How to Write the University of Michigan Supplement 2018-2019

The University of Michigan is a public university in Ann Arbor, MI. There are over 1,500 clubs, groups, and organizations on campus spanning a multitude of academic, cultural, and social interests. There are roughly 30,000 undergraduates and the 2018 acceptance rate was 26%.

The Michigan supplement is comprised of three questions, broken down below:

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. 50-150 words)

Fear not, this is not a trick question. Look at your activities and choose your favorite one, it’s as simple as that. Don’t make the mistake of writing about something you think makes you sound most desirable to the admissions committee because you’ll end up sounding disingenuous. There are 30,000 undergrads at Michigan with room for every hobby in the book, they don’t want to read another essay about how the volunteer work you did twice last year is your favorite thing because you got to help others.

Essay #1 (Required for all applicants. 100-300 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.

Let’s start by addressing the fact that there are countless types of communities that you may belong to, only some of which are listed above. It’s important to remember that before you start writing because it would be easy to look at the communities set forth by this prompt and feel that you don’t belong well, anywhere. But that’s not true, so don’t go on a wild goose chase to try and make yourself fit into a box.

Instead, look at what you’ve already shown about yourself in the rest of your application and figure out another side of yourself to explore. There’s probably an aspect of your life you haven’t been able to share yet, and this question gives you an opportunity to humanize yourself by telling a story.

Think about the ways you connect with others and don’t be afraid to think small. In fact, please think small. If you’ve loved art since freshman year of high school and go to galleries on the weekends with your friends, that’s a community. Maybe you’ve always stayed in touch with your friends from camp and you’re in charge of planning get-togethers during the year.

Even (or maybe especially) if it’s not a “traditional” community, it will be much easier to write about the impact it’s had on your life if you choose something that really resonates with you because it will be true. The prompt asks you to describe YOUR place within the community, so steer clear of writing about how your grandfather came to America 80 years ago with two dollars to his name and how your family established roots. That’s a great story, but grandpa isn’t applying to college and you only have 300 words. You don’t have to stretch through generations to find something special.

The best thing about picking something that actually matters is that the information will be right there at your fingertips. Keep a trait you want to highlight in mind as you build a narrative about your community and bring the reader in by describing it vividly.

Essay #2 (Required for all applicants. 100-500 words)

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?

Last but not least, the classic “Why Us” question. They’re asking you what you plan to do both inside and outside of the classroom once you’re admitted. This is your opportunity to show the admissions counselors that you’re serious about going to Michigan, and only Michigan. They’ll definitely know *right away* if you copy and paste from another school. You might be thinking, “it’s Michigan! It’s huge! The world is my oyster! I’ll figure it out when I get there!” Stop. You should start by researching the school in great detail then addressing the main points below:

  1. Start your essay by telling a short story about why you want to major in what you want to major in. It’s a great opportunity to introduce yourself, provide a bit of background, and explain why Michigan is the only place in the world you can advance your intellectual interests. Let’s say you visited the NASA headquarters when you were three years old and ever since you’ve been utterly obsessed with outer space, cried when Pluto was no longer deemed a planet and started a stargazing club. That would be your introduction and segue into your declaration of your aerospace engineering major.
  2. Your second paragraph will detail all of your academic goals. Start by looking at the list of majors and minors Michigan has to offer. Do a deep dive into the programs and individual schools until you find something that interests you. Choose something that matches your academic interests as closely as possible, but don’t freak out if you aren’t totally sure. You absolutely need to pick a major for this essay, and it should be something you really do like, but you don’t have to stick with this major once you’re admitted. Once you’ve picked a major, look at upper level (200-300) classes and choose a few that you’re interested in taking. Write about why you want to take them and what makes them interesting. It’s really important to do the research here and not write about 100 level classes that could be taken anywhere. Michigan is proud of what they have to offer and wants to admit students that will take advantage of the curriculum.
  3. All work and no play will make for a pretty boring college experience, so in the next paragraph, you’ll write about extracurriculars. Choose a club or student organization that is related to the major you choose or is an extension of the activities you did in high school. There are more than 1,500 to choose from at Michigan, so it shouldn’t be hard to find something that fits. You can sort and filter by category or go crazy and type something into the search bar and see what pops up. Going back to the aerospace engineer major from above, that student would be an ideal fit for the Women in Aeronautics and Astronautics club. Write about why you want to join the club and what previous experience you have that makes you a good fit.
  4. Finally, time to wrap things up. If there’s a very specific detail you want to add about why you want to go to Michigan (a hidden gem of information you gathered from an alumni or the exact Zingerman’s sandwich you’ll get every Sunday) then you could add it here, otherwise you just need a short conclusion. The maximum word count is 500 here, so you shouldn’t have much room to waste once you’ve gotten to this point. Finish by rereading, editing, and editing one more time.

We know this process can get overwhelming, reach out if you need help.