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Michigan Ross 2020-2021 Essay Analysis


The University of Michigan Ross School of Business has released its application deadlines and essays for this season. Michigan Ross will have four application rounds for the 2020-2021 cycle and has pushed up the round 1 deadline by two weeks. This year’s deadlines are:



In addition, Ross has streamlined its MBA essay requirements this year, reducing the number of short answer prompts while shortening its longer MBA career goals essay. While this may be a welcome change for MBA applicants, brevity will become particularly crucial this year, something that Ross notes is intentional.


Ross’s short answer prompts are as follows:


Part 1: Short-answer questions


Select one prompt from each group of the two groups below. Respond to each selected prompt in 100 words or less (<100 words each; 200 words total). Every word counts here — the tight word count is intentional to force you to focus.

Group 1

I want people to know that I:

I made a difference when I:

I was aware that I was different when:

Group 2

I am out of my comfort zone when:

I was humbled when:

I was challenged when:

These are actually the same six prompts Ross used last year, combined into only two groups instead of three groups. This means MBA hopefuls this year will only write two 100-word short answer prompts.

Read below for Personal MBA Coach’s tips on tackling the 2020-2021 Michigan Ross essays.

While not explicitly stated this year, with a more traditional career focused essay to follow, consider your personal background as you answer these short questions. Pick the prompt that resonates best with you as there is no preferred option.

For Group 1, think about your most unique attribute or accomplishment. What sets you apart from other applicants? A personal accomplishment or a fond personal success story would work well here. Volunteer or extracurricular stories could also be good to cover.

If you have a unique skill or talent, Group 1 would be a good place to share it. If you did something amazing that is not on your resume or that you want to call more attention to, that would also work well for this prompt. Other options for this prompt include examples of passions or values. Remember, MBA admissions directors aspire to bring a well-rounded group of students to campus each year. This is your chance to share something about your upbringing or personality that will position you to add another perspective to class discussions.

For the second group, show the reader a bit about your character. What would working and studying with you be like? This is not the time to sing your own praises but instead the time to show you are human. Show what you have gained from this experience and let the reader see that you are someone students would want to be around.

Alternatively, these prompts give candidates the opportunity to show an area of relative weakness. Authenticity and growth are key hot points for many admissions committee members. Candidates are applying to business school to grow and are not expected to be “perfect” when they arrive. Discussing a challenge that you have overcome and/or will continue to overcome could be a nice choice here.

Part 2: Career Goal 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? (200 words)

Michigan Ross has also shortened its career goal essay, giving candidates just 200 words. There is a lot to cover in a small amount of space. Be straightforward here. If you need help thinking through your goals, we have published a blog with our general tips.

Once you have clearly stated your short-term career goal, you will want to explain the why behind this goal. There are many questions you should consider as you answer the why behind these goals. What attracts you to your chosen field? Why are you passionate about it? How will this short-term goal help prepare you for your long-term goal?

Optional statement: Is there something in your resume or application that could use some explanation? You might want to discuss the completion of supplemental coursework, employment gaps, academic issues, etc. Feel free to use bullet points where appropriate.

The optional Michigan Ross essay should only be answered by those with extenuating circumstances. Read more on our approach to optional essays here.


Need help? Personal MBA Coach is willing to be your guide. Founded by a Wharton and MIT graduate, we regularly help applicants navigate their applications each year. We also conduct mock interviews with former M7 interviewers on our team.

Personal MBA Coach has been guiding candidates through all aspects of the MBA application process for 13 years with a 96% success rate. Call us today at +1 617-645-2424 or email scott@personalmbacoach.com for a free consultation on your profile along with how we can help make your MBA dreams a reality!

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