University of michigan's essay... optional essay?

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: University of michigan's essay... optional essay?
By Stuckat410 (Stuckat410) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 04:54 pm: Edit

"Two short answer essay questions (250 words or less) and one extended essay question (500 words or less) will be required as part of the application process. Each answer should be written on a separate sheet of paper clearly labeled with the student's name, social security number, the school or college to which the student is applying, and the text of the question to which the student is answering. Students may also choose to attach another optional essay telling us anything about themselves that they feel is missing from the application. The student's name, social security number, and "Optional Essay" should be put on the top of the page "

Is this "Optional essay" recommended? They mention it, but I'm not sure if it would be better to send one or not. Because you know how some colleges "recommend" taking SATII's... which means you should probably take it? Are the optional essays the same?


By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 05:18 pm: Edit

My daughter is currently working on the UMichigan application as well. I know about the two 250 word essays (one is particular to whichever school you apply to at UMich) and the 500 word essay on a choice of three topics. I do not see where you found the optional essay you posted about. Hmm, I am not sure my D knows about that. I just looked at the print out she has of the app and I don't see it. She is not home but I know she wrote a master list of all the essays for her 8 schools and that was not on her list.

I can give you a general comment, however. When a school lists something as optional, why not do it? You have all to gain, nothing to lose. Why not put forth every effort you can? That is my point of view. When my older child applied to Tufts, there was an optional essay on top of the two required ones she had written. This optional essay topic was one she could not use for any other school, but she did it anyway. She would not have skipped anything that was "recommended" or optional. Like you say, same with the SAT2s, if they say recommended, do it.

My D who is currently applying to schools is planning on including a supplemental "statement" with all her apps addressing why she is choosing to graduate high school a year early, as it is sort of a "special circumstances" type situation that might be good to give a personal statement regarding. I think one of her schools even suggested that when I called to ask if they accepted students who graduated early from high school. I think when you have something different like that, including a supplemental statement is a good idea. I realize that is not the same as you are asking, nor did my older D have to have that. But again, she did include anything optional or recommended.

Let me know where you saw that on the Michigan app if you are willing.


By Garland (Garland) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 05:52 pm: Edit

Last year, they had an optional essay which was basically a "is there anything else whe should know?" essay. There wasn't, son didn't write it, and did get accepted. He put a LOT of work into the other essays, especially the 500 word one which basically asked him to riff on the relationship between science and art--one of the best pieces of writing he ever did.

Soozie--I thnk your D's circumstances, graduating early, would be tailor made for the "anything else" question.

By Stuckat410 (Stuckat410) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 06:03 pm: Edit

I found the thing about the optional essay on their website...

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 06:13 pm: Edit

Garland, for that 500 word essay, my D also is choosing the one about the relationship between art and science. So far, she has written the two 250 word ones. While I did not see the optional essay, I only have the printout my D has but will check it out now that you guys mentioned it, thanks! But even without that, she was going to do a supplemental statement regarding graduating early to all 8 schools, optional essay or not. Since you say Mich has this "optional, anything else?" essay, this supplemental statement could fit into that, as you say, Garland. So thank you.


By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 10:24 pm: Edit

Garland, um, I take back what I said about the science/art essay! That was her plan and I thought that was what she was writing this evening but now that she just finished a draft, she tells me she did not do that topic at all, but did the one about a setback you faced. When we first looked at the topic choices, she had said of that one, that she had never really faced many setbacks, so opted against that choice.

Now, she tells me she decided to write on it and said that I could see the essay on her screen but that was it for tonight as she has to call her boyfriend (who lives seven hours from us) before she has to go to bed. So, I went to read the screen just now and I have tears on my face! It is all about the effect on her of her sister having left for college and how it has hit her now. She happens to be an excellent writer, quite creative and the ideas flow for her. But whoa, it was hard for me to read, even if she was humorous at times (she is a funny person) but still. So much for my telling you what essay she was gonna write!


By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 11:00 pm: Edit

My S used for optional why he was applying a year early. He also chose the set-back theme. He wrote about losing both his grandparents in past year. I cried, and had NO objectivity about the writing (practically none). Since it was due ASAP, we read to my cousin. She cried, so again, we could only resonate to the theme, not the impression that S was making on the school committees. Now that I've been reading CC, I realize should never have focussed on death, and said more about GM than him. oh well
Writing about sister going to college is fine, definitely not the death, divorce, depression/bipolar/eating disorder theme. Also bodes well for why she's ready to start college a year early

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 11:12 pm: Edit

Bookworm, I know about the death topic as being discouraged. Last year, for the Princeton app, my older daughter had to write five essays, four 250 ones, one 500 one. One of the shorter ones had to do with someone who influenced you or something like that. My D did write about her grandfather (my dad) who had died a couple weeks prior to writing this essay. But her essay was not what I would call a "death" essay. It was about his influence or inspiration or messages he gave her and could have been written even if he had not died. She did not talk about the death. I believe in passing in one of the sentences near the end, she did refer to the last thing he had told her (thus revealing that he had just died), but it was more about the message, than about a death. So, I would not have called it a death essay but one about a family member. Even so, given that my dad had JUST died, I cried when I read it and it was hard to talk to her about it when I reviewed it but it was a very meaningful essay which I did send to my mom.

This essay about the sister leaving her to go to college is nothing I ever dreamt she would write about but I guess it has affected her. Actually, the essay reveals how she did not react much about it when it was happening but now that she is gone, she has. While it is poignant, there are humorous elements (she is a bit of a comic type person).

Ok, tissue time is over now.


By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 11:43 pm: Edit

Just re-read, and still get misty. Thank goodness his other essays had humor. I never did get to read his Japanese style poem, but it got his acceptance. I think he wrote his essays in an hour or two each; usually they came in an outburst. Your D's sounds the same, and I'm sure it shows her heart, which is what I truly think will set her apart from others.

By Neparent (Neparent) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 11:03 pm: Edit

After reading here about the optional essay, I looked and could not find it. I called the Michigan admissions office and contacted them on line via live help. According to both respondents, there is NO OPTIONAL ESSAY on the application for 2005-2006 admission.

Last year there was an optional essay but it was dropped this year. Apparently, it caused lots of confusion as many applicants thought it was mandatory.

Applicants can add an optional essay if they like, but there is no mention of it this year.

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 11:26 pm: Edit

Neparent, why thank you very much for posting that. I did think I was a bit nuts as my D had printed out the application from the internet (still waiting for the hard copy to arrive from UMich), and I saw nothing about the optional essay!

In any case, as I may have mentioned earlier, my daughter will be adding supplemental essay/statement with all her apps addressing why she is graduating early (like yours did Bookworm). Today my daughter brought home her GC's report for applications and it reminds me of last year with my other daughter when I read what he (or others) had to say about my child. It is very moving to read when others think well of your children, because of course as parents, we all do, but when I read the kinds of things he wrote, I tear up. She had given him a cover letter (though he knows her quite well, has been her GC since seventh grade and just has a close relationship and interest in her), he forgot to address her graduating early thing, and I think she will mention that to him (was in her cover letter) as it is good to have someone from school speak to that (how she did it) and her readiness to take on college, etc. It is almost hard to ask given how appreciative we are of his lovely letter. I know he will add that if asked though.

Bookworm, was just reading over the essay about her realization of the loss of her sister to college and that has me weepy as well. I think when she has it in final form, I want her sister to read it. She did not have any emotional reaction when they said good-bye that morning before school, and the flood of emotions hit later. Would love to have her sister know just what she really has felt.

Yes, Bookworm, this younger child is like your son. The ideas flow very very easily when she writes, plus she writes creatively and it has always been her forte. If she were not a performer, I could so much see her as a writer. But anyway, the older one wrote very good college essays too but it took her way longer to get the ideas out. This one just pours out a good draft the first time around. However, on this most recent essay about the setback (sister leaving one), it is too long and she now is grappling with cutting it. I recall the older one having to cut and while the process took time, I really think they got a lot out of having the word limit and having to really think about what words were necessary or not. I recall four years ago, when my younger one won a state wide writing contest, that was the first (and only time) she ever had a word limit and I recall that time as well, that the story flowed right out, and was great but the challenge was having to shorten it to the 600 word limit. And so, here we go again with that. They never want to cut it and after a while, run out of places to do it and it becomes a real challenge but a great exercise and inevitably the essay is tighter at the end. I do agree with her, however, that the 250 word essays are difficult to get to really say much on anything but still those seem to have come together. Then again, even when these are finalized, the Mich app involves a bunch of things submitted to the Music School itself. Ah, and this is JUST the first one. Then after all 8 are done, she has an entirely additional admissions process of the auditions, so she is simulataneously preparing all that material, not just essays. It will get done, I keep telling myself, as I did last year and now that kid is actually AT college, hard to believe.


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