How to Write the University of Michigan Supplement 2019-2020

The University of Michigan is a public research university in Ann Arbor, MI. There are about 30,000 undergraduate students enrolled at the Ann Arbor campus and the school has over 1,600 student organizations. The most recently reported acceptance rate was 23.5%.  

In terms of TKG clients, Michigan (along with USC) is one of our most applied to schools. It’s also the school that we get the most questions about, which makes sense because more than 65,000 students applied last year.

The Michigan supplement is comprised of three questions of varying lengths. They’re all equally important and give you a chance to explain why you want to go to Michigan, what you plan to do if you get in, and how you’ll contribute to the student body.  The prompts are 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? (150 words)

Don’t make the mistake of overthinking this one. It’s not often that you’ll stumble upon a supplemental question that doesn’t A) make you feel anxious and B) use ridiculously flowery and confusing language. So really, don’t try to get all deep. There is absolutely no need to go the serious route with this one. Look at your activities, and choose your favorite one. The goal with this essay, which is the shortest of the three, is to pick something that you genuinely care about and let your passion shine through in your answer. Write it well, and simply answer the question.

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. (300 words)

Hey @Michigan, quick question for you: have you ever gotten a brilliant answer from someone defining their community based on income? It’s uncomfortable and seems kinda classist and it should probably be removed but okay!!

Anyway, people get really tripped up on this question, and we think it’s because these communities are or can be othering. It’s very easy to look at the communities that Michigan lists in the prompt and feel like you don’t belong. Remember that you’re not just picking a community, the prompt asks you to explain your place within the community. You need to pick a community that you actually contribute to in some way, and there’s nothing wrong with you if none of the above ring true to you. Don’t go crazy trying to fit yourself into a box if you don’t feel connected to any of their suggestions.

Instead, think of community as the place you feel safest and enjoy the most. The things you do with your family and friends. Think small and outside of the box. Maybe you and your friends love old films and you host a movie night once a month. Perhaps you host a summer block party, or meet up with kids from your neighborhood to walk your dogs on Sunday’s. Or you and your friends trade baking recipes and you spend a few days a month refining your cookie making skills. The trend with our examples is that they are all communities defined by interest. Think about how you spend your time, and the people you spend it with, and figure out your role within that.

As for actually writing the supplement, tell it with a story with a beginning, middle, and end. You should bring the reader into that community, not blatantly state what it is and then define your role within it. The writing is really important here, and you should keep it fresh and interesting. Let’s look at two ways to start the supplement:

  • Example #1: Every year, I host a summer block party. I’m the organizer of the event and spend weeks figuring out the details. I buy hamburgers, sodas, and decorations.

The above is a great way to bore your reader to death. You’re making a case for your role in your community (again, by telling a story) and you should drop the admissions committee right into the action, make them want to keep reading, and weave details throughout.

  • Example #2: I was setting up steamers on my block when I realized I forgot to buy hamburger buns. The party was starting in two hours. In a state of minor panic, I called my dad.  

For the most part, the same information has been relayed. But in Example #2, you’re setting up a narrative that draws the reader in. Start by writing out the details of your story to get your facts straight and make sure you don’t leave anything out. Then, rewrite as a story and edit, edit, and edit some more.  

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? (550 words)

When it comes to the common app essay, we’re huge supporters of breaking the mold and playing with structure. That is not the case with this essay. We use a set structure for this response. Michigan is VERY clearly asking you why you want to go to Michigan, and only Michigan. You need to tell them what you plan to do both inside and outside of the classroom if you’re admitted. Yes, Michigan is a huge school with many academic offerings and extracurricular options. If you think that means your response can be generic and broad, you’re wrong. It actually means that you have to be even more specific and precise with your answer. With over 60,000 applicants sending in essays, writing “I want to go to Michigan so I can major in English” won’t work. And don’t even think about copying and pasting your answer from another school.  

Your essay should include the following:

  • An origin story

  • Academic interests / major

  • Extracurricular activities

  • A conclusion

 Let’s break it down paragraph by paragraph: 


Start by explaining how your academic interests came to be. This story doesn’t need to backed up by academic offerings just yet but it must be something that you can learn more about at Michigan. So now is not the time to tell them about your dream of being a circus performer, because that is not a major that is offered at Michigan.  

For example, let’s say you wrote a children’s book in middle school. Even if it was something you printed out yourself and handed out to your classmates. Then, in high school you joined yearbook and last year did a creative writing summer program at a college in your hometown. That’s the basis for an origin story. Another example would be that you were obsessed with Legos and building blocks as a child, then joined an engineering club in middle school, and now actively seek out every bridge you can find on Google to learn more about how it’s built. That person would be headed towards the engineering department.

Think about your academic interests, the rabbit holes you go down, or a school project you actually cared about. You’re going to need to declare a major in the second paragraph (don’t freak out, we’ll explain) and this story is your chance to back it up with a personal anecdote that introduces you to the admissions team.  


Next, you need to pick a major. And it needs to match the origin story that you just told. The essay should flow seamlessly from the story that you just told into the major that you select. Using the example from above, the child author turned yearbook editor could transition into creative writing and literature.

An important note: before you go running for the hills, no one is going to hold you to the major that you choose to write about in your supplement. Seriously. By picking a major, you’ll show Michigan that you have a plan. Michigan cares about their four-year graduation rate, so writing about how you’re undecided is somewhat of a red flag. When you declare a major, you’re telling Michigan that you aren’t going to take 8 years to graduate, switch your major 17 times, or eventually drop out.

Per their website, Michigan has approximately 263 degree programs. Start by looking at the list of available majors, and find something you like. There has to be SOMETHING. Ask yourself what classes you like, what projects you’ve enjoyed working on, what books you read during your free time, and what academic clubs you’re involved with. Looking through every single major will be seriously overwhelming, so you should narrow your search down based on your interests. You should dedicate a lot of time to this part of the process because you’re going to need to write about the major that you choose. And they’ll know if you’re faking it. The major that you choose should make sense within the context of the rest of your application, so don’t choose Physics if you’ve never taken it before. You can’t pick something random.

Once you’ve decided what major you want to write about, click into on the website and look at the class offerings. You need to identify 1-2 (aim for 2) upper level classes that you want to take. The classes should be level 200-300. Don’t choose introductory classes that are offered at most schools. You’re looking for something that’s specific to Michigan. Instead of just naming the classes, explain why you want to take them. Maybe you were introduced to some interesting subject matter in class or while doing a project, and you want to learn more. There should be something that connects you to the classes that you choose.

You might also find a professor whose work you admire while you’re looking into your major. If so, write about your desire to take their class and check if they have any research opportunities that you could join.


Next up, you have space to explain what you plan to do with your time outside of the classroom. As we said earlier, there are plenty of clubs and student organizations to choose from at Michigan. Once again, you can’t pick something random. Once you get in, you can join any club you want. The extracurricular activity that you choose should be an extension of what you did in high school, and it should also align with the major that you wrote about in the previous paragraph. Remember, your goal is to paint a picture of a student with specific interests and a four-year plan. For the fictitious yearbook editor above, joining the Michiganensian Yearbook would be a logical choice. On the website linked above, you can sort by interest or type something into the search bar. You’ll be surprised at how many options come up. Write about why you want to join the club you chose, and what prior experience you have that will make you a good fit.


It’s possible that you might not have much space by the time you get to the final paragraph. But now would be the time to write about anything uniquely Michigan that you haven’t shared yet. Maybe there’s a restaurant you want to try, a building you loved when you visited, or are already planning your first trip to the lake. Don’t force if it you really don’t have anything to write. In either case, wrap things up cleanly.


We know how overwhelming the application process is, and love helping students get organized. Contact us here if you want help.