Meet The Michigan Ross MBA Class of 2017

Joe Chaves

Joseph Chaves


University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

Hometown: Stillwater, MN

Undergraduate School and Major: UW-Madison, Wisconsin School of Business, BBA – Marketing

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: Target Corporation (Business Analyst), General Mills (Senior Marketing Associate)

Recalling your own experience, what advice do you have for applicants who are preparing for either the GMAT or the GRE? I would parse the GMAT prep into three phases of advice:

Phase One: This phase consists of getting a feel for what the GMAT is (timing, resources needed, types of questions), knowing how much time to allow yourself for prep, and setting a strategy for how you’re going to prepare. Taking a practice test within the first month of cracking your freshly-bound GMAT prep book should also be done early on. Duration of phase one will vary depending on background and experience as well as comfort level with the quant and verbal sections.

Phase Two: Likely the phase with the most ups-and-downs, phase two consists of an alternation between problem sets and theoretical learning, punctuated by full-length practice tests. While spending three hours in a library most Saturday mornings for each test (made worse during college football season), they were important for evaluating my progress and tweaking my study strategy as needed.

While phase two can feel like a grind, my advice is simply to stick with the strategy you set in phase one (assuming you feel it’s working) and find ways to make studying feel different. This might consist of changing the location, the resource used, or something as minute as the coffee order.

Phase Three (From two weeks out until test day): Said best by two-time NFL MVP and Super Bowl Champion Aaron Rodgers, “R-E-L-A-X”. The best thing you can do at this point is to stay optimistic and, if needed, review trouble spots. Candidly, I did not R-E-L-A-X on my first go-around and my score reflected as such. While I was disappointed with my first attempt, I knew that my approach to the material was working and that arriving on test day with the right mindset was the biggest thing I could control.

One final piece of advice regarding the GMAT would be to keep everything in perspective. While certainly important, the GMAT is only one component of the application and a low score won’t necessarily doom your chances for admission. 

Based on your own selection process, what advice do you have for applicants who are trying to draw up a list of target schools to which to apply? First-and-foremost, understand what’s most important to you in a program. Questions to answer include: Full vs. part-time, geographic location, structure of curriculum, and what industries/companies recruit at that school. For me, answering these questions first, along with an objective evaluation of where I would be competitive, allowed for a manageable list of 8-10 schools that I could thoroughly research before applying.

The second, and perhaps most important step, is to talk to anyone you can from the programs you’re interested in. Talking to people you work with, friends, friends of friends, and networking events are all great ways to get more information and begin to develop a perspective on the final list of schools to apply to. While online research is a terrific starting point, I was able to get a better feel of the pros/cons for each school by talking to someone in person. Additionally, after having a several conversations with students or alumni from the same program you can start to get a feel for cultural fit, the personality of the school, and whether the mission and values of the school align with your own.

Finally, if possible, visiting the school is a real bonus. Walking the campus, exploring the town or city, and meeting current students is probably the most efficient way to get an idea if the school is a place you see yourself there.

What advice do you have for applicants in actually applying to a school, writing essays, doing admission interviews, and getting recommenders to write letters on your behalf? If you’re anything like me, you wanted to jump right into the business school application process from the moment you received your desired GMAT score. My advice would be to take a pause, maybe a week or so, and do some introspective thinking as to why you are applying and what story you’re going to tell throughout your application. Remember that essays are only one part of the total application. A strong linear story that pairs your essay, letters of recommendation and desired position after business with the strengths and competencies of the program you are applying to can be just as important as a GMAT score or undergraduate GPA.

A second piece of advice would be to have fun with it! I tried to be mindful about and enjoy the experiences I was having whether it was sitting in a library pounding at the keyboard or visiting a campus in a state I had never visited. After all, it’s an experience you’ll only get once!

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? Ross checked almost all the boxes that were important for me in an MBA: Amazing student body, highly-regarded, tremendous career resources and opportunities, awesome college-town atmosphere. However, there were two hallmarks of the program that led me to choosing Ross.

First, Ross has what’s called the Multidisciplinary Action Project (or MAP), which puts students into live cases for real companies for seven weeks at the end of their first year. My learning style has always been learn through doing and MAP will be a great way for me to get hands-on learning in a real-world environment.

Second is the commitment Ross has shown to candidates from diverse backgrounds. As the largest member (per student count) of the Consortium, an organization whose mission is to enhance diversity in business education and leadership, Ross generously awarded me a full-tuition Consortium fellowship.

What would you ultimately like to achieve before you graduate? One piece of advice many b-school applicants will hear over and over as they proceed through the application process is about balancing academics, recruiting, and social life. As I imagine trade-offs between these three will appear from the moment I set foot on campus, I’ll parse out this question across the three aforementioned activities:

  • Academics: A big reason why Ross appealed to me was their faculty, hands-on curriculum, and approach to General Management. While my background is in Marketing, I want to challenge myself by taking at least one “out of my comfort zone” class each semester.
  • Recruiting: Getting an internship in year one and a full-time offer in year two is on everyone’s short-list of to-dos, but there’s a big difference between getting a job and getting the right job. Just like deciding which schools to apply to, developing a strategy for year one recruiting is an important part of the MBA experience. Knowing the general industry, function, and type of experience you want to have from an internship can make the process much easier.
  • Social Life: Getting to know as many of my amazing classmates as possible is high on the list of goals. I’m honored and humbled to be a member of the extremely talented Class of 2017, and I can’t wait to begin.

Bonus: Seeing Harbaugh and Michigan Wolverines bring back another Big Ten Championship to Ann Arbor (I can dream). GO BLUE.

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