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How to Write the University of Michigan Essays 2020-2021: The Incomparable Guide (Examples Included!)

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Located in Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan is a college with a long-standing history of rigorous academic programs and successful alumni.

There are over 40,000 students that attend UM, pursuing degrees in one of 250 programs.

  • The University of Michigan has an acceptance rate of 28%.

If academic prestige is at the top of your criteria for a school, look no further.

According to the “Rankings, Facts & Figures” page of the UM website, the college has some astounding achievements under its belt:

  • #1 Public University For Your Money
  • 97%+ students return after freshman year
  • Top 25 University Worldwide

If you’re not convinced yet, check out the Ann Arbor arts scene and sprawling University of Michigan campus.

Take a tour to see what life would be like at Michigan. You might be ready to pack your bags, but you’ll have to apply to get it in first!

The University of Michigan Supplemental Essay Requirements

The University of Michigan does not host its own application but gives prospective students the option to apply via the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success Application or Common App.

  • Both of these application options require standard essays in addition to Michigan-specific essays.

You can check out our thorough guides to the standard Coalition essays here and those for the Common App essays here.

For the Michigan supplemental, you will be required to answer two relatively lengthier questions that are labeled as “Essay #1” and “Essay #2.”

They should have more structure than a short answer question.  You’ll also notice that the word count limit is significantly larger than other supplemental essays.

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.

Essay #2 (Required for all applicants. 100-550 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?

Brainstorming the University of Michigan Supplemental Essays

You’ve finished listing your activities in the application? Great. Now it’s time to play pretend. We need to exercise your brainstorming muscles.

Think about all of the activities in which you participate and then to choose the only one you could not give up.

  • For example, if you are a musician, then pick one instrument and one associated activity you can describe.

Furthermore, if you are a classical pianist, you could describe how long you have been playing, why you intend to keep playing, and a major competition you have won or recital you have performed.

But it’s so hard to choose! While that’s true, remember this is a hypothetical scenario.

In a real situation, you might never give up soccer because it’s your ticket to a free ride to college.

You might not be financially stable enough to give up this opportunity.

  • However, in a hypothetical situation, you might give up soccer because you feel more passionately about your work with the Future Business Leaders of America and would like to one day own and operate your own design-a-sneaker store.

To narrow down your options, first ask yourself these questions:

  • How long have I been participating in this activity?
  • Am I still an active participant?
  • Do I hold a leadership role in any of these activities?
  • Do I have a role model or mentor who has influenced my life through my participation in this activity?
  • Have I grown (as a person, player, musician, etc.) over time while participating in this activity?
  • Do I feel passionate about this activity?

To narrow the list down further, ask yourself why you would or would not keep specific options.

  • This means that you will need to be precise in your description and use descriptive language to highlight your experience.

The questions above point you in the direction you need to go when writing your essays.

  • An activity in which you have participated in for several years, have established yourself as a leader, worked with mentors, and have grown in some fashion could make a powerful essay.

When thinking through this brainstorming exercise, provide only enough context about your activity so that a reader will understand what it is.

  • You would have to provide more information about competitive bottle flipping than for a well-known activity like marching band.
  • Also, you want to save the majority of your words for describing why you would choose this activity above the others.

Use emotional language and specific examples when describing what the activity means to you.

  • For example, you might explain how far you’ve come from having been a shy student who was interested in politics to becoming outgoing with your peers and well-versed in national political discourse.
  • Allow your writing to tell your story.

The purpose of this essay is for you to begin thinking about your story. Clarity will lead to better writing, so take the time to figure out your storyboard.

Michigan Supplemental Essay #1: You and Your Community

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.

As outlined in the prompt above, a community can be defined in many different ways.

In this essay, you are tasked with writing about one of the communities or groups you belong to “and your place within it.”

Since you are undoubtedly a part of many different communities, first brainstorm every community/group that you belong to. The prompt offers these ideas as a start:

  • Geography
  • Religion
  • Ethnicity
  • Income
  • Cuisine
  • Interest
  • Race
  • Ideology
  • Intellectual Heritage

Your community can be large (the United States of America) or it could be small (residents living on Pomegranate Street).

  • What you have been able to contribute to your community is just as important if not more important than what the community has done for you.

Perhaps you mentored younger students, helped coordinate meetups, or aided in putting together a makerspace.

Whatever it is you did for your community, make sure you highlight how it made a difference from the status quo.

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What’s important here is to write, write, write.

You may find that while trying to come up with these examples, one may not have initially occurred to you on first reading.

Here are some additional examples of communities:

  • Military families
  • Teen court volunteers
  • High school community
  • Geocaching community
  • African-American community
  • Second-generation American community

Once you know what community you want to write about, it’s time to start thinking about how you fit into that community.

  • If you feel like you’re more of an outsider than a participant, you may need to choose another option.
  • The essay itself should find a good balance between describing the community and your role.

The idea of community is incredibly close to our sense of identity and purpose in life.

  • Therefore, it’s okay for this essay to be personal and emotionally descriptive.
  • It should not read like a textbook.
  • It is a real and rich experience you are sharing with your readers and should be treated that way.

When describing your community, you might talk about the members, the place where you get together (be it a physical place, online, or more spiritually abstract), the goals or ideals of your group, and so on.

  • For example, if you are writing about the bird-watching community in your town, you would highlight that it is made up of both expert professors and interested average citizens.
  • You might meet up at the bird sanctuary and go on hikes all over the county in smaller groups.
  • The goals of your community are to enjoy these beautiful creatures while also working together to protect them and create ideal conditions in which they can prosper.
  • Then, you would describe your role in the community and, perhaps, what being a part of that community means to you.
  • To continue our example, you might write about how you were introduced to the group because your mother is an ornithologist and you would tag along as a kid.
  • Now you participate in the community through your own volition by organizing fundraising events and managing the group’s social media account.
  • It doesn’t matter that you have no interest in ornithology as a career. You grew to love the community and will be a lifelong participant.

For this essay, you have a limit of 300 words.

Remember to balance describing your community and your role in order to create a compelling story.

If you briefly describe your role and focus only on the community at large, your readers will miss out on the opportunity to learn more about you as a person (and, by extension, you as a potential student).

Michigan Community Essay Examples

Michigan community essay example 1:

I have always known that soldiers and veterans are the people who have sacrificed for our country. Yet, I have undervalued them since they were of no consequence in my life.

After my dad signed me up (read: forcibly volunteered) to assist a night game of bingo at the NY VA, I did not know I would be joining a new family. While distributing snacks, the patients constantly asked me about my well-being and personal stories. As I volunteered more, I met new family members.

I cleaned wheelchairs and gathered them from the parking lot to ensure the wheelchair supply was always sufficient for visitors. Through this, I gained an appreciation for the precise care it took to transport family members and ensure they felt at home after surgery. Admittedly, I grow impatient when tasks are not moving at my desired pace, but if I was taking care of sick family members, I knew I had to change. Seeing the struggle it took for a family member to get into a wheelchair and retrieve his oxygen tank helped me realize that I had to develop patience and composure.

At the VA, I became a grandson, who learned how to take accountability for his actions. I discovered communication skills that will help me become closer with those of different backgrounds. My VA family has molded me to connect with and lend a helping hand to new families. The Edward Ginsberg Center at your school is a platform that will allow me to leverage and expand my skills in community engagement. I can see myself taking on a leadership role, engaging in service, and continuing to contribute to the VA and other communities through the Community Leadership fellows program.

Michigan community essay example #2:

Generation Z  is my community. The teens and young adults of the world, stereotyped as the generation that can’t do anything other than look at a phone. The laziest generation. The most self-centered generation. I see another side of this generation, though.  Generation Z is a   community with  the power to change the world by noticing problems in the world and raising awareness. Gen Z is filled with ambitious dreamers who aren’t afraid to stand up and speak out. My community consists of young people globally speaking truths of power. Greta Thunberg is only seventeen, but has raised global awareness about the dangers of climate change. My place in this community is as someone who has noticed a global crisis regarding blindness and how easily it can be prevented.

In 2018, I flew to Honduras to volunteer in a hospital and travel  to rural villages across the country to set up clinics to screen for cataracts and distribute reading glasses. I observed the cataract surgeries that I had funded by fundraising in the U.S. Each surgery only costs $50, but the villagers cannot afford it.  As someone in danger of going blind someday, it broke my heart to know that so many people were suffering and couldn’t afford the care that they needed. Though I was only sixteen, I took on the mentality of many other determined Gen Zers: I can fix this. My work with Unite for Sight didn’t end with my trip to Honduras. I hope to continue to fix this issue  by figuring out how to bring the price of the surgery down and make it more available to the public. I hope to make other Gen Z kids proud by taking initiative on a project that I am passionate about that will create lasting change. 

Michigan community essay example #3:

As my entrepreneurial fervor grew during my first three years of high school, I found myself feeling disjointed from my peers and looking for a community that would nurture my startup fever. When she noticed my budding interest, the head of a local incubator invited me to apply for their accelerator program. I initially felt unsure, but I gave it a shot, and as time went on, I felt as if I were transported to Ancient Athens during every Monday session.

As a program meant to help individuals jumpstart and accelerate their businesses, the incubator prompted participants to think Socratically. We questioned and debated every preconceived notion regarding startups: how to conduct proper market research, when and why to shut down, and even whether a humanitarian venture could also be a profitable one. Our oratories were not dull, 10-minute long PowerPoints followed by the occasional golf clap; they were action-packed, 60-second elevator pitches accompanied by a barrage of inquiries and suggestions about statistical logos and story-telling pathos. Through numerous congregations within the polis, I gave a fellow participant the conviction to pursue his business of educating students on the college recruiting process, emphasizing how all of my friends loved athletics and wanted to go D1. In return, he helped me see that the biggest problem with teens wasn’t always finding opportunities; it was being ready and professional enough to capture it.

Despite channeling Alexander the Great’s cutthroat competitiveness at the beginning, our group personified Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates in the end, as we considered each other’s ventures and employed our own ethos to help one another. We didn’t all have to be our own Homers — our Iliad and Odyssey were the cumulative success of all of our companies, forged by the collaborative intertwining of our stories.

Michigan community essay example #4:

Months of endless preparation have culminated in this very moment. Standing on the bema, I look down at my Star of David necklace, smiling. Today, I will become a Bat Mitzvah. Today, I will officially become an adult in the eyes of my community.   

The global Jewish community is diverse, yet connected through our heritage and values. Integral to Jewish teachings is the responsibility to perform tikkun olam, which are acts of kindness performed to improve the world. This principle has been a driving force in my life, influencing my actions, shaping my decisions, and connecting me with my heritage. 

I have found my niche within the Jewish community through the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization. BBYO connects Jewish teens locally and globally, providing them with a platform to engage in social action in the spirit of tikkun olam. As the leader of my local BBYO chapter, it is my goal to create programming that highlights charity, where all who join leave feeling enriched and inspired to do good on their own.  BBYO has ingrained in me an important aspect of tikkun olam: giving back is not equivalent to donating material items. Rather, it can be in the form of guidance, demonstrating care, or providing others with new perspectives that enhance their life. Thus, my chapter promotes a variety of programs such as creating Mother’s Day baskets for domestically abused women in shelters, but also spending time with the elderly in our neighborhoods and encouraging others in random acts of kindness. 

The Jewish community will always be my home. Within it, I have found young, Jewish leaders empowered to create a difference through tikkun olam. Together with my peers, my community has the ability to create positive change in our neighborhoods, countries, and throughout the world. 

Michigan Supplemental Essay #2:

Essay #2 (Required for all applicants. 100-550 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?

The University of Michigan not only offers a wide array of degree programs but also strongly believes in the power of education to create informed and influential citizens.

Before writing this essay, you should perform significant research on the programs for which you are applying.

  • It will be apparent to the admissions committee whether or not you took the time to learn about these programs.
  • A potential student who has invested time in searching for the program that is perfect for her interests will be much more likely to write an authentic and convincing essay.

You may already know what degree programs you are interested in, but you might also be a part of a large group of students going to college that has no idea.

  • If this is the case, determine which fields you are most interested in that you would also feel comfortable writing about.

The easy part of writing this essay is describing the university’s degree programs.

What’s more challenging is linking your interests to the curriculum.

  • Perhaps you are interested in the University of Michigan’s nursing program. You have always been interested in science and medicine and participated in HOSA (a group for future health professionals) all four years of high school.
  • You also studied abroad one summer and have become even more interested in global health as a potential career path.
  • In this essay, you want to talk about your experience with HOSA and your dream of becoming a nurse.
  • You also want to discuss that study abroad experience and how you would be interested in applying for a minor in “Population Health in a Global Context” offered by the nursing department.
  • You also intend to participate in study abroad in college.

The key to this essay is specificity.

As much as possible, you should provide concrete examples of your experiences, interests, and career/college goals.

Perhaps you are interested in studying computer science and engineering because, after all, the University of Michigan has the co-founder of Google as a notable alumnus.

  • Do the background research into the department of interest and look at the course description as well, and the capstone project expected of students.
  • You should have demonstrated interest from high school, perhaps a science fair project, advanced classes, or a summer research internship.
  • Let that set the foundation for the reason you want to pursue, say, in this case, computer science, and then highlight which classes will help you further your career aspirations.
  • This will not be set in stone, but you need to demonstrate that you have some coherent plan.

Allow your excitement and passion to shine through your writing. The admissions committee wants to understand more about you and why UM is the perfect fit for you (and vice versa).

Why Michigan Essay Example

I was 5 when I sat in the stands of the Crisler Center, watching my dad receive his MBA from the University of Michigan. The person my dad has become, as a father and manager at Chrysler Motors, has inspired me to pursue computer science at U-M.

As my passion developed, I joined the Cars Club (CC), in which we build fuel-efficient cars. A major experience included wiring trailer lights so that we could transport our newly built vehicles. As a newcomer to wiring, I measured and drilled holes, connected lighting, and combined wiring with hardware. The first step to wiring was running the length of the wire throughout the trailer. In order to feed the wire, I used a dipstick to pull and stretch the correct colored wires to corresponding locations of the trailer. Although my back ached with pain after lying under the trailer for an hour, I enjoyed drilling holes and connecting the wires to the lights. Eventually, the finished trailer was used to transport the team’s fuel-efficient car.   

CC is very similar to your Supermileage team, a club I got to see at the Wilson center and one I will join thanks to my interest in engaging in hands-on experiences with prototypical vehicles and technologies. Using my experience in CC, I aim to collaborate with highly capable students to develop the solution to fuel economy issues. Another student organization that I will join is Code M, which will help me spread knowledge about computer science and engineering while learning through a collaborative environment and corporate events.

I witnessed the culture and diversity of U-M at the MMSS camp, where I took the course Math and the Internet. During this course, I learned about cryptography, error correction code, and wiring logic gates by creating truth tables. A major class project required the creation of logic diagrams and wiring of logic gates to make a part of a “computer” that sends messages to Twitter. This was an arduous process, as I had exposure to neither making logic diagrams nor wiring in this context. However, the hands-on and interactive experiences that Professor Mark Conger provided, such as drawing and explaining logic diagrams, helped me grasp the concepts.

In addition, I worked on public and private key encryption and sent messages to decode using ASCII, the modulo operation, and the Euclidean algorithm. The interactive style of the classroom encouraged me to ask Professor Conger for help on how to find the mod of numbers with large exponents. Professor Conger’s creative “magic” card game taught me binary, which helped me absorb challenging material. The environment at U-M gave me the tools to thrive.

I envision myself at U-M College of Engineering computer science classes, considering my experience with programming websites that automate Pythagorean theorem calculations. Computer Architecture, Introduction to Artificial Intelligence, and Advanced Embedded Systems are courses I will take in order to learn more about the applications of computer science.

Using the knowledge from these classes, I will contribute to Mcity’s research and undergraduate research programs like SURE and SROP projects. Likewise, my goal is to contribute to the research on autonomous vehicles conducted by Ford and U-M in tandem. Seeing all of U-M’s initiatives, I know I can advance the automation of sustainable technologies at your school.

Conclusion: University of Michigan Supplemental Essays

It’s a good idea to type your answers in a word processor instead of directly into the application box.

This way, you can see all of your text at once and use a built-in spell check tool before copy and pasting your essays into the application.

Once you have a solid draft, read your work aloud and make revisions as you go. Finally, have a peer or adult read your writing for clarity and any grammar errors.

Essays are never perfect in the first draft. These strategies will help you polish your application until it shines.

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