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Michigan / Ross Essay Topic Analysis 2014-2015

In line with a broad trend toward brevity and simplicity of essay questions among the leading MBA programs, the required writing for this year’s Ross application is markedly briefer and more direct than last season’s set of prompts.  The school has chosen to eschew the fairly standard “career goals/why MBA” and “Describe a time when…” MBA essay formats for this application cycle, asking instead for the applicant to describe two points of pride, one personal and one professional.

In selecting topics for these two essays, applicants will therefore want to identify complementary examples – ones that showcase different skills, characteristics, and values – to provide as full a picture of themselves as possible between these two items.  It would also be beneficial to consider qualities that b-schools value in their students, for example collaboration and involvement in one’s larger community, to demonstrate a potential fit with and contribution to the Ross student body.

Let’s consider each of these prompts in a bit more detail.

Essay 1: What are you most proud of professionally and why? What did you learn from that experience? (400 words)
While narrowing the scope of potential topics to one’s full-time work experience, the framing of this prompt is otherwise quite broad.  The “what” of which one is most proud could be something fairly concrete, for example a successful project or a mentoring with a colleague, or something more abstract like obtaining autonomy quickly in a new job or taking a professional risk.  This response can therefore be used to showcase one’s impact on a team or one’s larger organization, or to highlight a change in professional trajectory or resilience in overcoming setbacks.  In choosing a topic, applicants may want to begin with their résumé, and to consider which aspects of their professional history would most benefit from elaboration or explanation, while also reflecting on the elements of that history of which they are truly most proud.

An effective response to this prompt will describe the accomplishment or situation in full, while also spending ample time addressing the reasons that the applicant is proud of the chosen topic and the lessons that he or she took away from the experience.  If these were lessons that you have applied in subsequent situations, that inform your plans to seek an MBA, or that you anticipate drawing on in your future career, it would certainly be worth mentioning this as well.

Essay 2: What are you most proud of personally and why? How does it shape who you are today? (400 words)
The “what” of this response is as broad as that of the first, while the “personally” qualifier opens the topic of this prompt to anything outside of the professional realm. Formal involvements outside of work are a logical starting point for consideration here, especially if you’ve taken a leadership role in a community organization or athletic team. Of course, applicants should also consider less tangible elements of their backgrounds that might be of interest to an admissions committee, for example being the first in one’s family to attend college or navigating a challenging coming-out process.

As with Essay 1, a full treatment of the “why” will be important to this response. Meanwhile, the second element of the prompt seems to suggest that the admissions committee is looking for applicants to address some lasting growth or transformation that occurred as a result of this experience. Therefore, in addition to considering your authentic responses to this question, you might also want to give particular consideration to those that posed a challenge or pushed you out of your comfort zone in order to most completely address this question.

Optional Essay: Is there anything not addressed elsewhere in the application that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about you to evaluate your candidacy? (300 words)
This is an appropriate place to address potential liabilities or anomalies in one’s application, for example, a sub-standard GMAT score or unusual choice of recommender. Given the relatively narrow scope of Ross’s essays for this season, it’s possible that there will be other elements of an applicant’s background that it would be appropriate to address here, though applicants should take care not to include content that is covered elsewhere in their data forms and essays.

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