Michigan Ross Admissions Portfolio Provides a More Holistic Picture of Applicants

Photo of exterior of Michigan Ross building and two people walking outside of it

With the recent Supreme Court ruling on race-conscious admissions I feel it's imperative to remind our prospective students and families, our high school communities, and our community-based organizations that we have an unwavering commitment to recruiting and educating a diverse class of students. Our diverse study body of learners is what makes the Michigan Ross BBA community thrive. 

As our campus leadership shared, while the ruling does not have a direct affect on our current admissions process, we are concerned for the greater impact on higher education. Which is why our team is at the forefront of pioneering a more holistic approach to college admissions —an approach that focuses more on authentic student work and multiple forms of excellence, rather than a single set of academic metrics. In sum, you are more than a number. 

This week our work was highlighted in a series of opinion pieces in the New York Times on How to Fix College Admissions Now. The piece titled Move On From Meritocracy highlighted the Ross Admissions Portfolio and how our process focuses on the potential of what a student may bring to society. Our review process prioritizes growth and learning over merit and achievement, which is often tied up with wealth and privilege. We are looking for the student’s potential to do well in our action-based curriculum, and we value multiple forms of excellence.

The transformation of our admissions process began in 2016, when we changed the way we reviewed applications for the BBA program by launching the Ross Admissions Portfolio. The portfolio allows us to gain a more authentic view of students applying to the BBA program and to understand an applicant’s readiness for an action-based learning curriculum at Ross. Prior to 2016, our BBA team had been receiving supplemental application materials focused on all the ways students learn inside and outside of the classroom, and their intentions for an undergraduate business degree (which the current application did not ask). But we did not have a formal way to value this supplemental information. Thus, the team got together and decided that we wanted to create an admissions process that would capture not only the uniqueness of each applicant, but an understanding of their desire to pursue an undergraduate business education and their potential contribution to the class. We also wanted to move away from standardized testing and other biased forms of ‘academic merit’. 

To summarize, the Ross Admissions Portfolio is a personal, open-ended way to share more about who you are and why you’re interested in a business education at Michigan Ross. Our admissions team uses this portfolio to complement your Common or Coalition application to get a well-rounded understanding of who you are (think: beyond the numbers!). The portfolio is your opportunity to display your understanding of business and showcase how you’ve put your learning in action. More information can be found on our website.

Fast forward to January 2023, the Ross Admissions Portfolio was featured as an exemplar in the college admissions profession and a case study on the process was published. The case study is titled Authentic Student Work in College Admissions: Lessons from the Ross School of Business. It was published by the Learning Policy Institute’s (LPI) in partnership with the Reimagining College Access (RCA) initiative through the National Association for College Admission Counseling

The case study notes that Michigan Ross is among several colleges and undergraduate programs incorporating demonstrations of student learning into the admissions process. Examples provided by LPI included the Maker Portfolio at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, academic reflections for Wheaton College, and portfolios of authentic student work for the City of New York system.

The Ross case study focused on the undergraduate admissions team’s ability to (1) differentiate applications beyond standardized test scores and GPA, (2) identify applicants with a genuine interest in a business education, (3) assess applicant’s readiness for an action-based learning environment that defines the BBA program, and (4) value multiple forms of academic excellence when considering an applicant’s full education history and potential for success.

With the changing landscape of college admissions, the BBA admissions team is focused on gathering meaningful information from applicants that will allow us to equitably review knowledge, skills, and abilities of applicants with diverse identities and experiences. We believe the Ross Admissions Portfolio meets this goal and are proud to be a featured case study for the Reimagining College Access initiative and to be a leader in taking a more holistic view on college admissions.