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MBA Admissions Brief: Michigan / Ross

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In this installment of MBA Admissions Brief, we bring you tips and advice from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Soojin Kwon, Managing Director for Full-time MBA Admissions and Student Experience

Soojin Kwon is the Managing Director for Full-time MBA Admissions and Student Experience at Ross. She is also an adjunct lecturer in Ross’ Business Communications department. Soojin joined Ross in 2004 and has led the Admissions Office since 2006. Before joining Ross, Soojin was a Manager in Deloitte’s Strategy and Operations practice, focusing on consumer business clients. Prior to consulting, she was selected as a Presidential Management Fellow and worked in Washington, D.C. for the Senate Budget Committee, House Appropriations Committee, and Department of Commerce.

Soojin holds an MBA from Ross, an MPP from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a B.A. in Economics and Political Science from Yale. She has served on the boards of the Forte Foundation, Greenhills School and ETS’ Business School Advisory Council. She has also served as an alumni interviewer for Yale.

Read on for her advice about the Ross application process, choosing recommenders and what you may have to look forward to in Ann Arbor!

What would you say to someone who’s applying next fall and just getting started in the MBA application process now?
First, you need to do the necessary self-reflection. You should be able to answer the following questions: “What do I want to get out of an MBA? How can an MBA help me?” You should think more broadly than about what industry or company you want to work in. Think about the ways in which you want to grow, skills you want to develop, knowledge you want to acquire. The MBA is more than a means to a specific end. If you choose a school that is a good fit for you, it can be a transformational experience.

You should also think about what kind of environment (e.g., student body and culture) you want to go to school in. You can get a sense of a school’s culture by talking with current students and/or visiting campus. If you do the self-reflection up front, it will help you identify schools that are a good potential fit for you it can save you time in the application process. And you’ll find yourself more excited about applying to those schools.

Second, do a practice GMAT or GRE or two to see which one you feel like you can do better on. Like many schools, Ross accepts both. Once you’ve figured out which test is “better” for you, study for the real thing. You can do it independently – through books or online – or take a test prep course. If you don’t do well on your first go round, study and take it again. Ross, and other schools, will evaluate you based on your highest total score. 

What’s the one thing MBA candidates should know about selecting a recommender?
Choose someone who has worked with you in a professional context—preferably, a supervisor (or a client or investor if you have your own business). The recommender should be able to provide details about your skills, performance, and style. Give them plenty of lead time to write a thoughtful recommendation.

What’s your program’s most exciting change, development or event coming up in the year ahead?
The Impact Studio is a new initiative at Ross launching this fall aimed at turning insights from faculty research into solutions for current social challenges. The Impact Studio course, which was piloted this year, drew on Professor Eric Schwartz’s research on predicting lead contamination in the Flint water system. Schwartz developed an algorithm that accurately predicts the chance that a given house has lead pipes. The City of Flint has used his algorithm to prioritize investments in infrastructure. Students in the course learned and applied design methodology to develop solutions to scale the technology so it can have greater impact in Flint and beyond. The next cohort will build on their research to design a business model.  

Of the big trends in business education right now (tech, globalization, analytics), what are you doing or innovating in one (or all) of these spaces?
Analytics: Last fall, we launched our Data & Business Analytics concentration. Students can choose from around 30 courses across the schools of business, information, public health, public policy, and nursing. Classes like Applied Business Analytics and Decisions and Marketing Engineering have been very popular with our students. In its first year, more than 10 percent of the graduating class completed the concentration. Based on student, and recruiter, interest, we expect that number to grow in the coming year. Students also launched MIchigan Code Academy to help fellow students learn coding languages like SQL and Python, which many tech companies value.

Tech: Almost 30 percent of last year’s graduating class went into tech. Students gain experience in the tech industry through Multidisciplinary Action Projects (MAP) at companies like Alphabet, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, as well as through the support they receive from our Career Development Office. One of the resources students find particularly valuable are Functional Accountability Career Team (FACT) groups which meet weekly, by industry, to help MBA1s prepare for everything they need to recruit in tech and other industries.

Globalization: The slate of MAP projects (7-week, full-time consulting engagements) that students can choose from reflects the changing nature of business, and MBA student interest, with more projects in tech and outside the U.S. than ever before. In 2018, we had projects in every continent except Antarctica. Nearly 70 percent of our students worked on a MAP project outside of their home country. Moreover, 83 percent of student teams presented their recommendations to a C-suite executive.

What would you like to highlight about your post-MBA career placement success?
Go Blue, Go Anywhere. By that we mean students come to Ross from all over the world, and launch their careers all over the world. Our graduates get jobs across the U.S.: 30 percent on the West Coast, 20 percent on the East Coast, 22 percent in Chicago as well as 9 percent internationally. They also go into a wide range of industries and functions. Nearly 60 percent of our grads go into consulting and tech, 23 percent into marketing, and 17 percent into finance.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.