For decades, the University of Michigan’s flagship campus in Ann Arbor has been one of our students’ top-choice schools—and every year, admission gets more competitive. Many students start the application process by crafting their Common App personal statement and activity list, which are common across all the colleges and universities you will apply to. UMich’s additional essay supplements are a great way to stand out at UMich and push your application over the line for acceptance. And while you may be able to recycle UMich’s short prompt on community from a similar essay written for a different school, you’ll need to write a bespoke draft for UMich’s longer, 550-word essay.
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?
Here are a few guidelines for this essential part of your application.
1. Write it about the specific school within UMich you’re applying to—not UMich as a whole.
UMich consists of 19 Colleges and Schools, and each offers very different resources and experiences to its students. Admissions officers want to see that you understand this and have chosen the college that best fits you. The single most common mistake we see students make in first drafts is to write the essay about UMich in general, with no mention of their specific College or School within UMich, such as, the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA), the College of Engineering, or the Ross School of Business.
To avoid this, make sure you ground your research in material from your specific target UMich College or School. While it’s okay to briefly mention non-university-specific resources, like Ann Arbor’s location or an exciting club, don’t make these the focal point of the essay.
2. Emphasize academics at your chosen College or School.
As with applications to all universities, the wording of UMich’s prompt can contain hints about what they’re looking for in your answer. In this case, they explicitly mention “curriculum.” Your first step should be to go to your specific College’s website and check out the requirements for your chosen major. How are they different from the fundamental courses for similar majors at other universities? Are UMich’s courses taught in smaller class size than at other universities, or by uniquely experienced professors, or using interesting pedagogic methods? What aspects of the curriculum excite you? You can also discuss individual professors whose research aligns with your own academic interests.
3. Focus on resources that are not available at other universities, and also mention what is available through the many Colleges, Schools, and programs within UMich.
College is a mixed bag—no matter which university you’re at, you’ll have a few experiences you could not have had anywhere else. However, many college experiences are common—for example, a chemistry major can expect to take organic chemistry no matter which university they attend. When you write this essay for UMich, you want to focus on the type of experience you could only have at UMich. “Introduction to Computer Science” may be offered in the College of Engineering, but that doesn’t mean that writing about it is a good idea—unless you can describe unique features of UMich’s Computer Science course.
Fortunately, UMich offers plenty of unique resources. As a large school, it has many unusual programs and classes, including minors, tracks within your major, certificates, and interdisciplinary courses. You can also discuss academic opportunities like UROP, the undergraduate research program.
4. Make it personal—but not too personal.
This essay is not a personal statement, so don’t spend entire paragraphs recapping your résumé. However, you should briefly share your own goals and desires for your college experience, and you can mention past impressive experiences in the context of that. For instance: “My favorite activity in high school was math team, and the mathematics department at UMich provides the perfect opportunity to keep building on that through its sponsorship of student organizations like SUMS (Society of Undergraduate Math Students) and WIM (Women in Mathematics club).” Just make sure to tie it in to a specific offering at the College or School within UMich you’re applying to.
Once you’ve completed this essay for UMich, you may be ready to get started on similar ones for other schools. Check out our advice on writing on other “Why School” prompts here.
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