What makes an admission application successful?
November 4, 2015
Melissa Purdy

Working in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions I get a lot of questions from potential Wolverines, but one is far more common than all the others: What are you looking for on my college application?

Is there a certain secret for success, eager applicants wonder? They – and sometimes, their parents – really, really want to know.

I don’t mince words. I don’t have to. Quite simply, this is the situation: Michigan receives applications from many more academically qualified students than we have space to admit, so we look for students who also have the drive and motivation to challenge themselves and take advantage of the many opportunities we have to offer here.

We find them by using a review process that is holistic and multi-faceted. Yes, we definitely look at grades, curriculum, and test scores. But there’s more – a lot more.

We read your application multiple times, looking at quality and quantity – time spent inside the classroom and out. A one-dimensional student is not a strong applicant at Michigan. We’re not looking for a certain club or a specific organization. But we are looking for passion and enthusiasm. We look for students doing amazing things in their communities, with their religious organizations, or with their families or caregivers.

That’s why any and every type of extracurricular involvement should be noted – from the 10 hours spent in the high school math lab tutoring freshmen to the weekend job that contributes to the family income.

Those things matter. Leadership, awards and depth of involvement matter, too. It’s wonderful to say you’re involved with your community theater. But we want specifics. Did you contribute 100 hours to the organization? Tell us about it. U-M is known for graduating the Leaders and Best, so we’re looking for students who embrace giving back, not only to campus, but to society.

Our job in admissions is to build a class that will uphold the tradition of excellence for which Michigan is known. Your job is to show us who you really are on that application. That just might be your secret to success.

Melissa Purdy

is an assistant director in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions