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Last updated March 21, 2024

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How to Use the University of Michigan Common Data Set

Key Takeaway

In the University of Michigan application review process, only two criteria rank as "very important": course rigor and GPA. Of course, other factors like essays and extracurriculars are still important. But if you're applying to UMich, course rigor and GPA should be a priority.

The University of Michigan Common Data Set tells us a lot about how UMich evaluates applicants. In this post, we’ve extracted and interpreted the most valuable data for you. More importantly, we guide you through using this data to craft a more strategic UMich application.

Let’s get started.

How the University of Michigan Evaluates Applicants — based on CDS data

The University of Michigan lists only two criteria as “very important” when evaluating applicants: high school rigor and GPA. The more rigorous the classes in your course load and the better your GPA, the more favorably admissions officers will view your application.

Second to rigor and GPA are other factors, like standardized test scores, your application essays, letters of recommendation, first-generation status, and character. When it comes time to apply to college, you can’t do much else about your existing course rigor and GPA. But you do have control over most of these factors.

  Very Important Important Considered Not Considered
Secondary school rigor X      
Class rank       X
Academic GPA X      
Standardized test scores   X    
Application essay   X    
Recommendation(s)   X    
Interview       X
Extracurricular activities     X  
Talent/ability     X  
Character/personal qualities   X    
First generation   X    
Alumni/ae relation     X  
Geographical residence     X  
State residency     X  
Religious affiliation/commitment       X
Racial/ethnic status       X
Volunteer work     X  
Work experience     X  
Level of applicant’s interest     X  

Does University of Michigan track demonstrated interest?

Yes, demonstrated interest is considered in the University of Michigan application process. It’s not listed as one of the most important factors, so it likely won’t make or break your application, but showing strong demonstrated interest could earn you some admissions brownie points. We’ve written an entire post about how to show demonstrated interest in a systematic way. Michigan is a tough school, so you’ll need a game plan to maximize proof of your interest.

Does University of Michigan care about test scores?

Yes. The University of Michigan reports that test scores are an important factor when evaluating applicants. 54% of enrolled first-year students submitted an SAT score, while 32% submitted an ACT score. If you’re applying to the University of Michigan, then you might consider standardized test scores a priority.

Does University of Michigan care about essays?

Yes, essays are characterized as “important” when evaluating applicants at the University of Michigan. Compared to other schools like USC or Georgetown, which count essays as “very important,” your UMich essays may not weigh quite as heavily. But they are still an important tool admissions officers will use to determine whether you should be admitted, so they deserve your time and attention. This is partly because Michigan, which has a mandate to enroll in-state students, incorporates other criteria into their evaluation—such as whether a student is in-state or not.

What GPA do I need to get into University of Michigan?

UMich’s Common Data Set offers a GPA breakdown from first-year enrolled students (or, in other words, the admitted students who accepted their offers of admission and now attend UMichigan as students). Let’s take a look.

GPA % of enrolled students
4.0 33.4%
3.75-3.99 54.6%
3.50-3.74 10.0%
3.25-3.49 1.1%
3.00-3.24 0.5%
2.5-2.99 0.2%

Notice how the majority are in the 3.75 to 3.99 range. If your GPA is strong but not perfect, University of Michigan may be a great option to put on your school list. That being said, however, it’s a very competitive field. Grades tend to cluster toward the higher end of each GPA band.

University of Michigan Acceptance Rate

As a large state flagship institution, the University of Michigan gets a lot of applications. But the university is also one of the more competitive state schools.

79,743 students applied to UMich. Only 16,071 were admitted, making the acceptance rate about 20%.

With a 20% acceptance rate, the University of Michigan sits alongside schools like NYU, Boston University, and the University of Virginia.

Of those 16,071 admitted students, 7,290 enrolled.

University of Michigan Early Decision Acceptance Rate

The University of Michigan does not have an Early Decision application option. So, no luck there! However, applying Early Action at Michigan does give applicants a slight bump to their acceptance rate.

What’s the right application option for you?

University of Michigan has Early Action and Regular Action options. Since you don’t have the option to ED, you won’t need to worry about factoring ED strategy into your decision. Applying EA versus RA will likely depend on where UMich falls on your school list. If it’s a high-priority school and you can adequately prepare your application by the early deadline, then you might consider applying EA. If not, an RA application will give you more time and likely yield similar admissions results.

Most Popular Majors at the University of Michigan

The University of Michigan Common Data Set informs us about the most popular majors by noting the percent of graduating students who were awarded degrees in a particular field. In other words, we can tell what the most popular University of Michigan majors are by looking at where the most degrees are coming from.

If you know anything about UMich, these percentages aren’t a surprise at all. UMich is well-known for their STEM majors, particularly engineering and computer science. But also note that social sciences (including psychology), business, and performing arts accounted for about 33% of degrees awarded.

Major Percent of Degrees Conferred
Engineering 15.3
Computer and Information Sciences 14.3
Social Sciences 11.9
Biological/Life Sciences 8.7
Psychology 8.4
Business/Marketing 8.1
Visual and Performing Arts 4.8
Health Professions and Related Programs 3.7
Interdisciplinary Studies 3.5
Parks and Recreation 3.5

If you’re interested in UMich, there’s a good chance you’re interested in studying a STEM major. With a 20% acceptance rate, applying to study any major at University of Michigan is competitive. But because of UMich’s reputation for being a fantastic STEM school, applying to engineering, computer science, and math programs is even more competitive. So if a STEM field is what you’re interested in, know that your statistics will need to lean a little higher, your extracurriculars should be a bit more impressive, and your essays have to convey an even greater sense of meaning.

What should you do with all this information?

University of Michigan is an academic powerhouse and likely a great option to put on your school list. With their 20% acceptance rate, earning admission isn’t easy. But UMich is one of the more prestigious large state schools, so taking your time on your application is worth it.

So what should you do with all this information? Like many things in college admissions, it depends. If you have strong credentials, add UMich to your list. If your stats aren’t as strong, or if you have a lower GPA but high test scores, then shoot your shot—you’re more likely to have a chance at University of Michigan than, say, Harvard, but you’ll still benefit from a high level of prestige and resources.

In any case, your GPA, rank, course rigor, and extracurriculars alone probably won’t be enough. That’s where essays and strategic application planning come in. We break it all down in our How to Get into University of Michigan guide.




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