The University of Michigan is one of the highest-ranked universities in the nation and is therefore a popular choice for many students, especially those in Michigan and the Midwest. At present, U-M's got a relatively low acceptance rate of just 26%.
If you're planning to apply to this coveted university, then you'll need to know how to write your best University of Michigan supplemental essay possible. Read on to learn what the University of Michigan supplemental essays entail and tso get some advice on answering the various prompts. We also give you real University of Michigan essay examples and general tips for producing a great college essay.
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What Are the University of Michigan Supplemental Essays?
All applicants to the University of Michigan are required to submit two supplemental essays in addition to a personal statement written in response to a prompt in the Common Application or Coalition Application, depending on the system you're applying with.
So in total—and regardless of your major—you'll have to write three University of Michigan essays.
Although you'll have several prompts to choose from for your Common App/Coalition App essay, you'll only get one prompt for each University of Michigan supplemental essay (meaning you don't get to choose a prompt).
Here are the University of Michigan essay prompts you must answer for the 2020-21 supplement:
Essay 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. (Required for all applicants; 300 word limit)
Essay 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? (Required for all applicants; 550 word limit)
Each University of Michigan supplemental essay has its own maximum word limit, with Essay 2's limit (550 words) being a bit longer than Essay 1's (300 words). For both essays, you must write at least 100 words.
All University of Michigan Essay Prompts, Analyzed
Now that we've gone over the basic essay requirements, let's take a closer look at each University of Michigan supplemental essay and how you can answer the prompt effectively.
This first essay is all about community, i.e., whose wrist you're willing to grab.
University of Michigan Supplemental Essay 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. (Required for all applicants; 300 word limit)
This essay prompt wants to know what makes you unique and what community you see yourself as belonging to. In other words, you're being asked to write a diversity essay, which focuses on you as an individual and what you have contributed to and gained from your specific community.
Through this essay, the University of Michigan admissions committee hopes to learn more about your values, goals, hardships, and achievements. This is why it's important to be your authentic self. Admissions officers will definitely be able to tell if you are exaggerating or making things up. Avoid trying to sound like someone else—write about what's important to you personally.
The prompt gives some examples of possible communities, but here are some more:
- Your gender identity
- Your sexual orientation
- Your school
- Your neighborhood
- Your disability
- A rare or strange talent you have
- A particular club or organization you are a member of
- Do you have any distinct characteristic that has defined you for much of your life? (This could be your ethnicity, race, or religion, for example.)
- How would other people describe you? Ask your family and friends.
- Do you have an uncommon or unique skill, interest, or experience?
Once you know what community you've chosen to write about, think about how this community has influenced you and your goals.
For example, maybe you grew up in a military family and had to move to new states and countries a lot as a child. You could discuss how this experience was isolating at first but how you eventually came to know other kids in military families, developing a sort of support network. Now you credit your experiences with moving with helping you learn to adapt quickly to new environments.
One compelling way you can let readers learn about your experience with your community is by telling your story through a specific anecdote, conversation you had, challenge you faced, etc.
You should also mention how you see your role in this community now. Has this role changed over time, or not? Why do you suppose so? For instance, maybe you used to be ashamed of your Navajo heritage but since having met other Navajo people your age, you now consider yourself a proud advocate for Native Americans and other indigenous groups around the world.
Finally, show, don't tell. Use imagery and realism to grab your readers and make them feel what you felt, see what you saw. Literary devices can help you more clearly describe your experience(s) with your community.
What do you like about U-M? Besides this building, I mean. (AndrewHorne/Wikimedia Commons)
University of Michigan Supplemental Essay 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? (Required for all applicants; 550 word limit)
You've got a higher word limit for this second University of Michigan supplemental essay than you do for the first one, so be prepared to dig deeper into your topic.
With this essay prompt, you're being asked, "Why U-M?" In other words, you need to write a "why this college" essay, with a focus on how the University of Michigan will be a fantastic fit for you and your academic goals.
Here, you're told directly what to write about: the "unique qualities" of the specific school/college at U-M to which you're applying. This means you could focus on traits such as these in your essay:
- Specific classes U-M offers that you're interested in taking
- A required curriculum that appeals to you in some way
- A particular professor you're excited to work with
- A lecture series or other program your school/college/department puts on
- A certain building, lab, or campus facility you can't wait to use
- Extracurricular activities or clubs related to your major or academic interests
- Career advice and internship opportunities (e.g., what's offered via the LSA Opportunity Hub)
With this essay, you'll need to be extremely specific to be effective. The admissions committee wants to see that you know what distinguishes U-M from other equally renowned universities and that you have a clear idea of how you'll take advantage of the benefits offered here to further your own intellectual and professional pursuits.
You should also talk about what you hope to do and accomplish at the University of Michigan. For example, perhaps you're planning to major in Korean and are eager to attend the Nam Center for Korean Studies' Colloquium Series so you can get a better grasp of the kinds of topics currently being addressed by academics in the field of Korean studies.
If you're not sure what to write about, browse your college/school's official U-M web pages to get a feel for what types of amenities, events, activities, classes, and support it offers undergrads.
You can also try asking current students or recent graduates about their experiences at Michigan and what resources, classes, and/or professors they recommend. Reddit and College Confidential are two good places to look for student opinions.
As you write, take care to avoid overly general descriptions—focus instead on what makes U-M stand apart from other schools you're applying to.
Your activities can be as simple as reading novels or as epic as paragliding on the weekends.
2 Real University of Michigan Essay Examples + Analysis
Sometimes seeing a real essay can give you a better idea of how you can approach and work on your own statement. Below we give you two University of Michigan essay examples written by a real admitted student, along with analysis as to what makes them work.
University of Michigan Essay Example 1
This first essay example is from a student on Reddit who was admitted to U-M in early 2018 (for the academic year starting in fall 2018). It is in response to prompt #1 above.
"Alice, I'm-I'm trans," he stammered.
My school's theatre group is an ever-expanding Ohana; to quote Disney's Lilo and Stitch, "Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind."
While this movie had over-prepared me for laser-beaming alien invasions, there was nothing about helping someone come out. Nevertheless, this was the person with whom I laughed, cried, and held hands through curtain calls; this was no alien, but a sibling. He was family.
Although theatre kids love performing for an audience, more importantly, we share an unconditional love for one another. Arriving in Pennsylvania as an international transfer student, I found myself twice removed from Hill's popular social scene, and it was the theatre company who welcomed me without ever questioning my self-worth. They became the anchor of my tempest-tossed first year; in them I found a home.
Thus, when my friend came out to me, I could only give him the love that I once received. When our cast misused his pronouns and name, I corrected them. Together, we transformed gender-specific roles into gender-neutral ones so everyone could partake in our productions. Off-stage, I held him as he grappled with his family's reaction. I grew into an advocate for queer students, both within the theatre company and at school as the co-president of Hill's gay-straight alliance, a position that I have held for two years. I look out for the "othered", lost, and lonely; I welcome them to a family that will never leave them behind.
Here's what makes this University of Michigan supplemental essay work:
- It's got an interesting hook. Starting the essay with a real quotation from someone close to the applicant gives us a real, unfiltered look into this student's life and how she interacts with those in her identified community.
- It's unapologetically honest. The student explains how she, too, has struggled with making friends and how the theatre company—her newfound community—ultimately helped her to feel welcome. In return, she actively supports her friend and goes out of her way to advocate for gay and transgender rights through her school's gay-straight alliance. She clearly cares very deeply about others.
University of Michigan Essay Example 2
This next essay example is from the same student on Reddit who got into U-M in early 2018. It is in response to prompt #2 above.
"Could Freud's theory of Eros and Thanatos apply to civilizations, especially with regard to their domination and subservience?" I asked, Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince in my hand. Having spent the first two months of senior year reading political treatises, poems, psychological and anthropological works in a History course, this was the first time these texts intersected in my mind. Suddenly, history assumed a completely new form. No more was it only a series of discrete events, but it had blossomed into all the knowledge that this world had to offer, and my desire to explore humanity in multiple ways, instead of restricting myself to only one avenue, would similarly flourish at Michigan's College of Life, Science, and the Arts due to its emphasis on interdisciplinary learning.
As a child of a trilingual mother, I have grown to appreciate integrative learning: to explain how the world worked, my mother employed English and Russian, languages that she knew of, where Vietnamese failed. My initial hunger to overcome these linguistic boundaries has risen since to social and humanitarian ones as well, for as there are words without equivalents, there are communities whose disenfranchisement are unparalleled and cannot be resolved without understanding the history of civil rights worldwide. I will attain such a global outlook in LSA's Residential College program. With its smaller class size and emphasis on communal learning, the program and the varied experience of my fellow RC students will open my eyes to issues I have yet to undergo.
As a future activist, I will harness my education to benefit marginalized groups in underdeveloped, post-colonial countries. As a Social Theory and Practice (STP) and International Studies double major with a specialization in Comparative Culture and Identity (CCI), I will critique and analyze the role of institutions in the global context of behavioral expressions. These skills facilitate the execution of policies that will empower disenfranchised citizens to overcome their legal and economic struggles. Courses such as "Intergroup Conflict and Coexistence: Religion, Ethnicity and Culture" will equip me with important tools with which I can drive social change. Moreover, STP offerings, particularly "History and Theory of Punishment," allow me to craft an education aimed at creating legislations and organizations that will address the social inequality of ethnic and religious minorities in former colonies in Southeast Asia. Finally, I will tie this knowledge to reality by pursuing an STP Honors thesis.
Outside of the classroom, I can pursue the optiMize challenge and devise practical solutions to the issues that impoverished communities face in Vietnam; with my intersectional perspective, I can provide a fresh outlook and facilitate our work with various demographics. I will also lend my voice to the Tab Michigan as an opinion writer, borrowing from my own experiences, having grown up at the twilight of cultures and languages. Furthermore, given my love for performing arts, I will take part in 58 Greene, specifically for its multicultural focus, and MUSKET/UAC. In regard to affinity groups, I plan to join BiLateral, since I want to network with other bisexual members of the community, as well as raise awareness on Michigan's campus about ourselves. As a Wolverine sibling, I will employ my interdisciplinary lessons and hands-on work to make a difference on the Ann Arbor campus and in the world.
Here's what makes this University of Michigan supplemental essay work:
- It's extremely specific. The student not only makes telling connections between her love of interdisciplinary learning and desired major, but also name-drops specific classes she wants to take, explains how she'll take advantage of the optiMize challenge, and talks about specific groups she'd like to join. There's absolutely no doubt this student has done her research and is truly passionate about attending Michigan.
- It flows well. The entire essay follows a clear arc, starting with an anecdote of the applicant's first time she managed to make connections between different topics she was studying, and moving on toward her interest in the interdisciplinary offerings at U-M and how they can help her become a future activist.
How to Write a University of Michigan Supplemental EssayAs you write your University of Michigan supplemental essays, be sure to heed these four tips.
Tip 1: Use Specific Details and Examples
The key to writing an amazing University of Michigan supplemental essay is to write clearly and specifically so that the admissions committee can really feel your passion and understand what makes you the person you are today. After all, your ultimate goal is to tell a compelling story that will leave a mark on your readers.
So don't write vaguely—litter your essay with names, places, dialogue, and images. At the same time, try to stay focused by presenting an easy-to-follow story and logical structure.
For essay 1, for instance, you'll be way more successful if you home in on a specific community you're part of and what it's done for you, rather than trying to cram in tons of details about other communities you relate to. Pick one central topic for each essay, and stick with it.
Tip 2: Be Your Authentic Self
Another tip is to be completely and unapologetically honest in your University of Michigan essays. Write in a voice that's completely and utterly yours and concentrate on a story, person, event, or moment that means a lot to you personally—not what somebody told you to write about, even if that topic sounds more "impressive." So if you want to throw in a joke, go ahead and do it!
Just be sure to avoid the following in your essay, as doing any of these can make you seem lazy, inappropriate, arrogant, or plain unlikable:
- Typos or errors in spelling, grammar, and/or punctuation
- Overused quotations or clichéd analogies—writing something such as "It was raining cats and dogs" will make your essay come across unoriginal and bland
- Inappropriate events or stories—your U-M essay is not the time to write about something illegal or highly immoral you did!
- Anything outright rude or impolite—for example, don't attack the U-M admissions officers or write something mean about someone at school
Tip 3: Don't Repeat Anything You've Written in Other Essays
One of the tricky problems with writing your University of Michigan supplemental essays is that you need to ensure you're not having too much overlap in your essays, especially between your supplemental essays and your Common App/Coalition App personal essay.
While it's OK to have a little bit of overlap in general content, try to select essay prompts so that you're focusing on different (but still equally important) parts of yourself.
For example, because U-M requires a diversity essay as part of its supplement, you'd probably be better off not choosing the first Common App prompt (which is also about communities and your background).
Remember that the admissions committee wants to get a complete, holistic picture of who you are, so take care to incorporate all major (but different) aspects of yourself in your University of Michigan essays.
Tip 4: Edit and Proofread Before You Submit
Lastly, make sure to edit and proofread each University of Michigan supplemental essay you write before you submit your application.
Once you have a rough draft written, put it away for a few days. Then, take it out again and look it over with a fresh set of eyes. Check for any areas that are unclear, out of place, or irrelevant, and edit as needed.
Keep doing this process until you have a fairly clean rough draft and then give it to somebody you trust, such as a parent or teacher. Have them give you feedback on the content and structure of your essay; they should also look for technical errors.
Once your essay is almost ready to go, give it one last proofread. You should now have a fantastic University of Michigan supplemental essay!
Want to learn more about the University of Michigan? Then check out our Michigan admission requirements page, where we give you everything you need to know to get into this famed school.
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Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.