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Posted on Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

University of Michigan admissions director talks about dos-and-don'ts of applying to college on Today Show

By Kellie Woodhouse

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If you watched The Today Show Friday morning, you might have heard a familiar theme: the University of Michigan fight song.

Undergraduate admissions director Ted Spencer was on the morning program at around 8:36 a.m., talking about the dos-and-don'ts of the college application process with fellow admissions officials from Johns Hopkins University and Vanderbilt University.

U-M's early application decision deadline is Nov. 1, compared to Feb. 1, 2013 for typical applications.

When show host Savannah Guthrie asked about the importance of SAT and ACT scores in an application, Spencer responded: "It complements the transcript. In other words, it is a part of the whole many factors that we look at."


Ted Spencer on The Today Show Friday.

Guthrie also asked about over-involvement in extracurricular activities, to which Spencer said: "It's the persistence, it's the passion, its the leadership, it's the reasons why they're joining that's more important than the laundry list."

Spencer said that over-eager parents have not only tried to write their child's application, but sometimes the parents even sign it themselves.

Here are a few excerpts from the show:

Guthrie: Can you tell when [an essay] has been over-edited and adults have even written it?

Spencer: It feels a little bit more packaged. It's not about the student so much when someone else is writing it; we don't hear their voice, we don't understand what makes them tick, and that's what we're looking for.

Guthrie: Can you forgive something that's a little less than polished if you feel that it's authentic?

Spencer: I think you can... it's an individual review. You look at everything and you say, 'Where does this fit in the whole package of the application?'


Guthrie: Tammy from Virginia wants to know 'How would you feel about a candidate submitting a home video of themselves with their application?'

Spencer: We had a situation like that at the University of Michigan last year. We admitted this wonderful person who submitted a home video about why he wanted to come to Michigan. He used the Michael Jackson thing 'Give Me One More Chance.'

He got in, but let me just say this: We receive tons of things like that every year. We don't admit people based on those kinds of things. If you stand out, if it really makes a difference, it may be considered. Most cases it doesn't matter.

Spencer recently spoke to about a record-year for enrollment at the Ann Arbor school and an increasing number of out-of-state students enrolling in the freshman class.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Sat, Oct 27, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

Step One: Do not check the box next to "Male" Step Two: Do not check the box next to "Caucasian" Step Three: Do not check the box next to "U.S. Citizen"

Amanda Gallaher

Sat, Oct 27, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

It's illegal to consider race so counselors don't, and only around 5% of UM students are international students. It's actually far more difficult to get into UM as an international student.


Sat, Oct 27, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

Yeh it is a pretty big struggle for white males nowadays.....


Sat, Oct 27, 2012 : 2:41 a.m.

He should have said: Apply to a community college for your first two years, work hard, get good grades (pay a lot less!) then transfer to the university you want to get your degree from (the name can help in the job market) and spend the last two years paying the astronomical fees of that university.

Kai Petainen

Sat, Oct 27, 2012 : 1:20 a.m.

cool stuff!


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 10:20 p.m.

Actually, it condiments the application. But for football players it condements the process (that's a lot spicier). That being said, I am pleasantly surmised of the U of M admission process. His statements are very well thought out and explain many of the fine qualities of U of M graduates I have come to know over many years.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sat, Oct 27, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

Thanks! lol


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 9:59 p.m.

sounds like some people are still bitter they were not admitted, just sayin........


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 7:33 p.m.

"It compliments the transcript. In other words, it is a part of the whole many factors that we look at." Complements.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sat, Oct 27, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

Spell Check loves both equally. Now we need one that points out that it is not the appropriate word for the sentence. Well, we sorta due.

Kellie Woodhouse

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 8:52 p.m.

Those slip-ups do, unfortunately, make it in sometimes. Sorry. It is fixed now.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

PS to the downvoters out there - the reporter covers the "higher education" beat. But ya, I'm the jerk.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 6:57 p.m.

Just for experimentation. Submit two packets, one from your house in Paw Paw, and one from an address at your aunt's place in say, New York. See which one gets a response first and if they catch your Paw Paw transcripts...


Sat, Oct 27, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.

AngryModerate - The phrase "all else being equal" means something very specific, which is why I chose to include it.. Thank you for pointing out a situation where "something wasn't equal."

Billy Bob Schwartz

Sat, Oct 27, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

I think Charlie Maxwell (former Tiger) went to Western. He was from Paw Paw. In fact, that was one of his nicknames.


Sat, Oct 27, 2012 : 11:51 a.m.

What a funny coincidence. I grew up in Paw Paw, went there K-12. I graduated high school in 1980. I graduated from U-M with a BA in 1986. I also have an aunt on Long Island, NY. How do you know so much about my life, lol?

Angry Moderate

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 10:13 p.m.

GoNavy - that is only true if less than 60% of undergraduate APPLICATIONS are in-state.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

As written, Just for experimentation GoNavy, to check "all else being equal". Kicking myself, should have used Climax, Michigan vice Paw Paw.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 7:35 p.m.

60% of undergraduate admissions are from in-state, statistically speaking, the Paw Paw application is more likely to get a response, all else being equal.