The Ideal Ross MBA Candidate

Here at Menlo Coaching, we appreciate the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for its commitment to teamwork and real-world experience.

Menlo Coaching’s Founding Partner, David White interviewed Soojin Kwon, the Managing Director of MBA Admissions and Student Experience at Ross to get the inside scoop on what it’s like to be both an applicant and a student at this prestigious MBA program.

This interview includes:

You can watch more from David and Soojin, with videos covering Admissions & School Research, The Ross MBA Curriculum, and Employment Outcomes and Ross Alumni Network.

Interview with the Ross School of Business Admissions Director

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The Ideal MBA Candidate for Ross

Like all MBA programs, the Ross School of Business values smart applicants who have been successful in previous jobs. They also value applicants who can take initiative and be good team players. Given the number of student-led organizations and programs on campus, the last criterion is especially, perhaps uniquely, important at Ross. 

Teamwork & Community

Between the seven-week team projects, MAP, and FACT, Ross needs people who are good in teams. During the admissions process, teamwork and interpersonal skills are heavily weighted. And that needs to be backed up by results. Claiming that one is a team player or having a recommender say it won’t be enough. Demonstrable teamwork results are critical. 

Ross also evaluates teamwork during the interview process. They want to see how applicants interact with others who are new to them and are often tasked with working on tasks which they are unprepared for. How an applicant approaches these novel situations, and how they communicate when the chips are down are important metrics for Ross’ admissions team. 

To this end, the ideal Ross applicant should also be comfortable managing ambiguity. Ross does not always spell out everything they need students to do while working on projects; having the ability to take initiative, ask the right questions, solve the right problems, and do so while in sync with a team is an essential set of qualities. 

Corollary to this is the idea that applicants don’t view projects as a zero-sum game. People who try to show up their teammates to get ahead are not a good fit for Ross. Neither is the applicant who simply agrees with the team, not making waves but also not contributing in a substantive way. The ability to politely disagree is critical to good teamwork and high on the list of qualities that Ross values. In short, Ross applicants should be, to paraphrase Soojin Kwon, neither assholes nor pushovers.

At the end of the day, people who prefer to work independently are not going to fit in with Ross’ team-focused approach. While ambition is a laudable characteristic in an MBA student, it should not outstrip one’s ability to work well with others and take pride in the success of a teammate. Humility goes a long way at Ross, especially for the very accomplished, and an applicant who needs to be constantly, individually recognized won’t work out.

Given this focus on community, Ross is dedicated to making international students feel welcome on campus, despite the current political climate in the US. While it can be more challenging for international students to find jobs in the US than those who are US-based, they still add a lot to Ross’ positive and team-focused community. And given that Ross has a worldwide network, it is possible for international students to find international jobs through Ross’ alumni and career counseling networks. Of course, given the current climate and the problems of securing US work eligibility, it is always good for international students to have a Plan B.

Career Goals

An ideal Ross applicant should be clear on why they want to get their MBA and have some sort of vision for how it will help their career—something more thoughtful and impressive than “I hate my job and want to do something different.” More than vision, a Ross applicant should also think about the logistics behind it. They should be able to understand how an MBA is central to their goals and come in with a clear picture of what they can offer the community. After all, with Ross’ devotion to teamwork, being accepted means that one cannot just be a taker, content to improve by virtue of Ross’ courses. They have to give back as well.

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Like any other MBA program, Ross does use the GMAT as a data point for considering whether or not an applicant is admitted. They appreciate applicants who have worked hard to raise either their GMAT or GRE score. They say that it speaks to an applicant’s character, stamina, and seriousness. They want to see strivers who are willing to put in the effort to make sure they’ve put their best foot forward. Ross’ curriculum is difficult and requires repeated tries. One doesn’t get a job by doing only a single interview. The ideal Ross applicant keeps going until they succeed and that includes test prep.

Find Out More About the Ross MBA Program

The best way to do more research on the Ross School of Business is to speak to student ambassadors who can be contacted through Ross’ website. The site has search capabilities to filter student ambassadors by their interests, where they’re from, their backgrounds, and other metrics allowing an interested applicant to find an ambassador who is similar to them. 

Additionally, Soojin Kwon’s MBA Admissions Blog is a great site to subscribe to. She discusses the admissions process in detail, hoping to fulfill Ross’ mission of admissions transparency. She outlines for candidates what gets set in motion after they hit the submit button and attempts to minimize the anxiety of not knowing what to expect next. 

You can also find updates about what’s exciting on campus and what is on the horizon as well as tips on how to approach the admissions process and team exercises. In short, her blog is designed to try and make the admissions process as painless as possible. She even provides a sample essay with her own responses to Ross’ essay questions. 

Ross’ focus on real world experience and teamwork distinguishes it from other top schools and hopefully will continue to attract applicants who feel like they could make a relationship with Ann Arbor’s business school a mutually beneficial one.