How do I get into the University of Michigan?

Posted by Shmoop on 2/19/19 11:00 AM

So, you want to be a Wolverine. We're not talking about your favorite Canadian member of the X-Men, we're talking about getting decked out in maize and blue and pouncing about the University of Michigan. No doubt you're attracted to its topnotch academic reputation (#1 public research university in the U.S. in 2018), its location in cute-as-a-button Ann Arbor, and its legendary athletics program. Or maybe you just want to go to the same school as Madonna. (Following in her footsteps helped these people get ahead, at least). Whatever your reasons are for trading your opposable thumbs for a set of paws and claws, we are here to help you get into this legendary school.

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Michigan has a lot going for it. And by that we mean that it's got more than just its stand-out athletics program, although its football team does have the all-time most wins in college football history (no biggie). Or maybe you've heard about its active Greek life. We don't mean Greek like Plato or Herodotus, we're talking fraternities and sororities—about 20% of Michigan's undergraduate population are involved in a Greek organization.

But if you're more interested in spending your Saturdays with your nose in a book than painting your face yellow maize and blue, Michigan might still be a good fit for you. Michigan is a big state school, but if you find the right program, you can still build good relationships with your professors and get involved in cutting-edge research. If you're looking for the opportunities of a competitive, big research university with the feel of a small-ish town, Michigan is it.

Getting into Michigan is quite competitive—which makes sense for a school with a killer athletics program. (But no worries, no duel-to-the-death process required.) In 2018, 23.5% of applicants were admitted. And Michigan's star is rising—every year, more wannabe Wolverines apply, which means it's getting harder and harder to get in. But we know what they're looking for in a stand-out application, so that should give you a leg up. You won't even need to get out those sharp Wolverine claws to conquer this process.

The Michigan application puts a special emphasis on extracurriculars. They want to see that you're engaged in life outside the classroom—and plan to continue to do so as a Wolverine, whether that means sports, volunteer work, or other hobbies. They also want you to show that you've done your research and can say specifically why Michigan appeals to you. Different schools within the university, such as the Ross School of Business or the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, ask for additional portfolios when you apply…so if you're planning on specializing, be sure to do your (figurative) homework.

Although you should also be doing your actual homework.

What are all the components of the application that I'll need to have ready?

Like Jean Valjean, we know you're more than just a number. And Michigan knows that, too. But, they also want to see your numbers—that is, your ACT or SAT grades, your GPA, and the result of any and all AP or IB exams you've taken. It's your whole application and your entire record that will make stand out as an applicant—but it's also the mix of elements contained in that whole package that will help ignite admission officers' imaginations as they're predicting whether you'll be an asset to Michigan. Read on for the rundown of everything Michigan wants to see in your five-star application, dear Shmooper.

  • The Application. Who are you? Where did you go to school? Where do you live? What did you eat for breakfast? These are the kind of deets, along with an essay describing yourself, that you'll have to submit on your basic application. It's dealer's choice: you can send along this info using either a Common Application or a Coalition Application (CAAS). This is the same basic information and essay that you'll submit to many different universities.
  • The University of Michigan Supplement. Michigan is a competitive school (did you note their impressive football record?), so it makes sense they ask for more than just the bare minimum when it comes to their application. In addition to the general Common App essay, the Michigan supplement asks you to respond to three additional short essay questions. One is about your chosen activities, one is about your personal background, and one is about why the specific College or School at Michigan that you're applying to appeals to you and ties into your interests. These essays are trying to get a better sense of who you are, and why you want to go to Michigan. (Hint: blue and yellow being your favorite colors is not good reason.) Check out Shmoop's college application Essay Lab to help fuel your essay-writing fire.
  • Application Fee or Fee Waiver. You have to pay for the privilege of the Michigan application committee to review every single detail of your life. Lucky you. In 2018, this service set you back $75. If you qualify as low income, or are a former or active member in the U.S. armed forces, you can apply for a fee waiver through your chosen application.
  • Official Transcript. The admissions officers will distill the essence of your academic being from looking at a piece of paper, ascertaining quality and fit from just a bunch of letters. Pretty cool trick, right?
  • 1 teacher evaluation. This should be a recommendation from a teacher you have a good relationship with—and who teaches an academic subject. No matter how well you get along with your wonderful Home Ec. teacher Mrs. Leonardi (and she really does know how to make the best chocolate-chip cookies), you're better off asking a math, science, English, history, or second-language teacher for a recommendation.
  • SAT or ACT test scores. The SAT and the ACT are like fraternal twins—they share a lot of the same DNA but they have their own distinct personalities. It doesn't really matter which one you choose to take. You can even take both (don't worry, we won't tell...). But, you should take whichever test you want by December of your senior year (at the very latest) in order to have the score to submit to the school. We recommend though, aiming for the spring of your junior year. When you register for the test, make sure to input the codes to have your scores sent to Michigan—1839 for the SAT, 2062 for the ACT.
  • TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE Academic Scores. Michigan students come from all over the world, but they all have one thing in common: some command of the English language. Oh, and they also all got into Michigan (duh). So, two things. Anyway, if English isn't your native language and you haven't spent at least four years at secondary school where the classes are primarily given in English, you'll have to submit your English exam scores—unless you score above a 650 on your SAT Read and Writing exam or above a 27 on your ACT Reading and English scores.
  • If you've taken classes at a university while still in high school, you'll need to provide official college transcripts for those classes, as well, you overachiever.

For the official run-down of Michigan's college application requirements, hear it straight from the horse's wolverine's mouth.




As if that wasn't enough, different colleges within the University of Michigan also have their own application requirements. After all, it's a huge school. Think of these colleges like houses at Hogwarts, except in order to get into Hufflepuff, you have to show your chops at Herbology rather than just rely on the Sorting Hat to help you.

Maybe you've got visions of being a CEO one day. Or you're the lemonade stand maven of your neighborhood. If that's the case, you might consider applying to the Ross School of Business. In that case, you'll be asked to present

  • a business solution to an event or issue in your community; and,
  • a document or artifact that shows your life and your learning in motion. This artifact can be a paper, a newspaper article, a program brochure, or anything that shows how you've contributed meaningfully to your high school or local community.

Perhaps you're more wannabe Maya Lin or more often have visions of performing on the silver screen à la Chicago than being a suit-wearing-business-person. In that case, you might be applying to study in the arts or architecture. If you do, you'll be asked to prepare and present a portfolio of your work for the

  • Tauman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
  • Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design
  • School of Music, Theatre & Dance. This school requires you to make a SMTD Artistic profile for each program you're applying to within the school, and requires an additional $45 application fee.

What are Michigan's average SAT and ACT scores?

Michigan didn't become a world-class research university without ensuring it has a world-class student body. (Yeah, that's right, Michigan is internationally respected. Kind of like Beyoncé.) While the application does put an emphasis on each students' background and their engagement in their extra-curriculars, SAT or ACT scores are still important. So, make sure you eat your Wheaties and get a full eight hours of sleep the night before your exams.

To give you a sense of what (exam) numbers you'll have to put up in order to be taken seriously as a Michigan applicant, we've broken them down for you.

On the SAT, the 25th percentile score was 1380. The 75th percentile of students scored a 1540—that's only 60 points off from perfect, so you gotta be on your A-game. And the expectations for the Math portion of the exam are even tougher: the middle 50% of students scored between a 700 and a 790 on the Math exam, compared to 680-750 on the Writing/Reading portions.

For the ACT, the expectations are at least as high. The 25th percentile of students scored a 31 and the 75th percentile of students scored a 34. That's two points off of perfect. No pressure. Oh, and the essay portion of these exams is required.

The SAT/ACT is important for Michigan, but it's far from the only thing they look at. As we noted before, they're considering the whole package—your GPA, your extracurriculars, your essays, and other opportunities you've had to demonstrate positive leadership (that time you lead your Scout trip to get lost in the woods won't count). That said, having great SAT or ACT scores won't hurt.

What are my chances of getting into Michigan?

Michigan doesn't admit slouches. Or sloths. Although the nearby Creature Conservancy in Ann Arbor does have a sloth named Paco. OMG so cute. But we digress…

The average GPA for students accepted to Michigan in 2018 was a 3.88. They're also especially interested in students who picked challenging classes, like AP or IB, and who have been involved in activities outside of the classroom. So, if you're boasting a 4.0 GPA but your course schedule is more "Remedial Sloth Care" and less "AP United States History," that's not going to cut it.

Less than 1 in 4 applicants to Michigan were admitted in 2018. The school received 65,684 applications and admitted 15,468 students—that means about 23.5% of students were admitted. Also, they received a full 10% more applications in 2018 than they'd received the year before, and there's little chance that admittance rate is going up any time soon. (It's hard being popular; just ask Regina George.)

Whether or not you're likely to get into Michigan is going to depend on the skills and stats you bring to the table. If you're a Michigan resident with a solid GPA in the 3.7-4.0 range, high ACT/SAT scores, and a dazzling extra-curricular record, Michigan might be a safer choice for you. If you've got a bit of a lower GPA, a SAT score below 1500 or ACT score below 33, or haven't spent as much time investing in extra-curriculars, Michigan is likely to be a reach for you.

How do I improve my chances of getting into Michigan?

If you have a perfect 4.0 and a 1600 on your SATs, that's still not going to be enough for Michigan. They want well-rounded students—and we don't mean a Violet Beauregarde-turned-blueberry kind of rotundity. We mean, Michigan is looking for students who demonstrate excellence both in the classroom, and outside of it.

Academically speaking, they want to see that you've chosen challenging courses, like AP, IB, or honors classes. Your core classes, like math or English, are going to count for more than electives like Face Painting or Advanced Baton Twirling (sorry, baton twirlers). They even take into account your class rank, if your high school does that kind of thing. So, don't be afraid to take on your current classmates as (friendly) competition.

But it's not just who you are in the classroom that counts. Michigan describes itself as a "dynamic, multifaceted campus community." And they want to see how you'll do as part of that community. You should be prepared to show off how you've taken leadership positions in your school or community, how you've worked to excel at a skill like music or art, or how you've taken what you've learned in the classroom and used them in real life. If you're curious, ambitious, and gifted, Michigan might be interested in you. If you're as inactive as a bump on a log, your chances might be lower.

Actually, if you're a bump on a log, you should probably go to a doctor and get that checked out.

If you aren't sure exactly how to hit all of these requirements, we've got some tips on our website for how to clear these high bars (no pole vaulting required).

  • One of the most important elements of your college application is the record of every class you've taken in high school and your grades—your transcript. No pressure. As we've already noted, Michigan wants to see that you're taking stellar classes on your transcript. That means you should be challenging yourself at every turn, not just coasting by on Introduction to Cookie-Making. Check out our article on how to Beef Up your Transcript, Even if You're a Vegetarian for more deets on this process.
  • Ah, summer vacation…a time to kick back, relax, perfect your handstands. Sure, that's fine—but not if you're trying to get into Michigan. A stand-out college application requires you to use your summer vaykays wisely. You should be digging into some fat books, taking extra coursework, or taking on a meaningful summer job. We've got a ton of ideas of how you can use your sunny summer break to make your Michigan application shine in our article How to Spend your Summer Vacation.
  • Michigan loves well-rounded people. Having good grades, impressive sporty accomplishments, and volunteering to build homes for orphaned endangered whales with cancer are all good things. But part of being well-rounded also means having read, like, a lot of books—not just the ones on the required reading list. We've got a good selection for you to start with on our Manageable College-Bound Reading List.
  • Dunking contests. Eating contests. The Birdbox Challenge. These are all admirable feats (well, except maybe the last one), but there are better ways to stand out on your college admissions applications. Michigan is looking for people who have showed off their smarts in a competitive environment. We've rounded up some of the best arenas for you to demonstrate your braininess in our article Win a Bunch of Competitions.

What other schools should I consider?

If you're seriously considering applying to Michigan, we get it. It has a fun student body, a fierce mascot, a terrific academic reputation, and a beautiful campus. But it's not the only school with all these wonderful things on offer (okay, the Wolverine thing is pretty unique). If you're applying to Michigan, you might also want to apply to these similar schools:

  • The University of Minnesota is a large public research university, like Michigan. Granted, their mascot (the gopher) is not as scary as a wolverine, but other than that these schools have a lot in common. They both offer competitive academic environments paired with an active Greek life and athletics scene. But, there are some key differences: the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota are way bigger than Ann Arbor, Michigan and it's a bit easier to get into Minnesota (about a 40% acceptance rate).
  • If you're dying to go to school in Michigan, you might also consider Michigan State, Michigan's mortal enemy (go Spartans!). Like Michigan, MSU is a large public research university (although a bit smaller than Michigan). It's located in East Lansing, Michigan and also boasts an impressive athletics program. Getting into MSU is easier than getting into Michigan—about 60% of applicants are admitted each year. But that doesn't mean it's not academically competitive: in 2018, the middle 50% of admitted students had a GPA between 3.5 and 3.9.
  • Maybe you love the idea of going to an academically competitive school with a great athletics department or an active Greek life, but the idea of going to a massive university doesn't completely appeal. You might want to consider the University of Virginia. UVA is located in Charlottesville, Virginia, a small town at least as charming as Ann Arbor. But the school is about half the size of Michigan. The school also has an impressive history—it was founded by one Thomas Jefferson in 1819 (ever heard of him?).


Topics: college, college essays, College Prep, college admissions, michigan, college application

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