Final Thoughts on College Essays
January 19, 2016
Melissa Purdy

One of the most feared parts of any college application is the essays. And that is understandable. They are an incredibly important part of what you send to us for consideration. As you are putting the final touches on your essays and preparing to submit them in the coming weeks, consider their purpose in your application. These pieces of writing are an opportunity for us to get to know you as a person, and we want to see the real you, not the perfect applicant you think you are expected to be.

In fact, some of the best application essays I have read are not about students triumphing single-handedly. Sometimes the best way to get to know applicants is to see them during tough times. Consider telling us about a time you got knocked to the ground, and describe how you picked yourself back up. We graduate the Leaders and the Best, but that does not mean that our students never struggle. It means that true Wolverines do not give up when they encounter challenges.

We want to hear about the physics puzzles that fascinate you, the 18th-century poet you are obsessed with, or the ukulele performance that changed your life. Your transcripts and test scores only give us the basic, black-and-white outline of who you are. It is your essays’ job to give us the color and texture.

Remember, you have both the Common App prompts and the Michigan Questions to complete. Use each prompt as an opportunity to tell us more about you, to showcase the different pieces that make you who you are. Remember, we want to see future Wolverines who have thought about their college choices, and know that U-M is the school for them. What passions will you bring to our classrooms? What goals will you pursue on our campus? What movements will you ignite in our community?

As you are preparing to submit your essays, make sure to show them to a few select people who know you well. See if they have any suggestions, or notice a stray typo. But make sure that you do not lose your voice in their suggestions. We are not interested in other people’s words. We want to hear you.

Give us all those intricate details that make you stand out from the crowd. Give us your ideas, dreams, and aspirations for the future. Give us a picture of who you are today and tell us how a Michigan education will help you become a better person tomorrow.

We are listening.

Melissa Purdy

is an assistant director in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions