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University of Michigan Ross School of Business MBA Essay Topic Analysis

The following essay topic analysis examines Michigan / Ross MBA admissions essays for the 2020-2021 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.

2020-2021 Michigan / Ross MBA Essay Question Analysis

Let’s take a closer look at each prompt.

Short Answer Questions

Select one prompt from each group of the two groups below. Respond to each selected prompt in 100 words or less (<100 words each; 200 words total). Every word counts here — the tight word count is intentional to force you to focus.

GROUP 1

  • I want people to know that I:
  • I made a difference when I:
  • I was aware that I was different when:

GROUP 2

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

As an initial approach to these short answers, consider the broader themes across them—impact through action, attitude under adversity, or 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, “The essays provide us with the ability to get a sense of who the applicants are, and the experiences that have shaped them. We approach the essay portion of the application looking to get a glimpse of who the applicants are–outside of what we see from their transcripts, test scores, and resume–and hear about their unique stories.” 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, then the second prompt focuses on impact.  Last year, the lead about being different appeared in a separate group. 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.” For the third option, you can demonstrate self-awareness about something that sets you apart from others—whether it’s a value or personality trait. 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, elaborating on your constructive response, and concluding with the positive results.

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. “Being challenged” opens up myriad settings for potential options.  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.

Career Goal Essay

Michigan Ross is a place where people from all backgrounds with different career goals can thrive. What is your short-term career goal and why? (200 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. Briefly 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. Be sure to address why this is your goal, whether for impact, skills, or as a stepping stone to your future.

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. Allot remaining space to addressing why the Ross MBA program and student community are a particularly strong fit with your objectives. 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 how 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:

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