For this one, rather than general tips, check out our complete guide on the “Why us?” essay. Want the TL;DR version? Here it is:

  1. Don’t talk about things the University of Michigan already knows about and hears from tons of other applicants. These are things like weather, location, ranking, or reputation. Also try to avoid taking language directly from the website or brochures. Articulate things in your own words.

  2. Talk about yourself too! Don’t just talk about why you like the University of Michigan. Also explain why you are a good fit for the school. Remember it’s a two-way street.

  3. Do lots of research. Find specific resources, programs, or classes that appeal to you. This includes reading student reviews and doing tours (online, in-person, or both). You might even want to talk to a local representative in your area.

  4. Connect back to your core values. For each part of UMich you like and want to explore, explain how that relates to one of your guiding values.

How you get started:

  1. Spend 1 hr+ researching 10+ reasons why the University of Michigan might be a great fit for you (ideally 3-5 of the reasons will be unique to UMich and connect back to you).

  2. Use this chart to map out your research.

  3. Create an outline. Here’s an example of how you could structure yours:

    • Thought-provoking or interesting hook

    • Intro/thesis (say what you want to study and why)

    • Really specific academic offering at UMich that is in your intended major/concentration (this should connect to you in a really specific way)

    • A second really specific academic offering that’s also in your intended major/concentration (and that also connects back to you) 

    • Something academic that’s not in your intended major/concentration (this keeps the focus on academics, but also brings in some variety)

    • Best/most important extracurricular offering (that connects to you in a really specific way)

    • Miscellaneous extracurriculars paragraph (these interests can also be sprinkled throughout to bolster or counterbalance your academic interest paragraphs)

    • Closing (this can be short)

  4. Write a first draft.

Here’s a great sample essay for this prompt: 

University of Michigan Supplemental Essay Example: Prompt #3

J.R.R. Tolkien introduced us to Middle Earth. George R.R. Martin invited us to King’s Landing. J.K. Rowling enrolled us in Hogwarts. In order to craft fantasy worlds that resonate with the widest audiences, the best writers combine their formal education with personal experience and distinct interests. Creatives must draw inspiration by integrating the depths of their psyche with their environment and, by studying creative writing and Asian studies, I believe the University of Michigan will provide me with opportunities to develop a strong minority voice in the predominantly Caucasian world of young adult fiction. 

Through the Residential Colleges, I hope to be a part of a living-learning community that emphasizes critical thinking and creative expression while immersing myself in the development process. The ability to work one-on-one with an RC Professor and receive personalized instruction is invaluable, as it will give me the unique opportunity to address my weaknesses and improve my strengths. And a fiction writer cannot mold young minds to connect deeply and read critically complex works of art without having done so herself, so I am looking forward to First-Year Seminars such as “Topics in the Science of Creativity” and “Saving the World with a Story: Writers’ Voices of Conscience in Fiction,” as these will help me to analyze my writing on both a microscopic and macroscopic level.

The Center of Japanese Studies and the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures will enable me to deepen my understanding of Japanese culture in the classroom and apply my knowledge by studying abroad in Japan. The Residential College intensive language program will help me develop Japanese proficiency, allowing me to take full advantage of overseas study in Kyoto. Courses like Early East Asian Transformations, First-Year Japanese through Anime and Manga, and Spirits of Contemporary Japan will teach me to analyze spirituality, existentialism, and society in the context of classical and contemporary Japan. This can ultimately serve as a thematic basis for my writing. I can see myself attending live action and anime screenings on campus with club Animania and participating in cultural initiatives by the Japan Students Association.

Although writing and Asian Studies are my passions, I look forward to attending a large school with diverse opportunities and want to remain open to post-graduate careers in either business or law. As my sister and I have started a nonprofit, I may want to explore organizational studies. I  also want to contribute to the UM community by becoming a Sweetland writing consultant and a creative writing intern at Ypsilanti District Libraries with 826Michigan.

Over the course of my interactions with Brittany Simmons and Logan Corey and after much research, I have come to see that what UM has to offer aligns with so many of my interests and core values. (No other school I know of offered courses in 2015 exploring my literary heroes Miyazaki and Murakami.) In short, Michigan has become a top choice for me and, if I am able to afford it financially, I would love to attend. (505 words)

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Tips + Analysis

  1. Spend some time setting the scene. Right off the bat, the author shows us how we are all implicated in the fantasy stories we know and love. He then talks about how his academic interests would help him understand both the real world and creatively envision alternate universes. That’s just so cool. He’s already done so much in  the first paragraph. We’ve got a sense of his intellectual interests. And, we’ve got a good sense of his values (creativity and cultural sensitivity/awareness). It’s important that he included these core values upfront and then elaborates on them later in the essay. We know his direct answer to the question, but have to keep reading to get a better sense of why. 

  2. Make your structure clear and logical. After the first paragraph, we know the author is predominantly interested in creative writing and asian studies. In the next two paragraphs, he breaks down each interest and goes into great, specific detail about how he could explore those interests further at the University of Michigan. The arc of this essay makes sense and doesn’t leave the reader confused about what they’re reading or why they’re reading it.

  3. Demonstrate specific interests, but don’t shut out other possibilities. While it’s clear the author has a passion for a couple of specific academic disciplines, he also mentions that he might want to explore community engagement opportunities or alternate post-graduate career options. He ties those other interests to previous experiences he’s had and would like to build on. This is great because a) it shows he’s multi-dimensional, b) has a diverse set of skills, and c) is open to new experiences. If you’re someone who’s not totally sure what you want to major in, this is a great example to follow. Just choose one or two fields of study to answer the question, then later you can add on other interests you might want to explore down the line.

  4. Make good use of the connections you already have with the university. This applicant has already done research with some professors at UMich and knows some of the classes it taught years before he was applying. In the essay, he makes sure the admissions officers know that. Don’t be afraid to flaunt connections you have because it shows your commitment to UMich and demonstrates that you already have a foundation to build off if you were to be accepted.

Here’s another strong essay:

Example:

A PhD student at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology once told me something that changed my life. “I can spend my entire career studying the effects that greenhouse gases have on our coral reefs and larger ecosystems, but if my work stays in the lab, it’s worthless.” Mariela’s right. If scientists aren’t advocating for policy and politicians aren’t embracing scientific evidence, then our world will move further into complacency and ignorance. I want to combat the issue of climate change from both a scientific and legislative front, and I believe a major in Political Science, Economics, and Philosophy and a minor in Environment at the University of Michigan can help me achieve this goal.

Last year, as a volunteer with Dr. Kim Schrier’s congressional campaign, I gained hands-on experience in local government. At the University of Michigan, I would jump at the opportunity to participate in the Public Service Internship program in order to gain a better understanding of climate change legislation at the local level. I would also love to take classes such as “Environmental Public Opinion Analysis” and “Energy Politics,” in order to help me understand climate change from both a biologist’s and political scientist’s point of view.

I recently took a Political Science and Economy course at Carleton College, and by far found comparative politics the most complex and nuanced material. I would be honored to explore this topic further with Professor Bednar in classes like “Comparative Constitutional Design,” which would give me insight into how the history and structure of our government is driving unsustainable policies. I also find Professor Bednar’s work on the relationship between state and federal governments fascinating, and would love to learn to design national policies so they have powerful local effects, which will be key in creating effective legislation to combat today’s climate crisis. 

As an Environment minor, I hope to continue to further investigate climate change as a scientific issue. Through classes like “Conservation of Biological Diversity” I will learn more about the effects of global warming through the lens of a biologist.

 My time at UMich won’t be all work, of course.  Nature has long been a source of creative inspiration for me, and I plan to spend most of my free time outdoors. I felt an immediate connection with the extracurriculars offered by the University of Michigan’s Outdoor Education Program, through which I plan to go hiking, rock climbing, and skiing. While researching the Outdoor Adventure Internship, I saw hiking trips to the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Climbing Weeks, and overnight camping trips. 

I would also love to participate in the University of Michigan Central Student Government, as I have enjoyed participating in high school student government, and hope to continue to cultivate my collaborative approach to leadership. 

Climate change is the most urgent issue facing my generation. I can think of no better way to spend the next four years than at the University of Michigan gaining the tools I need to get straight to work. 

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Tips + Analysis

  1. Start with a quote, but not the bad kind. Quotes can be a sticky situation. A lot of applicants think starting with a quote from Albert Einstein or Abraham Lincoln will set them apart from everyone else. We hate to break it to you, but that’s what everyone else thinks too. More often than not, quotes come off as overly cliche or as the author using someone else’s words when they can’t articulate something themselves. That being said, sometimes quotes can work to your advantage. This essay does a great job of introducing the interests/personality of the applicant through a very specific, relevant quote. The quote is from one of her friends, meaning that it’s not something anyone else could have included in their essay (except for maybe the friend?). The author also doesn’t just let the quote stand by itself. She explains it and expands on what it means within the context of her own life. Instead of letting the quote stand in for her own thoughts, she uses it as a launching point. 

  2. Use specifics. We get the names of professors this applicant has worked with. Classes she wants to take at UMich. Professors she wants to form relationships with. Majors she wants to pursue. Those details show she cares and how she’ll maximize the university’s resources should she be accepted.

  3. Demonstrate nice work-life balance. It’s so important to remember that college is more than just reading books, solving problem sets, and studying all the time. It’s as much a social experience as it is an intellectual one. Much of UMich’s energy goes into developing dynamic, innovative, and fun extracurricular opportunities for its students. Do research on those things just as much as books, classes, and professors. This author talks about her love of nature, camping, and student government outside the classroom. This is yet another great way of showing that you are a multi-dimensional person with lots of different interests.

With all these tips in mind, you can now focus on the most important tip of all. The tip of your upside down pyramid. Time to get building.

Special thanks to Luci Jones for her contributions to this post.