Ross MBA essays 2016: A Brief Analysis

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The Michigan Ross MBA essays have changed. While most top business schools either revamp their essay sets from year to year, or leave them unchanged, Michigan Ross has gone with a third approach – it has modified the topics a bit, and changed (reduced) the word limits associated with each essay. While the changes to the Ross MBA essays 2016 are few, they are highly significant, and would involve a very different approach from those applying to the program.

Ross MBA essays 2016 – what has changed?

The Ross MBA essays 2016 are:

  1. What are you most proud of outside of your professional life? How does it shape who you are today? (up to 400 words)
  2. What is your desired career path and why? (up to 250 words)

In addition to these required essays, the Ross MBA also has an optional essay that can be used by applicants to explain any extenuating circumstances (choice of recommenders, GMAT scores, reason for opting for a second MBA, as examples) as needed.

The first key change in this essay set pertains to the addition of the words “outside of your professional life” to the first essay. Clearly, Ross wants to understand the person behind the resume, the GMAT scores, and the professional goals.

This may also be a bit of a surprise in the sense that Ross has never been a school to focus on extra-curricular/extra-professional achievements very closely earlier.

While the second essay remains the same as that of earlier years, the word limit has been reduced from 400 words to 250. The biggest issue that this will present is that of fitting in a clear and adequate description within this word limit.

Ross MBA essays 2016 – a brief analysis

Applicants approaching this essay will need to do some hard thinking, as most professionals applying to top MBA programs think more along the lines of how their work or profession has transformed them (the MBA is, after all, a professional degree) than activities outside it.

Yet, Ross is very clear in now communicating that they are looking for leaders who make a positive difference in the world. The key elements here would not just be what one has done, but the factors that drove one to do it, and the impact it had.

Finally, the effect on oneself should also be noted in non-obvious terms, highlighting how this experience/these experiences made one a better person and a better fit with Ross.

The school, as it says itself, is looking for the key qualities you bring to Ross as a person – what you are passionate about, what drives you, and how you are likely to contribute in the future.

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For the second essay, applicants will do well to focus not just on the what, but also on the why. Chronicling briefly the reasons that led one to this choice, and how it is likely to play out in the future.

Talk about both your short-term and long-term goals, and also about how they connect together, and why they are important to you. Finally, it is important to remember that you should stick exactly to the topic – the Ross Admissions Committee is quite particular about the fact that they have shortened this essay so that applicants stick to the point – and it shouldn’t be hard doing so given the question. This might require some writing skills though, and planning what you want to say (and why), is going to be critical here.

Ross also has an optional essay, and judging by past experience, it really is optional. Put yourself under no pressure to utilize this to say something that may not be important to your profile, or just to convey more information because you felt the main essays didn’t give you enough of a canvas.

Ross MBA Admissions 2016 – what else counts?

While the essays are no doubt an important part of the Ross MBA admissions process, the other elements of the application count too – in particular, the interview is quite heavily weighted.

The recommendations and the resume act as a support to the core profile, and often, the resume will be the document that gets reviewed first (and is therefore important in terms of setting the tone).

Serious applicants will of course try and submit their best work in the essays, but they will also make extraordinary efforts to ensure that their resume and their recommendations do a great job of supporting their overall candidature.

Ross MBA deadlines 2016-17

Round 1: October 3, 2016

Round 2: January 2, 2017

Round 3: March 20, 2017


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