Ross School of Business Essay Questions and Strategic Guidance, 2023-2024

The Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan prides itself on its strong, vibrant, and welcoming MBA community. From the officers on the business school admissions team to the MBA students to the professors, everyone knows the tune of “Go Big Blue!” and feels part of the broader university.

This sense of “welcoming community” comes out in Ross’s business school application, too. Overall, Michigan Ross seems dedicated to helping candidates submit the best application they can.

  • First, the admissions team keeps the essay lengths short, with the longest essay being a mere 150 words. While writing a more condensed essay is certainly challenging (the brevity required demands a high level of judgment), perfecting a briefer essay generally requires less time than perfecting a longer one. In fact, across all of the school’s three core application essays, you will only need to submit 350 words!
  • Second, the admissions team has created a kind of “choose your own adventure” application. Being able to select which essay prompts you want to respond to puts you in the driver’s seat. You have every opportunity to ensure that your application captures and conveys the best of you.

But with such choice comes responsibility! We share the below guidance to help you navigate your choices as you develop your Michigan Ross application.

Part 1: 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).

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

As much as Ross’s application gives you a chance to shine, you need to be thoughtful about which prompts collectively enable you to show off both the best and the most of you. So, an important step in developing your Ross essays happens well before you actually start writing them. Identify which themes and/or stories you want to communicate throughout your application and then consider how you can share them via some combination of the prompts you select. In tandem, ensure that with each prompt, the admissions committee learns something new about you. For example, imagine you are a management consultant focused on technology. You also volunteer at your local community theater, and you have been an amateur horse rider all your life. You would most likely not want both of your responses to discuss a different work engagement from your management consulting role! Unless those work experiences are so meaningful and distinct, ignoring the other elements of who you are would squander an opportunity to provide a full representation your candidacy.

When crafting your responses, keep in mind the concept of “balance.” Use specific, vivid details to ensure that your reader understands the context of what you are sharing and can clearly imagine your world. However, to optimize the allotted word count, include only the details that are critical to your overall story. Build out an anecdote that has a beginning, middle, and end; you need each of these to give your reader a sense of completion. And to conclude, use your final sentence to reflect on the “so what” aspect of the experience you just shared. What did you learn from it? How did you grow? What were the results?

There is no “right” answer for these prompts, so remember to think expansively about your experiences both in and outside of the workplace.  What is most important is that Ross gets a sense of who you are and what you will bring as a member of its community.

To learn more about how to relate an experience in an essay, watch our video “How to Tell a Great Story in Your MBA Essays,” which covers all the critical elements of storytelling, including “show, don’t tell.”

Part 2: Career Goal

  • What is your short-term career goal and why is this the right goal for you? (150 words)

Part 2 of the Ross application is all about your career goals and what you hope to do upon graduating with your MBA. You are given 150 words in which to discuss just your short-term career goals, which is quite a lot as far as business school applications go. Perhaps Ross invites such a lengthy submission so you have plenty of room in which to convince the admissions committee that your decision to apply to business school is not a knee-jerk reaction but a highly intentional decision, driven by what inspires you and where you see an opportunity to create impact. In addressing the “why” part of the prompt, think about your experiences to date that have influenced your vision for your future, what business problem you want to solve, and what skills and/or knowledge you have that will enable your success once you are in that near-term role.

To learn more about how to write about your career goals, watch our video “Your Career Statement:  Fact, Fiction, and How to Build One.”