in me a person who can effectively channelize her skills and interests to achieve a bigger cause.”

Essay Question 2: What is your desired career path and why? (Up to 250 words)

This is a straightforward goals essay question through which the Ad Com would like to know why you want to go to business school. Begin your essay with a brief career history and provide details about how you have pursued your career, acquired new skills and progressed along your career path all these years. Explain your rationale behind each career move. Then go on to describe why you believe that an MBA is the next logical step in your career path NOW? What are those skills that   you still lack which you hope to acquire by an MBA?

Then explain your post MBA and long term goals.  Please be as specific as you can in discussing your post MBA goals. That is, specify which industry, which company, and what position you would like to see yourself at after graduating from Ross.  Even if you are not 100% sure, you should be clear and quite decisive about your short term goals. You need to make sure that there is a logical connection between short term and long term goals.  For example, you do not want to say that your long term goal is to be CEO of Xyz Company if your past experience, current skills set, and your short term goals do not at all seem to be leading to that direction.

Please remember that the ‘goals’ essay requires you to make a realistic connection between your past (past experience and skills), present (your need of an MBA), and future (your future goals). The key is to justify your rationale behind your chosen career path.

Finally, even though the essay prompt doesn’t ask you why you are interested in Ross, it makes sense to add 1-2 sentences ( if space permits) about how an MBA from Ross will bring to closer to your career objectives. Establish a connection between their offerings and your goals, and interests to justify your ‘fit’ with program.


“With its strong focus on experiential learning, a Ross MBA perfectly matches my goals. Ross’ signature MAP project will help me implement my classroom concepts to solve real-time business challenges   eventually developing my leadership and professional skills. The core courses along with electives such as Strategies for Growth will provide me sound business foundation.”

Given the stringent word limit (250 words), you will need to choose your words wisely, making sure that every word counts.

As you develop your stories for these two essays, make sure to showcase to the Ross admissions committee your well- rounded personality. The first question will help you paint your non- work side, and the second question will aid in demonstrating your professional side.

Last year, Ross admission director Soojin Kwon explained in her blog, “For both questions, there isn’t an answer that we “want to hear” other than a response that demonstrates that you’ve done some self-reflection and gives us a sense of you as a person.”

Optional Statement:

This section should only be used to convey information not addressed elsewhere in your application, for example, completion of supplemental coursework, employment gaps, academic issues, etc. Feel free to use bullet points where appropriate.

This question provides you an opportunity to explore an important aspect of your candidacy, or other significant achievements / strengths not mentioned in other essay responses and application form.  Given the limited scope of Ross’s essays, you can choose example/examples from your work, an outstanding professional accomplishment that you could not share in essay 1 because it specifically required  a non-work accomplishment. You may also share a life -experience that has greatly influenced your personality and life. The idea is to bring to light that aspect of your personality that truly makes you unique. Then you should try to demonstrate how you can leverage this skill or quality to enhance your MBA experience or your future career.

As directed in the essay prompt, you may use this essay question to address a weakness in your profile, such as employment gap, or low GPA / low GMAT, or unusual choice of recommender. Your weakness may also bring out a positive aspect of your personality.


"The private tutoring job that I had to take up to support mine and my sister's education required me to spend 30 hours/ week and left me with hardly any time to focus on my studies. This eventually ended up pulling down my grades to 70%."The tutoring experience, however, benefitted me in two ways. It reinforced my passion for teaching (I still find 10 hours/ week to teach my home maid’s children.) Also, it provided me the satisfaction of being a dutiful son.”

This post first appeared in myEssayReview blog.

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