It's not easy to be personal when you get 24,000 applications to review. But that's what University of Michigan does. Applicants have to write multiple essays. You've got to get letters of recommendation. You've got to compose a profane song about why Michigan will beat the snot out of Ohio State next year (yeah, I made that last one up).
Grades and test scores still drive the process, but it's clear that Michigan is taking the time to evaluate more than just your numbers; they're going to give you a thoughtful and thorough review. It's important that you be just as thoughtful and thorough when you complete your application, so here are a few tips.
Speaking of tips, read Michigan's.
Michigan gives away some good advice about how to write your essays. In particular, pay close attention to the "What we're looking for" section. It's got great advice like, "Remember that athletics can be a reason, but should not be the only reason you want to come to Ann Arbor!"
How to approach the short-answer question
Michigan asks that you provide a 250 word response to the following prompt:
“We know that diversity makes us a better university – better for learning, for teaching, and for conducting research.” (U-M President Mary Sue Coleman)
"Share an experience through which you have gained respect for intellectual, social, or cultural differences. Comment on how your personal experiences and achievements would contribute to the diversity of the University of Michigan."
To answer this prompt, you've got to do three things:
1) Appreciate how and why differences can make experiences more fulfilling for those involved.