We did this last year when breaking down the new Ross essays, so let's run it back. We thought it would be helpful to post the decision tree I am going to be asking my clients to use this year.
Why would I just share this with the public, you might ask? In part because the real value of our services with Ross (unlike with some other schools) is going to be in implementation rather than in the setting of strategy - so I don't feel I am cheating my clients at all. Further, we just don't have that many clients select Ross, to be honest. This is confusing to me, as Ross is an amazing school and a true value pick ... but that's a column for a different time. Today, I want to present a really simple way to work through Ross' seemingly wide open "what are you proud of" essay. I'll be using one part common sense and one part program knowledge, but both are born out of lots of experience just being someone in this world (by "in this world" I mean working in "higher education" and with "people trying to maximize their lives and abilities").
Let's get into it.
Essay 1 - What are you most proud of and why? How does it shape who you are today? (400 words)
Note that we as a company staff spent a lot of time talking internally about what we all want to know about candidates. Our team consists of some seriously experienced and talented people. Many of us have coached people not just in the admissions process but in their careers as well. I personally have talked to hundreds of talented people in their 20s and I always have the same two questions – which are basically the same two questions my team members have:
- Who is this person (what makes them tick)?
- What is this person capable of (what is their potential)?
Those are really the two things you always want to know and that is very rarely evident in an academic profile (GPA and GMAT) or on a resume. It’s safe (very safe) to assume that admissions officers are wired the same way we are, so these two questions are a fantastic place to start your decision tree with regard to the Ross essays. Therefore, the pathways presented below are a great place to start your analysis, because they are likely to help answer these core questions.
Path 1 – “Leadership Discovery”
This is probably the path you want to take just in terms of it being an easy, slam-dunk kind of answer. I suspect this is where many applicants should be landing. The only other reason to fight this natural wave in to shore is if you are just such a leadership beast on your resume that you are doubling down unnecessarily. Even then, you could make a case that “leadership discovery” is something different and worth sharing, even if a reader is already thinking “hot damn, what a leader!”
An experience that allowed you to have such an epiphany (wow, I can really lead/wow, I can shoot webs from my hands) is likely to be a source of great pride – the fusion of the two emotional responses is perfect. And, best of all, “learning” something like “I can lead people” isn’t just something you file away for a rainy day; it’s the kind of occurrence that changes your life. When you have that experience and that epiphany, nothing is the same. You chart a new course for your life, you have new expectations of what you can accomplish, and you, quite frankly, just live differently. That’s pretty huge, it’s worth sharing, and it goes right back to our core questions of “who are you?” and “what are you capable of?”
In other words, this path checks all the boxes.
Path 2 – MAP.
If you can’t use Path 1 and you feel just stacked on leadership such that you don’t want to pick Path 2, you can always get into a little MAP action. MAP stands for Multi-Disciplinary Action Project, which is Ross’ bread and butter.
If I’m talking to an elite MBA prospect and I already know the answers to the questions “what makes you tick?” and “when did you discover that you had what it takes to really lead people?” then I’m veering away from the broad issues and drilling down on the school that creates the context. So if Path 1 isn't the right fit, then we switch gears and think in terms of Ross.
Sidebar: MAP puts most other action-based learning models to shame. Ross loves MAP, they love action-based learning, and they believe that the classroom is a place where everyone teaches (and learns from) each other. So when you apply there, your through-line (for essays and especially for interviews) has to be “what perspective have I gained that I can come share with everyone?” That's your hook with Ross.
With this in mind, a good path for this – again, setting aside the first two – would be to talk about a proud moment where you “learned” in a way that shifted your perspective and that you are inclined to give and take in this way. Talk about a personal life experience of great pride (translate “pride” to “growth” and you are really onto something) that has to do with your personal perspective shifting or involving in a meaningful way. Then the way it “shapes you” is that you are someone eager to continue that process (learning from others) and to be a participant in that process for other people (sharing with others). This gives you full coverage of a MAP answer. Perspective shifted + willingness to share your own perspective + desire for more of the same = a Ross student.
Path 3 – Brainstorming
We included this on the blog, but really you shouldn’t resort to this.
NOTE: No matter which path you pick, you still need to finish with MAP.
And what I mean by that is that when Ross asks how this shaped your life, what we are really talking about is “the perspective I will bring with me to Ross.” MAP is the lifeblood of this program and the lifeblood of MAP is a whole bunch of Ross students showing up to campus ready to share their unique perspectives. So whatever you share – a leadership story, an entire essay built around MAP, or something brainstormed, you want to finish with the idea that you are going to share that with the people around you.
Loose structure would be:
- Thesis + Setup
- What happened (actions)
- Results (how it shaped you + how you will bring that with you as your unique perspective to contribute)
Good luck out there on Ross. Final disclaimer: this decision tree is *for Ross* - it is not necessarily going to work anywhere else.
If you are interested in services on Ross or (more likely, if history is a guide) any other school, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We think about every single school completely differently, using only those strategies that work for that program's unique DNA.