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Michigan State University Application Essay Examples

Thinking of either the University of Michigan or Michigan State as an option for college?  Read on.  Despite the fact that I call Ann Arbor home (and for complete disclosure, I have a BA and MSW from the University of Michigan,) I am also a fan of Michigan State as an excellent option for college.  For example, recently I tried some delicious chocolate by a company named Bon Bon Bon, made in Hamtramack by Michigan State graduate Alexandra Clark.  It’s not just amazing or disastrous football games (depending on your view) that brings University of Michigan and Michigan State together.  Alexandra has brought her Michigan State skills to Ann Arbor, selling her brilliantly packaged goodies at the site of the old Jerusalem Garden restaurant on 5th Avenue.

With that sweet beginning, let’s move on to another way that University of Michigan and Michigan State might get together:  in this article. Recently I interviewed Michigan State Director of Admissions Jim W. Cotter and University of Michigan Interim Director of Admissions Erica Sanders, to learn the answer to some questions high school seniors and their parents might be asking right now. Read on to find their college application advice.


  1. What are your most asked questions from parents?  

University of Michigan Interim Director of Admissions Erica Sanders:

This varies based upon the age of their student.  Earlier on in their career parents focus on summer programs and how to explore interests.  As their students move closer to senior year, emphasis on admissions criteria, financial aid/ scholarships and career services becomes a bigger influence.




Michigan State Director of Admissions Jim W. Cotter:

Jim Cotter, MSU.

Cost—they ask what is appropriate debt load and who should take debt on — student or parent? This has to be an individual discussion within a family—a family must have that discussion prior to enrollment. I personally think that the student needs to take some responsibility—even if the parent can pay for everything. Research has shown that a student who works during his or her freshmen year has a higher GPA.


  1. What are the biggest problems that students have when completing their application?  

University of Michigan: The essays continue to be the place where students struggle because it provides the most opportunity for self expression.

Michigan State: Students have a hard time grasping income and don’t understand first generation. Students take the personal essay seriously and I’m concerned about sanitizing the personal statement. We aren’t so concerned about the structure as much as what they bring to the table. We want to hear the student’s voice. The senior year is most important as a year of transition.

  1. Is it possible to be a 3.9 or 4.0 student and not get admitted to your school?  

University of Michigan: – Yes, challenge to the high school curriculum based upon what is available to the student is very much a strong influence.  In addition, preparation for the School or College to which the student has applied (e.g. the student is applying for engineering but has minimal math/science course work completed) and fit/ interest in the university overall are key as well.

Michigan State: Is it possible to be a 3.9 or 4.0 student and not get in? It would be hard for them not to. We ask criminal conduct and academic integrity questions, and those are integral. High grades are particularly important for the honors college and scholarships.

4  Any other deadlines to be aware of other than those below?

University of Michigan

Complete application and materials — postmarked by November 1 Early Action ONLY.  Please note, Architecture and Music, Theater And Dance do not offer the Early Action option.  Also, Test Scores MUST be received by November 1st, NOT ordered.
Early Action decision release — no later than December 24
Final equal consideration deadline — February 1  —DEC 1st for Music Theater and Dance

Michigan State

The year of college applications is like the four quarters of a football game:

Quarter 1: Aug. Sept. and Oct. — Prime time to apply

Quarter 2: Nov, Dec. and Jan. — Students should send in their FAFSA

Quarter 3: February, March and April — Decide where to attend

Quarter 4: May, June and July –Freshman orientation and transition to college

One more bit of college application advice: Remember, whether you Go Blue or Go Green, enjoy the opportunity to Go to College!

Related blog: How is a College Application Essay Different from a High School Essay?

Advice from Jim Cotter on MSU site: Information for Parents and Families

[Need more assistance with writing your story or your college application essay?  Would you like to work with an award-winning writer who helps businesses, authors and students tell their story in a compelling, meaningful way?  Write Debbie Merion:  debbie@essaycoaching.com ]



  1. Treat your statement like it matters.
    The personal statement is the one piece of your application that you have complete control over. You’re making all the decisions, from topic to formatting to tone, so take your time. Do your best work. Lots of applicants have similar (and even identical) credentials, and this is the chance to make yourself stand out. And this might sound obvious, but if there are guidelines/rules, follow them! Most schools don’t have specific requirements, but start by checking.
  2. Make it an interview.
    You have the opportunity to share information about yourself with the admissions committee that they otherwise wouldn’t know, so go beyond your credentials and your resume. Use the statement to communicate something about who you are (your values, goals, personality, or background) in a well-crafted essay.
  3. Stay on message.  
    Great statements center tightly around a single theme. You should consider everything that doesn’t relate to that theme a digression, and consider cutting it. It’s better to cover one subject in depth than to give a cursory treatment to a whole range of topics.
    Keep your statement short (under two double-spaced pages). If you’re tempted to go longer, remember that legal educators value clarity and concision in writing. The strongest personal statements aren’t usually the longest ones!
  4. Customize your statement.
    We get it, you’ll probably apply to multiple schools and you want to recycle your personal statement. But if you want your personal statement to communicate passion for a particular school, make it clear that you’ve done your homework. What makes this school stand out to you? What programs and opportunities does it offer? Does attending the school represent a long-term personal goal? Most students won’t take this extra step, so you’ll automatically stand out if you create a meaningful connection to the school.
  5.  Proofread, proofread, proofread.
    Your statement should demonstrate to admissions committees that you’re a strong writer, so your statement needs to be free of errors. Work with a trusted reviewer, and plan ahead so that you can revise, rethink, and rewrite. Proofread that statement over and over and over. Then one more time.


  • Don’t lean on quotes. We’re here to learn about you, not the founding fathers or Plato.
  • Humor is tricky. It’s hard to be appropriately funny for people you’ve never met, so be very careful.
  • Don’t get tricky with fonts, margins, etc. Simple and clean are best.
  • You’re not currently an expert on the law, so don’t dwell on legal philosophy or practice. .


  • Why does this specific law school interest you?
  • Why do you wish to earn a law degree?
  • What personal qualities do you possess that will allow you to become an outstanding law student (or attorney)?
  • What are your professional goals?
  • Describe a personal experience that represents your best qualities.
  • Describe a hardship that you overcame.
  • Describe an experience that taught you something about yourself.


I find that applicants often don’t fully appreciate the importance of the personal statement. In my experience, investing time and effort crafting a powerful personal statement will make you a more competitive applicant. Above all, your personal statement should represent who you are in your best, most-polished writing.

Spend some time making a plan before you start writing. Once you’ve chosen a topic, it’s time to create an outline and prioritize the points you plan to cover in your personal statement. If the schools you’re applying to require you to write about particular topics, tailor your statement accordingly.

Good personal statements don’t happen in an hour. It’s the work of numerous drafts, thoughtful evaluation, and careful editing. Start your first draft in the middle of the summer, so you have plenty of time to revise (and start over, if necessary).

Once you have an edited first draft, ask strong writers to critique the content and style. Give your reviewers plenty of time to return thoughtful comments. Don’t get too attached to your first draft; you should be willing to make substantive edits and change your direction to create your best possible work.

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