A New Way into Business School

Most business schools have the enviable problem of having significantly more applicants than they can possibly admit. Historically, the solution to this has been separating the admissions decision to the university from the decision to admit into the business school one or two years later. But that presents its own problems. Top-quality students who aren't guaranteed spot their freshman year may choose to attend another school.

The University of Michigan's Ross School of Business faced this exact problem. The first step means offering a 4-year program rather than a 3-year program. As a large school that is ranked fourth in the world recently by US News and World Reports, they had to find a solution to admissions that worked at scale. Rather than just a few early-admit students, 80% of each new class would be made up of high school applicants.

(Courtesy Ross School of Business Key Facts)

Starting in the fall 2017 semester, the Ross School of Business decided changed their process to allow incoming freshmen to apply for business school, but with an additional requirement. Lynn Wooten, senior associate dean for student and academic excellence at the Business School, introduced the situation in this way:

“Currently business is the number one intended major for students coming out of high school. Because of the high demand, more students are looking to be accepted before their freshman years at college. Therefore, in trying to eliminate the barrier for students to get into the business school, this change will give more students an opportunity to know if they will become Ross students right out of high school.”

The Ross School of Business had to find a way to address the larger applicant pool and the changing program dynamic. Paul Kirsch, managing director of the Ross BBA, points out that one of the hallmarks of the school's business program has always been action-based learning:

“So from debate team to mock trial, theater performances, sporting events — we really want to know who you are and what makes you unique.”

Collectively, the Ross School of Business was looking for a way to for applicants to showcase their talents through action, in addition to traditional methods. This not only expands access for students who might not shine through traditional methods, while at the same time filtering out applicants that might not be as serious.

The Business Portfolio

In 2016, the Ross School of Business introduced a portfolio component to their application. In addition to the traditional areas in which a student is evaluated, the portfolio allows the school to gauge a student's interest in business outside of classroom learning.

Preferred applicants were asked to include an “artifact” that demonstrates their ability to learn in action. These artifacts, according to the Ross School of Business website, can include

“...a high school project or paper, a community newspaper article highlighting an important achievement, a personal website, a piece on a school or community program or an event that (the applicants) were instrumental in creating or implementing.”

The ability to review these disparate artifacts in a uniform manner, combined with evaluation tools, was important to the school. Which is why they turned to SlideRoom. This process led to the submission of nearly 5,000 pieces of media to showcase their interests and accomplishments.

Application Media Submitted:

-43% submitted images
-48% submitted document files (Powerpoint, PDF, Word, etc)
-8% submitted videos

"The business implication essay allowed us to see which applicants were really passionate about business. This separated the students who genuinely were after a business degree/career vs. those who were applying for other reasons. The portfolio really allows students to showcase how they problem solve, it is more personal and allows for students to be creative in their self-presentation. The artifact offered an opportunity for applicants to share something unique that didn't have appropriate placement elsewhere in the application. Systematically this forces students to not re-use essay applications and allows readers to see which applicants are putting in efforts specifically for our program."
-Paul Kirsch, Managing Director | Stephen M. Ross School of Business

For any business school fighting for the most-qualified applicant pool, the admissions process is key. Competition will only increase and interest in business as a major shows no signs of waning. The University of Michigan's Ross School of Business has worked to adapt and manage the shifting landscape of business-school admissions, using SlideRoom to more efficiently gauge the holistic merit of each applicant.

If you are a business school looking for a change in how you approach admissions, let's chat. We'd love to help.