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How Michigan Ross Adapted Its Admissions Criteria During The Pandemic

Extracurriculars play an integral role in college admissions for transfer applicants. Admissions officers often seek out students who are engaged in activities outside of the classroom. But how have business schools evolved that requirement since the onset of a global health pandemic?

Blaire Moody Rideout, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, highlighted how the school has adapted its admissions criteria for extracurricular involvement.

“From talking with prospective U-M and external transfer students in our information sessions and individual admission appointments, I hear stories of how hard it has been to engage in new college-level activities during the pandemic,” Rideout writes. “Many clubs and organizations have pared down activities, including postponing or canceling pivotal club events. This has resulted in fewer opportunities for applicants to acquire new skills on projects and demonstrate their leadership abilities through committee assignments.”


While Ross has always allowed transfer applicants to list high school activities as extracurricular involvement, college-level involvement traditionally has held more weight.

That’s now changing, in large part due to the pandemic.

“This year, we know that some of you will rely primarily on high school activities to show your potential for leadership and how you work with others,” Rideout writes. “And that is certainly OK. When listing these high school activities, please think of those in which you were involved for more than one or two years or those for which you held a leadership position or a role that showed active participation, and focus on high school experiences from your junior or senior year, especially those you’ve continued since starting college.”


Rideout says applicants this year should go beyond simply highlighting only traditional examples of work experience. Non-traditional activities, she says, play an important role in admissions too.

“Think of ways that you have spent your time outside of the Zoom classroom experience,” Rideout writes. “For some of you, it has been helping younger siblings with virtual school, while others have engaged with community organizations helping those in need during the pandemic. These non-traditional experiences are important pieces we want to know this year.”

Across the nation, admissions teams at nearly every college and university are seeking out students who can highlight how the pandemic has impacted their journey and perspective.

“They will be looking for students to share how they’ve adapted, grown and worked through the challenges that come with our new restricted reality under Covid-19,” Gariot P. Louima, vice president for enrollment and student success at Antioch College, tells The New York Times.


Ross admissions will place a greater emphasis on qualitatively reviewing applications this year, given the context of the pandemic. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the criteria of admission will be any easier.

“We will be looking for ways that you sustained yourself through the pandemic by possibly reigniting a high school job or activity, skills you might have learned through a non-traditional experience, or how you have engaged in activities that align with your future goals,” Rideout writes. “We certainly are not lowering expectations for our applicants, but we are adjusting our evaluations a bit knowing that we will see less college-level involvement and we will need to give more weight to the late high school extracurricular record.”

Sources: University of Michigan, The New York Times

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