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5 Tips for the ‘Why University of Michigan’ Essay

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Robert Crystal in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.

 

What’s Covered:

 

 

What Is the ‘Why University of Michigan’ Essay?

 

The University of Michigan requires all applicants to submit supplemental essays. The University of Michigan’s first supplemental essay is a “Why This College” essay, which should help you think through the optimal approach to answering the question. The prompt reads: 

 

“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 to the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests?” (100-550 words) 

 

In this article, we will walk through this example response for the prompt and highlight important tips to keep in mind when writing an excellent essay.

 

An aspiring trilingual clinical psychologist, I am drawn to the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts because it’s loaded with opportunities to build me into a scholar with a heart for service.

 

As a Psychology major and Spanish minor, I will satisfy my pursuit of academic excellence with LSA’s inexhaustible course offerings. Curious how songwriting helps me remember difficult words, I’ll find the answer from Psych 211-002: Mind, Music, and Community. As I learn what music does to the human mind through this exciting experiential course, I hope simultaneously to brighten the day of local seniors and children by playing the flute for them. While I will continue to explore indigenous cultures through the mythology my Latinx friends tell me outside of class, I look forward to examining these communities from an academic standpoint through Spanish 472 – Indigenous Societies. The combination of oral traditions and classical texts will deepen my knowledge of, and appreciation for, Latin American countries’ indigenous roots. Because of the variety of offerings LSA provides, I’ll get to zoom in on my specific topics of interest in psychology and Hispanic cultures. 

 

An advocate for pursuing academic excellence, not perfectionism, I hope to join the Chang Lab to investigate how race and culture give rise to perfectionism, applying my knowledge in Psychology to advance the science of well-being. With our common ethnic background, I’m especially intrigued by Dr. Chang’s studies regarding the Asian community. After gaining more research experience, I will write an honors thesis with Professor Nestor Lopez-Duran to research mental illness treatment. I want to develop a new form of psychotherapy combining ASMR and talk therapy, and I hope that our research contributes to this cause. 

 

Joining the Residential College will be the cherry atop my LSA sundae. Beyond the courses, alumni network, and research opportunities, I’ll get to share my opinions and consider others’ in small classrooms. I can’t wait to take the residential college writing seminar Psychology of Creativity and join the language lunch table to practice speaking Spanish outside the classroom.  As someone who sought out native speakers to talk incessantly in Spanish about mythology, I hope to find other Spanish lovers at RC with whom I can practice my language skills. I will also participate in the Multicultural Psychology in Argentina program, traveling to Buenos Aires to learn the Argentine perspective on mental health. This cross-cultural exchange is crucial in helping me build an empathetic mindset as a clinical psychologist, arming me with tools to help people of different cultural backgrounds.

 

1. Mention the School You Are Interested In

 

“An aspiring trilingual clinical psychologist, I am drawn to the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) because it’s loaded with opportunities to build me into a scholar with a heart for service.” 

 

This student immediately states what school they are interested in and how it fits into their purpose and life goals. Readers have already learned important information about this student in the first sentence: They want to become a trilingual clinical psychologist and learn about their values through an emphasis on scholarship and community service. 

 

Even though this is not a particularly creative introduction, it outlines what the student hopes to achieve with the essay. If you use a more artsy approach, such as an anecdote or a metaphor, make sure that it still covers what school you want to attend and how it fits into your future. 

 

2. Mention Specific Classes

 

“As a psychology major and Spanish minor, I will satisfy my pursuit of academic excellence with LSA’s inexhaustible course offerings. Curious how songwriting helps me remember difficult words, I’ll find the answer from Psych 211-002: Mind, Music, and Community. As I learn what music does to the human mind through this exciting and experiential course, I hope simultaneously to brighten the day of local seniors and children by playing the flute for them.” 

 

By naming a specific course and how they plan to participate in it, the student is setting a clear vision of what they plan to do at Michigan. Their course selection also corroborates the commitment to community service that they mentioned in the first part of their essay.

 

This sets a narrative focus that continues throughout their response: the intersection of community service and music. Including examples of their past use of music and community service or a link to their future goals would improve this section. 

 

3. Show Your Writing Prowess

 

“While I will continue to explore Indigenous cultures through the mythology my Latinx friends tell me outside of class, I look forward to examining these communities from an academic standpoint through Spanish 472 – Indigenous Societies. The combination of oral traditions and classical texts will deepen my knowledge of, and appreciation for, Latin American countries’ indigenous roots. Because of the variety of offerings LSA provides, I’ll get to zoom in on my specific topics of interest in psychology and Hispanic cultures.” 

 

This part of the response is very structured. It is not extremely creative and flowy, but this would be OK if that is your writing style. Keep in mind that this is a chance for you to show colleges who you are and showcase your writing prowess and style. 

 

If the student is of Latinx heritage, it would be good to explicitly state that and discuss their own experiences, rather than piggybacking off their friends. They could also demonstrate how they plan to use their knowledge of Spanish and Indigenous societies in a career or life goal. 

 

You are the center of these stories, so you want to focus on yourself and your experiences. Admissions officers are very good at detecting when you’re using the stories of others as a crutch. You can talk about people who are important to you, but you need to be the center of the story.  

 

4. Highlight Extracurricular Interests

 

“An advocate for pursuing academic excellence, not perfectionism, I hope to join the Chang Lab to investigate how race and culture give rise to perfectionism, applying my knowledge in Psychology to advance the science of well-being. With our common ethnic background, I’m especially intrigued by Dr. Chang’s studies regarding the Asian community. After gaining more research experience, I will write an honors thesis with Professor Nestor Lopez-Duran to research mental illness treatment. I want to develop a new form of psychotherapy combining autonomous sensory meridian response and talk therapy, and I hope that our research contributes to this case.” 

 

At this point, you want to look for ways to explore your academic interests outside of the classroom. However, this student makes a small error when describing the research. Rather than giving other personal details about their life to explain why this research is so important to them, they only state the connection exists.

 

They could, for example, discuss their own experiences with perfectionism and mental health. That would make for a much more compelling approach than listing the lab’s research, which makes the section read a bit like a log of accomplishments.

 

They should also mention their high school extracurriculars, which would show how they could engage at the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. 

 

5. Conclude with the ‘Cherry On Top’ 

 

“Joining the Residential College will be the cherry on top of my LSA sundae. Beyond the courses, alumni network, and research opportunities, I’ll get to share my opinions and consider others’ in small classrooms. I can’t wait to take the residential college writing seminar Psychology of Creativity and join the language lunch table to practice speaking Spanish outside the classroom.” 

 

The phrase “the cherry on top of my LSA sundae,” is a good inclusion, but only if it had been referenced throughout the rest of the essay. Extended metaphors like this should pervade the entire essay and be integrated into the content. 

 

The main improvement the student could make in this essay is to be more personal and center the narrative on their own experiences and self-reflection.


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