From UMich admissions director: stop with the lukewarm recommendation letters

Bryan Enochs, the Director of Admissions at the University of Michigan College of Engineering, talks to SocratesPost about exactly what applicants and their parents get right and wrong when vying for a spot in the nation’s top 6 engineering school.

It turns out that despite the pressure on teenagers to figure out their life paths before college, they don’t always have to know exactly what they want to do in or after college. The UMich Engineering admissions director, Bryan, tells us that some of the most compelling candidates have a liberal arts or science background, but little engineering experience.

Exclusive Insider Interview: University Of Michigan, Director Of Admissions

SocratesPost: How do we encourage students at such a young age, 16 or 17, to figure out who they are and portray themselves in that way to college admissions committees?

Bryan at Michigan: Some of the best essays I’ve read have said ‘I’m really great at math and science but I absolutely have no idea what kind of engineering I want to pursue or whether I want to pursue a STEM field.’

It’s just one of those things where if you know what you want to do, go all in. Or if you don’t know, go all in as well. Just talk about what we can do for you and what you would take advantage of. Some of them may sound more like an LS&A [literature, sciences, and arts] student but you’re being completely honest and transparent to us. You want to go into engineering and see how it feels, but you have some liberal arts and sciences within you and that’s a compelling applicant in my eyes because it shows that they’re multifaceted.

SocratesPost: What is something most applicants get wrong when they apply to Michigan Engineering? What do you wish they knew?

Bryan at Michigan: When it comes to the letter of recommendation, it’s surprising how many lukewarm letters of recommendation that we receive. We want to see something that really speaks to the character of the student, whether it’s their commitment to studying or helping other students that may not necessarily be keeping up with the rest of the classroom, something that shows the character inside of the classroom that translates to what they would do outside of the classroom as well. It’s not as if they can just come to the University of Michigan, work for a great GPA, and expect a job. These employers know that they’re smart but they need to know that these students are also social and can change gears once they’re outside of the classroom.
SOCRATES TIP: If your teacher hesitates when you ask for a Letter of Recommendation before saying “yes,” it may be a good sign you picked the wrong recommender. When teachers jump at the opportunity to write student recommendations, it’s because they are excited to share their positive observations, experiences, and feedback of said student. If not, they’re likely wondering how to wiggle out of the request without sounding too mean. Worse, they’re preparing to write you a lukewarm letter of recommendation saying nothing spectacular or horrendous about you — which is exactly what admission committees are sick of seeing.

SocratesPost: Bryan, what can you tell Socrates Post about your experience with applicant essays?

Continue to our exclusive interview with UMich Engineering’s Director of Admission →
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SocratesPost: How does an applicant really stand out among the competition when everyone else is pretty close to perfect?

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