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University of Michigan Ross School of Business MBA Essay Topic Analysis 2019-2020

University of Michigan Ross School of Business MBA Essay Topic Analysis 2019-2020

The following essay topic analysis examines Michigan / Ross MBA admissions essays for the 2019-2020 admissions season. You can also review essay topic analyses for all other leading MBA programs as well as general Essay Tips to further aid you in developing your admissions essays.

Following up on the announcement of the Michigan / Ross MBA essay topics for the 2019-2020 admissions season, we wanted to offer some thoughts about how prospective members of the Class of 2022 might approach this application. As with last year, there is a short answer section and a career goals essay.  The adcom has  made only slight changes to one of the groups of short answer questions. 

2019-2020 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 made a difference when I:


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


  • I was aware that I am different when:
  • I was challenged when: (changed from “I find it challenging when people:”)

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, it would be prudent to highlight a range of experiences and characteristics as you choose your topics for each group.

Group 1 starts off with a very open-ended option allowing candidates to introduce a hobby or personal characteristic, but its partner prompt’s focus on impact could provide a clue as to what the adcom is hoping to hear about from this first set of options. With only 100 words, each sentence 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 want people to know that I value education. 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. 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 provide the context that the reader needs to appreciate your story, and then elaborate on how you handled the situation and grew because of it.

Finally, Group 3 offers an opportunity to demonstrate self-awareness about something that sets the applicant apart from others—whether it’s a value, personality trait, approach to a problem, or viewpoint. There is also the potential to showcase your ability to adapt through resilience and grit, or to highlight emotional intelligence and interpersonal skill in a story about bridging divides or navigating challenging interactions. 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

Michigan Ross is a place where people from all backgrounds with different career goals can thrive. Please share your short-term career goal. Why is this the right choice for you? (300 words)
The Ross adcom has retained this career goals essay question for another admissions season, complete with its mention of Michigan’s diverse student body and its emphasis on one’s short-term post-MBA plans. Establishing where you are headed at the outset of the response can 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 background—and explaining how they would enable or have inspired your career plans—will help to set 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 programmatic offering or elective course that seems particularly relevant to your professional plans, it could be worth mentioning to show the adcom that you’ve done your homework on the school and that you 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: Essay Tips & Advice, Essay Topic Analysis, MBA Feature

Schools: Michigan / Ross

About the Author

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.

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