A Visit to the University of Michigan

I feel that it’s important to add a brief disclaimer to this summary of my recent visit to the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor campus).  That is to say that, as a lifelong resident of the state of Michigan and therefore one who is quite familiar with the intensity that accompanies residing in a state that plays home to two Big Ten football powerhouses, I feel it necessary to reveal that I was raised in a family that cheers for the Michigan State Spartans.  (In short, don’t bring up this visit with my dad!)

My trusty bumblebee rain boots were necessary for my tour at U of M!

There.  Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s move on to my quite enjoyable tour at the U of M:

I arrived at the Huetwell Visitors Center in the pouring rain for my campus tour with a minimum amount of parking fuss – which both surprised and impressed me, as I’m well-known for getting turned around by Ann Arbor’s one-way streets when I’m in the city visiting friends.  But, after parking with relative ease in the nearby Maynard Street parking structure, I quite easily navigated my way one block down to the visitors’ center, checked in, and then headed into the campus information session that preceded the tour.

What’s notable about U of M when you begin to look beyond the surface – past the noted football and swim programs, past the medical school and hospital, and past the famous school of engineering – is that, at its base, this is a highly academic institution that can be a tremendous fit for a wide variety of students who seek a challenging and rigorous environment for their college experience.

To that end, I was surprised to learn that, in a school of just over 27,000 undergraduate students, 80% of classes consist of 50 students or less.  This commitment to making a very large university smaller is one that can be particularly valuable for students interested in more academically or hands-on oriented programs, such as the school of kineseology or the newly-added college of architecture and urban planning, which has just been opened for freshman admission.  (It was previously only open to upper-class students.)

The university is also a part of the Common Application, which is geared toward a more holistic approach to admitting students than more generalized, school-specific applications that primarily take only grade point average and standardized test scores into account.  Thus, prospective U of M students get an opportunity not only to show what they’ve done in high school in terms of grades, scores, and activities, but also get to write three short essays explaining whythey want to become a part of the university – and eventually part of its extensive network of more than half a million living alumni.

The famous U of M law library looks straight out of the Ivy League!

On tour, I found myself in a group with two families from Michigan, as well as two students from California and a family from Illinois.  (One-third of U of M students come from outside of the state of Michigan and one of the larger out-of-state populations on campus is that of students from California.)  Our guide was actually a native of Ann Arbor, so she was able to inject some local flavor into the information she shared about her experiences as a university student.  The city of Ann Arbor and the university are, after all, inextricably joined and blend seamlessly into one another, so a student at the university instantly becomes a part of the community without consciously doing so.

The university’s campus is far too large and spread out to cover completely in one tour – even one that spans nearly two hours, as ours did! – but by visiting several of the libraries, a dormitory, the famed U of M union, and one of the primary undergraduate lecture halls, it was fairly easy to get a real feel for the sense of pride, community, and tradition that permeate every facet of the campus and its student body.  Indeed – even on a gray, damp day in southern Michigan, all of the students on my tour seemed excited at the possibility of challenging themselves to become a part of not only the U of M academic programs, but also to take the necessary steps to become a part of such a pride-filled community.  It was quite impressive to watch them transform in such a short period of time.

For equestrians, the University of Michigan equestrian team is a well-established group that rides a short 25 minute drive away from campus at Willowbrooke Farm in Plymouth.  The U of M team competes in hunt seat through the IHSA and has a strong show record in their region thanks to the coaching of Jennifer Blades.

Could a large school like the University of Michigan be a good fit for you?  Contact me and we’ll find out!

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