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University of Michigan, Ross Essay Analyses - 2017!

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Joined: 30 Nov 2009
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Location: Chicago, IL
Schools: Brown University, Harvard Business School
University of Michigan, Ross Essay Analyses - 2017!  [#permalink]

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New post 16 Aug 2017, 22:09
Hey there, all you Ross hopefuls!

2017 is looking bright and shiny with some new essay prompts, and here at Admissionado we thought we would jump in and give you a head-start on those essay questions, jog that imagination, and give you a few tips and tricks to get started on your Ross essays. Soooooo, without further ado:

Michigan Ross School of Business MBA Essay 1

Select one prompt from each group. Respond to your selected prompts using 100 words or fewer (<100 words each; 300 words total).

Group 1

I want people to know that I:
I turned an idea into action when I:
I made a difference when I:

Group 2

I showed my resilience when I:
I was humbled when:
I am out of my comfort zone when:

Group 3

I was aware that I am different when:
I find it challenging when people:
A valuable thing I have taught someone is:


The grouping is a little strange here. It’s best to think of these as nine mini-prompts, and then pick the coolest one from each group, simple as that. Don’t overthink the “groups.”

As we always say, don’t pick the question, pick first from your “Greatest Hits” – the stories you need to tell, no matter what. Then find the questions which provide the cleanest opportunities for you to tell those stories.

“100 words or fewer” (for each of the three responses) is the real trick. That’s just not a lot of words, folks. We’re at 90 words so far by the way (99 if you count that last sentence). Adds up, fast.

You’ve really only got a couple sentences and that’s hard as hell. But it’s also helpful in some ways. You’re actually unable to get too stuck. You need to be seriously efficient with your words. So let’s go through each prompt and figure out where to focus your attention.

Group 1

I want people to know that I:

Think about this one carefully. It shouldn’t be “an impressive resume bullet.” That would be more appropriate for something like “It would be nice if people happened to find out X about me.” Right? Isn’t that how a REAL badass approaches things? It’s always the quiet guy/gal who decidedly DOESN’T give you his/her resume, but you end up finding out somehow else, and go “holy crap, I had no idea.” So much cooler.

Have fun with this one. Think of this more like “These people will never know this STRANGE thing about me unless *I* tell them right now. So, strap in folks, and try not to smile and LOVE me after I tell you this thing.”

It can be an honest admission of … something funny, charming, silly, embarrassing, weird.

Example 1:

“I want people to know that I do not like nickels. Can’t stand em. Thickness. Worthless of amount. I like Jefferson? But I don’t love Jefferson. I’d rather be poor than have a billion nickels. What else. I’m trying to find a way to fill my 100 word allowance, but I can’t say it better than that. I hate nickels. If you give me change, and there are nickels present, I’m an adult, and I’ll seem composed, but inside, as small part of me will weep a little.”

Example 2:

“I want people to know that I genuinely don’t know if I’ve ever sneezed properly. I’ve observed people sneeze so loud that they injure themselves, or at the very least, a sneeze that warrants an “Excuse me.” Is it possible I’ve never sneezed before? On the one hand I feel like it may mean that I’m some kind of X-Men-esque inevitability of evolution. Mankind’s 2.0. And while that’s a fun thought, I can’t help but wonder, what have I been missing all these years? I’m tired of wondering. I’m going to go inhale a cloud of black pepper. Pray for me.”

Example 3:

“I want people to know that I really like Justin Bieber. I want people to know that I don’t care what YOU think of him, or what you think of people who typically like him. The kid is rad. Fact. I like his hair. I like his muscle T-Shirts. Before you decide things about my musical taste, consider this: I like Nirvana. I like Dre. I even like Mahler. But, yeah, also, I like Justin Bieber. I don’t know what it means, but I know is it’s 100% true.”

See the pattern? There’s something about “not taking yourself too seriously” that can make someone want to take you… more seriously. Ironic how that works out right? As opposed to the guy who pulls up in an electric blue Lamborghini and announces with chest puffed: “I want people to know that I bought this Lamborghini after I closed the deal of a lifetime–” (if anyone is still listening to that guy speak, I’d be surprised).

So the safe bet here: don’t take yourself too seriously. If you do it right, it should have the opposite effect. It’s not always true, there is an art form to it, so give it a whirl, see where it takes you.
I turned an idea into action when I:

Listen carefully here… if the action was inevitable, it’s not going to be a great story. This is meant for the idea that was destined NEVER TO SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY, but did because you were there. Like Sisyphus, you saw the same giant rock sitting there that others might have seen, but didn’t approach. Then you – actively – pushed that thing UPHILL against some kind of opposing force. That’s the key here.

The action has to be unexpected in some way. We need to see that when a person like YOU has an idea, it’s actually a bit dangerous because you may just see it through. (Anyone can come up with an idea. Under achievers do it every few minutes from their parents’ basements between handfuls of Doritos. And duuuuuude, those ideas are like so great, maaaaan.) The idea-person is only one part of the equation though. The “gitterdone” person is the other part. We want to see the two-in-one version in you.

Try to capture the CHALLENGE, or the reason this idea shouldn’t have seen the light of day. Then (quickly) walk us through the what and how of Idea-to-Action.
I made a difference when I:

We need a clear understanding of what things would have been like WITHOUT YOU. And then we need to appreciate the delta that resulted after you were added to the equation.

First, paint the picture of “If I hadn’t done X, this is how things would have gone.” Then take a few sentences and show us how the thing YOU did made a meaningful difference.

This question lives and dies by our understanding of that delta. Without the context, your accomplishment may seem… kinda impressive? But we won’t know much about how much of a DIFFERENCE you made. It’s inside THAT aspect that we can gauge just how much of a change agent you can be. And based on that, ponder what your future potential is like.

Group 2

I showed my resilience when I:

This is a tougher one. In order for this to have any weight we need to understand the weight mounting on you. We need to taste the potential for you (anyone) to have BUCKLED underneath that weight. We need to see that it would have been somewhat understandable that someone might not have found a way through it. It just needs to be comprehensible. And that’s the hard part here. Once we understand that piece, then we need to understand how you dug deep to find the strength or strategy to NOT buckle, and to resist, push, hold firm. By the way, this CAN be a failure story. It’s possible to be resilient (crucial even) through a failure. The common thread with resilience stories is the ability to bounce back, withstand additional pressures, grow stronger, etc.

This is hard to do in 100 words. Maybe spend one efficient-as-hell sentence establishing the “barrage of bullets” you were experiencing. Maybe a sentence explaining the likeliness of buckling somehow. Then a few sentences explaining how you “made a fist instead” and fought back. Regardless of the outcome.
I was humbled when:

Also a tougher one compared to the first group. You need to open your kimono up a bit here and expose yourself. You need to get comfortable revealing a belief or position you once held that later proved to be wrong. Or, the equivalent of that. If not a belief, then an attitude you had about yourself that was shattered.

This one (similar pattern as the others) lives and dies by the contrast between the post-humbling moment and the BEFORE picture. If it was overconfidence, let us see it. Whatever it was, allow yourself to look bad for a second. The fact that you can admit that you were humbled will quickly have the opposite effect, and make you stronger (instantly) than the guy who is afraid to admit being on the wrong side of an issue.

This one takes some courage, and says something about those who GO for it, and go for it all the way.
I am out of my comfort zone when:

This is similar to the previous one in that you have to be comfortable ADMITTING to something. Meaning, if there isn’t any discomfort along the way, you’re probably not doing it right. We need to feel uncomfortable – as you did – when you take us through the quick version of this story. We need to understand where you were comfortable, and why you felt uncomfortable when pushed outside that zone. It’s not enough to drop us into the “outside of comfort zone” and just tell us THAT this thing was outside your comfort zone. We need to know what it means, and the only way to do that is for you to establish the “normal” first. (Or whenever, but at some point.)

Group 3

I was aware that I am different when:

The moment they’re asking about has to have been something of a SURPRISE to you. If you set out to be different (in some way), and then it proved to be true, that’s not exactly what we’re going for here.

It’s almost needs to be the opposite. Either you tried to be SIMILAR to others, or weren’t conscious of it at all… but discovered (inconveniently, or simply in the form of a discovery) that your version of whatever it was, was different. Walk us through that realization, that discovery moment. And then how you reacted, what happened next.

Remember, 100 words, this can’t be a richly textured narrative. So, whether you like it or not, you will HAVE to be efficient. The key is to establish the thing that was to be expected and then dwell on the realization that something about you (or your choices, or whatever) made you different.
I find it challenging when people:

Don’t pick something that EVERYONE finds challenging. “I find it challenging when I’m challenged to a fist fight by a person who is twice as strong and twice as angry as me.” Gee, how unexpected. Or, “I find it challenging when people are disrespectful to others based on race or class.” (Don’t most?)

The trick to this one is to talk about a thing people do that most folks DON’T find challenging… but you do. Something that doesn’t bother others, but bothers YOU. Something others seem to have an easy time with, but not you. See the pattern? It has to be the case that there’s something unexpected about your version here. So, as you’re testing your “story choice,” make sure that most others wouldn’t find the thing to be challenging at all. If that’s the case, you’re on the right track. If, however, the thing you pick is met with a mostly universal response, keep digging.
A valuable thing I have taught someone is:

This is a very tricky one. It’s hard not to come across too in love with yourself here. So, you’ll want to pick the right story and be very sure of your tone when you tell it. One generally safe source is observing someone who was behaving in a self-destructive way. If you were able to “find a way through to that person” (where others had failed), awesome. Or, you taught someone something about developing self-confidence, that can be an indicator that maybe you’re a born leader. But again, it’s best if others had tried and failed, or there was something about the “student” here that was particularly challenging. If it was an employee, it’s kind of your job. If it was your boss, however, that could be dynamite. Especially if you knew that you taught them something because they told you so.

Be careful with this one. Make sure this is less chest-puff and more a different kind of lesson-learned on your end, even though it seems like it’s all about your teaching someone ELSE something. Probably the real student at the end of it all is you. If we don’t get that sense, you run the risk of coming across as the person who looks like the mirror and winks at yourself and says “Go get em, Tiger.”

Michigan Ross School of Business MBA Essay 2

Please share your short-term and long-term career goals. What skills/strengths do you have that will be relevant to your career goals? How will Ross prepare you for your goals? (300 words)


This is a standard MBA application essay, folks. As standard as it gets, but also as important as it gets.

Remember, no one at Ross Business School (or any business school for that matter) KEEPS TRACK of where you end up with respect to what your goals “were at the time of your application.” No one cares. Ha!

Business schools just want to know that you’re going to get a job and succeed. So, whatever your short-term and long-term goals are, they simply need to make THAT case. See the difference?

Adcoms don’t care that your goals are meaningful to improving mankind’s time on Earth, they just need to know that you’re going to be successful… period. (That’s oversimplified, on purpose. But at the end of the day, it really is all about that.)

For the skills/strengths section, it isn’t so much about the strengths themselves, as your awareness about how those map to your ability to succeed at your goals. That’s a mouthful, so let’s unpack it.

If you understand the connection between how to apply certain skills to a problem in order to earn a desired outcome, boom. That’s the jackpot. It’s possible to succeed because you were at the right place at the right time. Eventually, however, that person craps out. The other person who understands that connection we were talking about… eventually, that person will win. And what’s more, the awareness of that connection will almost guarantee that that success can be replicated.

If you can show that you “understand yourself” and you can astutely map Skill A to Goal B to get Result C, you’ll be seen as “a person who gets it” in their eyes. Congrats, you just won most of the battle. (How do we know? Because most people applying to business school can’t do that. The few who can, stand out.)

Now, for icing on the cake, take that same analytical ability and apply it to what Ross specifically has in its offerings to prepare YOU specifically, for your goals. If you can find the same things at another program, you haven’t dug deep enough. The good version of this should suggest that if you were accepted to Stanford or Wharton or HBS, you may still strongly consider Ross (maybe even deny those others) because something about Ross ties so powerfully to your ability to succeed at your specific goals. That’s the level of connection that makes this section hum. Even if that’s not true (that you’d turn down GSB for Ross), it should seem that way here. It should seem like there really isn’t a school as perfectly tailored for YOUR goals as Ross. This requires research, folks. Not just “scanning the website.” A deeper dive than that.

Familiarity with professors (by name only) won’t cut it. Be familiar with their WORK. Read their BOOKS. Speak to students and alums. Become knowledgeable. Develop that knowledge and then deepen it. Then, forge connections between Ross’s offerings, their approach to things, certain specific opportunities here, that will make your version of success through Ross that much better than the equivalent version elsewhere. Think about that. Will you be shrivel up and fail at your goals if you don’t get your MBA at Ross? Of course not. You’re gonna succeed at your goals no matter what. You just need to convey that the version of that success that passes through Ross is somehow BETTER or more exciting because of XYZ. Make THAT case in this end section.

So, three sections:

Short-Term and Long-Term Career Goals
Skills/Strengths Relevant to Your Goals
What is it about Ross specifically?

For a 300-word essay, generally, you’ll want to give equal space to these three buckets. There isn’t much sleight-of-hand worth talking about here. Hit us with your goals. Show us some sobriety when laying them out. Seem passionate, but no matter what, come across practical. Come across like a person who “gets it done.” Realism is better than idealism when push comes to shove here. Explain why it’ll be hard, lay out some of the challenges in your way.

Then, show us how well you understand what it will take to succeed by establishing what ONE would need to do to succeed, and then follow that up by showing us the skills YOU ALREADY HAVE in that direction. (Those skills may not be 100% complete, by the way. Remember, you need to fall short in SOME capacity, otherwise, why apply to b-school?) Make sure to leave us clear on where you fall short on skills, hence the need for an MBA at this point in your career.

Finally, establish the kinds of opportunities someone with your goals would kill to have at an MBA program in order to enjoy MAXIMAL success. Then reveal the two or three specific things about Ross which represent incredible versions of those things. “A great b-school for me would have one of those things, maybe two, but all three?!? Yeah Ross!” (That kinda thing.)

Michigan Ross School of Business MBA Optional Essay

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.


Because Ross has afforded you some space to cover a decent amount of stuff (including your personality), take them at their word here, and don’t volunteer another essay unless it meets the criteria of the prompt.

Read our team’s complete take on the idea of optional essay, including a brief (recent) history of b-schools’ relationship with it, and how our recommendations have evolved over the years, right here.

And that's that. Helpful, eh? If you have any questions on it or Ross or anything, just reply here or shoot us a PM. And if you want more Essay Analysis Goodness, check out more schools here. We're updating 'em daily as new prompts are released, so keep checking back.
GMAT Club Bot
University of Michigan, Ross Essay Analyses - 2017!   [#permalink] 16 Aug 2017, 22:09

University of Michigan, Ross Essay Analyses - 2017!

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