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Why Michigan Essay Sample

When I was 16, I lived with the Watkins family in Wichita, Kansas. Mrs. Watkins was the coordinator of the foreign exchange student program I was enrolled in. She had a nine year old son named Cody. I would babysit Cody every day after school for at least two to three hours. We would play Scrabble or he would read to me from Charlotte’s Web or The Ugly Duckling. He would talk a lot about his friends and school life, and I would listen to him and ask him the meanings of certain words. He was my first friend in the New World.

My second family was the Martinez family, who were friends of the Watkins’s. The host dad Michael was a high school English teacher and the host mom Jennifer (who had me call her “Jen”) taught elementary school. She had recently delivered a baby, so she was still in the hospital when I moved into their house. The Martinez family did almost everything together. We made pizza together, watched Shrek on their cozy couch together, and went fishing on Sunday together. On rainy days, Michael, Jen and I would sit on the porch and listen to the rain, talking about our dreams and thoughts. Within two months I was calling them mom and dad.

After I finished the exchange student program, I had the option of returning to Korea but I decided to stay in America. I wanted to see new places and meet different people. Since I wasn’t an exchange student anymore, I had the freedom--and burden--of finding a new school and host family on my own. After a few days of thorough investigation, I found the Struiksma family in California. They were a unique group.

The host mom Shellie was a single mom who had two of her own sons and two Russian daughters that she had adopted. The kids always had something warm to eat, and were always on their best behavior at home and in school. It would be fair to say that this was all due to Shellie’s upbringing. My room was on the first floor, right in front of Shellie’s hair salon, a small business that she ran out of her home. In the living room were six or seven huge amplifiers and a gigantic chandelier hung from the high ceiling. The kitchen had a bar. At first, the non-stop visits from strangers made me nervous, but soon I got used to them. I remember one night, a couple barged into my room while I was sleeping. It was awkward.

After a few months I realized we weren’t the best fit. In the nicest way possible, I told them I had to leave. They understood.

The Ortiz family was my fourth family. Kimberly, the host mom, treated me the same way she treated her own son. She made me do chores: I fixed dinner, fed their two dogs Sassy and Lady, and once a week I cleaned the bathroom. I also had to follow some rules: No food in my room, no using the family computer, no lights on after midnight, and no ride unless it was an emergency. The first couple of months were really hard to get used to, but eventually I adjusted.

I lived with the Ortiz family for seven months like a monk in the deep forest. However, the host dad Greg’s asthma got worse after winter, so he wanted to move to the countryside. It was unexpected and I only had a week to find a new host family. I asked my friend Danielle if I could live with her until I found a new home. That’s how I met the Dirksen family, my fifth family.

The Dirksen family had three kids. They were all different. Danielle liked bitter black coffee, Christian liked energy drinks, and Becca liked sweet lemon tea. Dawn, the host mom didn’t like winter, and Mark, the host dad, didn’t like summer. After dinner, we would all play Wii Sports together. I was the king of bowling, and Dawn was the queen of tennis. I don’t remember a single time that they argued about the games. Afterward, we would gather in the living room and Danielle would play the piano while the rest of us sang hymns.

Of course, those 28 months were too short to fully understand all five families, but I learned from and was shaped by each of them. By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone; the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family; the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children; Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities.

Getting along with other people is necessary for anyone and living with five families has made me more sensitive to others’ needs: I have learned how to recognize when someone needs to talk, when I should give advice and when to simply listen, and when someone needs to be left alone; in the process, I have become much more adaptable. I’m ready to change, learn, and be shaped by my future families.

ANALYSIS OF THE "FIVE FAMILIES" ESSAY

Remember that movie “The Sixth Sense”?

I won't ruin it for you, but I will tell you that there’s a moment toward the end when a crucial piece of information is revealed that triggers in the mind of the audience a series of realizations that have been leading up to this Big Revelation.

That’s kind of what this writer does: he buries a series of hints (one in each paragraph) that he “explodes” in the final paragraph. In short:

  1. He buries a series of essence images in his first paragraphs (one per family).
  2. He doesn’t tell us what they mean until the end of the essay, when he writes “I learned and was shaped by each of them.” Note that each essence image is actually a lesson--something he learned from each family.
  3. When he reveals each lesson at the end, one after the other, we sense how all these seemingly random events are connected. We realize this writer has been carefully constructing this piece all along; we see the underlying structure. And it’s a pretty neat one.

Also note:

  • Each of the first five paragraphs works to SHOW. (He waits to TELL us what they mean ‘til that second to last paragraph.)
  • See how distinct each family is? He does this through specific images and objects.
  • The second to last paragraph answers the “So what?” question. (Q: Why did he just show us all these details? A: To demonstrate what each family has taught him.)
  • He also goes one step further. He answers the “So what?” question once more in the final paragraph. (Q: So what am I going to do with all these lessons? A: I’m going to use them to adapt to my next family--in college.)
  • The beauty of this is that he’s demonstrating (showing not telling) that he has an extremely valuable quality that will be useful for doing well at any college: adaptability.

TIP: And that’s one more way to write your essay. Identify your single greatest strength (in this case, it was his ability to adapt to whatever life gave him). Ask: how did I learn this? How can I SHOW that I’m good at this?

Here are all the “Show” and “Tell” moments clearly marked:

When I was 16, I lived with the Watkins family in Wichita, Kansas. Mrs. Watkins was the coordinator of the foreign exchange student program I was enrolled in. She had a nine year old son named Cody. I would babysit Cody every day after school for at least two to three hours. We would play Scrabble or he would read to me from Charlotte’s Web or The Ugly Duckling. He would talk a lot about his friends and school life, and I would listen to him and ask him the meanings of certain words. He was my first friend in the New World.

Show 1: "By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone."

My second family was the Martinez family, who were friends of the Watkins’s. The host dad Michael was a high school English teacher and the host mom Jennifer (who had me call her “Jen”) taught elementary school. She had recently delivered a baby, so she was still in the hospital when I moved into their house. The Martinez family did almost everything together. We made pizza together, watched Shrek on their cozy couch together, and went fishing on Sunday together. On rainy days, Michael, Jen and I would sit on the porch and listen to the rain, talking about our dreams and thoughts. Within two months I was calling them mom and dad.

Show 2: "the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family" (implication: he doesn't have this with his own family)

After I finished the exchange student program, I had the option of returning to Korea but I decided to stay in America. I wanted to see new places and meet different people. Since I wasn’t an exchange student anymore, I had the freedom--and burden--of finding a new school and host family on my own. After a few days of thorough investigation, I found the Struiksma family in California. They were a unique group.

The host mom Shellie was a single mom who had two of her own sons and two Russian daughters that she had adopted. The kids always had something warm to eat, and were always on their best behavior at home and in school. It would be fair to say that this was all due to Shellie’s upbringing. My room was on the first floor, right in front of Shellie’s hair salon, a small business that she ran out of her home. In the living room were six or seven huge amplifiers and a gigantic chandelier hung from the high ceiling. The kitchen had a bar. At first, the non-stop visits from strangers made me nervous, but soon I got used to them. I remember one night, a couple barged into my room while I was sleeping. It was awkward.

Show 3: "the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children."

After a few months I realized we weren’t the best fit. In the nicest way possible, I told them I had to leave. They understood.

The Ortiz family was my fourth family. Kimberly, the host mom, treated me the same way she treated her own son. She made me do chores: I fixed dinner, fed their two dogs Sassy and Lady, and once a week I cleaned the bathroom. I also had to follow some rules: No food in my room, no using the family computer, no lights on after midnight, and no ride unless it was an emergency. The first couple of months were really hard to get used to, but eventually I adjusted.

I lived with the Ortiz family for seven months like a monk in the deep forest. However, the host dad Greg’s asthma got worse after winter, so he wanted to move to the countryside. It was unexpected and I only had a week to find a new host family. I asked my friend Danielle if I could live with her until I found a new home. That’s how I met the Dirksen family, my fifth family.

Show 4: "Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline."

The Dirksen family had three kids. They were all different. Danielle liked bitter black coffee, Christian liked energy drinks, and Becca liked sweet lemon tea. Dawn, the host mom didn’t like winter, and Mark, the host dad, didn’t like summer. After dinner, we would all play Wii Sports together. I was the king of bowling, and Dawn was the queen of tennis. I don’t remember a single time that they argued about the games. Afterward, we would gather in the living room and Danielle would play the piano while the rest of us sang hymns.

Show 5: "and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities."

Of course, those 28 months were too short to fully understand all five families, but I learned from and was shaped by each of them. By teaching me English, nine year-old Cody taught me the importance of being able to learn from anyone; the Martinez family showed me the value of spending time together as a family; the Struiksma family taught me to reserve judgment about divorced women and adopted children; Mrs. Ortiz taught me the value of discipline and the Dirksen family taught me the importance of appreciating one another’s different qualities.

The "Tell" / "So What"

Getting along with other people is necessary for anyone and living with five families has made me more sensitive to others’ needs: I have learned how to recognize when someone needs to talk, when I should give advice and when to simply listen, and when someone needs to be left alone; in the process, I have become much more adaptable. I’m ready to change, learn, and be shaped by my future families.

Of all the supplemental college essays out there, the “Why Us?” essay is the most difficult to master, especially when you have to write one for each school on your college list. So, how do you convince admissions officers at each college you belong there, while staying true to yourself?
 
With AdmitSee’s database of successful application files we will show you essay examples that address key elements every “Why Us” supplemental essay should include.

1. Example with a UMich Essay Excerpt

It’s essential to talk about the school you’re applying to. After all, you are answering the question “Why Us”? What makes this specific school you’re applying to stand out from others?

  • Talk about your academic interests and how the school you’re applying can help you explore that
  • Be specific about the academic programs at the university
  • Are these academic programs unique? Are they the best? If there’s other schools have this program, why theirs?

 
“Throughout high school, I discovered that I enjoy a variety of subjects; therefore, I am entering Michigan with an undeclared major. However, I am not exactly undecided; rather, I am multi-interested. I love the areas of mathematics and statistics, yet the economy and government fascinates me as well. Still, the field of art history beckons me, and luckily the University of Michigan has enough museums to pursue endless hours of thorough art appreciation. Thankfully, LSA allows me to explore a plethora of majors found in the various colleges of the University of Michigan. With forty top ten programs, no matter what major I ultimately chose, I can feel assured that I will be working with the most talented and experienced faculty. In addition, University of Michigan’s research program, one of the best in the United States, will allow me to make discoveries and contributions as an undergraduate student. The University of Michigan is the ideal school for me, and has been my number one since I first saw the maize and blue uniforms take Michigan Stadium by storm.” – MichiganMath, ‘19
 
In this excerpt, the author starts by talking her interests in a number of fields, thereby leading her to show off her knowledge about UMich’s academic programs. She is concise about how each of her interest can be furthered by the opportunities that University of Michigan can offer her if she’s accepted. In a paragraph, she demonstrated how her interests and resources at UMich are an ideal match without simply regurgitating informative facts about UMich.

2. Example with a Barnard Essay Excerpt

 
Don’t forget this is a part of your college application! Every supplement you send in should provide another perspective of who you are.
 

  • This is another opportunity for you to highlight something about yourself that you weren’t able to in our common app personal statement
  • What other information about yourself will help paint a full picture of who you are in your application?

 
“Not only is NYC an incredibly diverse place, but Barnard is as well. The unique backgrounds of its community members create a compelling dynamic in and out of the classroom. I grew up in a half French and half Chinese household, which gave me a very different perspective than a lot of my peers. My father grew up in France, then immigrated to San Francisco after living in the Congo. My mother grew up in China, then immigrated to Wisconsin after living in Nigeria. Throughout my childhood, I was lucky enough to be able to learn multiple points of views from my parents because of their unique backgrounds, leading to a fascinating upbringing which I believe Barnard students possess as well.” –ccg32, ‘19
 
The author of this excerpt draws a parallel between the diverse background of NYC and her own. She uses this opportunity to share how incredibly diverse her family background is and what that has done for her. In fact, she’s able to share this intimate detail to connect to the community of Barnard students, again pointing out she’s an ideal prospective student.
 

3. Examples with NYU Excerpt

 
Finally, think about this supplemental essay as a way to express how compatible you are with the college you are applying to.
 

  • You can talk about university programs in relation to your interests, but you can also connect it to something about you.
  • This is how you connect point 1 + 2

 
“Never have I encountered an atmosphere so invigorating and so impassioned as I found during my visit to NYU. It is this passion that unites the urban campus and forms a profound sense of unity within its diversity. I could want nothing more than to one day call myself a part of this motivational community, building relationships with people who share my passion for helping others and who will both value my talents as well as challenge me to grow. As a student at NYU, I could continue my tutoring and mentoring work through the university’s America Reads program or explore my love for travelling while providing invaluable aid as a part of the unique option for alternative breaks. Regardless of what path I find myself taking as NYU opens my eyes to growth and change, I know that an education and an experience spent in such a special community is one that has the potential to change my life and make an everlasting impact.” – Katiedolci ‘19
 
Here you see the author use the university’s programs and unique offerings to demonstrate the author’s own interests and passion. She explicitly mentions programs that NYU offers to highlight the extracurriculars she’s been involved with. By doing so, she has also subtly emphasized her compassionate nature and desire to help others not only in the area she studies, but in her free time as well.
 
Want to see more successful examples? AdmitSee has the largest database of successful college application files to help you through the admission season. View full college essays in the context of the rest of their application to better understand how to craft the best version of yours.

About Frances Wong

A math major turned growth hacker, Frances has worked in PR and marketing in Hong Kong, New York and San Francisco. ​AdmitSee is her third edtech startup, coming from Course Hero and Purpella.​ Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. ​Fun Fact: ​Frances was a certified and licensed EMT during her time at Georgetown.


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