Insider Insight to Nail the Ross Essay (and Short Answers!)

(Updated for 2018-2019)

The University of Michigan-Ross MBA experience is filled with a tight group of classmates who love to work together and who spend plenty of time learning outside of the classroom.

Not only is it an opportunity to take classes from world-renown professors, participate in a Multidisciplinary Action based Project (MAP), or start an organization focused on any specific initiative you are passionate about, but maybe more importantly, you join a “family.”

Just to be clear, you might not become best friends with all of your classmates, but there is a huge chance that you will find some of your best friends at Ross. Students and alums have consistently described their Ross experience as collaborative and in an extremely competitive business world, having a supportive network to help you achieve your goals is invaluable.

So now the big question is “How do I get in?”

Good question! This year, Ross admissions has changed up the essay questions. There are two parts to the essays, Short Answer Questions and a longer Essay, both have limits of 300 words.

Part 1: Short Answer Questions (100 words each, 300 words total)


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


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


• I was aware that I am different when:
• I find it challenging when people:

To answer the Short Answer Questions, you respond to one prompt from each of the three groups. Each answer should be less than 100 words, with the total word count at 300 words or less.

The purpose of these questions is to give the admissions team some insight into who you are as a person and how you view yourself; here you can give the admissions committee a peek “behind” your resume.

Here you can tell the reader, in real concrete terms, how you are like no one else. Really take some time to brainstorm examples for each prompt. With only 300 words to answer three questions, every sentence you submit needs to be strong and purposeful. There is no room for fluff!

Most of the short answer prompts are looking for you to highlight your personality traits and actions you have taken in the past. Past behavior is one of the best predictors of future actions, so Ross is really guiding applicants to share more about themselves in a direct and focused approach. It’s important not only to share your experiences, but how you have learned from them and grown into a stronger person or leader.

One aspect to be aware of is that most applicants will approach this prompts by only answering the questions with positive examples. Although you definitely always want to paint yourself in the best light, sharing an example of how you failed or made a mistake and learned from it is also a way to show growth.

Also, try to answer these questions with a variety of personal and professional examples. The personal examples help round out your application and allow the admissions committee to get to know you as a person, and to see how you would contribute to the broader community at Michigan.

Part 2: 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?

In this question, Ross wants you to be succinct in clearly articulating both your immediate and future career goals after you graduate the program. At its core, the question wants to understand where you’ve been, where you want to go, and how will getting a Ross MBA help you achieve your goals.

Now, answering all of those aspects of the essay prompt can definitely be tough for many applicants: How much of the essay do you spend on describing your career goals? What about the “Why Ross?” part?

The first key to success is actually knowing the answers to these questions. You might be thinking, that is obvious, but that is actually where a ton of applicants struggle.

Most applicants instead try to fit into the “MBA box,” by selecting a common post-MBA career goal (consulting, investment banking) then trying to create a story to support it. That is generally a really poor approach, but especially for Ross.

Ross is a school that truly looks for those “one in a million” types, and looks for people who will be passionate about their careers and their time at Ross. So if you are trying to “fit in,” you are really doing yourself a disservice. So take your time and once you have a unique and authentic goal, the next step is connecting the dots so that you can have a compelling, authentic answer.

Seek out people in or out of your network that actually work in the positions you covet. Once you have a better idea of the reality of the career, you will need to understand what skills you have that are transferable to your desired career. From there, talk it through with friends and family. If they can understand your path to success, you are ready to put it in writing to answer the essay prompt.

Also, don’t be afraid to mention that you are using the Ross MBA to switch careers or pursue a new passion! In this case, be sure you to mention your motivation for why you want to pursue something new or different, and what skills that you have from a past experience that will help you thrive at Ross and in the new career.

The final step in answering the Ross essay is really recognizing why Ross is different than any other MBA program. If you haven’t already, visit the campus, talk to current students and set up coffee meetings with alumni.

Ross alumni are incredibly proud of their school and their program, and communicating your desire to be part of that community will help your essay stand out. The more you understand the Ross culture and all the unique aspects of the program, the better you will be able to explain why Ross will help you reach your career goals.

If you succeed in standing out from the crowd, you will likely be one of the lucky few to get an invitation for an interview. Good luck!