How to Get Into the University of Michigan

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The University of Michigan is a public research university in Ann Arbor, Michigan with an undergraduate enrollment of just over 32,000 students. It’s ranked the third-best public university in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, and a Top 25 university overall.

Last year, over 83,000 students applied to the University of Michigan. It offers academic prestige and excellent undergraduate teaching combined with the classic college experience. The competition is tough, but this guide will give you the data, information, and tips you need to increase your chances of getting into the University of Michigan!

About the University of Michigan

The University of Michigan offers excellence in teaching, learning, research, sports, the arts, and more. It leads all U.S. universities in research volume and offers more than 275 degree programs. The school has a 15:1 student-teacher ratio, has won 402 Big 10 athletic championships, and awards more than $700 million in scholarships and fellowships to students.

Standout academic programs include engineering, pre-med, and business. The university also offers a vast number of student resources, research and internship opportunities, community service projects, student organizations, and more.

Ann Arbor is considered one of the best small college towns in America. The hugely diverse student body is described as both socially outgoing and academically serious. Many students enjoy parties and football Saturdays, but there are also cultural experiences, music, and movies in Ann Arbor. When it comes to both academics and social offerings, the University of Michigan has something for everyone.

Is It Hard to Get Into the University of Michigan?

The University of Michigan has an acceptance rate of 22.9%. This means that for every 100 applicants, about 23 are admitted. The other 77 receive a rejection letter.

In comparison to other universities, the University of Michigan’s acceptance rate makes it very selective. However, it’s not as competitive as Ivy League universities or other schools with a similar level of prestige.

GPA and Test Scores for the University of Michigan

Students admitted to the University of Michigan have an average GPA of 3.9. You’ll need mostly A’s, ideally including several AP or IB courses.

If your GPA is lower than 3.9 and you’re a freshman or sophomore, you have time to increase your GPA before applying to the University of Michigan. If you’re already a junior, your best bet is to earn a higher ACT or SAT score to compensate.

Currently, the University of Michigan is “test flexible.” If you don’t submit ACT or SAT test scores, you may self-report other optional forms of testing, such as AP or IB exam scores. Still, we highly recommend including ACT/SAT exam scores with your application, unless you feel that your scores reflect poorly on your academic ability.

The average ACT score for admitted students is 33. The 25th percentile score is 31, and the 75th percentile score is 34. To increase your chances, aim for a score in the 75th percentile, especially when applying to a selective school like Michigan.

Now, let’s look at an SAT score breakdown for students admitted to the University of Michigan:

Section Average 25th Percentile 75th Percentile
Math 735 680 790
Reading 700 660 740
Total 1435 1340 1530

Because your chances increase with a score in the 75th percentile, aim for a 1530 on the SAT, with a 790 in Math and a 740 in Reading.

Based on this data, you should strive for a:

  • GPA of at least 3.9
  • ACT score of 34, OR
  • SAT score of 1530

Of course, this data also shows that applicants with lower scores can still get admitted to the University of Michigan. These numbers will certainly make you a more competitive applicant. But the admissions committee looks at each student as a whole package, and they consider factors beyond grades and test scores.

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What Other Qualities Does the University of Michigan Look For?

According to the University of Michigan’s website, the admissions committee considers each applicant “a combination of talents, interests, passions, and skills.” They look beyond grades and test scores to recruit a dynamic group of students with “a wide variety of backgrounds, intellectual passions, and interests.”

In addition to “excellent grades in rigorous courses” and “top ACT/SAT scores,” the admissions committee values the following:

  • Participation in extracurricular activities
  • Professional arts training (if applying to a relevant program)
  • Evidence of leadership
  • Awards
  • Service
  • A drive to pursue academic excellence
  • Curiosity about new ideas, people, and experiences
  • Ability to lend educational and/or cultural diversity to campus

Your test scores and GPA are important, but the University of Michigan is ultimately looking for students who can succeed at UM and contribute to a dynamic, multifaceted campus community.

What Should You Do in High School?

Now, let’s get to the fun part: strategy. Based on the information and data we’ve reviewed so far, what can you do in high school to increase your chances of an acceptance letter from Michigan?

Excel in Challenging Classes

For the University of Michigan, it’s important that you take on “a rigorous curriculum in which you succeed and demonstrate your intellectual skills.”

So, take the most challenging courses available at your school and excel in them. This means taking AP and IB courses if they’re available. If not, the University of Michigan won’t hold it against you.

When it comes to your academics, key criteria considered by the university include:

  • Cumulative GPA
  • Quality of your curriculum (strength of courses, college preparation)
  • Class rank, if available
  • Your specific academic interests

Aim to excel in all your classes, but pay special attention to courses related to your intended major. Take notes and review them weekly, turn in all assignments on time, and sharpen your study skills. If you’re falling behind or struggling to understand the material, be proactive. Ask for help from your teacher, a tutor, or another student who’s doing well in the class.

Earn a High Score on the SAT or ACT

Standardized test scores are another academic factor considered by the University of Michigan. The university accepts both ACT and SAT scores, with no preference for either test. Michigan is currently test flexible, and self-reported scores are accepted. The admissions committee considers the highest sub-scores reported across test dates.

Start preparing for the ACT or SAT several months in advance. We recommend the following test prep steps:

  • Take both SAT and ACT practice tests to determine which exam best highlights your academic ability.
  • After choosing an exam, use the information from your practice test to build a customized study plan. Note your strengths and weaknesses. Which skills or question types are most difficult for you?
  • Make time weekly to answer practice questions, read high-level texts, and work on the skills that challenge you.
  • With a month left until your test date, drill down on your areas of weakness.
  • Continue taking timed tests to practice your pacing and adjust your study plan as needed.
  • If your first test score is lower than you hoped for, think about how you can improve and take the test again.

Remember that if you don’t get a score you’re happy with, you aren’t required to include it in your application to the University of Michigan. Still, high test scores are tremendously helpful, so be sure to take the test prep process seriously.

Pursue Your Passions

The admissions committee reviews your extracurricular participation to learn what your life is like beyond your course of study. They want to discover who you are as a person and see leadership, original thinking, and curiosity.

For this to happen, it’s essential for you to pursue your passions. Don’t select your extracurricular activities based on what you believe the admissions committee wants. Choose them based on what feels most meaningful and exciting to you. Commit to your favorite activities long-term, striving to make significant contributions and take on leadership roles.

If possible, aim for recognition and awards in your areas of interest. Enter competitions, submit your work for publication, or apply to competitive summer internships or programs. Keep a detailed record of your extracurricular involvement in preparation for applying to the University of Michigan.

Show the admissions committee that you’re a passionate, driven, and talented person who will thrive on Michigan’s dynamic campus.

Give Back to Your Community

The University of Michigan’s mission is to serve the people of Michigan and the world, developing leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future. They value applicants with a desire to help others and create positive change.

So, find meaningful ways to contribute to your school, community, or the world. Join existing organizations or projects that serve your community, or even launch your own. Successful applicants to competitive universities often start their own projects to raise awareness about important issues or drive positive change in their communities. Some even create nonprofit organizations.

Whatever you do, it should be something that’s close to your heart. What important issues in your school or community can you help resolve? What social issues do you care about the most? And what can you do to make a difference? The University of Michigan’s website mentions that they look for applicants who challenge the status quo, so keep this in mind as you decide how to help others.

Again, keep a record of your involvement so you can report it thoroughly and accurately on your application to the University of Michigan.

University of Michigan Application Process and Checklist

The University of Michigan accepts the Common Application and the Coalition Application. The admissions committee has no preference, so submit whichever application you prefer.

Your application will include:

  • High school transcript
  • Activities list
  • School Report (Common App) or Counselor Recommendation (Coalition App)
  • One Teacher Evaluation that speaks to the student’s academic aptitude, potential, and classroom performance
  • SAT or ACT score
  • Common App or Coalition App essay
  • University of Michigan questions

Your application will be reviewed by multiple evaluators, who will each provide a rating of Outstanding, Excellent, Good, Average/Fair, or Poor/Below Average. The university will make an admissions decision based on the composite evaluation rating and comments.

University of Michigan Questions

In addition to the Common App or Coalition App essay, applicants must answer two University of Michigan questions.

These questions are:

1) 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.

2) 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?

Tips for Answering the University of Michigan Questions

  • Don’t include information you mentioned elsewhere in your application. Your essays should highlight aspects of your life and personality that the admissions committee doesn’t already know.
  • Write in your unique voice. When the admissions committee reads your essays, it should feel like you’re talking to them. Let your genuine personality and voice shine through, giving the admissions committee a chance to get to know the real you, beyond the numbers.
  • Be creative. Don’t be afraid to have fun and get creative with your essays. On the “community” essay, for example, don’t limit yourself to a narrow definition. A community can be anything, including a group of people who share a unique talent or interest.
  • Use specific details. By including vivid details and memorable language in your essays, you’ll write an essay that only you could write and set yourself apart from other applicants.
  • Do your research. For the second essay, you should be able to talk knowledgeably about the University of Michigan. Talk about specific classes, programs, resources, or core values that excite you. Avoid generic reasons like ranking, reputation, or location.
  • Talk about yourself. Write about why you love the University of Michigan in your second essay, but remember to write about why you’re a good fit for the university too. When you write about your community in the first essay, remember to also write about what being a part of that community means to you, and how it’s influenced your life or helped you grow.
  • Proofread carefully. Double or triple-check your essay for clarity, concision, logical structure, grammar, spelling, capitalization, and word usage. Ask a family member, teacher, or trusted friend to read your essay for the same issues. And ask them if it sounds like you!

Should You Apply Early to the University of Michigan?

The University of Michigan offers both Early Action and Regular Decision. The Early Action deadline is November 1, and decisions are released by late January. Early Action applicants may be accepted, denied, or postponed for a final decision by early April.

Early Action at the University of Michigan is non-binding, meaning you aren’t required to enroll if accepted. Applying early is risk-free and gives you a guaranteed decision date, enabling better planning.

But does applying early give you an advantage in the admissions process? The University of Michigan doesn’t report Early Action acceptance rates. In general, however, applying to any university early increases your chances by at least 4-6%. It shows that you’re serious about attending, and you’re compared to a smaller pool of applicants.

If the University of Michigan is a top choice for you, we recommend applying early. You’ll receive a decision sooner, and it may increase your chances of earning an acceptance letter.

Final Thoughts: How to Get Into the University of Michigan

The University of Michigan is a very selective university and a popular choice for college applicants. You’ll need a high GPA and test scores to be competitive for admission. But the University of Michigan also looks for leadership, service, motivation, curiosity, and other factors that show you’ll contribute and succeed on campus.

Take the most challenging classes available at your school and excel in them. Shoot for a GPA of at least 3.9 and an ACT score of 34 or an SAT score of 1530. Commit to extracurricular activities you’re passionate about and aim to take on leadership roles, make significant contributions, and earn awards or recognition.

Serve your school, community, or the world in a way that’s close to your heart, keeping a record of both your extracurricular and community service involvement.

When you write your responses to the University of Michigan questions, do your research, be creative and specific, write in your genuine voice, and proofread carefully. And if you’re truly interested in the University of Michigan, apply early. Early Action is non-binding and means you’ll receive an earlier decision (and possibly improve your chances of admission).

Follow these tips and strategies, and you’ll have a better chance of becoming a University of Michigan Wolverine!

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