This post about the University of Michigan supplement to the Common Application is part of a series of posts written to help you complete the Common Application supplement for Ivy League and other top schools.
What are they looking for?
Essay #1 (Required for all applicants. Approximately 250 words.)
Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it.
Essay #2 (Required for all applicants. 500 words maximum.)
Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests?
Since supplemental essays are really the only place in your application where you can be school-specific, take your time and think about how you want to answer these questions.
The purpose of the first question is to get an idea of your sense of identity, your values, and your awareness of your role within any of your communities. Do not worry that there is a better or more highly desired group with which to be affiliated. The most important thing is that you speak with an authentic voice and give the admissions committee a window into your world. Have you been an Irish dance competitor for ten years? This could make for a very interesting and unique essay. Even though you will have most certainly mentioned this in the activities section of your application, this is your chance to tell the committee what that particular group means to you.
No group or topic is off limits, save for things generally considered by the mass population to be deemed undesirable, at worst, or controversial at best. Perhaps avoid discussions where opinions and emotions are very divided, for example any group that is devoted to the issue of gun rights or gun control. There is just too much risk that you will offend a reader, and surely there are other topics from which you can choose. Remember that your goal is to make a favorable impression on the adcom, and to make them want to have you join their incoming class of students. Belligerent missives on the inequality of XYZ may not invoke those warm feelings. So choose any topic, but present it within a positive framework.
The second question is much more straightforward. This is the basic, “Why Michigan” essay, though the prompt is worded a little differently. This question demands that you do your homework on the specific school, program, or major to which you are applying. Michigan, as with many schools, is very transparent and detailed about the specifics of their programs. Take your time and really dissect the information on their web site and marketing materials. And then craft your answer so that it is clear that you have put time and energy into making the choice to apply. Demonstrate that you have compelling reasons for wanting to attend the University of Michigan, outside of loving Big Ten football, or wanting to attend a university with a world-renowned reputation. Your reasons need to be specific, detailed, and precise. This is how your application will rise to the top of the stack. Good luck and Go Blue!
By Catherine Cook, Published author and former Duke Law admissions officer, who has helped applicants gain acceptance to top universities, law schools, and MBA programs. Catherine has 20+ years of college and graduate school admissions experience. Want Catherine to help you get accepted? Click here!
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• Tips For Answering Common Application Essay Prompts