Michigan Ross Essay Tips

Updated for 2020/2021 Application Season

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.”

While you might not become best friends with all your classmates, 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 supportive and collaborative, and in an extremely competitive business world, having a supportive network to help you achieve your goals is invaluable. One example of the tight knit bonds formed between not just students but also faculty is the recent trek MBA students took to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with Dean Scott DeRue.

The Michigan network was on full display this summer, when Ross was able to tap into its network of organizations to create the Business Consulting Corps, a program to help students whose internships were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Students not only were able to get work experience, but received additional workshops, mentorship and professional development support from faculty and alumni. 

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

Good question! This year, Ross admissions made shortened their application process, only requiring two short essays and a shorter word count for the career essay.  According to the Ross MBA Admissions blog, The Ross team shared their essay review process: “At the end of each admissions cycle, the team assesses whether we should change our essay prompts based on the insights we gleaned from previous year’s applicant responses. Instead of requiring three responses from among six prompts, this year we are only requiring two short-answer essays from among the same six prompts”: 

Part 1: Short Answer Questions (100 words each, 200 words total)

To answer the Short Answer Questions, you respond to one prompt from each of the two groups. Each answer should be less than 100 words, with the total word count at 200 words or less.


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


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

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. On the Ross MBA Admissions blog they write “The most interesting and insightful responses to these prompts remain when applicants share personal examples that allow us to learn more about who you are as a person, and what unique experiences and insights you would bring to the MBA class.”

Here you can tell the reader, in real concrete terms, how you are like no one else. Take some time to brainstorm examples for each prompt. With only 200 words to answer the two 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 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 these prompts by only answering the questions with positive examples. While you 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.

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. What is your short-term career goal and why?

 The biggest change to this year’s essay is the word count- they reduced the essay from 300 words to 200 words. From the Ross MBA Admissions blog: “We found that the best responses to this essay were clear and succinct. The ones that were less successful tended to be less focused or focused too much on the “what” and not enough on the “why.” For the AdCom, the “why” is the most impactful and differentiating aspect of each essay to me”

Ross will continue to ask only about the short-term career goal after making the shift a year ago to remove the long term career goal, giving you the opportunity to share more about your background and the motivation that is driving this goal.

This isn’t your typical “Why Ross” essay- the purpose of this essay is to talk about your short-term career goals and the motivation behind this goal, including how your background or interests prepare you for this goal. “Why Ross” is not explicitly asked here, however, if you are efficient enough in answering this question you may also have a little bit of room to tie this how Ross will help you achieve this short-term goal as well. Although with the shortened word count, prioritize telling a clear story about your career goals in a personal, meaningful way. 

Author: Stratus Admissions
Stratus is a premier admissions counseling firm committed to helping clients achieve their dreams of going to business school, law school and graduate school. Stratus has served thousands of clients from over fifty countries. Our team of expert counselors are graduates of Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Duke, MIT, and other top universities. Stratus counselors are passionate about coaching young professionals on their application journeys. Many of our counselors have direct admissions experience from these top rated schools or served as alumni or student admissions interviewers.