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Last updated March 21, 2024

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How to Write the University of Michigan Supplemental Essays

Key Takeaway

For the University of Michigan supplemental essays, you'll be writing a community essay and a "why this major" essay. To write them well, you'll need to think about your overall application narrative.

The University of Michigan—or UMich, if you’re feeling casual—is one of the best large state schools in the country. We’ve already gone in-depth on Michigan admission tips and tricks in our UMich Common Data Set and How to Get into UMich posts.

In this post, I’ll cover the last piece of your application puzzle: those tricky University of Michigan supplemental essays. We’ll go through both prompts and cover strategies for approaching them.

Buckle up.

University of Michigan Supplemental Essay Prompts

As a quick refresher from our giant supplemental essay guide, let’s briefly review what the purpose of a supplemental essay is.

If your personal statement is the centerpiece of your college application, then what are your supplemental essays for? They exist to…

  1. support the narrative you lay out in your personal statement.
  2. add diversity to that narrative by covering topics you weren’t able to in your personal statement.
  3. show academic, cultural, or values-based alignment with the school you’re applying to.

For UMich, you’ll have a couple of supplemental essay questions to answer in addition to your personal statement. Let’s take a look.

Prompt #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; minimum 100 words/maximum 300 words)

As you probably guessed, this one’s what we like to call a community essay. It’s a genre of supplemental essay that urges you to reveal something about yourself by reflecting on a community that has influenced you. We’ve written a lot more about community essays elsewhere, but here we’ll focus specifically on writing one for UMich.

Let’s start with the two central questions from our community essay post:

  1. What will your UMich admissions officer learn about you?
  2. What school values can you connect with through the prompt?

So, question number one should be a no-brainer. The whole point of writing an essay is to reveal something about yourself anyway. The key, then, is to decide what to reveal about yourself.

Enter: question two. This tip is one of our best for writing strong supplemental essays. Since supplementals are one of the only places you get to explicitly make the case that you belong at the University of Michigan, you need to make them count. This prompt in particular gives you a great opportunity to make the case for a cultural, values-based fit.

To find that fit, browse the University of Michigan website. Look at the motto, mission statement, and strategic plan. Write down values as you find them—values like intellectual exploration, diversity, community engagement, and more.

Once you’ve identified a value or two that you agree and align with, then you’ll be ready to choose your community and get to writing.

The prompt tells us that you can choose from all kinds of communities you’re part of. Maybe that’s your family, your religious community, or your community of online Jane Austen enthusiasts.

Whatever your community is, remember to answer the central directions of the prompt: 1) describe your community, and 2) describe your place in it. As you go, keep those core values in mind.

Prompt #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; minimum 100 words /maximum 550 words)

Ah, yes. A classic why this school/major essay. If your community essay shows values-based alignment with UMich, then what should this essay show? Ding, ding, ding! You guessed it: academic alignment. You can always incorporate more values, too. But the main purpose of this prompt is to drive home the message that you’re a natural fit for the program you’re applying to.

There’s also another main purpose. Michigan wants to admit students who want to be there. Part of answering this question well is showing that you care enough about UMich to do your homework. Good research is key.

So before you start writing, spend at least half an hour browsing through the website of the college or school you’re applying to. Take a look at their values page, if they have one. Click through student and faculty research projects, course offerings, academic clubs and organizations, interesting research or internship opportunities, and more. If you’re applying to UMich LSA, for example, you might look at the strategic vision page, the research page, or the page for prospective students.Take notes and keep track of links.

As you go, be on the lookout for details that connect you to UMich. Is someone doing similar research to you? Is there a perfect internship for your field of interest? Can’t wait to take a specific class? Interested in the specific intersection of fields that you can only find at UMich? Make the connections clear.

There are a few ground rules you should consider:

  1. Be specific. While you might draw on ideas from other supplementals, all the details you use should be specific to UMich.
  2. Remember your narrative. This supplemental essay is still all about showing how great a fit you are for UMich. The more seamlessly you can connect yourself, your background, and your goals to UMich, the better.
  3. Answer the question. Don’t forget to answer the central question: How would that curriculum support your interests?

When written well, a “why this school/major” supplemental essay will show admissions officers that you’re a natural fit.

Key Takeaways

I want to wrap up this post by quickly returning to the idea of your overall application narrative. We have a whole post on what it means to have a cohesive application narrative, but the principle applies here, too.

Your personal statement says one thing about you, your first supplemental says another, and your second supplemental says yet another thing about you.

Before you start writing at all, spend some time thinking about how all three of your essays will work together. Your UMich admissions officer will be reading them side by side, so you should plan them side by side.

Make sure you have clear strengths but also some narrative diversity. You’re not just a physics nerd, you’re a physics nerd who loves poetry. You’re an actress who has dedicated herself to the stage and to teaching dramatic arts. You’re a staunch data analyst and a relentless advocate for justice.

Whoever you are, your Michigan admissions officers should get a robust picture of you (and your fit for UMich!) across all your essays.

Okay, now you’re ready to start writing. If you want even more support before you get started, check out the Essay Academy—our comprehensive digital college essay course, filled with even more instructions and examples. See you there. 👋



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