How to Write the Michigan Supplement

By: Caroline Koppelman

Michigan has three essay questions of varying lengths. But don’t be confused. Just because an essay is 100 words long doesn’t mean the school will ignore it. Every question is included with the purpose of giving you the chance to tell the school more about you and for the school to gauge if you’re a good fit.

1. 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)

A lot of students make the mistake of trying to go over-serious with this essay. Don’t write what you think the admissions committee may want to hear, write about something you genuinely care about and your passion will shine through. If you’ve been surfing since childhood and it’s an important part of your life, write about how you look forward to driving out to Lake Michigan to try lake surfing. Show the admissions committee you care about something, whatever it is, and this will be a successful essay.

2. 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. 

The broadness of questions like these can often make them frustrating and difficult. Perhaps counterintuitively, a good place to begin may be a little outside the box. Think about the things that bind the people close to you together in life and how they’ve made a profound impact on you. It may be one of the categories listed above, but it may be something else entirely. Maybe you and your friends all loved going to the movies together while you were growing up and that prompted to your interest cinema studies. Don’t feel boxed in by the question. Like most essays, the specifics of the topic you choose is less important than expressing yourself cogently and building a coherent narrative.

3. 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 the straightforward “Why Michigan?” question. It really comes down to research, narrative, and research (can’t say it enough). You have to decide what narrative you want to tell and prove you’ve got the facts to back it up. For example, let’s say growing up you loved going to museums and that grew into a passion for art history. Now that you’ve created your narrative you need to do a deep dive into the programs offered by Michigan, both in the classroom and out. Just talking about courses isn’t enough. Talk about volunteering at the University Museum of Art or working in the community to help kids discover art. Don’t fake your passion. It’s really easy to spot someone trying to fake it when compared to someone who really cares and has done the work.

Despite the varying lengths, all three essays are important and worth putting in serious time and consideration. Brainstorm the best stories, do your research, and convey your passions and you should be able to write essays to help you stand out from thousands of other applicants.