‘U’ adds continued interest essay for freshman applicants

Tuesday, January 14, 2020 - 2:36pm

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Design by Lizzy Rueppel

First-year applicants to the University of Michigan now have the option to submit an additional essay separate from the three required as part of the application.

The Daily obtained a screenshot of the webpage informing applicants of the essay from a high school senior who was deferred and requested anonymity due to concern for her application status.

The page notes the essay form is the only expression of continued interest the University will consider. Any other communications from students outside of the form — with the exception of recent grades — will not be added to their application.

The form asks students, in 250 words or less, to “describe how your personal educational goals connect to the University of Michigan’s mission and values.”

In an email to The Daily, Erica Sanders, Office of Undergraduate Admissions director, wrote that this form replaces all other forms of continued interest. Some students have previously submitted a “letter of continued interest,” a mechanism often recommended by school counselors or in online discussion boards such as College Confidential to show ongoing interest after being deferred in early admission rounds.

For postponed early action applicants, the preferred deadline for this form is Feb. 1 and for regular decision applicants, the deadline is March 1. Sanders said applicants can complete at their discretion. It is available to students who applied early action and received a postponed decision or who applied regular decision, Sanders said. 

“For some, the Early Action application deadline approaches much sooner than anticipated and an opportunity to submit additional information now that the rush of the fall season has quieted would be welcomed,” Sanders wrote. “This short answer response offers the opportunity to provide an update to the initial application submission.”

According to the webpage, the decision to not consider other information from applicants is due to the high volume of applications. Nationally, the University ranked 10th for the number of freshman applicants, with 64,917 applications for this year’s freshman class. Approximately 23 percent of applicants were admitted.

A second deferred student, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the practice of sending a letter of continued interest, which was largely an unspoken method for showing commitment, was a way to distinguish themselves from the rest of the applicant pool. Because it is now a form available to all applicants, the student feels they may have lost an edge they previously would have had with sending the letter.

“I know some people are annoyed because this is another essay and it’s extra work when they’ve already put so much into the application, but to me, for someone who sees this as their top school, it’s more of another opportunity for me to show them I’m committed,” the applicant said. “It’s an opportunity that I’m grateful for, but I do think it’s interesting that it’s not this under-the-radar thing that it was in the past.”

The student said the change from a letter to an essay removed some of the individuality. She also noted the possibility for overlap with the 500-word application essay, which asks students to “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” and how the curriculum supports the applicant’s interests.

The student was also frustrated with the language of the form, which says additional communication will not be considered. However, after talking with teachers, the student said she is still considering sending in additional information, such as an extra letter of recommendation.

Sanders wrote that the change levels the playing field for applicants because it provides guidance for what the University would like to see. Previously, there would be a large variation in what the admissions staff received from applicants, so this change provides more information about what they will and will not consider.

“Historically, our Early Action applicants who are not admitted in Early Action, as well as some Regular Decision applicants, have attempted to provide further information about themselves after their application is submitted, and we did not provide standard guidance regarding how to do so,” Sanders wrote. “The quantity and quality of the information submitted varied greatly and follow-up with students was inefficient and cumbersome. This additional short answer response allows for an equitable experience for all applicants who desire to send additional information after their application is completed, and provides guidance for the submission of that information.”

Christopher Kasper, a school counselor at Ann Arbor Pioneer High School, is grateful for this clarity. He said students in previous years were unsure of what to do after receiving a postponed decision from the University. He said this form gives applicants more information on the next steps they can take.

“What it does is it helps guide and direct students to know what their next step is and to know that they have this opportunity,” Kasper said. “I think students appreciate the opportunity and the clarity and are more than willing and enthusiastic about the additional short essay.”