So you've decided to apply to Michigan State University. You've made a great choice—not only is it one of the top public universities in the nation, 93% of undergraduates land jobs or go onto graduate school after graduation! Additionally, more than 25 of its undergraduate programs are ranked in the top 20 nationally, including the best supply chain management and logistics program in the country. And like most top schools, the MSU application requires you to submit an application essay.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about writing and submitting the Michigan State admissions essay, including:
- A discussion of the Michigan State admissions standards,
- Where to find the Michigan State application, and
- Five tips to write a Michigan State admissions essay that will get you in.
So let's get started!
What Is the Michigan State Admissions Essay?
The Michigan State essay is a required (and important!) element of your Michigan State application. The essay is basically a personal statement designed to help admissions counselors get to know you better. Sure, they'll see your transcript and test scores, but Michigan State also wants to know who you are beyond the data, too.
The essay is also important because Michigan State is a moderately competitive school that has an acceptance rate of 71%, which means that 71 out of 100 students who apply to MSU are admitted each year. That means your essay is a key part of an admissions counselor's decision-making process. (If you're not familiar with the school's admissions requirements, be sure to check out this comprehensive guide on Michigan State's admittance policies.)
As we mentioned earlier, you'll submit one finished essay as part of your complete Michigan State application packet. As of 2020, Michigan State allows prospective students to submit all their application materials—including the MSU essay—either via their own online application system or via the Common App or the Coalition App, which are online platforms that let you fill out one application and submit it to multiple universities.
Luckily for you, Michigan State doesn't require you to fill out an additional application supplement. In other words, the Michigan State admissions essay is the same essay you'll fill out for either the Common App or the Coalition App! But that also means that you only have one chance to help MSU's admissions counselors determine whether you're a good fit for the university.
Now that you have a general idea about what the Michigan State admissions essay is and how to submit it, here are three final, important things to keep in mind:
#1: MSU doesn't favor one application over the other. They treat their application system, Common App, and Coalition App submissions equally in their decision-making process. (If you're still not sure which application to use, here's a comprehensive guide that helps you choose the right one for you!)
#2: You can only submit one application per academic year. So if you have both applications filled out, send one or the other—not both. Sending two applications can cause errors in the admissions system and lead to your application getting rejected.
#3: The Common App and the Coalition App have different prompts. Each application asks slightly different questions, so it's important to pick the application that allows you to write the strongest essay.
Now it's time to take a closer look at the different Common App and Coalition App prompts and give you some general tips for picking the best MSU essay prompt for you.
The Common App Essay Prompts
1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
For the Common App, you're given seven essay prompts and asked to answer one. The prompts themselves fall into a few general categories:
- Overcoming a challenge
- Solving a problem
- Showing personal growth
- Sharing your interests and personality
This list gives you a general sense for what admissions counselors expect to see in your essay. You will likely only discuss one or two of these in a prompt, so don't worry about having to address every single category in your response.
Having to choose just one prompt can be pretty overwhelming—it's hard to know where to start! Here are some things you can do to make picking a topic easier.
- Read through this guide that explains each prompt. Getting an expert explanation on each prompt can help you pick one that works for you.
- Eliminate the prompts you don't like—or don't understand. Go with your gut...as long as your gut doesn't make you cross every option off your list.
- Consider the categories. Take a look at the general categories we have listed above, and think back to the essays you did well on in school. Is there a category you feel most comfortable writing about? If so, pick a prompt that aligns with that topic.
Keep in mind that no matter the topic you choose, the Common App limits your response to 250 to 650 words. It's harder to write shorter responses, so make sure you plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time to write a great essay.
The Coalition App Essay Prompts
- Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
- Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
- Has there been a time when you've had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
- What is the hardest part of being a student now? What's the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
- Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.
As you can see, the Common App and Coalition App provide slightly different essay prompts. You'll still submit one essay, though the Coalition App gives you two fewer prompts to choose from.
Like the Common App, the Coalition App prompts fall into a few general categories:
- Sharing your interests or personality
- Helping others and/or your community
- Facing challenges
- Experiencing personal growth
So not only are the essay prompts themselves differ from the Common App, the Coalition App's response categories are also a little different. (Here's another helpful tip: looking at the response categories and comparing them to the Common App's can be a good way of helping you to decide which application is right for you.)
So now that you've seen the Coalition App prompts, how do you choose one? Here are some tips for picking the best Coalition App prompt for you:
- Make a list of life's meaningful moments. What are the top ten life-changing experiences of your life? Jot these down. Keep in mind they don't have to be huge—sometimes the smallest things make the biggest impact. Now look at the list. Do any of those stories fit with a prompt?
- Do a timed writing. Write down each topic on a separate sheet of paper. Set a timer and give yourself five minutes to write whatever comes to mind about each prompt. When you've done that for all five prompts, look to see if one topic inspired you more than the others.
- Read a walk-through of each essay topic. A little bit of expert guidance can help you better understand how to answer each prompt.
No matter which prompt you choose, you'll have limited space for your response. Unlike the Common App, the Coalition Application does not give a firm word count, though their website recommends you limit your essay length to 500 to 550 words. That's slightly shorter than the maximum limit for the Common App essays, so keep that in mind if you struggle with essay length.
Image courtesy of Joel Dinda
5 Tips for Writing a Killer Michigan State Admissions Essay
By now you've had a chance to consider—and hopefully choose!—the perfect MSU essay prompt. Here are our top five tips for writing a Michigan State University essay that makes you stand out from the crowd!
- Be authentic. Jim Cotter, the Director of Undergraduate Admissions for Michigan State University, says being authentic is the most important element of a strong Michigan State essay. He explains, "We don't want a student to create something that they're not. We want them to tell us who they are, what their real experiences are, and how they've developed as an individual because of those experiences." In other words, tell the truth...and be yourself!
- Tell a story. To write a stand-out MSU essay examples are key. That's why it's important to use storytelling to help answer the prompt! For example, if you want to talk about a time you gave back to the community, tell a story about a specific event (like shaving your head for charity)!
- Be descriptive. This ties into our "tell a story" tip above. Details are what make a story come alive! If you're writing about a challenging time in your life, do more than just tell the reader what happened. Show them where you were, what you saw, and how you felt by using descriptive language.
- Write long, edit short. Staying within word limits can be hard. That's why we recommend you don't worry about essay length when you write your first draft. Just focus on getting your answer down on paper even if you go hundreds of words over the maximum length. Then you can focus on whittling your essay down until you land in the word count sweet spot.
- Embrace the 3 Rs: re-read, revise, and review. Never, ever submit the first draft of your essay! Even the best writers in the world revise their work multiple times. Also, don't be afraid to ask your parents and teachers to give you feedback on your work. They'll be able to give you a new, fresh perspective on your work!
Your Next Steps
If you're looking to beef up your résumé to make sure you're one of MSU's ideal candidates, try fitting some community service into your schedule. Here's a list of the nine best places to do community service, and here's a discussion of how volunteering benefits both your college application and your life!
One key piece of your application are letters of recommendation, so you need to ask for those as soon as possible. Check out this guide that goes over how—and when!—to ask for letters of recommendation.
Now that you're ready to write your essays, get the skinny on how to write the perfect application essay introduction.
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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.