How to Write the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor Essays 2018-2019

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The University of Michigan is one of the leading public universities not only in the U.S, but around the world. Consistently highly ranked, the research university consists of 12 different colleges, from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts to Ross School of Business to School of Kinesiology. 200 study abroad programs are offered at UMichigan, and the student-to-faculty ratio is 15:1, with more than half of classes containing less than 20 students.


The University of Michigan offers two forms of application: Early Action and Regular Decision. The Early Action deadline is November 1st, while Regular Decision applications are due by February 1st. Make sure, however, to check the website of the UMichigan department that you are interested for application information. Certain programs have differing deadlines, as well as individual requirements for specific majors that the general application does not have.


Each school at the University of Michigan varies in its individual acceptance rate, but the general rate of admission to the University of Michigan in 2018 was 23.5%.


How to Write the University of Michigan Essays

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? (500 words)

This essay is what CollegeVine calls a “Why This College” supplement: it is meant to gauge your interest in the school and how you would fit into/contribute to the academic and social environment of the university. This supplement contains two significant questions that you need to answer in order to effectively respond to the essay:


  1. Why do you like the specific College at UMichigan?
  2. Why is this program a good fit for you on a personal and academic level?


Basically, the admissions officers want to see whether you are genuinely passionate about attending the university (not reluctantly applying because your parents told you to) and whether you have though critically about how the academic opportunities offered by the college would couple with your academic interests.


Specificity is key. If there is only one thing you come away with in regards to answering this question, it is to do your research. Put the time and effort into studying what the university has to offer and what opportunities appeal to you. Why do you be a student here? Why is this college different to you from any other university?


An effective way of checking that your essay is sufficiently specific to the school is the Name Plug-in Test. The steps to the Name Plug-In Test are as follows:


  1. Replace the name of the school or department the essay is about with the name of a different school or department
  2. Read the essay over with the new name
  3. If the essay reads as an acceptable supplement for the new name school/department, it does not have enough detail.


The goal of this question is for admissions officers to see how invested you are in truly attending the program you select and if you would be a good fit for that program. You can show them your interest and passion for the program by portraying that you have done the work into figuring out why the program is a good fit for you. Go on your College or School’s website and try to find answers to the following questions:


  • Which professors would you be interested in working with? Why?
  • Which courses appeal to you?
  • What are programs within the department that interest you?
  • Are there any initiatives, events, or workshops the department has that differ from other universities?
  • What is the department atmosphere? Why would you want to be a part of that community?


Go through the course catalogue, ask current students of the college, scroll through various affiliated websites, etc. in order to find an answer to the previously listed questions. In the end, you’ll come out knowing whether UMichigan and the College are in fact a good fit for you. As well, you’ll have a large amount of material to “describe the unique qualities” of whichever program you are applying to. You have 500 words: ample space to fully (and with plenty of detail!) describe why you want to go here!

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. (Approximately 250 words)

The point of supplements in the college admissions process is for officers to gain a better, well-rounded understanding of who you are as an individual that goes past the Common App and transcript. Here, you are asked to reflect on a community that you are a part of, how it has changed you as an individual, and what space/role you fulfill in this community.


Reminder: when an essay has an “approximate” word count, try to match that number. You have a some flexibility in writing slightly more or less, but “approximately” does not mean add 200 words or detract 150.


This question gives you three separate parts to respond to: “describe a community to which you belong” and “describe your place within it.” It is important to always make sure that you are answering each part of the supplement! UMichigan is a university that prides itself in the openness and connection of its community, both between students on campus and between the university and the city of Ann Arbor. The school wants to read about how you grow, learn from, and contribute to a group setting and gain a better understanding of you socially.


Although community is commonly thought of as a large cultural or societal group, you have flexibility in defining what your community is. As stated in the question, a community does not only have to be geographic, ethnic, racial, or societal: consider groups to which you belong that share something in common with you, regardless of size. It can consist of various individuals who all have a specific interest in common, like a sport, an academic passion, an extracurricular activity, or consist of a tight group of friends who all have bonded over a particular idea or club.


Choose a group you belong to that has been most fundamental in shaping who you are or that has been doing the most significant work that you are a part of. The university wants to hear your story of connecting to your community, and how you have both grown from it and contributed to it.


Quick side-note: if you were asking yourself what “intellectual heritage” is when reading the question, it is basically inherited spiritual and intellectual activities, like art, scientific achievements, music, and literature. For instance, you could write about a group of artists that you are a part of or a community at your high school you are a part of that has formed around Game of Thrones.

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? (Approximately 100 words)

This is a pretty straightforward, short question. Be open and honest! What is the one activity that you will continue doing in college? The admissions office would like to get to know you better as an individual with this question and develop a more cohesive picture of you and your interests. There is no wrong or right answer. Which of the listed activities do you look forward to most? Which do you think that you will put the time and effort into while doing all of your college course work?


A way of answering this prompt efficiently consists of three parts:


Part 1: Introduce and discuss your activity

This should go beyond the sentence long description that you have already included in your Common Application. The admissions team already has the general idea of what it is based on your short description, so this is your chance to dive into more specifics.


An effective way to introduce the activity is to utilize a short, sentence-long anecdote. This should be short and sweet, considering the essay is only 100 words, but if you can find a moment of action in your activity that you could describe and grab the reader’s attention with, that is always a good way to start an essay. Remember, the admissions officers always want a personal story!


You should then continue by describing the activity and what your role is in it.


Part 2: Clarify why you chose this activity specifically

This part of the essay should speak to the depth of your personal connection to this activity. Your answer should portray the activity’s importance to you and the meaning it holds in your social, academic, or emotional life. Why is it so significant? Why do you love it?


Part 3: Why would you continue doing this activity in college?

You have already discussed why this activity is significant to and delved into your passion for it. The last part of the essay should remark on why you would continue pursuing this activity in college.


Some questions to consider when responding to this part: how would college take your activity to the next level? How would it allow you to engage with the community or with yourself as a college student?


This question is only 100 words, so the answers to the three parts need to be concise. Your goal is to portray how and why this activity is essential to you and what its future would be at university.

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For Ross School of Business:

Choose a current event or issue in your community and discuss the business implications. Propose a solution that incorporates business principles or practices. The review panel will look for creativity, drawing connections, and originality. (500 words)

Is there a problem that affects you daily that you would like to solve? Lack of recycling or composting facilities? The cafeteria running out of pizza? Banana flavored candy not tasting like actual bananas? Too many people wearing Birkenstocks?


This is your chance to solve the issues that bother you, while showing the admissions team your business acumen and problem-solving skills. The supplemental question is a way to see inside of your business process. How creative are you in solving issues? How aware are you of integrated differing aspects of a problem into an outcome? Are you able to focus on working on a whole picture scenario rather than just a narrow part of the issue?



Coming up with a solution that already exists. Do your research as to whether your idea is already out in the world.


Choosing an issue that is a hot topic. If you choose something too controversial, it can detract from your application, as it is impossible to predict what the admission team’s stance is on it. Even if the admissions team does agree with your opinion, something too contentious can distract from your ideas.


Picking a issue that is too triteYou can rest assured that the admissions officers have read plenty of essays on solving traffic. Unless you have an idea that is truly innovative and groundbreaking, avoid overused scenarios.


A general guide for the essay is as follows:


Introduce the current event or issue that affects your community.

Your community can be as small as your family and guitar club or as large as your town, state, or country. Anecdotes, fictional or personal, are always a good way to start an essay! Show us the issue, don’t tell us right away.


For instance, if someone was writing about the lack of bike paths in their town, they could start by write a few sentences showing them getting yelled at by a pedestrian from riding on the sidewalk.

I wiped away the sweat from my brow, feet pedaling furiously. It was mile five of my morning bike run. Everything was going smoothly until a shriek ripped through the air: “Watch where you’re going!” I had nearly run over an unsuspecting pedestrian. After our city had expanded the roads, but left no room for bike paths, I had been forced to stick to the perilous realm of the sidewalk.


Describe the particulars of the issue. 

You have 500 words: put them to use! Do research into the event or issue you’ve chosen. What are the impacts of it? What are the social and economic results it brings? How does that affect the business, local or national, in that community? You have the space to delve into the particulars of the problem and convince the reader that you have a in-depth, detailed understanding of the situation at hand.


For instance, the bike path individual could go into particulars of how the lack of bike paths could speak to not only how the lack of bike paths increases the risk of bikers getting run over bikes and pedestrians run over bikers, but how the lack of bike paths has decreased motivation to bike, increasing the number of cars on the road, leading to worse air quality, elevated traffic, and longer commutes.


Introduce your solution.

Describe it in detail. What are the principles and practices it incorporates? Why is this a good solution to the situation at hand? Once you finish writing about your solution, proofread it. Debate your solution with your business friends. What are some of the weaknesses in what you propose? Once you find those, find ways of addressing and solving them in your essay.


Describe what the effects are of your solution.

What are the short term effects? Long-term? How is your business solution sustainable?


Remember, think critically and creatively both about the issue and the way you would solve it. Showcase your unique ability to respond to a scenario and how you incorporate your knowledge of business practices.

Upload a document or artifact that represents something significant about your life to show your learning in action. Describe how your artifact demonstrates your learning in action. (250 words)

Let’s begin with a definition for this rather idiosyncratic supplement. An artifact is any object that symbolizes or portrays an achievement or moment that was meaningful to you. For instance, it could be a certificate of merit, a printed article you wrote, a book that inspired you, a picture of a club or organization you created or played a large role in working on, etc.


The artifact or document that you upload should portray the result of your work on something meaningful to you. It does not have to be the most impressive activity or award on your resume however: it should be an object that means the most to you personally as a result of your learning, work, and growth. The Ross Admissions page states that “at the core we are asking for something that shows your passion and a unique aspect of self.” Choose something that you are proud of on a personal level that portrays your personality and passion as well. You will be asked to send in a photograph or scan of whichever document or artifact you choose.


The previous supplement’s statement that “The review panel will look for creativity, drawing connections, and originality” applies here as well. Be creative with your artifact, and remember that the point of the essay is for you to share yet another side of yourself or angle on your passion that has not been covered by the Common App, the supplements, and your resume.


Avoid simply listing and directly an impressive experience: the admissions team has your activities list. This supplement should portray how you connect to this artifact or document personally: how it is emblematic of your growth and you as an individual.


Here are some questions you will want to consider on in the course of writing this essay:


  • What is the story of the artifact? What lead to you coming into possession of it?
  • How has that changed you as an individual? Who were you before and after achieving the artifact?
  • How did you learn from it? What did you learn to get to it?
  • Why is this significant to you?
  • What do you hope to achieve in the future due to the process of getting this artifact?

Remember, this supplement isn’t about trying to impress the admissions officer with a prestigious award or fancy certificate. It is about showing your “learning in action,” portraying how you work towards something and how that process changes and teaches you.


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