Looking to submit an undergraduate application to The University of Michigan this year? You’re in good company. This perennially outstanding state school offers the same level of academic rigor as top-ranked Ivies and draws a sizable number of applications each year as a result (50,000+, in fact). With an applicant pool this deep, it is critical you think carefully and thoughtfully about the specific reasons you are drawn to The University of Michigan as an applicant. Recycling other school’s essays proves especially difficult given the two questions unique to this school’s application (Essay #2 and the Additional Short Essay mentioned below). This post provides some ideas for strategies to craft the strongest essay set possible and stand out from the sizable applicant pack.
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.
Diversity is central to The University of Michigan’s mission as a state university whose identity needs to reflect the social and cultural makeup of the State of Michigan and nation as a whole. Try not to think of this question as a reworded version of the often asked, “How are you diverse?” admissions question, however, as more of an invitation to discuss an aspect of your background that will help you connect in some way to the diverse University of Michigan student body. You’ll want to do some research regarding opportunities you’d have to be part of specific communities on campus prior to choosing a topic for this essay.
Ideally, you can link the community you discuss belonging to, with a similar community on the University of Michigan campus you’d be excited to join. If you talk about your local faith community as a practicing Muslim, for example, you can discuss your place within that community in as much detail as possible, then link it to future experiences you anticipate having on the University of Michigan campus–perhaps as a member of Muslim Students’ Association, for example. The Admissions Committee wants to learn about you first and foremost, however, so you’ll want the bulk of this essay to focus on a current community rather than any particular student organization at the university. Still, connecting the dots between yourself and the university can help establish you’ve researched its various communities and your anticipated place in them.
When discussing a community to which you belong, consider including experiences you’ve had crossing a cultural border or boundary. For example, you might highlight a time when your mosque invited guests of another faith to attend a meet-and-greet. Discussing points where communities intersect will result in an interesting essay that simulates what college itself will be like.
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?
This is a tricky question that applicants tend to only partially answer–focusing on the career outcomes of certain majors in Colleges and Schools at The University of Michigan rather than really diving into and discussing in detail how the curriculum of a particular major or program matches their academic interests. “I want to major in business so I can become a successful accountant someday,” is a pretty standard response the Ross School of Business likely receives time and again. But an A to B recipe like this doesn’t address in detail how the structure of the Bachelor of Business Administration degree at the University of Michigan uniquely aligns with an applicant’s academic and personal interests. To answer Essay #2 successfully, do your homework. Research the required courses and academic plan you’ll be asked to complete, and discuss in detail how those courses and that plan reinforce your own interests as a student and eventual professional in whatever career you’re aiming for. Be as specific as possible to answer this essay completely.
When applying to college, you may not have a firm idea of what you want your major and future career to be, and if this is the case, you’re actually in the majority of high school students, so fear not! This doesn’t mean you can’t write a strong Essay #2, however, if The University of Michigan is one of your target schools. First, research the 14 different undergraduate Schools and Colleges it boasts to determine which might be the best prospective home for you. Be sure to notice that many programs at the university do not require application until your second year of college. Most students at The University of Michigan are admitted to College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) for their first year of study, while others (business school students, for example) go through the Preferred Admission process while still in high school, which gives them sophomore entry to a particular School / College provided they meet certain academic conditions. If you’re applying to a School / College that predominantly admits new classes via Preferred Admission (e.g., Ross School of Business), it’s critical that you decide now, while still a high school student, which School / College you’re targeting, as it can often be quite difficult to transfer from one School / College to another after your first year of study, even with exceptional grades.
Additional Short Essay (Included online when you log in to the Common Application)
If you could only do one of the activities you have listed in the Activities section of your Common Application, which one would you keep doing? Why? (Required for all applicants. Approximately 100 words)
This question, in particular, is an attempt by The University of Michigan’s Admissions Committee to gain some drilled-down insight regarding a singular passion you have. It’s an interesting question to ask from an admissions perspective because it requires applicants who have been encouraged throughout their high school careers to have broad extracurricular experiences to leave the idea of broadness behind and get personal and specific for a paragraph or two.
Trying to stay within the 100-word range means you’ll want to first choose which activity from your Common Application list you’re most passionate about–the one you would quit all other activities for if necessary. Ideally, this is an activity you haven’t already written about at-length in another portion of your application. It will likely be an activity you came to love and carve out time for even while trying to be a broadly accomplished applicant. Maybe you write about the musical instrument (saxophone, for example) your parents were initially skeptical about purchasing that led you to develop a love of performing and studying jazz, or the club sport at your high school (water polo, perhaps) that was wildly unpopular at your school but allowed you to grow into a true team leader for the first time in your life. No matter which passion you select, generate a quick bullet-point list of the points you want to make about it before you start writing. This will help you stay concise and within the 100-word range.
If you’re applying to the University of Michigan, you already know you’re up against tight competition. Don’t be overwhelmed. Get the guidance of an experienced admissions specialist who will help you stand out from the highly competitive applicant pool so you can apply with confidence, and get accepted! Click here to get started!
• Example to Exemplary, a free guide to writing great application essays
• Getting Ready to Apply to Top Tier Colleges and Universities: Senior Year
• Tips For Answering Common Application Essay Prompts