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University of Chicago Releases Controversial Sample Essay

The proud, the beautiful, the oddly explicit. The University of Chicago.

As reported by The New York Times, the dean of admissions at the University of Chicago was so smitten with an essay comparing the University to an elusive lover that he thought it would be a good idea to send it out to all of UChicago’s prospective applicants. All of them. As you might imagine, this did a lot more harm than good as hundreds of already-stressed applicants found out that the essay was nothing like theirs, or at all similar to what they had planned, and immediately assumed they had done something wrong. Many began to wonder if they should toss all their hard work and start new essays altogether.

It’s human nature to read something you’ve been told is successful and want to emulate it, but don’t read this sample essay – though the applicant has been accepted – as a model of what to do. Instead, think about what the essay dares to say about its author and take that as inspiration to be free and forceful in your writing.

The college essay ought to be a personal, expressive piece of work, not a regurgitation of the five-paragraph model you’ve been taught in high school. Look at the sample essay Chicago has released and think of it not as a model but as an invitation to be bold in your writing – to commit to a style and execute it the best way you know how, rather than mimicking something or writing the way you think you’re supposed to. This a prime example of how to stand out from what is an increasingly large pile of applications at the nation’s top schools.

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The University of Chicago

College Admissions

The University of Chicago has long been renowned for its provocative essay questions. We think of them as an opportunity for students to tell us about themselves, their tastes, and their ambitions. They can be approached with utter seriousness, complete fancy, or something in between.

Each year we email newly admitted and current College students and ask them for essay topics. We receive several hundred responses, many of which are eloquent, intriguing, or downright wacky.

As you can see from the attributions, the questions below were inspired by submissions from UChicago students and alumni.

2017-18 UChicago Supplement:

Required Question:

How does the University of Chicago, as you know it now, satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community, and future? Please address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to UChicago.

Extended Essay Questions:

(Required; Choose one)

Essay Option 1.

“The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.” – Joseph Joubert

Sometimes, people talk a lot about popular subjects to assure ‘victory’ in conversation or understanding, and leave behind topics of less popularity, but great personal or intellectual importance. What do you think is important but under-discussed?

Essay Option 2.

Due to a series of clerical errors, there is exactly one typo (an extra letter, a removed letter, or an altered letter) in the name of every department at the University of Chicago. Oops! Describe your new intended major. Why are you interested in it and what courses or areas of focus within it might you want to explore? Potential options include Commuter Science, Bromance Languages and Literatures, Pundamentals: Issues and Texts, Ant History. a full list of unmodified majors ready for your editor’s eye is available here:

-Inspired by Josh Kaufman, Class of 2018

Essay Option 3.

Earth. Fire. Wind. Water. Heart! Captain Planet supposes that the world is made up of these five elements. We’re familiar with the previously-noted set and with actual elements like hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon, but select and explain another small group of things (say, under five) that you believe compose our world.

-Inspired by Dani Plung, Class of 2017

Essay Option 4.

The late New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham once said “Fashion is the armor to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you could do away with it. It would be like doing away with civilization.” Tell us about your “armor.”

-Inspired by Adam Berger, Class of 2020

Essay Option 5.

Fans of the movie Sharknado say that they enjoy it because “it’s so bad, it’s good.” Certain automobile owners prefer classic cars because they “have more character.” And recently, vinyl record sales have skyrocketed because it is perceived that they have a warmer, fuller sound. Discuss something that you love not in spite of but rather due to its quirks or imperfections.

-Inspired by Alex Serbanescu, Class of 2021

Essay Option 6.

In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, pose your own question or choose one of our past prompts. Be original, creative, thought provoking. Draw on your best qualities as a writer, thinker, visionary, social critic, sage, citizen of the world, or future citizen of the University of Chicago; take a little risk, and have fun.

Why UChicago?

I came to UChicago because I wanted a world-class education in a diverse neighborhood with the natural amenities of a large city. Additionally, I came to learn how to think. Sure, learning a specific skill-set is also great, but the ability to think critically, I believe, will take me much farther.

Because of the University of Chicago.

. I now have a wide network of friends and colleagues around the world; an education that speaks volumes wherever I go; and a community (Chicago) that I love and cherish.

Supplemental College Essay Example One, University of Chicago

Dear Admissions Officer,

I pose to you the following question: Who is the most underrated superhero?

If you do not already have an answer, allow me to assist you. The following is a list of several superheroes, followed by their secret identities. Iron Man, Tony Stark. Batman, Bruce Wayne. Superman, Clark Kent. Hopefully those names sound familiar. Now, here is a tough one. The Flash, ….…?

First, let me begin by explaining the Flash’s powers. The Flash is what is known in the comic book mythos, as a speedster. Speedsters, quite simply, have the power of super speed. That is it; super speed. No more, no less. What is amazing about The Flash, however, is the infinite amount of applications such a simple power can have.

Based on physics alone, the Flash can do virtually anything. For instance, The Flash can be stronger than Superman himself. Force, which in comic books is often interchangeable with strength, is measured in the real world by multiplying a given mass by the acceleration of that mass. The Flash may have a constant mass, but thanks to his super speed, he can accelerate at near light speed. That means when he is running at top speed, The Flash is functionally the strongest superhero there is.

The Flash can also fly. To use a real-life example, airplanes fly by moving so fast that the air moves over the top of the wings at a lower pressure than the air moving under the wings, thereby creating lift. The reason airplanes can fly that way and humans cannot is because of the speed at which the airplane moves. Speed, however, is not an issue for The Flash. However silly it may be, the flash can run with his arms outstretched an achieve flight just like an airplane does. Or, for a more controlled flight, he can simultaneously spin each arm in a tight circle with his fists facing the ground, creating miniature tornadoes that could lift him up. 

How about the power of intangibility? Easy one. It is a well known comic book fact that the Flash can vibrate his body so quickly that his molecules can phase through any solid object. The Flash can also crack any lock by literally testing every single possible permutation of a combination in just a few seconds. Fires? No problem. The Flash can run circles around a building over and over again, creating a vacuum that sucks out all of the oxygen a fire needs to burn.

It is astounding, then, that such a cool and versatile superhero who can do virtually anything has no block buster summer movies or top-selling video games about him. Not even a simple cartoon! The reason I love The Flash, however, is not because of his awesome red and yellow costume, his cool superpower, or his timely humor. The reason I love the Flash is because I love to talk about the Flash. Whenever I talk about the Flash with my friends, the discussions we have are not heated debates. Rather, they are tests of our knowledge and ingenuity. If you put your mind to it, and exploit the science just enough, you can prove that The Flash can do anything; it is all about being creative. The science may not always be entirely sound, but arguing about what is and what is not scientifically possible is what makes talking about the Flash so incredibly fun. So at least give the guy a movie! 

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University of Chicago Undergraduate College Application Essays

These University of Chicago college application essays were written by students accepted at University of Chicago. All of our sample college essays include the question prompt and the year written. Please use these sample admission essays responsibly.

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College Application Essays accepted by University of Chicago

Inspired by Susannah Nadler, a graduate of The Spence School, New York, NY Anthony Haddad

University of Chicago

France is a European fusion of culture, claiming diversely mastered specialties in its many regions and provinces. Crpes, dentelle Bretonne, languedoc, and fromages-mania are all constituent to this cultural synthesis, until you come down to.

Me, Myself and Chicago Anthony Haddad

University of Chicago

1. Although I have a very vague understanding of the University of Chicago, from what I know, I believe it truly satiates all my learning desires. My wishes and anticipations for higher education are mirrored in even the most obvious aspects of.

A Battle for Insight Shannon Maene

University of Chicago

“Kai houtos manthano.”* To most, they are meaningless words, incomprehensible and bizarre. But to me, their meaning is legion: secrecy, silence, concealment. They are Greek, and they mean subversive. I am a subversive, of the Greek persuasion.

The Last Lion and Me Tim Kubarych

University of Chicago

Is it possible for a person to be the mentor of another, even if the latter were born twenty one years after the former’s death? The conventional answer to this question would be no, but then, I have always favored the unconventional. For indeed.

Reaching Out to Others Through Past Experiences Anonymous

University of Chicago

A few years ago, I learned that I have a condition called hyperlexia. This condition is characterized by learning language “out of order” in childhood – in fact, almost in the same manner that an adult learns a foreign language. I was actually.

Learning to Write Good Shannon Maene

University of Chicago

If one were to ask me to relate a story of what had most troubled me throughout my high school experience, I would likely tell of my trials and tribulations as an ambitious writer in the hands of my English teachers. I, like sculptor’s clay, was.

From Jill Glissman

University of Chicago

A smile breaks out on my face as I sit in a picturesque shopping area in the heart of Vienna, Austria. The spire of a Gothic cathedral towers over me, a reminder of how far away my home and family are. I will be leaving Europe tomorrow, so I am.

Why Chicago Is the Place for Me Anonymous

University of Chicago

By all accounts, the University of Chicago is a unique place. My late grandfather, a Bachelors and Masters degree recipient from the University used to say, “for the right student, Chicago is the only place, but it can destroy the wrong student.”.

Golden Brothers Anonymous

University of Chicago

Growing up as one of a trio of “Golden boys” has its share of ups and downs. I am the oldest. Ben followed by two years, and Aaron by another three. It still amazes me that three individuals raised together with the same values, treated the same.

Bigger Isn't Better in America Cindy Hong

University of Chicago

In an ideal world, mustard would come in whimsical glass containers with pictures of wholesome families on their labels. The words “all natural” or “organic” would adorn the jars. They would line the supermarket shelves next to matching bottles of.

Science, Arts and Sports in Common Letitia Lew

University of Chicago

It’s generally taken to be a sign of desperation when a girl in the science stream sacrifices precious studying time to read books just so she can discuss the themes with Humanities students, but that is precisely what I did. Not only did I read.

Running an Online Business Anonymous

University of Chicago

I clicked a button and created a canvas. A lonely, almost blank screen, it was one of thousands of standardized and tabulated web pages, with only my online moniker at the top to distinguish it as my own. That was my debut, an admittedly.

In Search of the Language of Cervantes Anonymous

University of Chicago

The primary focus throughout my high school career has been the mastery of the Spanish language. For the past four of my six years in Spanish class, it has been my privilege to study the tongue of Cervantes under the fine tutelage of Mrs. Maria.

My Choice of College Anonymous

University of Chicago

Why do you want to go to the University of Chicago?

Going to college is like marriage: I choose you, and you choose me. Just as you regard each candidate as an individual, I view colleges not by their statistics and ratings but by the extent to.

The Mind That Sometimes Sticks Anonymous

University of Chicago

I drum my fingers on the desk, tapping out a horribly rushed “Washington Post March.” When I’m anxious, I tap. A chorus of “nous-nous-nous-nous-nous” accompanies the neurotic drumming; what else can I do but idiotically repeat that one syllable.

Can I get a definition, please? Anonymous

University of Chicago

When I first met my friend’s brother, she accented my introduction of myself with her own comment: “She’s a science geek.” Her impish smile assured me that “science geek” was meant to hold positive rather than negative connotations, so I laughed.

The Mystery of Loneliness Anonymous

University of Chicago

Even though I ostensibly lack talent in the fields of drawing or painting, my appreciation and enthusiasm for art is unquestioned. Starting from a young age, I insisted on going to the Art Institute every time my family took a trip to downtown.

"The Postcard with the Coffee Stain" Anonymous

University of Chicago

One of the first pieces of mail I ever received from The University of Chicago grossed me out. It was the size of a postcard, folded up, and had a big coffee stain right on the front. I figured that either a) the mailwoman had spilled coffee on it.

Jan the Troubadour Anonymous

University of Chicago

Three months into my exchange year in Germany, my friend called me, a little dejected. She wanted to go downtown, and it was clear why. There was still something incredibly rousing, mysterious, and exciting about the European city that had.

Opening the Door Anonymous

University of Chicago

When I was eleven, I lived in a trailer park full of kids. I preferred reading and writing to playing with them, so pretty often, when they knocked on the door, I would pretend I was doing chores. Then I would resume reading Harry Potter and.

National Nonsensical Writing Month Anonymous

University of Chicago

My spacebar popped off of the keyboard for the seventh time that night. I snatched it from the floor and rammed it back in place, knowing that it was a futile effort. Apparently, my laptop was suffering from the tribulations of National Novel.

Music's Expanding Bubble Tina T Zhu

University of Chicago

“No student ever attains very eminent success by simply doing what is required of him: it is the amount and excellence of what is over and above the required, that determines the greatness of ultimate distinction.” –Charles Kendall Adams

A Two-sided Coin Anonymous

University of Chicago

I often think of my home country, Vietnam, as a coin factory. At this factory, day in and day out, coins march in assembly lines out of metal strips in perfect conformity. I am just such a coin, minted in 1993, rimmed, polished, annealed, and.

It Tasted Like Jet Fuel Ethan Steinberg

University of Chicago

It tasted like jet fuel. But that didn’t surprise me, after all, I was kissing the tarmac at Ben-Gurion International Airport, as is customary upon arrival in Israel. What did surprise me, however, was that it wasn’t the type of high-octane fuel I.

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Recent Questions about University of Chicago

The Question and Answer section for University of Chicago is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

I think that crippled highlights the lasting damage that the war inflicts on soldiers and civilians involved.

I’m sorry, this is a short-answer forum designed for literature based questions. We do not answer questions involving unrelated subjects.

Fortune is described as blind because it's a mystery. Morocco will do anything to win Portia's love; he is baring his soul to her, and yet he knows that 'fortune' or 'fate' as it is. is blind to everything.

The University of Chicago

College Admissions

So, how do you feel about Wednesdays?

I’m betting that’s not a question you get asked frequently. It is, however, a past application essay question for the University of Chicago—one of many we’ve amassed in the years we’ve asked “uncommon” questions. Much like your feelings on Wednesdays, we bet you aren’t also often asked about your Ph, your thoughts on odd numbers, or why you’re here and not somewhere else. And, hint: that’s kind of why we’re asking you.

Every year the University of Chicago asks five “uncommon” questions as part of our application supplement. Rather than giving you the same old “what did you do on your summer vacation”-style prompt, we ask our students and alumni to suggest questions they’d like to pose to prospective students, and then consider the over 500 suggestions we get each year among a group of admissions officers before choosing our “final five”. This is how we wound up with this year’s questions, ranging from things like “What’s so odd about odd numbers?” to a quote from an art installation on campus, “Why are you here and not somewhere else?”

We ask you these questions not because we want to fool you, or make you squirm, or hurt your brain. We ask you these questions precisely because we love, love, love seeing where your brain goes when you’re asked a question you’ve never thought about before before. These are the kinds of intellectual encounters you’ll have on our campus every day; it’s rare that a professor will ask you to explain how your loss in the big sports game affected you, but very common for someone to ask you a question you’ve never encountered, and to see how you work with it. The question might be about Plato, or muons, or the work of a beat poet from the South Side in the 1960s instead of about your thoughts on odd numbers—but the ways you’ll be thinking are the same even if not on the same topic, and this, precisely, is why we ask you to try it out as part of your application.

So how, exactly, do you respond to such an open-ended question? This is, of course, also open-ended. We want you to use this as a time to be creative, to take a prompt and run with it in the way that you think represents what’s going on in your brain best. There are some things we suggest avoiding, and many many things that are totally up for doing. We think our questions are pretty neat, and would love to see what you do with one of them, so we don’t suggest re-using an essay from class, another school, or from your common/universal app personal statement for this essay. We also hope to see students taking this beyond simply factual information about them; a resume is not an essay, so there’s no need to pack all of your achievements and accomplishments in to narrative form. While we welcome fun explorations of new topics, sometimes we do see students who come up with some kind of “schtick” they think helps them stand out (case in point: an essay written entirely backwards, or an acrostic poem). Know that we’re most impressed and influenced by the content, thoughts, and skill contained in your writing rather than tricky tricks, so try not to conflate crazy style with skill—make your essay about the ideas first even if you’d like to explore them in a new way. Some students feel compelled to write about an experience they’ve had or an idea they’re passionate about, and that can be a great choice if you feel the urge. But know that we can often learn a lot about you with how and what you choose to write about even if you’re not writing about yourself, so if you’d like to take this as a time to explore something beyond your own personal experiences, go for it! We read everything and are tickled by lots, and always welcome students who think a little bit outside of the box. So if you’re sitting there thinking “Man, I wish I could write my essay like a critical analysis/book report on Skymall Magazine” (note: this has happened, and the student was admitted) but are shying away because Skymall Magazine isn’t covered in that pulpy book your mom bought you about writing college essays—write about Skymall Magazine! A UChicago supplement essay that responds to our question with a topic you see as interesting and compelling (that is, of course, well thought through and edited reasonably) will shine out much more than following a standard “college essay” format. Don’t be afraid to stretch your mind and have a little fun. That’s what we do here.

And, as a final note: we don’t require your essays to be in a standard 5-paragraph essay format, although we do hope they’ll have words in them (it’s totally fine, although not required at all, to add a visual or musical or any-other-ical accompaniment to your writing, but know we’re also looking at your writing skill here, so we do hope you’ll write something). Some students write personal narratives, some write what could be considered more traditional essay style works, some write short stories, some write something completely different. We ask simply that your essay is somewhere in the realm of 500-650 words, or about 1-2 pages single or double spaced (and we’re flexible—don’t take this as license to write a 14-page tome, but know that we won’t stop reading at 651 words if you need an extra verb).

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Inspirational Sample Essay for University of Chicago

University of Chicago is known for its quirky, creative essay questions, clearly meant to inspire young writers as well as their older, more-seasoned readers. This is one essay question that undoubtedly leaves the applicant with a wide pool of subjects to choose from, but seeks to tap a student’s own wellspring, un-motivated by parental/academic demands. This student not only demonstrates his myriad strengths and accomplishments in a down-to-earth way, but he also conveys something much deeper about himself through his discussion of a personally meaningful project that he took on. Enjoy!

In Sunday in the Park With George, Stephen Sondheim wrote: “Work is what you do for others, liebchen. Art is what you do for yourself.” Write about an instance where you did something purely for your own edification.

“I don’t do much, dance or sing… I don’t do very much of anything,” sang Lindsay, a theatrically spurned senior soprano, in parody of the Cabaret number “I Don’t Care Much.” I laughed along with the other seldom-seen-onstage Kit Kat Club dancers; we’d just finished singing backup on “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” and it was as good a way as any to kill the time before our reentrance for the finale. Little German Boy #3, also known as Zack, turned to me, “Kind of reminds you of A Chorus Line .”

“Not really. Maybe Noises Off?” I replied.

“It sort of has that meta [title of show] thing going…”

“Wait,” I said. “There’ve been shows about whorehouses ( Tenderloin ), a Malthusian apocalypse where people pay to pee ( Urinetown), and a homicidal barber ( Sweeney Todd ), but no one’s written a show about the ensemble?”

A moment of silence.

“One of us is going to learn to play the piano.”

For the remainder of the Cabaret performances, Zack and I stayed late so we could use the rehearsal piano to pluck out phrases whose discordant reverberations sent us into paroxysms of glee. A flurry of activity ensued. We bandied lyrics like birdies in badminton and planned plot lines as we passed from Biology to English. By the end of ninth grade, Ensemble had six characters, just as many half-written songs, and thirteen-odd pages of book. Shaking hands, we vowed to spend every free moment working on it the following year.

But freedom’s a tricky term to apply to a chronically interested teen, and Ensemble was soon competing for my time with THAT (The Hunter Aspiring Thespians) Magazine for which I was then a staff writer, features editor, and business manager; the China American Psychoanalytic Alliance, for which I was training instructors; the Hunter Bike Team, for which I was both riding and fundraising; Capoeira Club, whose midday rodas were as exhausting as they were cathartic; and my newest brainchild, PROUST (Pretentious Readers Ostensibly Understanding Searching for Time) Club, established to lead bold bibliophiles down Swann’s perilous and pleasurable way. There weren’t enough hours in the day. And so at the end of tenth grade, Ensemble stood at nine characters, four finished and five unpolished songs, and twenty-one pages of increasingly complex book.

Summer came and summer went and the show’s prospects grew bleaker, but in the middle of another—this time only mildly menacing—New York winter, I looked up from a sheet of polar equations and found that I’d drawn the same rose curve four times. The tune I’d been humming had traded primacy with the math, and soon my page was filled with the lyrics to the a cappella number that would ultimately be titled “The Rent.” I realized that as relative as time was, it would never distort of its own accord to allow me the space to do the myriad things I so desperately wanted to do. No, if you really love something, you’ve got to squeeze those seconds from meals and madeleines and meditative moments with the Times .

Zack and I set a date. In three months, we conjured or codified eleven songs, wrote thirty-three pages of book, and found a pianist to transcribe our vocal accompaniments. And on February 18, 2012, in the basement of Advent Lutheran Church on 93 rd and Broadway we recorded the last phrase of “Don’t See My Show”—the song inspired by Lindsay’s parody, tossed off more than two years earlier.

Ensemble is now a musical of two acts, nine characters, fifteen songs, fifty-four pages, and twenty-eight months of my life. I don’t know if it’s the best work I’ve ever produced but it’s the thing I’m most proud of because it was done apart from any parental or academic or extracurricular mandate—done purely for the love of the thing itself, and because it showed me what can be created from a delicate spark when it is nurtured among friends.

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UChicago Admissions Essays

These college essays are from students who got accepted at University of Chicago. Use them to get inspiration for your own essays and knock the socks off those admissions officers!

1. UChicago Long Essay

The letter X is a two-dimensional figure, but it takes three dimensions to draw. After tracing the first line on the paper, you need to pull the pen upwards and move across a third dimension, through the air, before dropping it back down onto the paper and making a second stroke to complete the X.

2. Warrior Princess

To understand why I want to attend the University of Chicago, take a look inside my mind. Hundreds of years ago, you would identify me by my scarlet-and-gold family crest, proudly painted on a battered yet unbroken shield. I would dismount from my midnight black stallion, long hair spillin.

3. Ambigrams

The Illuminati changed my life. Three years ago, I found my first ambigram in one of my favorite novels, by Dan Brown. I turned the page, and there it was: the word “Illuminati” printed into the exact center of the book. It was styled like a newspaper masthead, exquisite and complex, ye.

Essays That Worked

Read the top 3 college essays that worked at UChicago and more. Learn more.

University of Chicago Facts

The University of Chicago (U of C, UChicago, or simply Chicago) is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, United States. The university consists of the College of the University of Chicago, various graduate programs and interdisciplinary committees organized into four divisions, six pro.

UChicago Stats

  • 8.8% acceptance rate
  • 12,558 enrolled students
  • $50,193 tuition & fees
  • #4 in US News & World Report

Located in Chicago, IL


A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring. Alexander Pope

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