The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business is among the dream destinations for many MBA aspirant. Established in 1924, Ross hosts about 200 companies hunting for top management talent every year. In 2015, 97 percent of its MBA students had at least one job offer within three months of graduation. That’s a pretty good reason for many to consider applying to the Michigan Ross MBA.
And Ross considers everyone who has the required intellectual ability, professional and personal achievements, interpersonal, communication, and teamwork skills.
It tries to find applicants who are unique in their own ways. However, differentiation is not the key criterion but the sincerity and quality of the applicants’ narration of their experiences.
Applicants need not move academic or professional mountains to get into Ross; they just have to tell their own personal stories, and tell them well, through their applications, essays, résumés, recommendation letters, and interviews.
We’ve helped enough number of Indians get into the Ross MBA program over the years, for tough cases such as reapplicants as well as second MBA applicants.
So here are some tips, not just from us but also from the Ross Admissions Director Soojin Kwon.
The Ross application for the 2016-17 admissions season contains two essay topics, the first of which poses two connected questions: What are you most proud of outside your professional life? How does it shape what you are today? Your essay can be of about 400 words.
These two questions under the first topic explore your personal accomplishments, including academic milestones. What does Ross really want to find out?
Admissions Director Soojin Kwon explains in her blog that the school wants to understand what is important to you, how you think about and analyze things, and what your priorities are.
You could write about your proudest achievement, such as bringing two communities closer by breaking down communication barriers, or your leadership/membership of a charity organization that has touched the lives of people in need, or your work with an environment group or sports club that has made a difference to your town and its people.
You could even write about how you overcame a personal challenge: for example, you may be the first person in your family to go to college, or you may have broken through a social barrier.
The second question under the first topic makes you think about the lessons that you learned from your personal success that you mentioned earlier. How did the experience shape your opinion or change the way you look at people or issues?
Ross expects humble, authentic answers that throw light on your values and your goals. Therefore, it would be a good idea to start writing after some reflection. The answers should come from within you and show your real character. Clearly, overconfidence and bombast are to be kept at a distance.
The second essay topic is, “What is your desired career path and why?” Unlike in the case of the first topic, your word limit this time is 250 words, so don’t go rambling. Ross intends to find out whether its MBA program would help you build a career you like. Therefore, again, reflect. How will an MBA from Ross take you where you want to go? What is it about the Ross program that will help you become a complete professional in your chosen field?
You probably should not go straight to revealing your ultimate dream goal, post-MBA. You may say that you want to head a Fortune 500 company right after Ross, but the admissions office will not be impressed.
The question is what your “path” is going to be: you need to write about your “immediate future,” about your midterm plan five or six years after MBA, and about your long-term plan, say, ten years down the road. Do your homework to find out how a specific course or courses in the Ross program is made just for you.
Ross points out that your résumé is just as important as your essays, as it gives the school a quick glimpse of yourself, a “first-impression-maker,” according to Admissions Director Kwon. So, spend some time over your draft, remembering that you have to limit yourself to one page. Ross doesn’t favor a résumé with a ton of technical details about your work that only a prospective employer may want to know.
The school also lets you know that you needn’t worry about any lack of work experience, and says that it is the quality of your contribution to your organization that counts. You also shouldn’t fret if you have an educational background in arts rather than business.
You may fit in very well at Ross as it looks for diversity in the class. (The Ross full-time MBA class of 2017 consists of 407 students from 29 countries; 35 percent are international students, 32 percent are women, and 25 percent are from the minorities. Forty percent are undergraduate majors in the humanities, 36 percent in engineering, and 24 percent in business.
As an applicant to Ross, you are required to submit one recommendation letter, ideally from your current supervisor who can provide the admissions committee feedback on your professional record and approach.
A letter from a former supervisor, professional mentor, or project manager are alternatives, but you should make sure to say why the letter isn’t from your current supervisor. For example, you could explain that you asked a former supervisor because approaching the current one might jeopardize your chances of a promotion.
On receiving the name of the recommender, Ross sends him/her two questions: how do your professional and personal qualities compare with those of other individuals in the same roles as you; and what is the most important creative feedback that the recommender has given you. Answers to these questions should be of about 250 words each and should provide specific examples.
Here are some quick tips.
(1) If you waive your right of access to the letter, it would add credibility to the recommendation;
(2) You could provide some time to your recommender to write the letter, besides some information that would help him/her answer the questions about you;
(3) If your preferred recommender says he/she doesn’t feel strongly enough about you to write the letter, don’t try to persuade this person but find someone else.
Would Ross turn down an applicant just because of a low GMAT score? The answer is no; Ross explains that the GMAT score is only one of many criteria that help it decide on candidates.
For the Class of 2017, for example, 10 percent of selected candidates had scored below 650. The applicants who scored below 650 had a good academic record, demonstrated quantitative ability, and excellent professional achievements.
They also had written well-thought-out essays that indicated that they would be able to contribute to Ross’ collaborative community.
But also keep in mind that 80 percent of the Class of 2017 scored between 660 and 760, with the average GMAT score at 708. Also that a low GMAT score is much feared as the biggest MBA-application killer, according to a Kaplan survey!
Similarly, Ross clarifies that the average undergraduate GPA was 3.4 for the Class of 2017, and that it expects its class average to be in the 2.9-3.8 range, but that it does not have a minimum GPA requirement.
The GPA is given weight according to the rigor of the applicant’s undergraduate course and the strictness of the grading. However, a low GPA is considered the “second biggest application killer,” according to the Kaplan survey.
Again, Ross does not specify a minimum requirement. Typically, incoming students have worked for at least two years, and the average experience is usually around five years. Ross evaluates the quality of your contribution to your organization and the richness of your work experience that you can share with your classmates.
Ross stresses that the school doesn’t favor work experience in one type of industry over another. However, on its website, Ross lists financial services, consulting, and government/nonprofit/education as the sectors from where most candidates were recruited for its Class of 2017.
The Ross one-on-one interview typically lasts less than an hour, and so you should make your points clearly and succinctly.
Keep in mind what you have written in your essays, so that there are no inconsistencies.
However, don’t be bookish in your preparation, so that it won’t appear that you are reading from a script.
Listen to the questions and keep cool enough to think about them. You should find a way to integrate what you wanted to say in your answers, without seeming to be deviating from the topic.
Read these Ross MBA related articles:
– Michigan Ross MBA success story for Indian applicant
– Michigan Ross MBA admit for Indian reapplicant