When it comes to writing a stellar college application essay, my advice is fairly succinct: Be yourself.
I know there are lots of articles that tell you to watch your grammar and punctuation, to use correct capitalization, to stay on-topic - and those are all great pieces of advice. But I’m going to assume you know all that because it’s common sense.
I’m going to hope you realize that when it comes to the writing portion of a college application, you know you need to turn in your best work. You know that spellcheck can betray you, that your extensive “tutoring” may turn into “torturing” because you relied solely on software to handle the copy editing.
You do know all that, right?
But what you might not know is that the hardest part isn’t necessarily the mechanics. The hardest part can be making sure that your essay is authentic, that it really sounds like you – not your mother, your advisor, or your Uncle Bob, who wears Maize and Blue every Saturday and has taken you to every home football game since you were 10.
Don’t get me wrong - school spirit is wonderful. So is editing.
But this is your application, after all, and we want to know about you. We want to know what makes you stand out from the crowd – what makes you a good fit for the University of Michigan.
We don’t want a list of awards and achievements; we’ll have those on your application. We want a written snapshot of who you are – right now – and how you got that way. When you see the essay portion on your application, you’ll have several choices, or prompts. One will let you tell your story in the best way possible. Choose it. Play to your strengths.
Your college essay will be one of nearly 50,000 that we’ll be reading in admissions – use this opportunity to your advantage. Your essay gives us insights into your personality; it helps us determine if your relationship with the school will be mutually beneficial.
So tell us what faculty you’d like to work with, or what research you’re interested in. Tell us why you’re a leader – or how you overcame adversity in your life. Tell us why this is the school for you. Tell us your story.
And be yourself. Really – it’s some of the best advice I can give.
Write an Essay That Will Stand Out
Despite the university’s large student body, admissions to Michigan are still very competitive. The university has a 26.2% acceptance rate with an average SAT score of 1430 (new standard) and ACT range scores from 30-34. The average high school GPA is 3.87.
Students seeking unparalleled research opportunities will relish the incredible opportunities and resources that this school offers. In order to write a quality essay that will make you stand out, there are a few suggestions we at CollegeVine would like to mention.
University of Michigan Writing Prompts
Essay #1 (Required – 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 freshman 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?
Writing the First Essay Prompt
The first prompt requires a sincere and nuanced response. The focus of this prompt is on community — and it includes a broad definition of community. Make sure to take time to carefully choose the community that you want to write about.
For many people, writing about your race or ethnicity is an appealing option. After all, living in the United States as a person of color is a defining experience for many people. This prompt invites some important personal reflections that demonstrate deep thought and conviction on your identity. Given that this is a common direction for students to take in this essay, the challenge is to make this topic as unique as possible for you.
In describing the community to which you belong, explore why that community is important to you and how that can connect to a broader narrative about yourself. This can be especially helpful if you have experience doing volunteer work on issues that matter to your community. For example, if you have volunteered for an organization that advocates for criminal justice reform or changes in education policy, you can connect that to your place within a certain community.
Community, as used in this prompt, is a broad category and is by no means limited to race or gender. If you have a creative or uniquely personal understanding of community, write about it! The goal is to convey sincerity and authenticity and to demonstrate as a thoughtful person who cares about more than just yourself.
Make Sure to be Specific
Another key point to stress about the community prompt is the importance of specificity. Ideally, the essay should demonstrate personality and conviction. Stay away from using vague, broad phrases and instead contextualize the themes you wish to address through the lens of community. This means if, for example, you choose to write about how systemic inequalities in society have affected you, make sure to explain how these broader issues relate to your community and how your understanding of community has helped you deal with these issues.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive review of your essay within 24 hours, submit your essay today and we’ll get it right back to you.
Writing the Second Prompt
The second prompt asks you two things: to isolate the specific qualities of the particular undergraduate school to which you are applying and to explain how those qualities will help you pursue interests. This prompt requires a bit of research into the specific undergraduate school and connecting it to a broader narrative you want to construct about yourself.
Much like the first prompt, specificity is also a key element to a successful response. This prompt might require conducting a bit of research on Michigan’s website in order to mention specific qualities that draw you to that school. For example, if you’re a student applying to Michigan’s engineering school, do some research on the undergraduate engineering program and talk about why it appeals to you, mentioning specific factors, such as Michigan’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity.
Connect your Passions to the University of Michigan
The second part of the prompt gives a great opportunity to connect your passions to the unique traits of the school. This is an opportunity to view your application from a strategic lens: if you have structured your Common Application essay and extracurriculars around a particular narrative of yourself, here you can apply that narrative to the specific context of the school. This can effectively give the admissions officer a clear vision of what you would look like as a student.
For instance, continuing with the engineering example, let’s say that you are really interested in aerospace engineering and that’s been “your thing” throughout high school. You have some prior exposure to the field, and you dream of working for NASA or Boeing crafting the next generation of airplanes or space shuttles.
Mention this in your essay, but also add specific details about Michigan’s aerospace engineering program that you think will allow you to fulfill those aspirations. Whether it’s a series of professors who are the leaders in the field or access to some of the best research facilities, the goal of this prompt is to show why you think a Michigan education will best equip you to meet your goals.
- For the first prompt, the goal is to craft an essay that shows personality and thoughtfulness about your relationship in a broader community. This can be a personal essay that includes strong themes of social justice and community advocacy, or it can be a more creative take that highlights an uncommon talent or ability.
- For the second prompt, it is important to show that you have done your homework on the specific undergraduate school that you’re applying to and give the reader a clear vision of what you would look like as a Michigan student.
The University of Michigan boasts a vast array of resources and tools that truly add to the value of an education there. For a chance to become a proud Wolverine, focus on writing an essay that will differentiate yourself and shows a true desire for wanting to be a student there.
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