An Interview With Ross Admissions Director Blaire Moody Rideout

Michigan Ross
What is the most common admissions question you get from freshmen that are trying to get into the Ross School?

The students who attend our application information sessions on campus always ask us, “What is enough? Are three extracurricular activities enough?” Our response to that is we are looking for active involvement over passive involvement. Three clubs could be enough if the student is exceptionally involved, and two could be as well. But if a student is in two or three 1,000-member clubs and all they’re doing is attending one monthly meeting, that is passive involvement, especially if they’re not on a committee or have some role within the group. That is hard because it is a high expectation for a freshman to have a positional leadership title. We try to tell them that it is more about leadership, not the position, and the admissions committee will be able to see that.

The timeline of the Ross admissions process lags several months behind when the University of Michigan makes their decision on applications. What kinds of problems or tension does this create for applicants, especially those in the Preferred Admission pool?

Students have to first be admitted to the overall university through the central admissions office, and the first point when they release a decision is in December for the early action process. Ross receives the applications in January, and then students get a decision from us in March or April. What can be tough for students is to learn that they got into the freshman class in December, but they don’t hear back from Ross until March or April. They have to decide where they’re going by May 1st, and that’s a short timeline.
In the time period from when we receive the applications to when we make our decisions, we have three readers go through each application. It then goes back to the leadership team, who make the final decisions. It’s in our best interest that we don’t release the decisions till March or April because we want to give the applications a thorough review.

But for those applications that we don’t get decisions out until April, we will get a lot of phone calls from parents. Our response to them is the application is still under review and we are doing the best we can at that point. We tell them if you have to make a decision at that time because of scholarship deadlines, then go ahead and make that decision. However, no university is allowed to force a student to make a decision based on scholarships. So when a parent calls us and tells us that another school told us that we have to respond this week or they’ll lose scholarship dollars, that is typically not true and they are just bluffing. We try to let them know that and tell them we have to stay firm to the process.

Applications to the Preferred Admission program were up 50% last year, as you said earlier. Do you expect that trend to continue this application season?

Overall, the University of Michigan is admitting fewer students this year because they overenrolled their freshman class last year and there wasn’t enough housing on campus. Since the Preferred Admission program is tied to that, I am wondering if we’ll be down overall. However, we are at a similar pace to where we were last year, so we are curious to see if the university admitting less students means we’ll be shooting for a smaller freshman class this year.

Are there any trends that you are seeing in students’ applications to Ross this year?

We see that more students feel they need to have started their own business to get into a business school. The entrepreneurship bug is trickling down a little bit, but I don’t think all students grasp how to be an entrepreneur and start a business. They’re packaging themselves in their applications as having a business when in actuality it is a service they are providing. Some students are over-packaging and selling themselves, saying they have an actual business when they’re not an actual LLC or doing more just providing a service. If it’s not a full business, we still want to look at that because it does show initiative. But we look at it within the bigger picture. It’s a red flag if they’ve just put it on there to put it on there and are not putting any time into it at all.