University of Michigan Guide

The Ivy Scholars guide to the University of Michigan’s culture, admissions, and other essential information for prospective students and their families.

Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan

Mascot: Biff the Wolverine

Type: Public Research Institution

Population: 46,000 (29,800 undergrads)

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About Michigan

Established on what was then the Western frontier of the country, the University of Michigan has become one of the premier public research universities in the nation. With a highly successful Big 10 football team (with more wins than any other), a record of academic excellence, and strong school spirit, UMich Ann Arbor is the flagship school of the Michigan system.

Michigan Statistics

Year Founded: 1817

4 Year Graduation Rate: 75%

Gender Distribution: 50% female, 50% male

Acceptance Rate: 26%

Residency: 54% in state, 31% out of state, 15% international

Location Type: College Town

Schedule System: Semesters

Student/Faculty Ratio: 11:1

Average Class Size: 25

Demographics: 60% Caucasian, 16% Other, 14% Asian, 6% Hispanic, 4% Black

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National Rankings

US News Rankings:

  • #3 Best Public Schools
  • #3 Business Program
  • #6 Best Undergraduate Engineering Program
  • #12 Most Innovative Schools
  • #13 Best Undergraduate Teaching
  • #25 in National Universities
  • #44 Best Value Schools

Independent Rankings:

  • #2 Public Universities per Forbes
  • #4 Midwestern Schools per Forbes
  • #20 Top Colleges per Forbes
  • #21 World Universities per The Times of Higher Education
  • #27 US Colleges per The Times of Higher Education
  • #59 Best Value Colleges per The Princeton Review
  • #60 Best Value Colleges per Forbes

Michigan Admissions Information

Application Deadlines:

  • Early Action: November 15th
  • Regular Decision: February 1st
  • Transfer Deadline: February 1st

Notification Dates:

  • Early Action: Late January
  • Regular Decision: April 1st
  • Transfer: Rolling

Acceptance Rates:

  • EA: 23%
  • RD: 23%
  • Transfer: 42%

Average Applicant Pool: 65,000

Average Number of Applicants Accepted: 14,900

Average Number Enrolled: 6,800

Application Systems: Common App, Coalition App

Average GPA: 3.9 weighted

SAT Scores: 25th% – 1380, 75th% – 1540

ACT Scores: 25th% – 32, 75th% – 35

*Test mandatory. Writing sections are not required.

Demonstrated Interest:

UMich does consider demonstrated interest.

Recommendation Letter Policies:

One counselor recommendation and one teacher recommendation in an academic subject.

Michigan Essay Prompts:

  • Common App Personal Statement (650 words)
  • Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it.
  • Describe the unique qualities that attract you to the specific undergraduate College or School (including preferred admission and dual degree programs) to which you are applying at the University of Michigan. How would that curriculum support your interests?
  • Ross Essay Questions: 
    • Business Case Discussion: Choose a current event or issue in your community and discuss the business implications. Propose a solution that incorporates business principles or practices. The review panel will look for creativity, drawing connections, and originality. (500 words)
    • Artifact & Description: Upload a document or artifact that represents something significant about your life to show your learning in action.​ Describe how your artifact demonstrates your learning in action. (250 words)

UMich Essay Writing Tips

Special Notes:

  • International applicants have differing requirements by country.
  • The Ross School of Business has several admissions requirements, first students must apply to another school or college as a freshman, they will then be admitted into Ross from there. Students must complete the Ross admissions portfolio, which will be sent to them after they finish their standard application. Students who enroll in Ross through the LSA are Direct Admit students, while those who enroll through other schools are referred to as Preferred Admit.
  • Applications to the School of Architecture are made to specific degree programs within the school.
  • The School of Art and Design requires an additional letter of recommendation from an art teacher. They also require a portfolio submission.
  • The School of Music, Theatre, and Dance has a deadline of December 1st for all applicants, and requires submission of an artistic profile.


  • Students may transfer in as Sophomores or Juniors.
  • Applicants must complete the Common App or Coalition App. Test scores are required. Letters of recommendation are optional unless requested specifically.
  • The Michigan Transfer Agreement lists which courses at Michigan community colleges are transferable to UMich.
  • Ross generally enrolls only 125 transfer students a year, of which only 25 come from outside of UMich. These students must complete the transfer supplement. Ross does not consider high school grades, only those from college.

Michigan Admission Strategy

Admissions Criteria:

The most important factors in admissions are the rigor of high school coursework, and the student’s GPA. Also treated as important are standardized test scores, extracurriculars, application essays, recommendations, and character. 

Criteria that are considered are legacy status, geographic origin, state residency, race/ethnicity, volunteer experience, and the level of an applicant’s interest.

Talent is an incredibly important consideration for the schools where it is considered relevant, those studying performance or studio arts, or architecture. For these schools, the demonstration of the student’s talent, through an audition or portfolio, accounts for half of the criteria considered when deciding on admissions.

Applicants are rated on a scale of Outstanding, Excellent, Good, Average, Poor. The following aspects are directly rated in this manner when considering an application: academic performance, educational environment, essays, recommendations, and Awards, honors, leadership, involvement, and service.

Applications are reviewed by two readers before being forwarded to the Admissions Review Committee for the final decision. Ross applicants are supposed to only be reviewed after the Committee decides, but because Ross is inundated with applicants, they review the Ross Admissions Portfolio first and tell the committee whose portfolio they like. This means that a great portfolio can drastically affect your chances of acceptance!

What is UMich Looking For?

UMich is looking for students who stand out in their extracurricular involvements, especially in a leadership capacity. The activities and extracurriculars are needed to set high achieving students apart from the crowd of their fellows. Leadership is the key character trait UMich wants to see demonstrated in an application, either through activities or a student’s supplemental essays. UMich is particularly receptive to students whose dissatisfaction with the status quo has led them to address problems to improve their community or environment.

Another key character trait the school looks for is a unique perspective, either in how a student views their intended major, or in how their background or experiences have shaped their outlook.They say “Show us how the combination of course work and related activities inspired original thinking on your part….what kind of person you are and how well you might do in a dynamic, multifaceted campus community.” This uniqueness should relate directly to Michigan; how will your approach to a major or interdisciplinary study add to the campus? How will your unique background and experiences contribute to the campus learning environment?

Michigan aims for a 50/50 split of in state vs out of state students. However, 75% of applicants come from out of state or internationally, so it’s more competitive. Thus it is not necessarily easier to get in as an in-state student, but there is less competition for the available number of slots. 

You are compared to the other students who are applying to UMich from your high school; the top of those will be admitted generally. Determine how you measure up in your high school class, especially among those who may be applying to UMich.

They are looking especially for students who want to go there specifically, rather than high achieving students using UMich as a target school in case they can’t get into an Ivy League school. They want to see specifically how a student would benefit from the programs at UMich, and how their future plans for study and career fit in with what the school offers. This is especially relevant in the supplemental essay about why students want to go to UMich, as this is the essay with the most importance after the personal statement for admissions decisions. They want intellectually curious and passionate students, eager to explore their interests with the resources Michigan provides.

UMich Strategy:

Students should determine which school they are applying to, as this will affect their strategy;. Students often consider the School of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) as easier to get into than the engineering program. While this appears true based on raw percentages, the truth is more complicated.

A strong student for Engineering looks different from LSA. Engineering wants students with high standardized test scores, a record of taking classes in chemistry, calculus, and physics, especially at AP level; with high scores on specialized tests in those areas, either SAT Subject or AP. LSA wants students with more varied academic talents and interests, as they have broader core requirements. Students who may be competitive for Engineering are not necessarily competitive for LSA, and vice-versa, depending on the classes they excelled in, their standardized test scores, and their extracurriculars. Students with a stronger preparation in math and science will have a much better time with Engineering, while students with more varied academic talents are better suited for LSA.

Ross accepts most of its students as first years; while it is possible to transfer in, this is becoming increasingly difficult. More than most business schools, Ross wants to see past experience and interest in business, as represented in their specific supplemental essay questions. For example, students who have tried investing in the stock market, completed internships with major companies, or who have started their own businesses. Students without these experiences will have a harder time gaining admission.

For the Ross supplement, they provide examples for what an artifact should look like, and what they liked about past examples. They also give the rubric detailing how they judge the business case discussion. Their overall guide to the portfolio gives much of the same advice: keep your answers personal, tie them to your own experience, and try to show the committee something they have not seen from your application thus far.

Transferring between colleges is difficult in most cases, but students in most of the colleges can take a second major in LSA, although this does not work the other way around. Thus, students interested in one of the subject oriented schools, such as Ross or performing arts, should apply directly to the school in question, rather than applying to LSA and then trying to transfer. Changing majors within a school is far easier than changing between schools, so that selection matters less.

Finally, students should clearly demonstrate why Michigan is the best fit for them in their essays, and display a real desire to attend if they are admitted. With a 41% yield (number of admitted students who attend), the school is eager to admit students who will actually come to the school. Doing research on the specific programs and opportunities at the school and including them in the “Why Us” essay will go a long way.

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Michigan Academics


Core Requirements:

  • Core requirements vary widely by school and program. Ross, Engineering, LSA, and SMTD all have set core curriculum requirements, other schools have requirements depending on a student’s selected major.

Courses of Study: 

AP Credit Policies:

Special Programs

Honors Programs:

  • There are several college specific honors programs. LSA has an honors program, students are able to apply to the program after they are accepted to LSA, and there is a separate process for this, including additional essay questions. Engineering also has an honors program, which only current engineering students are able to apply to. Both of these programs offer additional academic resources, learning communities, and advising programs. 
  • Ross has graduation honors and honors societies. 
  • Departmental Honors (contact individual departments for more information)
  • Graduation Honors (based on cumulative GPA)
  • Academic Honors Societies

Research Availability:

Study Abroad: 

Business Options: 

  • The Ross School of Business offers a BBA degree, and allows all UMich students to take various business elective courses.
  • They further offer a business minor, which takes two years to complete, and is open to students who aren’t majoring in business.

Pre-Med Options:

  • While UMich does not have a dedicated pre-med major, they do have a set recommendation of courses for students interested in pursuing a career in medicine. They offer further advice on preparing to apply to Med school.
  • Pre-Health Advising

Pre-Law Options:

Computer Science Options: 

  • The Department of Computer Science is run jointly by the College of Engineering and the LSA, with students from both being able to take classes from and major in the department.
  • Computer Science and Data Science are offered by both, while Computer Engineering is only offered as a major by Engineering. The Computer Science minor is more broadly available to students in other colleges.

Additional Specialty Programs: 

Programs for High Schoolers:

Student Life at Michigan

Motto: Arts, knowledge, truth

Mission and Values:

  • Mission: The mission of the University of Michigan is to serve the people of Michigan and the world through preeminence in creating, communicating, preserving and applying knowledge, art, and academic values, and in developing leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future.
  • Additional Information
  • Student Testimonials (Niche, Unigo, Grad Reports)

Residential Housing System:

There are a number of housing options on campus. There are a number of traditional dorms, and various Living Learning Communities, which combine residential life with academic interests in a smaller community. The majority of upperclassmen live off campus, in houses, apartments, or co-ops. The housing system has room for around 10,000 students.

Housing Statistics:

  • 87% of freshmen live on campus
  • 25% of undergraduates live on-campus at any given time

Campus & Surrounding Area:  



  • The RockA rock located near campus which is painted and repainted, and will have something new every time you go by it.
  • The MStudents avoid stepping on the bronze M logo, as rumor states if they do, they’ll fail their first blue book exam.
  • Michigan TimeA tradition which was recently phased out, where many classes and activities would start 10 minutes after they were scheduled to begin.
  • FestsA number of events held throughout the year, named according to season or occasion, with food, student performances, and many activities.

Student-Run Organizations: 


Greek Life: 

  • 17% of the student body is involved in greek life, including social, service, and academic organizations.


  • Ann Arbor has a vibrant nightlife scene. They have a number of other activities available as well. 
  • Fraternity and apartment parties are common, and tailgating and celebrating before and after football games is common practice. 
  • The school was ranked the #2 party school in Michigan by Niche.

Financial Information

Yearly Cost of Attendance:

  • Total: $66,698
  • Tuition and Fees: $51,200
  • Room & Board: $11,996
  • Books: $1,048
  • Personal Expenses: $2,454
  • Costs may vary by college and year.

Financial Aid:

Two thirds of UMich students receive some amount of financial aid. In order to apply for aid, students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS profile. The sooner these are completed, the better. Students will be considered for need based aid and awarded work-study opportunities based on these applications. Students may also attempt to transfer residency to Michigan, as in-state tuition is far lower.

Additional Financial Aid & Student Loan Information


Students who complete their application for financial aid are automatically considered for scholarship opportunities. The office of financial aid has this page listing scholarship opportunities by the university, and what is required of students to be eligible for them. The school also encourages students to apply for private scholarships, which may be used to help pay tuition expenses.

Fun Facts

  • The UMich vs. Ohio State football rivalry is considered the greatest rivalry in all of college football. 
  • President Lyndon Johnson’s speech outlining his great society program was given as a commencement address at the school in 1964. 
  • UMich students taught Notre Dame the game of football in 1879
  • President Gerald Ford was a star linebacker on the Wolverines, and was drafted by several NFL teams. 
  • In the 1920s live wolverines were used as mascots, but they grew too vicious and were given to zoos.
  • Michigan’s football program has the most wins of any NCAA program. 
  • Students have won a total of 151 olympic medals. 
  • The entire astronaut crew of the Apollo 15 mission were alumni of the school. They chartered the only registered alumni organization on the moon for UMich.
  • Other famous alums include James Earl Jones, Tom Brady, Google co-founder Larry Page, Michael Phelps, and Ted Kaczynski. Madonna attended the school, but did not graduate.
Wendy Y.
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

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Arda E.
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