U of M common application question

Submitted by UMxWolverines on October 25th, 2011 at 6:11 PM

I'm finishing up my application to Michigan, and my next step is the essay. Here is the topic that I plan on writing about:

"Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence."

I saw that and immediately thought "I'll write about Bo", but the directions say "Your Common Application essay should be the same for all colleges. Do not customize it in any way for individual colleges. Colleges that want customized essay responses will ask for them on a supplement form."

The only school I plan on applying to that uses the common app is Michigan, but would this still be customizing my essay?

Would it seem like kissing ass to the person that reads my essay?


Bando Calrissian

October 25th, 2011 at 6:59 PM ^

Yeah, this is a bad idea.

Football is important in student life at Michigan.  But you should want to go to Michigan for more than the football, and be able to show admissions you want to go to Michigan for more than the football.  This is a world class institution that also just happens to have great football tradition.  Don't sell it short.


October 25th, 2011 at 7:12 PM ^

of increasingly intense harrassment from yours truly, little macdaddy completed his Michigan app a couple of weeks ago. Now it's my turn to sweat. If I end up having to write large checks to Little Brother U for the next 4 years I will NOT be happy.


October 25th, 2011 at 7:18 PM ^

receive over 20,000 apps in some years.  If you think the essays are all read thoroughly, you are kidding yourself.  As far as a 31 ACT, you have a better chance, based on percentiles, of playing a Division I sport in college than getting a 31.


October 25th, 2011 at 7:57 PM ^

Actually there are already 50,000 apps in progress for the fall and before the Feb 1 deadline that will suredly rise.

There is a screening process that weeds out weaker applicants before too much time/ resources is spent on them. However, once the apps get sorted you had better bet the essays are read not only once, but multiple times. Essays are a window into the peronality of applicants and it would be a huge mistake to underestimate their impact on an application.


October 25th, 2011 at 7:52 PM ^

Hey OP, I preface this by saying I was just accepted as a transfer student and start in January(PSYCHED!!).  That being said, write about what you feel most strongly about, if that's Bo, then you'd almost be lying if you didn't write about him.

As far as "kissing ass," if that's not what you're trying to do it won't come off that way. 

Even though there were different topics than you have, I wrote referenced Michigan exclusively in my common app essays and of course in the supplement, and like I said got a relatively quick acceptance.

Good luck and Go Blue!


October 27th, 2011 at 9:21 PM ^

Well, my situation is kind of unique in that I am transferring directly from active duty military service. I took classes at two different community colleges ( one in Cali, one around Dayton, Oh) My couselors had never even heard of the Common App. My best advice is to just research like a mad man and find out everything you can. Scour the UM transfer webpage, and the specific school you want to transfer to at UM. Of course keep your grades up and DON'T UNDRESTIMATE the ESSAY. Good Luck!


October 25th, 2011 at 8:05 PM ^

As a person that used the common app last year...

I did the common app last year for the first time as a transfer student. My senior year the common app did not exist. When I applied to transfer Michigan was the only school i applied to, so take my advice with a grain of salt. 

I wrote my essay, which was supposed to be broad and could apply to all schools, about how badly when I wanted to go to Michigan. If Michigan is the only school you're applying to then I say go ahead and do it about whatever you want, even if its about wanting to go to Michigan. With that said though, I wouldn't use Bo just to impress the admissions staff or suck up. I'm sure they get essays similar to that all the time. However if you have someone else you could use that has some sort of Michigan connections, I encourage that. If Bo is what you feel comfortable doing though, go ahead and do it. Do what you think can get you in to the school because thats the most important part IMO


October 25th, 2011 at 11:43 PM ^

If this is true for people accepted to the University of Michigan (and I believe it) then whoever said above that a 31 is the 75th percentile for everyone taking it is full of shit (which I also suspected when I read it). A 31 is a good score, when I was taking it as well as now.


October 25th, 2011 at 8:08 PM ^

about 50 times you will be a shoo-in. Maybe mention how Bo said he treated all individuals on his teams equally, "like dogs!" Say something about how he brought together a bunch of kids from very diverse backgrounds and threw all individualism out the window. Talk about how this has inspired you to want to found a non-profit that seeks to eliminate borders between communities and form a "Team" of like-minded social workers who will travel all across the country to campaign against racism and ethnocentrism.

Maybe end with a quote like, "We're going to end discrimination, and we're going to do it as a Team!!!"


October 25th, 2011 at 8:36 PM ^

If you're going to write about Bo, you first need to answer the why question, you need to have a pretty compelling story about how your encounter with him, or his words, or his example, changed you or caused you to rethink some belief you had previously held. If you just use the essay as an excuse to regurgitate his aphorisms, it's not going to be compelling. If one of those aphorisms, or if something in his life (other than the fact that his coaching record) has had significant meaning to you, then you can write a good essay about him. 



October 25th, 2011 at 9:21 PM ^

Here's a link to the old (prior to 2004) admissions process with the points for each one. An outstanding essay was worth 1 out of a total of 150 points. 1 point! So that tells you how much they care about your essay. Getting straight A's was worth 80 points. And 100 points guaranteed you admission. So even if they don't use that system anymore that should still give you and idea of how much they value your achievements and other factors. so probably not worth worrying about the essay unless you think you are really borderline or have a small shot at getting in.


October 25th, 2011 at 10:54 PM ^

My son just submitted his "early action" application to UofM Sunday.  He loathes writing.  He's a very good student with an excellent transcript but in my opinion, his essays were lame.  I did everything I could to help steer him to a more compelling topic, or at the very least, polish the essay he wrote.  It was like pulling teeth.  I pray that his grades and recommendation letters carry significantly more weight in the mind(s) of the admission department.




October 25th, 2011 at 10:57 PM ^

You can use Bo as your subject, just have a sound reason.  Saying he's great, and I think he was awesome, and he inspired me won't cut it.  There should be something very specific about the person as to why they had an influence on your life, and the influence should be very defined.  i.e. despite being a tough coach, Bo also cared about his players (and he are examples I am aware of)...because of this example, I have decided to make X a priority in my life.


October 25th, 2011 at 11:53 PM ^

Just write you. If Bo is actually a meaningful figure to you then write about Bo.  If it's just because he's a Michigan football legend then probably not.   While on the surface the essay is about someone else, it's actually about you and your aspirations.  Think about it like the Iceberg method of Hemingway (English 101 anyone?). Most of what your actually saying is under the surface and is all you, while probably about 20 percent is actually about the person in your essay.  Chances are the person reading your essay knows more about that figure anyway. Just be honest and sincere and it doesn't really matter who it's about.  Also if anyone asks you about your ACT or SAT when you get to college... maybe don't be friends with that person.  It doesn't matter. There's a lot of gunners in college, and it seems like some of them are in this thread.  My advice is don't do anything just to check off a box.

Blue Ambition

October 26th, 2011 at 12:08 AM ^

This is good advice. 

I can also say with great confidence that the essays matter since Gratz v. Bollinger.  They matter a lot.

Michigan's reputation, pervasive high school grade inflation, and a test prep arms race mean that there are inevitably far more applicants with great numbers than there are freshman slots to offer. Strong grades and test scores are necessary, but not sufficient conditions for admission.  A good essay can make a huge difference, as can a bad one. My advice is to take these things seriously.


October 26th, 2011 at 12:01 AM ^

I remember hearing stories from the UofM admissions office where they had essays posted on the wall from people claiming to "sleep with buckeyes under their pillows", and other such tragically hilarious faux pas...

So as long as you aren't applying to MSU or OSU Bo is probably fine...

[Seconded for all the things said before about if Bo is your to passion, then go for it.]


October 26th, 2011 at 1:32 AM ^

I wouldn't write about Bo either. Whoever you go with, make sure it's someone you legitimately feel strongly about. I was extremely honest and forthcoming in my essay and after talking to others who had applied a heartfelt explanation was definitely the best way to go. Bo may be a big influence on your life but it seems like they're looking for more of a broad character. Either way, best of luck to you.

Johnny Blood

October 26th, 2011 at 8:00 AM ^

To me, that was always much more important than the essays.

Regarding the essay, though, to reiterate what a bunch of people have said... doesn't really matter who you pick, just find a way to really make it your story.


October 26th, 2011 at 9:43 AM ^

"The only school I plan on applying to that uses the common app is Michigan, but would this still be customizing my essay?"

If the only school that applies to you that accepts the common app is Michigan, why not just use M's regular app, write about Bo and be happy?


October 26th, 2011 at 10:02 AM ^

Here's one reason why universities like the common ap....

Because it makes applying to additional schools so easy, the common ap greatly increases the number of applications that participating universities receive (by something like a factor of 25%). This sucks for the admissions departments. It's great, however, for administrators who keep their eyes on US News because, by increasing the number of applications, the institution gets to issue more rejections, thereby raising their selectivity rating which is one of the key variables for US News' college rankings.

This is only one example of how the tail of US News is wagging the dog of university governance. See also the new demand for people who teach creative writing to have PhDs in creative writing, a degree that did not exist until recently (and a PhD in creative writing basically means, "I finished a draft of my novel.")  All this so the % of faculty holding PhDs can be as high as  possible.


October 26th, 2011 at 10:27 AM ^

Just weighing in here, but I am almost done with Chernow's "Hamilton," absolutely amazing book and gives a fresh take on Alexander Hamilton, a man much maligned by historians. I would recommend writing about him, if you like finance and history.


October 26th, 2011 at 11:40 AM ^

posters who try to dissuade you on the sports theme.  I know people who apply to UM for sports and that is not what the admission folks are looking for.  My daughter wrote her essay that was titled:  "I know where Jimmy Hoffa was buried."  She did not, of course, at least I don't think so, but she got their attention and was accepted.  Good luck and GO Blue!

The Mighty Quinn

October 26th, 2011 at 12:49 PM ^

Just went through the college application process last year. The vast majority of my essays were written the night before the final deadline. Fun times.  


Edit: This sounded less "Cool Story, Bro" in my head.

Michigan Manders

October 26th, 2011 at 10:08 PM ^

So I just applied to Michigan (sent my Common App in for Early Admission). 33 on the ACT w/ Writing, 35 on the ACT w/o writing (I took it for free at my school without writing and then had to take it with writing). I sent in both scores; I hope that's not bad. Also National Merit Semi-Finalist and 2100 on the SAT.

And my essay to the 500 word prompt (one about what qualities the engineering college has that makes it appealing to me) was, I must say, a very hard essay to write. I'm very happy with my common app one and the other Michigan essay, but that one... wasn't too sure about. I also had no idea how to make it better though so whatever.

Questions: Likelihood of getting in (based on the small amount of information I told you)? (Sorry, I like reassurence). Was sending both the ACT no Writing and ACT with Writing a bad move?