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Ross School of Business

Ross School of Business

Soojin Kwon- Ross

Soojin Kwon, Managing Director, Full-Time MBA Admissions and Program,Ross School of Business

 What is the one area of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?

 If you learn best by doing, there’s no better place than Michigan Ross. We’ve been doing it for decades through our MAP course, which puts students on 7-week consulting engagements with real organizations. Students are managing nearly $10M in investment funds. They’re getting seed money to start businesses. They’re working with entrepreneurs to commercialize their ideas. At Ross, students can start, advise and invest in organizations – from startup to Fortune 500, across sectors and regions.

 What’s the single most exciting development, change, or event happening at your MBA program this coming year?

This year, we’re piloting a new hands-on learning experience called the Living Business Leadership Experience. Students in this course will lead a business line for an existing company: Ford (future of mobility), Shinola (audio) and the NRP Group (affordable housing). Students will work directly with senior leaders at the sponsoring company to develop the strategy and operations for their new business lines.

In addition, Stephen Ross just committed another $50M to the school, bringing his total lifetime giving to the University of Michigan to $378M. Half the gift will support student-facing initiatives including career development and expanded hands-on learning programs.

Walk us through the life of an application in your office from an operational standpoint. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.)

We typically start with a review of the applicant’s resume – to give us the big picture of who the candidate is before we get into the details of test scores, transcripts, essays and recs.

The two primary factors we assess in our initial review are: (1) Will the applicant be able to handle the academic rigor of the program? (2) Will the applicant bring interesting experiences and perspectives to the program? We look at all of the pieces of the app to answer those two questions.

Based on the first review, some applicants are invited to interview and their app is moved on to a second read. Other applicants are moved to a second read without an interview invitation. Those who are invited to interview have the option to do their one-on-one interview on campus or in their local area, either with an alum or via Skype. Interviewees who choose to interview on-campus, or in one of four international hub locations will also have the opportunity to demonstrate their interpersonal and teamwork skills through the team exercise.

Next, the whole file, including the interview and team exercise evaluation, is reviewed by our associate directors, who make preliminary decisions on each candidate. They also review feedback from internal stakeholders who have interacted with candidates throughout the cycle. Stakeholder feedback usually confirms our initial evaluations of candidates. But in some instances, they provide new insights that weren’t visible in the application. Decision recommendations are then reviewed by the Director, then the Managing Director and finally, the Associate Dean.

How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read the essays? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? One key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write them?

Essays give us a glimpse into a candidate’s personality and potential fit with our culture. This year, we are asking candidates to answer three short-answer questions (which they can select from among nine). We’re looking for glimpses into the applicant as a person – how they think about themselves, how they process experiences. The one key thing for applicants to know is that there isn’t a “right answer” or even a “right type of answer.” The key is to be authentic – and, of course – succinct.

Do you have any application tips (for essays & recommendations) for MBA applicants?

We ask for only one recommendation letter, so it’s important for applicants to choose that recommender wisely. The best person to ask is someone who has supervised you and can demonstrate that they know you well. It doesn’t help your candidacy to ask the most senior person in your organization unless you worked directly for that person. If in doubt about the appropriate person to ask, review the rec letter questions and evaluation form. The person you ask should be able to answer those questions through working with you directly.

What are the most important aspects of the MBA application process besides GMAT score, prior GPA and current job position?

Fit, as demonstrated through the essays, the rec letter, one on one interview and the team exercise is really important. Our curricular and co-curricular experiences require working well with others. Students have to lead, support, and collaborate with classmates on team projects, business plan development, conference planning, and a host of other intense work relationships. As such, interpersonal skills, teamwork skills, and emotional and cultural intelligence are very important. We strongly encourage applicants to participate in the team exercise as it helps our team better assess those key skills. Here’s a link to some tips on what to expect at the team exercise.

How can a candidate overcome a lower GMAT score?

For all candidates, it’s important for us to know that they have the academic ability to succeed in our program. The GMAT is one way to demonstrate that. The GRE is another. We are agnostic about which test to take; we accept both. If your score is on the lower side, you should consider taking it again. Often, test anxiety or limited preparation can result in scores that are lower. We also look at candidates’ transcripts for demonstrated ability, particularly in quantitative, analytics-based courses, and at work experience – for the same set of skills.

What resources are available at your MBA program to assist with internship and full-time job opportunities (or to advance their Career Path)?

Our Career Development Office (CDO) has career coaching staff focused on different career interests. They provide one-on-one support for everything from mock interviews to negotiating offers. CDO also works with students during orientation week to help students prepare their resumes, learn networking skills, and explore career paths. CDO also trains 70 MBA2’s each year to be peer coaches. Many have previously worked at or interned in the industries and companies that MBA1s want to work at, so they’re very familiar with the recruiting processes of each industry. In addition to meeting with students one-on-one, they also hold weekly small group coaching sessions based on career interest. These sessions are intended to help students navigate the recruiting process for a given industry. The professional clubs also support students in their career search through workshops and mock interviews. Last but not least, alumni are also instrumental in the career search process – from hiring our students to providing industry/company insights to helping make connections.

 

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