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How to Write the University of Michigan Essays

Updated for 2023-2024

This year, UMich requires students to respond to two supplemental prompts. The first asks students to reflect, in 300 words or less, about their place in a community to which they belong, and the second, in 550 words, to describe their academic interests in more depth. Discover how to tackle these prompts and stand out to admissions officers at UMich!

Essay #1 (Required for all applicants)

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)

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Explanation:

This prompt provides an opportunity to highlight who you are as a person to the admissions officers by showing your engagement with a community. Given the wide scope of the prompt, you can choose any community that is important to you or has been formative for your growth. How does your community shape you, and what is your place in it? What makes your worldview unique? What values do you care about and how do they shape your actions and beliefs? There are many ways to answer this question, but the key is to demonstrate to the admissions committee your self-awareness, as well as belief in yourself and what matters most to you.

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Sample:

Upon seeing the swirls of pink and purple displayed on the projector during my seventh grade biology class, I was transported back to when I was four years old, when my dad brought me to work where he diagnosed cancer patients. With a picture of those cancer cells from class in hand, I raced home, excited to tell my dad that I remembered peering through a microscope that day, arranging the slides with my tiny hands.
Ever since I could speak, medicine and science have been a part of my life through dinner table conversations, schoolwork, and my own interest. As an innately curious person, I’m fortunate to have a family that celebrates knowledge; coming home to discuss the intricacies of a day’s learning is only natural. In such an environment, my desire for knowledge has only grown.

At the same time, my family doesn’t just value curiosity for curiosity’s sake. We’re not too far removed from tragedy to forget that it’s a privilege to revel in intellectual pursuits. During World War II, my mother’s family was held in Japanese internment camps and my father’s family barely escaped Nazi-torn Europe. Though I’m two generations removed from this hardship, I’ve never taken my education for granted, and I recognize how privileged I am to be where I am.

So, while those swirls of pink and purple cells alone are fascinating, it’s more than just curiosity that drives my interest. My family’s story inspires me to use my inquisitiveness for a greater purpose—to benefit the lives of those around me. Wherever it takes me, I know my family will cheer me on, mirroring my childlike thrill.

Essay #2 (Required for all applicants.)

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 max)

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Explanation:

The key to this prompt is research, as the goal is to demonstrate specific knowledge of the University of Michigan’s academics. The admissions committee won’t be looking for interest in any academic area in particular, but rather are looking for a genuine expression of your interest in a field and how the University’s resources can support that. What programs, professors, and courses do they have related to what you are interested in? This essay should be specific enough so that it could not be used as a response for another college—before writing, do some research on the university’s website and name the particular clubs, classes, or faculty members that would enrich your study in your area of interest.

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Sample:

I want my college education to look like my ideal plate of food: full of variety and unusual combinations. Just like tasting unique blends of flavors, I find that learning different academic subjects in tandem informs how I approach and see each one in isolation, which is why I find Michigan’s dual degree program through the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) and the College of Engineering incredibly appealing. This unique program allows me to combine my diverse passions in biomedical engineering and philosophy with a broader liberal arts education, fostering a unique skill set and perspective.

Last summer, I had the incredible opportunity to do research in a computational biology lab, working on a project that employed mathematical and computational modeling to understand genetic data. This opportunity only increased my interest in pursuing research, and I am excited to dive further into research in college. The robust research environment at Michigan presents unmatched opportunities to engage in groundbreaking research. The chance to collaborate with esteemed faculty members on cutting-edge projects—like Professor Kelly Arnold’s bioengineering projects which seek to apply systems engineering approaches to understand disease—aligns perfectly with my passion for scientific inquiry. The university’s state-of-the-art facilities and commitment to innovation would enable me to explore my interests more deeply. Such experiences would foster intellectual growth, develop my analytical skills, and prepare me for a career in research.

At the same time, my interests extend far beyond biomedical engineering; I’ve relished learning about subjects such as history, art, and especially philosophy. Since freshman year, I’ve established and led my school’s Philosophy club, in which students discuss a variety of philosophical questions over lunch period. We have had fruitful conversations about topics ranging from self-driving cars to genetic modification via CRISPR technology. I am seeking an education that will satisfy and inspire my interests spanning engineering and the liberal arts, and the dual degree program presents the unique chance to do so. By integrating coursework across both colleges, I will gain a comprehensive understanding of the technical aspects of engineering as well as the societal implications of technology. This multidisciplinary approach would equip me to address complex challenges at the intersection of technology, ethics, and society. I would be thrilled to pick from the more than 3,000 courses offered by the LSA. From “Urban Inequality” to “Data Science Ethics” to “Programs, Information, and People,” I am eager to take courses like these, as I know that they will shape and be shaped by my education in engineering.

Finally, Michigan’s vibrant and inclusive community is renowned for its collaborative spirit. The opportunity to engage with a diverse group of individuals from various backgrounds across its colleges would enhance my educational experience and broaden my perspective. The university’s emphasis on teamwork and interdisciplinary collaboration aligns with my values, as I believe that diverse perspectives foster creativity and lead to innovative solutions.

The broad and diverse curriculum, research opportunities, and collaborative community offered by the University of Michigan’s dual degree program suit my interests and ambitions, offering an exciting plate full of variety—and I can’t wait to take the first bite.