Ross Business school essay analysis

Ross Essay Analysis 2016-17

Last updated on August 26th, 2016

Reading Time: 7 minutes

This year, Ross has retained the same set of essay questions as last year, with a couple of tweaks. Traditionally, the Ross Adcom has placed a high value on authenticity and ‘down-to-earthness’ very highly – keep this in mind as you answer the Ross essays. Also be aware that Ross lays a very strong emphasis laid on communication skills (which also explains why it has a team exercise as part of the application process). This means that the presentation of your essay is going to matter as much as the content of your essays. Make sure that your essays have a compelling narrative, a carefully laid-out structure and no grammatical errors.


Essay 1 :


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

Ross has been using variations of this essay prompt over the past couple of years. However, a marked difference this year, as compared to last year, is that Ross asks you what you are proud of outside your work.
This means no corporate jargon, no ‘I increased sales by ‘x’ percent’, no ‘ cracking this deal got me an early promotion’.
This question speaks to you as a person. It deserves an authentic personal answer drawn from the deeps of your being.
Here’s the good part – The open-ended nature of the question means that there are many ways in which you can choose to answer. A few ideas:
1. A narration of a concrete accomplishment – for example, how you started a neighbourhood community to keep your locale garbage-free.
2. A story of personal transformation – for example, how you struggled with an unhealthy habit and later kicked it.
3. A story of interpersonal courage – for example, how you mentored a group of children from distressed backgrounds, how you repaired a relationship gone south etc.
4. A theme that underpins your life – For example, how resilience has been your biggest strength and how it has saved you from the doldrums time and again.
This is just to give you some samples; not to limit your thinking. Please feel free to think outside this list 🙂
As you pick a story, keep these pointers in mind –
1. Let honesty be your starting point – We’ve seen in earlier years that authenticity and down-to-earthness appeal to the Ross Adcom.
2. Think big and think ‘impact’ – The story/stories you narrate should have had a larger impact on your life, to answer the second part of the prompt, i.e. how does it shape who you are today? Therefore, do not pick an isolated incident with short-term benefits. Choose something that has truly transformed your life for the better.
If you are having trouble with zeroing in on a story right away, here are a few things you can do to coax your brain to develop a killer story.
Make a list of three to five incidents and traits about yourself that you are really proud of. Once you have a long-list, examine each of these for impact, on yourself, on another person and on the community.
Remember that the impact may not be direct, and that’s ok too. For example, your resilience is purely personal, but the effect of that resilience can be widely felt -say in a circumstance where you had to motivate a bunch of disheartened people working with you.
Since this is a question that hinges on perspective and introspection, get a rounded opinion. Consult your friends and well-wishers for opinions on which of your stories conveys maximum value.
Now that you’ve zeroed in on a story, how do you present it? We suggest the tried-and-tested START framework.
What was the background to the problem? What was the enormity of the issue? Why did you come in? What did it mean to you? Make sure you give the reader enough background. This is like the first few scenes in a movie in which every character is described. This is to ensure you drive home the point about WHY it was so important for you.
Explain clearly the task you had at hand. This could either be an explicit job role or something you assumed without being told. In either case you need to ensure you explain what is it that you were trying to achieve.It is important that you give a clear picture of WHY you chose to do that set of actions. What was the thought process behind it? Give them a glimpse of who you are.
What did you do? Did you face any resistance? Did you have to change your plans midcourse? What was the biggest challenge that you DID NOT anticipate? A lot of writers spend almost 90% of the essay talking about what they did. Here is where you have to be careful. You need to be crisp and clear. Don’t get into too many details.
What was achieved because of this? Did people save money? Did it help a particular client? Did you get a promotion or a reward or excellent ratings?
Here is where you address the second question in the prompt, that is, what are the long-term implications of this incident on your life? Think this through in detail. Do not be short-sighted as you think of takeaways – think about lessons that have served you/will serve you over the long haul! Most importantly, write from the heart. Be poetic and not prosaic.
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Essay 2:


What is your desired career path and why? (up to 250 words)

At 250 words, you have to be economical, even stingy, with your words.
The fact that Ross has reduced the length of this essay from 400 words last year, to 250 this year, indicates that they only want the crux of your career story. Essentially, you have to touch all the salient points without getting into the details.
The Start (100 words):
Clearly state your post MBA short-term and long-term plans. Don’t use obscure statements such as “get into general management” or “want a leadership position”. That is code for “I have no clue what I want to do but want to surely boss around a lot of people”.
However, note that its ok to be relatively vague about your long-term goal. With jobs getting created and destroyed every year, it is not very feasible to guess accurately what you will be doing 10 years down the line.
The Middle (100 words):
After that you need to talk about why are you the best person to get there. Start with a brief summing up of your career so far. Talk about what you have learned at work (without laying out all the minute details) and what makes you ready to take the leap to your future goals.
Next, you need to talk about why you seek an opportunity to grow. Someone from a technical background might want to understand the business side of things to get a fuller context. Someone from an operational perspective might want to grow into a role that involves more people management.
For every job there is some growth, or some career “next steps” that are possible. If you are in a role that has no such career progression then either you are not thinking hard or you don’t need an MBA.
Note here: Avoid references to how you hate your job or how your manager is a tyrant. Anything negative would go against you. Focus on the positives. Talk about how you are eager to take up opportunities that will help you grow in life. Show them the ambition, not the frustration.
Now talk about the 2 or 3 absolute “must haves” for you to get into that role. It could be the brand credentials of a top MBA for consulting. It could be the general management aspect of looking at things for someone in a finance career stream. It could be the wider perspective your teammates offer,that might make you a well-rounded Product Manager. It could be all of these.
The End (50 words):
Though Ross is not asking ‘Why Ross’ explicitly, you would do well to answer it briefly. By this point, if your writing is clear and crisp, it should be a no-brainer on WHY you should be doing an MBA. It should focus on WHY Ross.
Steer clear of generic stuff. You don’t want an MBA because it has “world class infrastructure” and “renowned faculty”.
Do your research. Talk to current students/alumni. Attend info sessions. Read up as much as you can about the school. If possible, even make a trip to the Ross campus! In short – pull out all the stops to ensure you understand why Ross is a good fit. Don’t do this to impress the Admission Committee. Do this because your decision is going to cost you the next 2 years and a lot of money. You better be sure!
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Essay 3 – 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.
Did you note two things?
1. There is no word-limit mentioned. Wow, all those other things about yourself that you haven’t got the space to write about..can you write about them here? Like that hobby you picked up two years ago, or that event you conducted at work? No, definitely no. Because, as the question says..
2. “This section should only be used to convey information not addressed elsewhere in your application”
So Ross is not handing out an additional sheet of paper so you can write about your accomplishments or your leadership qualities or your fitment. Rather, this is just a placeholder for all important information that is not covered elsewhere in the application.
Let the examples given guide you – completion of coursework, gaps in employment, poor academic scores. Use this section to offer critical information that could mitigate weaknesses and/or enhance your profile.
Before we wind up, we recommend that you read this excellent short post from the Ross Admissions Director, Soojin Kwon. Though this was written last year, the advice is equally relevant this year!
New Essay questions to Michigan Ross MBA application
You may also find this webinar from the Ross AdCom useful as you apply to Ross –

There you go! We hope that our take on the Ross essays helps you frame a winning application to Ross this season.
If you have any feedback for us, please let us know by leaving a comment in the comment section below.
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