College Application Advice from UM and MSU Admissions Officers

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:

College application advice from University of Michigan Interim Director of Admission Erica SandersThis 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. 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 ]

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