When it comes to writing a stellar college application essay, my advice is fairly succinct: Be yourself.
I know there are lots of articles that tell you to watch your grammar and punctuation, to use correct capitalization, to stay on-topic - and those are all great pieces of advice. But I’m going to assume you know all that because it’s common sense.
I’m going to hope you realize that when it comes to the writing portion of a college application, you know you need to turn in your best work. You know that spellcheck can betray you, that your extensive “tutoring” may turn into “torturing” because you relied solely on software to handle the copy editing.
You do know all that, right?
But what you might not know is that the hardest part isn’t necessarily the mechanics. The hardest part can be making sure that your essay is authentic, that it really sounds like you – not your mother, your advisor, or your Uncle Bob, who wears Maize and Blue every Saturday and has taken you to every home football game since you were 10.
Don’t get me wrong - school spirit is wonderful. So is editing.
But this is your application, after all, and we want to know about you. We want to know what makes you stand out from the crowd – what makes you a good fit for the University of Michigan.
We don’t want a list of awards and achievements; we’ll have those on your application. We want a written snapshot of who you are – right now – and how you got that way. When you see the essay portion on your application, you’ll have several choices, or prompts. One will let you tell your story in the best way possible. Choose it. Play to your strengths.
Your college essay will be one of nearly 50,000 that we’ll be reading in admissions – use this opportunity to your advantage. Your essay gives us insights into your personality; it helps us determine if your relationship with the school will be mutually beneficial.
So tell us what faculty you’d like to work with, or what research you’re interested in. Tell us why you’re a leader – or how you overcame adversity in your life. Tell us why this is the school for you. Tell us your story.
And be yourself. Really – it’s some of the best advice I can give.
This prompt represents a common category of supplement prompts that ask you why you want to study a specific program at a specific school. The main purpose of these “Why Us?” essays is to show the school why you are interested and why you are a good fit.
This is done in two parts: 1. why you want to study what you have indicated and 2. why you want to study it here at this specific school. Make sure to do some research so you can provide more than generic examples like “I want to go to a big school“ or “I like sports” that could apply to many other schools. To learn more about “Why Us?” type essays, read our essay guide, “How to Write the “Why Us?” College Essay.”
When you start to write this essay, you first want to develop why you wish to study what you have indicated on your application. An anecdote is often the most effective means of accomplishing this. You could recount how your time in physical therapy, love for your biology class, and long history of playing sports fueled your passion to learn more about the human body and how it moves. This perfectly lines up with the field of Kinesiology.
Next, you need to demonstrate why Michigan is the perfect place to study what you have selected. Continuing with the Kinesiology example, you could talk about its excellent reputation and some specific classes you really look forward to taking.
With preferred admission applications, it is important to discuss your future goals as well as past experiences that make you sure you will want to be a part of this program. For example, if you apply for the Pharmacy program, you will want to discuss why you are interested in pharmacy and detail the moments in your life that have led you to this decision. Perhaps you have always had a passion for chemistry and helping others, and hearing from your friend’s mom about her career in pharmacy was consistently one of your favorite parts of your weekly hangouts.
With dual-degree programs, the key is not only discussing why you want to pursue a degree in each of them, but why you think the combination is especially important for you.
For example, if you are applying to the dual-degree Ross School of Business and College of Engineering program, you could discuss your dream of beginning your own tech startup and needing both the technical engineering knowledge and business savvy. You could write about how you first came up with your idea and when/how you realized Michigan’s dual-degree program would be the perfect place to bring it to life.