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How to Write All of the University of Michigan Essays for 2020-21

To get your education in Ann Arbor, you'll need to tackle two supplemental University of Michigan essays. This guide will help you express your interest in U. of M. and show off your unique strengths.

(Note that the prompts have changed since 2019-20.)

Let’s take a look at the University of Michigan essay prompts.


1. Why Michigan?


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? (550 words)

In this essay, you’ll need to explain why you like the undergraduate college you’re applying to. (For example: the College of Literature, Science & the Arts)

The key to a strong “Why Michigan” essay is specific details. Out of all the University of Michigan essays, this one requires the most research!

Curriculum: The prompt asks why you like the curriculum. Dive into the University of Michigan website, and explore some of the academic requirements and the majors and minors in your college.

As you look for features of the curriculum that interest you, focus on opportunities that are unique to the college, like:

  • Specific courses or concentrations
    • Note: avoid intro-level courses that you would see at any college, like Introduction to Biology
  • Professors who interest you
  • Research or internship opportunities
    • For example: “I plan on minoring in Arab and Muslim American Studies, and I’m interested in the internship opportunity with the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project.”
  • Study abroad programs
    • For example: “The Global Public Health program in New Dehli, India will prepare me for my career as an epidemiologist.”

Also include some non-academic examples of why you like the college, such as: experiences the school offers, traits of the student body, or the school’s values.

Experiences: What experiences can the school offer you?

As you brainstorm, you might want to explore Michigan’s page on student organizations and activities. Maybe you want to volunteer with HackBlue, get outdoors with the Michigan Backpacking Club, or perform with the Rude Mechanicals. You can also look for campus events or resources that interest you, like attending FestiFall or exploring the on-campus Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.

Traits: What do you like about the student body? Do you like a certain trait of the students at the college, and why is this important to you?

If you write about a trait, try to provide specific examples. For example, if you say that students in the College of Literature, Arts & Sciences are very involved in extracurricular activities, you could support this with a statistic – ie. “X percent of students participate in an extracurricular activity”

Values: Are you drawn to the college’s values or mission statement? If so – what are some examples of how the school puts its mission statement or values into action?

Visit: Finally, if you’ve visited Michigan or interacted with their admissions staff, jot down some details about your experience.

  • Who did you talk to?
  • What did they say that made you want to apply to Michigan?
  • If you visited – what experiences from your visit really made you want to be a Michigan student?


Now, let’s look at an example student’s brainstorming list.

  • Curriculum:
    • Cluster in Gender, Psychology, and Society
    • Research - STAR Scholars Program
    • Psychology & Research program in Madrid
    • Creative writing courses are accessible to students who are not English majors
    • In the Biology, Cognition, and Neuroscience major:
    • Study Abroad:
    • Other academic interests:
  • Experiences
    • Writing for Mentality Magazine
    • Parkour club
  • Traits
    • When I visited, people I’d never met before invited me to visit their classes
    • Students come from 50 US states and over 100 countries
    • Welcoming
    • Diverse
  • Values
    • Examples: America Reads and the Little Free Library
    • Community service


2. Community

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. (300 words max)


In this 300-word essay, Admissions is looking for details about how you'll contribute to UMich's campus community.

First, choose one community to focus on. Try to pick a community where you did something valuable or interesting. For example:

  • held a leadership role
  • participated in a cool project or event
  • helped someone in a meaningful way (for example, as a volunteer, friend, or family member)

Even if it’s a community that you were born into (like a small town, an ethnic group, or a religion) it will be more compelling if you can talk about something active that you did.

Next, start brainstorming. Write down some notes about:

  • What the community is like - Who is in the community? How do people act? What do they care about?
  • Your role in the community - What do you do to make the community better? What skills or knowledge do you use?


Let’s look at an example student’s brainstorming notes:

  • Community: The Greek Orthodox church camp where I work as a counselor every summer
  • What the community is like:
    • Big – 500+ campers, 100+ counselors
    • Faith-based – people want to learn about the Orthodox faith and Greek culture
    • Friendly – everyone wants to help each other have a good experience
  • My role: Counselor
    • I lead a group of campers
    • I’m a good listener – this helps me lead engaging discussion groups about faith
    • I’m organized – On busy days, I keep everything running smoothly


By taking the time to pre-write for each prompt, you'll be able to come up with topics that will complement your Common or Coalition personal essay, and show admissions readers that you are ready to wear the maize and blue!


Applying to the Ross School of Business?  Check out our guide!


Click here for our guide to writing the Common App Essay

Prompt’s Essay Specialists reviewed 13,000 admissions essays in 2018, helping thousands of students submit their applications with confidence.

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