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5 Tips for Writing the Michigan State Admissions Essay


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, 94% 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 has an acceptance rate of 83%, which means that 83 out of 100 students who apply to MSU are admitted each year. That means your essay can make a difference in 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 2021, 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, 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 and the Common App equally in their decision-making process. 

#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.Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

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.

  • Eliminate the prompts you don't like—or don't understand. Go with your 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.




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 Robinson
About the Author

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.

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