Posted on June 4, 2013

Ross Application Essay Questions Analysis- 2013-2014

Ross has released its essay questions for 2013-2014. Instead of five questions from last year, this year’s applicants will be answering four questions, and instead of 1700 words, they now have only 1250 words to present their candidacy. Ross has eliminated last year’s question about ‘passion’ because they say they did not get the desired response from the candidates last year. The first and the fourth question remain unchanged from last year.

This year, Ross has broken down their ‘goals’ question in 3 parts, and I believe this will help the applicants organize their ideas. And the good news is- they now have 450 words (instead of 300 words) to describe their career history, goals, and reasons to apply to Ross.

Admissions Director Soojin Kwon said the career goals essay was revised because many of the responses Ross has received in the past were unfocused, a problem she hopes will be resolved by breaking it up into three shorter questions.” (Louis Lavelle in Bloomberg Business Week, May 23)

Regarding other changes, Kwon added, Total word count was reduced because more is not necessarily more." “Our goal in making these changes was to ask questions that would help us better understand how a candidate thinks and operates and what’s important to them so that we could envision what kind of student they will be in our community” (Louis Lavelle in Bloomberg Business Week, May 23).

Let us take a look at these 4 questions.

1. Introduce yourself to your future Ross classmates in 100 words or less.

This question offers you an opportunity to be creative and humorous which you may later use as an introduction to your actual classmates.  Indeed, introducing yourself in 100 words is a daunting task. It is a test of your thinking and writing skills, a test of how concisely you can describe yourself.  To brainstorm ideas, you may reflect on who you are and come up with 4-5 adjectives or phrases that broadly define your personality (i.e. your interests, background, and perspective of life). Then you can use those themes to build a picture of yourself illustrating them with anecdotes.

Note: The above paragraph is exactly 100 words.

2 (a). What about the professional experiences that have led you to determine that business school is the right next step? (150 words)

The first part of the goals questions expects you to connect your professional experiences with your need/ reason to do an MBA. You may begin your essay with a story/ event/ life experience that reflects your passion for your chosen field. However, there are several ways to make your lead engaging: a quote, an interesting description, an anecdote, a question, or a dialogue.  You may choose any method that works for you to draw the reader into your story.

Then go on to provide details about how you have pursued your interest, acquired new skills, and progressed along your career path all these years. Instead of providing a summary of your past experience, talk about the decisions you have made on your career path, the projects you have handled, the raises/ promotions/awards you have received, and the processes you have gone through which have contributed to your growth and have distinguished you from your peers.  Your professional experience should provide the Ad Com an understanding of your personal and professional attributes- managerial skills, leadership, and team working skills, intelligence, creativity, maturity, and accountability, etc. In other words, you need to demonstrate how your professional accomplishments have enabled you to set your goals and how an MBA is the logical next step towards the realization of those goals/ objectives. Please do not go into details of your professional accomplishments; just provide a general reference to them to show why you need an MBA to fulfill your aspirations? Be specific about what skills you lack and why you feel now is the right time for you to learn the required skills with an MBA degree to move ahead on your career path.

(b) As you have researched MBA programs, what actions have you taken to learn more about Ross, and what has led you to believe that Ross is the right MBA program for you? (150 words)

The second part of the ‘goals’ question focuses on the ways the Ross MBA program will help you fulfill your objectives/interests. This year, instead of asking ‘how will an MBA from Ross help you to achieve their goals?’, Ross is being more specific and wants to know what ‘actions’ you have taken to learn about their program and why you think it is the right fit for you.  Therefore, in order to tailor your response to Ross’s offerings, you will need to identify certain programs and courses that match your goals and interests. For this, you should take time to do thorough research so you can identify ties between the school’s curriculum, special programs, and extracurricular activities, and your goals, interests, and study style. If possible, make a visit to the campus, talk to students, professors, and alumni, and attend a class or two.  By discussing your experience of visiting the campus, attending classes, and meeting with professors, alumni, and students, you will demonstrate your specific interest in the program. Based on your findings, observations, and experiences, you can provide a convincing explanation as to why Ross is the right program for you.

Also, in order to convince the Ad Com of your ‘fit’ with the school, you should explain how you will contribute to the Ross community in different areas e.g. participation in class/group discussions, clubs, and student communities, etc.

(c) What career do you plan to pursue after business school and why? (150 words)

This question expects you to clearly define your post-MBA goals.  In part (a) of this question, you have already detailed out the professional experiences that have led you to believe that MBA is the next logical step in your career, and in part (b), you have discussed your knowledge and research of the Ross program, established a connection between their offerings and your goals, and interests to justify your ‘fit’ with the program.  Now you need to explain at length your post-MBA goals.  Please be as specific as you can in describing your post-MBA goals, for example, which industry, which company, and what position you would like to see yourself after graduating from Ross. Even if you are not 100% sure, you should be clear and quite decisive about your short-term goals.

Even though the essay prompt does not ask you to discuss your long-term goals, you may briefly mention them. However, you need to make sure that there is a logical connection between the short-term and long-term goals.  For example, you do not want to say that your long-term goal is to be CEO of XYZ Company if your past experience, current skills set, and your short-term goals do not at all seem to be leading to that direction.

Please remember that the ‘goals’ essay requires you to make a realistic connection between your past (experience and skills), present (your need for an MBA), and future (your future goals). Please make sure that all the 3 parts of your responses to the goals question tie together coherently and tell the Ad Com a persuasive and convincing story of your career goals.

3. Describe a time in your career when you were frustrated or disappointed.  What advice would you give to a colleague who was dealing with a similar situation? (400-word maximum)

This question also remains unchanged from last year, but the word count has been reduced by 100 words. Through this essay question, Ad Com expects you to share a frustrating or disappointing experience from your professional life. So, you need to look for instances when you were disappointed because things did not work the way they should have or the way you had expected them to be. This may be your inability to handle a project in the desired manner or your inability to keep your team members aligned with each other or to get the expected results from them etc.

Please remember this question is different from a mistake or a setback question.  Ross is not expecting you to admit or explain your mistake; instead, they are asking you to explain a situation that frustrated you. So, you need to be honest in explaining your part, your team members, or your superiors’ role in that situation. While narrating your story, make sure to share your thought process during your ‘disappointing experience’; this will provide the Ad Com an understanding of how you ‘think’ while dealing with a particular situation.

Despite the frustration you experienced, your story can still present you in a positive light, revealing your strengths in the areas of diplomacy, honesty, maturity, creativity, and integrity. Make sure, to be honest in narrating your story rather than indulging in a blame game.

Since the second part of the question asks you to share what advice you would give to your colleague who was dealing with the same situation, you should think carefully about the thought process you went through during that difficult time, and the lessons you learned from that experience.  Also, make sure to mention how you are now applying those lessons successfully in your work life.  Your advice to your colleague should reflect your maturity, perseverance, and overall growth in the face of challenges and setbacks.

4. Optional question: Is there anything else you think the Admissions Committee should know about you to evaluate your candidacy? (300-word maximum)

For optional questions also, Ross has taken away 200 words, which means you need to follow the principle of ‘less is more’ and be as precise as you can.

An optional essay is an opportunity for you to give the Ad Com relevant information that you could not give in other essays or other parts of your application.  This question is also meant to shine a spotlight on the experience or a side of your personality that has not been revealed in the other parts of your application: essays, recommendation letters, and resume.

You may still use this essay in a variety of ways to further strengthen your candidacy.  First, you may use this question to reveal your non-professional side.  For example, if you have significant extracurricular accomplishments (sports, music, writing, painting, etc.) or a community welfare activity that you initiated or led, you should share those stories.  You can also use an optional essay to address a weakness in your profile, like a low GPA or GMAT, a gap in your job history, or your inability to get a recommendation from your current supervisor.

Note: For sample Optional Essay, click here.

For a sample Optional Essay, click here.

Do you have questions about your application? E-mail Poonam at or sign up here for a free consultation.