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Admissions Director Q&A: Andrea McHale of Michigan Ross

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We continue with our Admissions Director Q&A series with Andrea McHale, Director of Admissions for the Full-Time and Global MBA Programs at University of Michigan – Stephen M. Ross School of Business, for insights into the application process, curriculum and more at the leading business school. 

Before transitioning to higher education, Andrea spent 10 years in marketing, sales, and supply chain management within the healthcare and automotive industries. In 2013, she moved into education administration and is currently the Director of Admissions for the Full-Time and Global MBA Programs at Ross. Previously, Andrea served as the Director of Admissions for Michigan State University’s Broad MBA program. She holds a BA and MBA from Michigan State University, an MS from the University of Michigan, and is pursuing a doctorate in business administration from the University of Florida. She enjoys spending quality time with family and friends, playing tennis, and traveling in her free time.

Read on for Andrea’s inside knowledge of MBA admissions at Ross and additional highlights of the program.

Andrea McHale, Director of Admissions for the Full-Time and Global MBA Programs, Michigan Ross

Clear Admit: What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?

Andrea McHale: I wish applicants were more aware of the intentionality of the action-based learning pedagogy at Michigan Ross and the University of Michigan. These opportunities provide students with real-world experience in leadership through collaboration with peers, faculty, alumni, and industry leaders. We call this REAL or Ross Experiences in Action-Based Learning, where student accelerate their business acumen by “Doing Business.”

Here are a few examples specific to the Ross MBA

These examples highlight the breadth of experiential learning at Michigan Ross, helping students gain tangible skills and industry connections.

CA: Walk us through the life of an application in your office from an operational standpoint. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision?

AM: The admissions process includes a “first read,” a “semi-blind interview,” and a “second read.” Each read starts with the applicant’s resume to get an overview, followed by transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendation. Admissions committee members review applications from various regions and backgrounds to assess the applicant pool’s strength, focusing on academic ability and work experience to determine if the applicant can handle the MBA coursework and contribute to their peers’ learning. Successful applicants are invited to interview, conducted virtually by alumni using only the applicant’s resume. Post-interview, the admissions committee holds calibration and final decision review sessions.

CA: How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read an essay? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? What is one key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write?

AM: The Ross MBA Admissions team values authenticity and depth in your essay. Your essays are a chance to highlight personal and professional strengths, goals, and skills that are not evident from your resume. To make the most of this opportunity, bring your genuine self to the essays by sharing your personal journey, experiences, and values. Avoid clichés and write about what truly drives you and has shaped your decision to pursue an MBA. Use the essays to demonstrate what sets you apart beyond your resume and test scores, highlighting impactful projects, community involvement, and personal achievements that reflect your unique contributions and potential.

We have three short answer essay questions to understand your fit with our MBA community. The first essay assesses your ability to thrive in our action-based learning environment and contribute to the learning experience. The second essay gives insight into who you are beyond your professional life, with four prompts to choose from to highlight your personal drivers and standout qualities. The third essay focuses on your short-term career goals and how Ross will help you achieve them. Additionally, the optional statement is your space to address any gaps, academic outliers, or other aspects of your background that need explanation.

Be concise and articulate, stick to the word limit, and thoroughly edit your essays for clarity and grammar. Having others proofread your work can provide valuable perspectives. Be transparent about your experiences, including setbacks, as this showcases resilience and a growth mindset, which are valued by the admissions committee. Avoid negative tones or strong opinions unrelated to your goals, and focus on presenting yourself positively and constructively.

To create compelling essays, clarify your short-term and long-term career goals and explain how an MBA from Ross will help you achieve them. Be specific. Highlight your unique achievements, skills, and experiences and how they will contribute to the MBA program. Prioritize quality over quantity and ensure your essays portray you in a positive light. By following these guidelines, you can present a clear, authentic, and holistic picture of who you are and how you will contribute to the Ross community.

CA: Could you tell us about your interview process? Approximately how many applicants do you interview? Who conducts the interview (students, admissions officers, alumni), and what is the nature of the interview (resume-based, application-based, behavioral)? Will your admissions interviews be in-person or virtual for the 2024-2025 admissions season?

AM: Our one-on-one interviews will continue to be conducted virtually by Michigan Ross MBA alumni and, on a few occasions, admissions staff. Interviews are “semi-blind,” meaning interviewers only see the applicant’s resume, not their full application. We conduct up to 2,500 interviews annually. Interview assignments are random and not based on past work experience or career interests, though we do prioritize time zones for scheduling convenience. Therefore, applicants should be prepared to discuss their professional experiences with someone who may have a different career path. 

CA: What is your testing policy? Do you offer exam waivers? Why or why not?

AM: We are requiring that all candidates either submit a standardized test score (GMAT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT, PCAT, or DAT) or evidence of academic readiness for the Michigan Ross Full-Time MBA as part of the admissions application through the Statement of Academic Readiness.

If you are applying without a standardized test, the Ross MBA Statement of Academic Readiness is an essay where you, as the applicant, have the opportunity to demonstrate your readiness for the program without submitting a test score. Focus this essay on providing detailed evidence of your quantitative, academic, and career achievements. These achievements may include: 

  • Master’s degree in an analytical or quantitative field
  • CPA, CFA, or international equivalent
  • Academic records, especially in analytical or quantitative courses
  • Full-time work experience in an analytical or quantitative role
  • Performance on the Executive Assessment

CA: In the application data form, many schools ask for information about work experience, activities, hobbies, and much more. What advice would you give to applicants as they approach this component of the application process?

AM: First, I love this question. I think this is often top of mind for prospective students. Here is a video with tips on how to impress the Ross Admissions Committee. Here are my suggestions for completing the application data and criteria. 

  1. Focus on Your Resume: Your resume is a critical component of your application since this is B-school. The most important thing is to keep it to one page. If you are putting information on your resume, you want to highlight key accomplishments rather than just responsibilities. Applicants effectively do this by quantifying their achievements with specific metrics (e.g., revenue generated, new clients added, cost savings). This helps the admissions committee understand your impact and skills. You can additionally use your resume to highlight leadership and accomplishments outside of your career.  
  2. Be Authentic: Your application is a reflection of who you are. You want to represent your true self in all sections of the application. Admissions committees value genuine insights into your personality, values, and experiences. Avoid embellishing,  misrepresenting, or underselling your achievements and activities. This takes time to craft, so give yourself ample time to complete your application. 
  3. Balance Detail with Brevity: While it is important to provide enough detail, be concise. Admissions committees review many applications, so clear and succinct information is appreciated.
  4. Highlight Unique Experiences: Mention activities and hobbies that set you apart and demonstrate unique aspects of your personality. This can help make your application memorable.

 CA: Tell us briefly about two popular courses at your institution.

AM: One of the standout courses at Michigan Ross is “Action Learning Projects in Operations, Procurement, and Supply Chain Management,” a required 7.5 credit course for the STEM-designation specialization in Management Science. This course offers students the chance to deepen their expertise through action learning projects, tackling real-world operations or supply chain issues within a company over a 14-week period. The course is conducted in collaboration with AT Kearney and features guest lectures from AT Kearney consultants and executives from Fortune 500 companies. These sessions provide insights into consulting approaches in operations and supply chain management, as well as the latest industry developments. 

This course is taught by Professor Izak Duenyas and Professor Roman Kapuscinski. Professor Duenyas, Herrick Professor of Business and Faculty Director of the Executive MBA Program, brings extensive experience in supply chain management, revenue management, and production systems. He has received numerous awards for his teaching and research, and his consulting experience spans companies like Apple, GE, and Ford. Professor Kapuscinski, Senior Associate Dean for Faculty and Research, focuses his research on supply chain management, operational efficiency, and pricing in energy markets. He has received multiple Teaching Excellence Awards and has collaborated with various companies on research projects.

This course is an excellent opportunity for students to apply theoretical knowledge to practical challenges, guided by faculty with significant industry and academic expertise.

Another course to highlight is “Social Intrapreneurship: Leading Social Innovation in Organizations,” an elective under our new Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) curriculum. This course teaches students how to lead significant social initiatives within large organizations, similar to driving a social movement. It covers essential skills such as identifying opportunities for innovation, mapping social systems to find allies, mobilizing teams using available technologies, and framing initiatives to motivate decision-makers and make a strong business case.

The course begins with a framework for how effective social movements can transform organizations, emphasizing four key components: reading the opportunity structure, mapping the social terrain, mobilizing allies, and framing the business proposition. Students learn from the experiences of successful intrapreneurs, such as those at IBM, and receive training in social network analysis to visualize and quantify social landscapes. The course also explores tools for mobilization, effective strategies for pitching ideas to decision-makers, and real-world cases of both successful and unsuccessful social innovations.

Taught by Chris White, co-author of “Changing Your Company From the Inside Out: A Field Guide for Social Entrepreneurs,” this course combines theoretical insights with practical applications. It culminates in live practice sessions where students pitch their innovations to a client board, providing a hands-on experience in driving social change from within established companies.

CA: Is there anything else you’d like to highlight about your MBA program or admissions process?

AM: At Ross, we continually enhance our MBA program to address current global business challenges, with recent updates focusing on technology and sustainability. This year, we introduced new elective courses in AI and Machine Learning and a new concentration in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), equipping students with strong foundations in sustainability, social impact, and administration.

A common misconception is that Ross has limited career opportunities in the Midwest. However, Ross and the University of Michigan enjoy a strong global brand reputation. With over 67,000 Ross alumni and over 665,000 U-M alumni worldwide, our graduates succeed globally. Last year, over 75% of Ross graduates found opportunities on the East Coast, Chicago, or the West Coast, embodying our motto, “Go Blue, Go Anywhere!”

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.