How to Get Into the University of Michigan

Kayla Kaszyca

How to Get Into the University of Michigan

Frequently referred to as “the Harvard of the West,” The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor is known for being one of the most academically competitive schools in the Midwest, with an acceptance rate of 23% for the 2018-2019 cycle. Michigan is ranked as the #1 public research university and the #2 public school in the U.S., so it’s no wonder that over 65,000 students applied this year. When I was admitted into the University of Michigan, I was one of over 50,000 applicants, so I know how it feels to wonder how to get into the University of Michigan when there’s so much competition.

While the University of Michigan does have two other campuses, one in Dearborn, MI and one in Flint, MI, these are separate institutions with different standards and acceptance rates. Though these three campuses share a name, it’s U-M Ann Arbor that is the most highly acclaimed and receives the most attention from students worldwide. And of course, U-M Ann Arbor is the hardest to get into. Therefore, we’ll focus on how to get into the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor in this blog. 

With such a high number of applications, being a lifelong U-M football fan won’t be enough to gain you acceptance. You’ll have to compete with thousands of top students who are also wondering how to get into the University of Michigan. To help you on your journey to becoming a Wolverine, I’ve outlined the different schools and programs, what the University of Michigan looks for in its students, deadlines and requirements, supplemental essay questions, and more tips on how you can stand out among all of the other top applicants. 

Campus Overview

The University of Michigan is located in Ann Arbor, MI, a young, cultural city that is consistently ranked as one of the top places to live in America. Since the university and Ann Arbor began developing at the same time, the campus is highly integrated with the city, with class buildings and dorms often sitting right across the street from local restaurants and shops.

The University of Michigan


The university is made up of four campuses - Central Campus, North Campus, South Campus, and the Medical Campus. Central Campus is the hub of the university, with the iconic diag at its center. The diag is home to the famous block M (which you should never step on unless you want to fail your first blue book exam), as well as the Hatcher Graduate Library and the Shapiro Undergraduate Library (affectionately called “the ugli”).

How To Get Into The University of Michigan


South Campus is connected to Central and houses the famous Big House stadium, as well as other sports facilities. North Campus is separated from the rest of the university by the Huron River, and to reach it, students use the bus system. North Campus is much more wooded than the rest of the university, and is home to the College of Engineering, the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, the Stamps School of Arts, as well as a couple dorm buildings and the beautiful Lurie bell tower.


If you're interested in seeing more of the campus, you can watch me do a campus tour here:

The University of Michigan Colleges

Upon applying to the University of Michigan, you will be required to choose which college you would like to enter. When thinking about how to get into the University of Michigan, you’ll want to do research on the undergraduate programs in the following 13 colleges:

  • College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LS&A)
  • College of Engineering
  • Stephen M. Ross School of Business
  • School of Music, Theatre, and Dance (SMTD)
  • Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design
  • Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning
  • School of Information
  • School of Education
  • School of Kinesiology
  • School of Nursing
  • College of Pharmacy
  • School of Public Health
  • Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

While it is possible for students to apply to more than one college at one time, they will be required to follow certain limitations and guidelines. Additionally, some colleges and programs are “upper-level programs” and begin later than freshman year. If students are interested in these programs, they can apply for “preferred admission.” If they are granted preferred admission, they will automatically be transferred to the upper-level program in a later year. If you are unsure if they would like to join one of these programs, you can always wait to apply! Each program also has an application process that current U-M students can go through. The following colleges utilize preferred admission or require additional application components:

  • Stephen M. Ross School of Business: Students interested in this undergraduate business program must apply for preferred admission to Ross. Applicants are required to submit the Ross Admissions Portfolio, which includes a business case discussion and an artifact that is significant to your life, along with the rest of their application. 
  • School of Music, Theatre, and Dance (SMTD): In order to apply to SMTD, students must submit an artistic profile, which typically includes a headshot, resumé, and letters of recommendation. Applicants will also be required to come to U-M for an audition or send a recorded audition if they live 300+ miles from Ann Arbor. 
  • Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design: Located on U-M’s North Campus, Stamps offers both a BFA in arts & design for students who have a more intensive focus, and a BA in arts & design for students with a broader interest in the arts. Applicants must submit a portfolio that includes their best work. 
  • Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning: As a small, selective program, Taubman recommends that interested students apply for a dual degree at the college of architecture, as well as applying for preferred admission. By applying for the dual degree, students not accepted to Taubman may still be accepted by another college at U-M. With preferred admissions, students who are not accepted for their freshman year could be granted admission in their junior year. Applicants must submit the Portfolio/Design Assignment with their application. 
  • School of Information: The School of Information offers programs as diverse as app design and development to digital libraries and information science to health informatics. The Bachelor of Science in Information program starts in junior year, but high schoolers are encouraged to apply for preferred admission.
  • School of Education: Undergraduates in the School of Education can either specialize in elementary or secondary teacher education. The program does not start until junior year, but high school students may apply for preferred admission. 


If you’re wondering how to get into the University of Michigan, you probably know that you need to have a competitive academic track record. The 2019 entering class had an average GPA of 3.9, so the standards are incredibly high! And if you’re applying from outside the great state of Michigan, your academics, along with the rest of your application, will need to be even stronger. In 2018, the out-of-state acceptance rate was 18.9% (4.1% lower than the overall rate), making the process even more competitive. 

Your GPA isn’t the only number you should focus on, you also need to do well on your ACT or SAT test. The median ACT score range for the entering class of 2019 was 32-35, while the median SAT score range was 1380-1540. The University of Michigan does not require that you submit SAT Subject Test Scores, which gives you plenty of time to focus on your other tests. If you do include your test results, the admissions office will consider them if they benefit your application. If you took a subject test and did well, go ahead and include the score, just know that it won’t have a major impact on your admissions standings. U-M claims that a low score won’t affect your admission, but if you have a score you’re not particularly proud of, I would recommend not submitting it.

Extracurriculars and the Personal Statement

U-M strives to have a “dynamic, multifaceted campus community,” and admits students who they believe will add to this. With over 1,500 student-led organizations on campus, extracurricular activities and clubs are a huge part of the U-M culture. During my time at the University of Michigan, I rarely met a student who wasn’t involved in at least one club, and often found that people met their closest friends through their organizations!

The University of Michigan seeks students who “push the boundaries” and are “not content with the status-quo.” Starting your own club or organization at your school would be an excellent way of demonstrating these qualities. If you’re passionate about lettering and typography, why not create a calligraphy group? To show your dedication to your larger community, consider starting a nonprofit that relates to your area of interest. Activities like these will not only show your leadership abilities, but will also provide you with tangible achievements that you can put on your application.

The University of Michigan has a vibrant student culture that is very close-knit and community-oriented. Outside of academics, admissions officers will want to see that you possess qualities that will allow you to thrive in this environment. Your personal statement is the perfect opportunity to show admissions officers more of your personality. You only have 650 words, so take advantage of this space to share personal stories and attributes that aren’t captured elsewhere in your application. It can be difficult to decide on a topic that will perfectly sum up who you are, so make sure you leave yourself an ample amount of time for brainstorming and editing. 

Supplemental Essay

If you’ve been wondering how to get into the University of Michigan, let’s hope you have a specific reason for wanting to attend the university. Not only does U-M want to know how you will contribute to their community at large, they are interested in learning how you will take advantage of the opportunities that the university has to offer. Students must write all three of the following supplemental essay prompts when filling out their Common Application or Coalition Application: 

If you could only do one of the activities you have listed in the Activities section of your application, which one would you keep doing? Why? (Word limit: 100)

To answer this question, spend some time looking through Maize Pages, U-M’s database of student organizations and events. Find a club that matches your interests and explain why you would like to continue pursuing the extracurricular with this organization. The prompt says you could only continue to do one - so choose carefully! Think about which of your activities has been the most meaningful to you, or the one where you’ve had the greatest impact. And unless you’ve done something amazing with your chess club or debate team, try to pick an activity that’s more unique. While you probably have a lot to say about your extracurriculars, remember to keep it short and sweet, you only have 100 words for this one!

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. (Word limit: 300)

Once again, U-M is interested in your involvement with communities. Make sure you focus in on your place within this community. It’s easy to spend all 300 words describing your community, when the admissions officer really wants to hear about you! Keep in mind that this prompt is quite open. You don’t necessarily have to talk about your race or cultural background. Your community could be your group of friends who are all passionate about baking! As long as you are able to position this community as impactful and important to you personally, it’s fair game for this essay.

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? (Word limit: 550)

This is the longest of the supplemental essays and perhaps the most important. This is U-M’s version of the “why do you want to attend this school” essay. Spend time researching the different colleges and the majors within them. What kind of research opportunities do they provide? Who are some of the faculty? The more specific you can be about what aspects of the program interest you, the better. Remember: you shouldn’t be able to recycle this essay for any other school on your list!

These essays are a space to show that you are more than your numbers and to capture your genuine interest in the school. Just like your personal statement, make sure to take time to brainstorm and edit your essays to perfection.

Myself and Ashleigh Taylor, a Former Admissions Officer from the University of Michigan, discussed exactly what admissions officers want to see from your essays and extracurriculars during this episode of our podcast:

Requirements and Deadlines

When thinking about how to get into the University of Michigan, it’s essential that you know all of the materials you will have to submit and when they are due. The Early Action (EA) deadline is November 1, and the Regular Decision (RD) deadline is February 1. Most colleges have an RD deadline in January, so take advantage of this extra time to make sure your application is perfect! Unlike Early Decision, Early Action is not binding, so you may apply to other schools Early Action if you wish. But because it isn’t binding, you shouldn’t expect your chances of being accepted to rise dramatically. 

The materials you need to submit for your University of Michigan application, as well as deadlines and additional notes, are outlined below:

Requirements for the University of Michigan Deadline and Notes
Personal statement The Common App limit is 650 words. The Coalition App recommends that you stay below 550.
U-M supplemental essays The prompts will appear when you add U-M as a school on the application system.
School report (Common App) or counselor recommendation (Coalition App) These must be submitted with an official high school transcript and received by Nov. 1 for EA or Feb. 1 for RD. It is recommended that counselors send them electronically.
High school transcript Must be submitted directly from your school.
One teacher evaluation (academic) This letter is essential to help you stand out from other applicants and show what you are like in the classroom.
SAT or ACT score Tests taken in October will not arrive in time for EA. If you have already taken the test and will be retaking it in October, send in your previous scores to ensure your application is complete. Once your October scores are received, they will be added to your application.
TOEFL, MELAB, or IELTS scores For non-native speakers of English only. Must be received by Nov. 1 for EA or Feb. 1 for RD.
Ross admissions portfolio For students applying to Ross Business School. Due by Nov. 1 for EA or Feb. 1 for RD.
Artistic profile For students applying to SMTD. Due by Oct. 15 for November and December auditions or Dec. 1 for January and February auditions. SMTD does not participate in EA.
Portfolio For students applying to Stamps. Due by Nov. 1 for EA or Feb. 1 for RD.
Portfolio/Design assignment For students applying to Taubman. Due by Feb. 1. Taubman does not participate in EA.
Financial aid documents U-M must receive your FAFSA records by March 31. It is recommended that you complete these forms by March 1 to meet the deadline.

Next Steps

  • Apply Early Action: If you are passionate about the University of Michigan and you have your application components prepared, there is no disadvantage to applying Early Action. Unlike Early Decision programs, Early Action does not bind you to U-M, so you are free to apply to other schools. Applying EA will allow you to receive your admissions decision sooner, which may relieve some application season stress.
  • Talk to U-M Students and Faculty: University of Michigan students and faculty have a great amount of pride for their school. If possible, schedule a visit or tour of the campus. While there, ask students about their experiences and their favorite parts of U-M. Reach out to professors or student advisors in your area of interest and try to set up a time to speak. The more you learn, the more informed your application will be. 
  • Talk to Your College Counselor: Start building a relationship with your high school counselor as early as possible. If the University of Michigan has any questions about your application, they will turn to your counselor, so make sure they know you well and can advocate for you. Schedule a meeting with your counselor to talk about your interests and discuss whether the University of Michigan is right for you. 

The chances of being accepted to the University of Michigan are low, and the application process is difficult, so there is no one way to answer the question how to get into the University of Michigan. U-M values students who are not only academically gifted, but who are deeply engaged with their community. If you work hard and push the boundaries of what it means to be a good student, you may have a higher chance at getting accepted, so stick to it. Good luck and go blue!

General FAQ

What is the University of Michigan's acceptance rate?

The acceptance rate in 2019 was 23%.

What many students apply to the University of Michigan?

Over 65,000 students applied in 2019.

What is the average GPA of students accepted at the University of Michigan?

3.9 on a 4.0 scale.

What are the average ACT and SAT scores of students accepted at the University of Michigan?

The average ACT range is 32-35. The average SAT range is 1380-1540.

What are the University of Michigan's application deadlines?

The Early Action deadline is November 1. The Regular Decision deadline is February 1.

How difficult is it to get into the University of Michigan as an out-of-state student?

It is more difficult to get in as an out-of-state student than an in-state student. In 2018, the out-of-state acceptance rate was 18.9%, which was 4.1% lower than the overall acceptance rate.

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