Ross School Business Admissions Essays

Michigan / Ross MBA Essay Topic Analysis 2017-2018

Following up on the announcement of the Michigan / Ross MBA essay topics for the 2017-2018 admissions season, we wanted to offer some thoughts about how prospective members of the Class of 2020 might approach this application. In her admissions director blog, Soojin Kwon announced a new format to the Ross application’s essay portion: “There is now a short answer section and a more traditional essay question.” The short answer section contains three groups of prompts. The adcom asks that applicants select one prompt from each group and respond to it in 100 words or less; there should not be more than 300 words total.

2017-2018 Michigan / Ross MBA Essay Question Analysis

Let’s take a closer look at each prompt.

Short Answer Questions

Select one prompt from each “group.” Maximum 100 words each.


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


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


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

As an initial approach to these short answers, consider the broader themes of each group—impact through action, attitude under adversity, and self-awareness amidst diversity—and ensure you have a balance of content across the set. By dividing the questions into groups, the adcom is sending a signal that they want to hear about different aspects of your candidacy. The Director of Admissions at Ross, Soojin Kwon, told Clear Admit, “We want to get to know more about you than we would in a traditional essay where you’d talk at length about one topic. You’ll get to share different sides of yourself that will be relevant to your experience during business school.” So, diversify your topics for each group.

Group 1 starts off with a very open-ended option allowing candidates to introduce an interest, but the other prompts in the group are geared towards impact (which could provide a clue as to how one might frame a response to the first prompt). With only 100 words, each sentence becomes that much more valuable and must move the story along by conveying some action or impact. It makes sense to ‘complete’ the selected prompt in the first sentence, and, ideally, this opening would include your impressive results. For instance, “I made a difference when I resolved X problem for my local YMCA, resulting in more after school programs” or “I turned an idea into action when I launched X after school program, which helped dozens of underprivileged students gain access to Y opportunities.”

In regards to Group 2, the overall theme of attitude under adversity stands out. The first option regarding resilience could apply to a situation in which you faced a setback or hurdle. The problem could certainly arise from external forces, such as a team member missing a deadline; that said, an important thing to keep in mind is to avoid a “blame game” and ensure that you take responsibility if and when due. Most importantly, you’ll want to account for your actions (to show) and briefly comment on why the process was difficult for you. After all, resilience entails a struggle with an outcome of success. Moving on, humility is certainly a positive trait worth exploring. For instance, it would be appropriate to be humbled by how large a project team is, and how many colleagues contributed to its success; or one can be humbled when climbing a challenging peak or navigating a tropical storm in a small sailboat. Regarding being outside of one’s comfort zone, this is an ideal opportunity to introduce any international or cultural experiences you have had. You may also have a hobby that entails consistent growth and challenges; for instance, perhaps your quest for the next belt in your martial arts classes pushes you outside of your comfort zone. The key to this essay is to quickly establish context and then elaborate on how you handled the situation and grew because of it.

Finally, Group 3 invites self-awareness amidst diversity—whether it’s a particular value, approach to a problem, or viewpoint. There is also the potential to showcase your ability to adapt or to show how you have coached someone else to adapt. The key to a strong response here will be establishing what was different or challenging, elaborating on your constructive response and concluding with the positive results.

Career Goal Essay

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)
The Ross adcom has maintained a career goals question for this admissions season with a few more detailed requests. Establishing where you are headed from the start would help create context for your short-term goals; hence, we’d recommend that applicants open with their five- to ten-year target position. Then, you can touch on the position you hope to obtain immediately after school — down to the job title and 2-3 dream employers.

Next, summarizing your skills/strengths based on your past experience—and connecting to how they would enable your career plans—sets up the gap in your skill set that an MBA would fill. Be sure to include a few sentences about why the Ross MBA program and student community are a particularly strong fit with your objectives and priorities. If there’s a program or course that seems particularly relevant to your professional plans (you can find some ideas in the Clear Admit School Guide to Ross), it could be worth mentioning to show the adcom that you’ve done your homework on the school and see Michigan as an important part of your desired career path.

Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Ross MBA essay topics. As you work on your Ross MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s Ross School of Business offerings:

Posted in: Admissions Tips, Application Tips, Essay Tips & Advice, Essay Topic Analysis, Essays

Schools: Michigan / Ross


At Michigan Ross School of Business, MBA admissions director Soojin Kwon is a straight shooter who always strives to offer b-school hopefuls the clearest, most authentic application advice possible.

We think Kwon’s latest blog post on how she would answer this season’s MBA essays provides both concrete examples for the short answer questions as well as a great tip for how you might get the brainstorm session started.

As you know by now if targeting Michigan Ross, this year the school has decided to introduce a short-answer section with three groups of prompts. Applicants need to chose one prompt from each section and respond in 100 words or less.

“We want to get to know more about you than we would in a traditional essay where you’d talk at length about one topic,” Kwon explained in May when announcing the changes. “You’ll get to share different sides of yourself that will be relevant to your experience during business school.”

This week, the admissions director shares a helpful starting point for applicants, based on her experience with coworkers who asked Kwon the questions out loud.

“As a first pass, I responded verbally, to see what would come to mind first to each question, then picked the responses that felt the most ‘authentically me’ within each group,” Kwon writes. “If you’re like me, this may be an easier way to start the reflection process than staring at a blank screen.”

Click on over to the Admissions Director Blog to read exactly how Kwon answered these short-answer questions:

Group 1: I made a difference when…
Group 2: I was out of my comfort zone when…
Group 3: A valuable thing I have taught someone is…

“The hardest part of doing this wasn’t coming up with the ‘what’,” she reveals. “The hardest part was getting each word count down to 100 words. It required boiling each response down to its core elements. Every word had to be critical to the story. It was like solving a puzzle to try to balance content with brevity.”

Here at Stacy Blackman, we’ve coached Ross applicants by reminding them that the personal attributes most valued at Ross include community engagement and interpersonal, communication and teamwork skills. When you think about your short answers you may want to write about an important extracurricular moment, a challenge you overcame, or an event in your life that highlights something unique about your background.

Take note that these short answers are about getting to know you as a person, not as a collection of accomplishments. Your values and personal life will ideally shine through.

The Michigan Ross admissions team will host a webinar on Tuesday, August 29th from 1-2 pm CST.  Register today for more information about applying to Ross.

This entry was posted in Application Tips, Michigan Ross Advice and tagged Fall 2018 MBA essays, MBA essay advice, mba essay tips, Michigan Ross, Ross MBA essay tips, Ross School of Business, Soojin Kwon.
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