Meet The Michigan Ross MBA Class Of 2021

MBA students at the Class of 2021 Orientation


During the 2018-2019 cycle, Michigan Ross wasn’t immune to the decrease in applications experienced by 23 of the 25 highest-ranked full-time MBA programs. Overall, the program received 2,990 applications, down from 3,118 for the Class of 2020 and 3,445 for the Class of  2019. Despite this drop, class size remained relatively steady at 422 students, though Ross’ acceptance rate has climbed from 25% to 31% over the past three classes. Academically, the Class of 2021 also measures up favorably to previous classes. While the 719 average GMAT dipped a point this year, it is still up over the 716 and 708 averages posted by the incoming classes in 2017 and 2016.

One major positive: Ross hit an all-time high for female representation in 2019. Four years ago, women accounted for just 32% of the class. Today, that number has jumped to 45%. Overall, the Class of 2021 is slightly more diverse than its predecessors. For example, 22% of class seats are filled by underrepresented American minorities. That said, Ross experienced a 5% decline in international students, following a similar trend among Top 25 MBA programs.

Academically, 42% of the class is made up of undergraduate business majors, up four points over the Class of 2020. STEM majors also produced a three-point uptick at 30%, with humanities coming in at 28%. A bigger shift took place in professional backgrounds, however. 26% of the class is composed of consultants, a sharp 10% jump over 2018. Finance represented 16% of the class, followed by technology (11%), healthcare (8%), and education and nonprofits (8%).

It wouldn’t be a stretch to describe Michigan Ross as one of the most “complete” MBA programs. In U.S. News’ annual survey of MBA deans and faculty leaders, Ross ranks among the Top 10 in nearly every concentration, including marketing (2nd), management (4th), accounting (5th), and operations (5th). Among alumni, the school earns high marks for academics, innovation, and entrepreneurship, with students lauding the diverse range of recruiters who visit campus. Such accolades translate into real dollars, with Ross graduates enjoying an 11.2% pay bump in 2018. That doesn’t count the $108,000 pay increase for alumni within five years of graduation.

Students pose with artwork inside the Ross School of Business


There is plenty more news coming out of Ann Arbor. This summer, P&Q submitted questions to Soojin Kwon, managing director of Full-time MBA admissions and program at Michigan Ross. From new developments to living case studies, here are Kwon’s responses on everything happening on campus this year.

1) What are the most exciting new developments at your program?

“Michigan Ross has two really exciting new developments launching this fall – the +Impact Studio and Pinkert Scholars Program.

The +Impact Studio – part of the Business+Impact initiative at the Ross School of Business – is aimed at translating insights from faculty research into practical solutions for complex societal challenges. The +Impact Studio encompasses the following: an interdisciplinary action-based learning course; a collaboration space for an educational community passionate about design for impact; and a campus hub for programming and events. The course is open to MBA students at Michigan Ross, along with graduate students from across the University of Michigan.

University of Michigan’s Soojin Kwon

The pilot course took place this past semester. Students looked into how to scale a technology developed by Ross marketing professor Eric Schwartz that is being used to identify lead in Flint water pipes so that it can have a greater impact in Flint and beyond. This coming year, students will continue to work on ways to create enterprises for safer infrastructure using Schwartz’s research, as well as explore how faculty insights into fintech can create financial inclusion for those who lack access to traditional financial systems, such as bank accounts. The latter project will draw support from the soon-to-be-announced Michigan Ross FinTech Initiative – a comprehensive new initiative supporting students interested in the growing fintech industry.

Another exciting development is the rollout of the Pinkert Scholars Program, which will provide full-ride scholarships each year to a select group of Michigan Ross MBA candidates who are focused on the business of healthcare and healthcare innovation. Additionally, the program will create a mentoring program where each scholar is matched with alumni leaders in the healthcare field similar to the scholar’s interest. It will also feature healthcare-specific learning experiences and new career and professional development programs, including career treks to meet with healthcare innovators and executives across the country, conferences, workshops, and other experiences designed to help scholars get ahead in their desired healthcare career. Beyond those opportunities for the scholars, the gift from the Pinkerts that established the program will create a $500,000 venture capital seed fund for healthcare start-ups to be launched in 2020, allowing students the opportunity to compete for financing to launch their ventures.”

2) What is the most underrated part of your program that you wish prospective students knew more about? 

“Michigan Ross isn’t a typical two year MBA program experience; we provide the connections, capabilities, and support for an entire career.

At Michigan Ross, we take seriously our commitment to the lifelong professional success of our students. That means that while we provide students with countless innovative, impactful learning experiences and career support before graduation, what we offer extends long after.

(A) We were the first leading business school to offer our alumni full-tuition scholarships to any of our executive education open enrollment programs delivered around the world (and a half-tuition scholarship for colleagues of our alums) so that alumni can supplement or refresh their mastery of business topics and trends as needed throughout their careers.

(B) Our students and alumni also have free access to the ever-growing collection of on-demand online courses, series, and specializations offered by leading faculty across the University of Michigan at Michigan Online so that they can learn new skills beyond business.

(C) We offer alumni personalized one-on-one career advice from dedicated career staff for free throughout their career, in addition to on-demand tools, webinars, and other support.

MBAs on MTrek standing in front of the Hoa Lu Ancient Capital in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

(D) Our alumni network itself is one of the greatest sources of strength, support, and career advancement that students and alumni can draw upon. The 600,000+ network of Ross and U-M alumni answer the phone, reply to emails, and offer help when students and fellow alumni reach out. (Michigan Ross was ranked #1 in alumni effectiveness by The Economist in 2018).

(E) And, of course, alumni receive the networking and social opportunities you would expect from the 50 Michigan Ross alumni clubs around the world and popular RossTalks global speaker series.”

3) What is your biggest strength and how does that translate to more well-rounded, better-prepared MBAs?

“If you learn best by doing, there’s no better place than Michigan Ross.

We have the most robust portfolio of action-based learning opportunities of any business school. Our MBA students can gain hands-on experience in just about anything they’d want to do at a business or organization. This helps make us a great school for career switchers (and 93 percent of 2018 grads were).

By emphasizing action-based learning, we challenge our students to try new and really difficult things, even if that means they fail sometimes. Regardless of the outcome, students have the ability to reflect on their actions and decisions, on what went right and what did not, and grow from their experiences. Our MBA students learn to be agile, adaptable and figure out how to add value amid ambiguity in new, changing, challenging situations. They also learn how to work effectively in teams and take leadership roles, which are traits employers look for in prospective employees. As a result, MBA students leave Ross ready to take on whatever lies ahead of them in their careers because they will have already developed the skillset to deal with those very tricky real-world business situations. In doing this, we’re training leaders for jobs that don’t exist today, but will in 5 years, 10 years, and beyond.”

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