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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

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: https://collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/academics/majors-minors.

-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.

A Guide to the UChicago Supplement

The UChicago supplemental essays might throw you off at first. The questions are strange, quirky, thought-provoking, and definitely daunting. You may not have thought of anything like these questions before, but that’s okay! The UChicago supplements are a great chance for you to step back from the typical admissions process, think about something different, and express yourself creatively.

For the UChicago supplement, you’ll have to write two essays: one answering a quirky prompt and the second explaining why you want to go to UChicago. I’ll explain how to approach each essay below.

I. The Uncommon Essay

When you take a look at the uncommon essay questions, you should laugh. The essays are meant to be fun, creative, quirky, and thought-provoking. Keep in mind the Admissions Office explains:

“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.”

Here are some tips to help you write an original and successful supplemental essay. I’ve included an example with each tip to show you how I’d approach the prompts.

1. Pick the essay topic that gets you most excited.

You have five essay options or the chance to make your own topic. Unless you have a really creative idea, pick one of the five set prompts. Read through all the essay prompts before picking one. Do any of them strike you immediately as interesting or get you excited and thinking? Eliminate any prompts that don’t excite you and then brainstorm how you’d approach the remaining prompts. Pick the essay topic that gets you the most excited to write, think, and creatively make an argument or tell a story.

For example, I’m most excited about approaching Essay #1, because I love dissecting jokes and think I have some great starting ideas for it, so I would choose that prompt.

2. Answer the question.

You’re applying to colleges, so you might think you should talk about yourself and your extra-curricular activities, like in a typical personal statement. That won’t work here! It seems obvious, but be sure you’re answering the essay question!

For example, if I were writing Essay Question #3, I would make sure I’ve answered all three parts of the question, so ultimately, the admissions officer would have an idea of what I think history is, who “they” are, and what “they” aren’t telling us.

3. Tell a coherent story or develop an argument.

The strongest essays will tell a clear story or develop an argument with evidence. The admissions officers will be learning about you by seeing how you construct this argument or how you incorporate characters and language to tell your story. Be detailed and thoughtful about each part of your argument or story.

For example, if I answered Essay Question #4, I might write from the perspective of the mantis shrimp about how he sees the world, or tell the story of a scientist who creates mantis shrimp “goggles” and sees the world for the first time like a shrimp.

4. Sneak in parts about you.

Be sure you answer the question, but. you can (and should) sneak in things that are important to you, too! Use the question as a launching pad to explore parts about yourself that you haven’t addressed in your common app or the “Why UChicago” essay in a way that works. When you’re brainstorming and outlining your essay, make sure the argument or story reflects something that’s important to you or important about you. Remember though, it’s more important to make a strong argument with clear thoughts than to write about every sport you’ve ever played or every place you’ve traveled.

For example, if I were writing Essay Question #2, I might write about how “I am I and I am my thoughts” and reflect philosophically (maybe include thoughts from philosophers), because I love philosophy (and wanted to study that at UChicago — and did).

5. Be creative!

There’s no wrong answer or incorrect approach for these prompts. Be creative, use descriptive language, and have fun! The goal of the essay is for the admissions officers to see how you think and creatively solve problems. If you’re a poet and think an answer works best as a poem, do it! A Platonic dialogue? Why not! But, be sure to be creative in a way that you’re comfortable with, so you write the strongest essay possible for you.

For example, I might write Question #5 as a dinner conversation between a chemist, linguist, philosopher, and statistician about how to compare apples and oranges.

II. Why UChicago?

The second supplemental essay should be much easier than the first, but that doesn’t mean you can slack off. The admissions officers read hundreds of these essays and they see many of the same responses: The Core! The quirky intellectual vibe! The beautiful campus! Living in a city! Here are some tips for standing out.

1. Really do your research on what makes UChicago unique.

Highlight the reasons you want to go to UChicago that make UChicago uniquely UChicago. Lots of schools, for example, have some liberal arts requirements, but only UChicago offers a huge range within each core requirement. Do your research and then explain why the unique aspects of the college make it your top choice. The college admissions website is a great place to learn more about what makes UChicago special.

2. Find UChicago professors, classes, fields of study, and research that excites you.

Look up the websites for the fields that interest you at UChicago. You can usually find a list of professors, graduate students, upcoming and past classes, and research specialities. You can even take a look at the course catalog to see what’s currently being offered for undergraduates and graduates in every field. In your essay, highlight professors’ work that excites you or specific classes you’d love to take (not “Intro to. ” classes, but workshops like, “I-Thou and the Subject of Psychoanalysis”).

3. Show how you would get involved and contribute to UChicago.

UChicago is looking for students who will make the college community even better than it already is. Find UChicago-specific extracurriculars that you’re interested in and explain how you would contribute to that group. Is there something you think UChicago is missing? Tell the admissions officers what group you think UChicago should start and how you love that UChicago lets students grow their own on-campus activities (though make sure it really doesn’t already exist, because almost everything does!).

4. Mention study abroad programs, travel grants, and research opportunities that interest you.

Research the study abroad programs, travel grants, research opportunities, and other unique programs UChicago offers. If any of these interest you, explain why you think UChicago’s flag grants, for example, would help you get a head start on your future research and career goals.

5. Be specific and be sincere!

But really, why UChicago? Because you’re quirky, you love to learn, you spend way too much time falling through the rabbit hole that is Wikipedia, you want to learn Econ from the masters, you. Let your sincere feelings about the college shine through!

The University of Chicago

College Admissions

At UChicago, we are lucky to admit students from all backgrounds and interests, and also to receive so many wonderful applications and essays from brilliant students!

There is no such thing as a perfect essay, nor is there a perfect way to write an essay! You can write about a passion or a hobby, a passing interest or something you find humorous. You can be serious, you can be funny, you can be sarcastic, you can be discursive… you can be anything you want to be!

Essays can be a chance to reveal something about yourself that maybe you couldn’t fit elsewhere in your application. Included on this page is a selection of essays drawn from the WIDE variety we’ve received from our admitted students over the years. In their diversity of topics and approaches, they reflect the many passions, backgrounds, hobbies, beliefs, interests, and origins of our student body.

Remember that each of these sample essays is just that—a sample, one of MANY admitted students’ essays over the years. Feel free to browse them for inspiration, or take a look at some of UChicago’s creative supplemental essay topics to generate some ideas. You can even come up with your own prompt if you want to! In the end, you already have everything you need to write a perfect essay—YOU!

Essay 1: Sandwiches like snowflakes.

In response to the “What is square one, and how do you get back to it?” prompt, this student turned his affinity for sandwiches—made from ingredients that range from smoked trout to Dijon and apple butter—into the recipe for a great essay!

I am convinced that sandwiches are truly one of a kind; comparable to snowflakes in their degree of distinction. Yes, it would be possible “recreate” your favorite sourdough, smoked trout, olive tapenade, roasted pepper concoction, but would it be as good as it was the first time? Would the proportions of each ingredient be exactly the same? Would the flamboyant toothpicks protruding from each half be at the precise angle they were originally? Down to the atom, was the bisecting chop performed at the identical location? No! Of course not, that is ridiculous; so is the notion that it is possible to return to what was before.

Square one is a foundation, an origin or a beginning and a restart all at the same time. Depending on the frame of reference, square one can be anything from the anchor word in a game of ​Ban​ anagrams, to the Big Bang which kick started our universe. But for me, the sandwich, from peanut butter and jelly to hot dogs (technically a folded open face), is the perfect tool to analyze this phenomenon of “square one.”

When I set out to make myself a sandwich, there is a full fridge of possibilities. I extract every container of relish, hummus and sriracha from the chilly depths and arrange them on the counter. The original square of bread, or not so square as the case may be, in front of me, I hastily reach for some spreads to start with, willing to combine the unconventional. But alas, I accept that mustard and apple butter is not the way to go and I return to square one . yet, not really, because I just decided that neither Dijon, nor apple butter are universally compatible ingredients, which only moments earlier was a distinct possibility. I may be at the same point in terms of crafting my lunch, but I am now at square two because I have knowledge that I did not have when the fresh slice first hit the plate.

The trial and error at the drawing board is part of what makes each sandwich unique. But this novelty goes beyond the creative process; each sandwich is composed from different batches of bread; fundamentally, no two have identical physical properties. All objects, sandwiches included, have a unique position in space-time. At each specific point along this continuum, atoms situated around a sandwich and in it have exact locations and bonds to one another. However, the second law of thermodynamics states that, with the passage of time, the universe becomes increasingly disorganized and random. This constantly increasing entropy means that atoms will promptly assume completely new, completely random locations compared to where they were a moment ago. Since these particles could theoretically be at any infinite number of precise points, the laws of continuous probability apply: the chance that even one atom will be in the precise location it once was is zero. If its location is truly comparable to assigning it a random number, for it to appear at a previously occupied coordinate, this number would need to match the original one by the digit to an infinite number of places. This could not occur by chance since chance would say that, given infinite trials, two different digits will eventually be selected. In other words, it is possible to find your jam making sandwiches, but returning to square one is most definitely not.

Essay 2: Working at a fast food restaurant.

Any experience or job in your life can make a great essay! This student wrote about interacting with various characters at her job at a drive-thru window and how that helped form portals to other peoples’ worlds outside of her own.

The drive-thru monitor on the wall quietly clicks whenever a person pulls up to the menu screen. It’s so subtle I didn’t notice it my first two months working at Freddy’s, the retro fast-food restaurant looming over Fairfax’s clogged stretch of Route 50. But, after months of giving out greasy burgers, I have become attuned to it. Now, from the cacophony of kitchen clangs I can easily pick out that click which transports me from my world of fry oil into the lives of those waiting in the drive-thru.

A languid male voice drifts into my ear. He orders tenders, with a side of cheese sauce. “How much cheese sauce is in a cup?” he frets, concerned over the associated 80 cent charge. The answer is two ounces, and he is right to worry. It’s a rip-off.

After I answer him, my headset goes quiet for a second. Finally, his voice crackles through.

“Do you sell cheese sauce by the gallon?”

A man orders two steakburgers and two pints of custard.

Minutes later, he reaches my window. I lean out to take his credit card, only to meet the warm tongue of a wizened dog.

The man apologizes: “She just loves your restaurant.”

I look at the dog, her nose stretching out of the car and resting on the window ledge, then look at the order he had given me.

Once I hand him his food, the dog sniffs one of the pints.

“No!” he reprimands. “Only after you eat your dinner.”

He sets a burger between her paws, then speeds away.

I can’t understand the order, but I know that whoever is speaking is from New Jersey. Tommy, pronounced “Tahmee”, apparently has high blood pressure. He orders fries.

“No!” the woman screeches. “No salt!”

They pull up to the window. The man, clad in a Hawaiian shirt, thrusts a crumpled wad of cash in my hand.

The women pushes him back. “Sorry!” she apologizes, “But we’re lost! Never been to Virginia before – we’re trying to find Lynchburg!”

It is 10:45 PM, and Lynchburg is three hours away. We give them an extra side of fries (no salt of course) and directions to a nearby hotel.

For these brief moments, I am part of their lives: in their cars, they are at home. They are surrounded by their trash and listening to their music, dancing with their friends and crying alone, oblivious to the stranger taking their order. On the surface, these people are wildly different; they range from babies clad in Dolphin’s jerseys (“Her first pre-game party!”) to grandmothers out for ladies’ night; college students looking for a cheese sauce fix to parents on a dieting kick (“Chicken sandwich on a lettuce wrap”). But, despite every contrasting characteristic, they all ended up in the same place: my drive-thru, my portal to their worlds.

*Click* It’s a family, squished into a little car. When I hand them their bags, they happily open them and devour the food. The mother asks me for extra napkins, forks, and knives.

“We just moved,” she explains. “And everything is still in boxes.”

I moved a lot as a child, so I know what they’re going through. I give them an entire pack of utensils.

As the car leaves, the kids in the backseat press their faces against the car window and wave. I wave back as the car slowly makes it way toward 50. New to the area, they have yet to adopt the hurried rush that comes with the proximity to DC.

Customers like these help me realize I am not just a passive traveller in this drive-thru – I do not just watch and observe. I laugh and I help and I talk with them, if only for a few moments. They tell me about their lives, and I mention stories from mine. Over my hundreds of hours behind the drive-thru window, thousands of different people have come through, sharing snippets of their diverse lives. All they have in common when they come in is the desire for greasy fast food. However, by the time they leave, they share something else: a nugget of my life.

The drive-thru portal takes me to disparate places; to Lynchburg, to the grocery store to buy cheese sauce, to a new home filled with opportunity and cardboard boxes. It transports me back to my room, where I hug my dog and feed her chicken and treats. It is a portal to the world, hidden in the corner of a fast-food kitchen.

With each click, that door opens. (764)

Essay 3: Look for the spark.

In this essay, that spark was the fireworks a student saw between himself and an undergraduate education at UChicago.

It fills me up with that gooey sap you feel late at night when I think about things that are really special to me about you. Sometimes I just hunger for more, but I keep that a secret. The mail you send is such a tease; I like to imagine additional words on the page. Words like “you’re accepted” or “you’re awesome!” or “don’t worry, she still loves you!” but I know they’re all lies. You never called after that one time, I visited you thrice, but you never come around anymore. Tell me, was I just one in a line of many? Was I just another supple “applicant” to you, looking for a place to live, looking for someone to teach me the ways of the world? The closeness between us was beautiful, it couldn’t have been just me that felt it, I know you felt it too. The intimacy was akin to that of scholar and original text, your depth as a person is astounding! To be honest, I must confess I had already dreamt of a rosy future together, one filled with late nights and long discussions over the Gothic era and the ethical stage of Kierkegaard, we would watch the sunset together and spend every Christmas snuggled in blankets. Eventually we would get older, I would become a well-educated corporate lawyer and you would enrich yourself within the domain of human knowledge. Your cup overfloweth with academic genius, pour a little on me. You’re legendary for it, they all told me it would never work out between us, but I had hope. I had so much hope; I replied to your adorable letters and put up with your puns. I knew going into it that you would be an expensive one to keep around, I accounted for all that; I understand someone of your caliber and taste.

And now you inquire as to my wishes? They’re simple, accept me for who I am! Why can’t you just love and not ask why? Not ask about my assets or my past? I’m living in the now, I’m waiting for you to catch up, but you’re too caught up in my past, I offer us a future together, not a past to dwell upon. Whenever I’m around you, I just get that tingle deep inside me that tells me you’re the one; you have that air of brilliance and ingenuity that I crave in a person, you’re so mature and sophisticated, originality is really your strongest and most admirable trait. I wish we could be together, I still think in my heart of hearts we were meant to be, but you have to meet me halfway, dear. I’m on one knee here with tears welling up in my eyes, the fireworks are timed and ready to light up the night sky for you, just say ‘I accept. you.’

Essay 4: Remember grade school?

Any sport at any skill level can inspire fun and creative writing! In this essay, a student talks about finding joy in the “square one” from childhood foursquare games.

It took me a minute to figure out why the phrase “square one” so immediately repulsed me. My disdain for clichés isn’t that extraordinarily strong, and my experience with geometry was overall fairly pleasant. But the intense emotions filling my brain swirled themselves into a movie-flashback- style memory soon enough.

Square Four was the only place any of us wanted to be in those early afternoon recesses. You called the shots; you made the rules; you set the tone with your opening serve. Foursquare was no joke, and no one wanted that sort of power in anybody’s hands but their own. Square One, then, was an anxiety inducing place. After waiting in line behind twelve other eager nine year olds, there was a good chance you’d be out on the first shot. You’d gone soft–those minutes in line left your reflexes out of practice and lethargic. But it was also the only chance you had to outmaneuver the reigning champions in squares Three and Four. See, no one cares about you in Square One. Square Two is trying to oust Three and Four, Three wants their chance to lead, and Four just wants to show off their momentarily superior skill and defend themselves against the constant attack of the menacing red rubber ball. If you are smart about it, Square One is where you strategize to beat them all. Which corner of the square do they favor? How hard are their hits? What kind of passes throw them off their game? These are the questions that need to be answered immediately, lest you enter the real game in Square Two with no plan of attack.

Finally, with your superior reflexes and your uncanny ability to tell where anybody would pass the ball before they did, you made it to Square Four. You’re on top of the world; there’s nowhere to go from here. You have a brief existential crisis about what it means to have peaked at nine years old, but it quickly subsides as you run down the list of rules you have been plotting for the endless seven minutes that it took you to get to this point. They are all of your favorite rules, and the groans coming from your underlings give you life (nine year olds have never heard the word empathy). And then you mess up. First. You said no airplanes (hitting the ball without letting it bounce), but as the ball came hurling at your face your fight or flight instincts come out, and you’ve always been a fighter. Instead of letting the ball bounce, your reflexes betray you by prioritizing the safety of your two brand new pearly white grown up teeth. Square Two catches the ball.

“You said no Airplanes,” she smirks at you devilishly; you can’t even follow your own rules.

Three moves to Four, and you are back to Square One. Even worse, you are back in line to get to Square One. You get back to Square One by messing up. And everyone cycles through this way. Some never get out of Square One, some make it to Four every time, but the game only continues if someone else takes your place. No one wants to keep playing by the same rules under the same tyrant–if that was how the game worked they would just join the kids playing soccer on the field. It’s the beauty of the game: it’s always evolving. New rules come and go, new players become the best, and Square One is where you see what’s working. The game goes stale with the same person in charge, so everyone has to go back to Square One sometime (even if everyone agreed that I was always the best at the game, anyway.)

Essay 5: We love coffee.

“Black and steamy, sweet and milky, caffeinated and decaf,” Folger’s drip and San Francisco Fog Chaser… at UChicago we love coffee just as much as this student (we do have around a dozen cafés on campus), who turned her beverage of choice into the focus of her “Why UChicago?” essay.

I love coffee. I love the Folger’s drip coffee I pour piping hot into my thermos every morning. I love the San Francisco Fog Chaser brew that I sip over the pages of the Economist. I love it black and steamy, sweet and milky, caffeinated and decaf. Whether savoring it in the Church’s breakfast room after the 9:30 AM service or on the Starbuck’s patio with my friends, I simply, irrevocably, just love coffee.

The University of Chicago, my tour guide proclaimed, is a “coffee campus”. He excitedly pointed to buildings around the quad, listing various coffee shops. Finally, his finger arrived at the Divinity School.

“The Grounds of Being is hands down the best coffee you are ever gonna get!” he exclaimed.

A short walk to Swift Hall and a foamy cappuccino later, I decided I wanted to attend the University of Chicago.

17 th century English coffeehouses were nicknamed “penny universities”. For a single cent, patrons entered a world of unstructured academic instruction – Enlightenment debates and discussions catalyzed by caffeine. Started in Oxford, they spread throughout England, becoming intellectual hubs that connected minds from all walks of life.

When I stepped into the Grounds of Being, I leaped centuries back into one of those Oxford penny universities.

Around me, scholarly conversations flowed. While my $3 coffee cooled, physics and politics intermingled with lattes and “Hail Marys”, creating a delicious intellectual brew. I savored the atmosphere, drinking it in. It was coffee at its finest.

Holding my drink, I scaled the stairs from the coffee shop’s basement hideaway and exited into the bright light of the quad. The day was warm, and every student seemed to be outside. I chose a bench to finish my drink.

The idea behind the penny universities was to provide a novel type of cerebral learning outside of school. They rested on the premise that the typical academic structure lacked a certain zest.

The Grounds of Being differed from those Oxford coffeehouses in this respect. It was not a supplement to the university academics; it was a reflection of them. As students and professors passed, I saw the same type of discussions on the quad as in the coffee shop. The campus pulsated with the freewheeling atmosphere of intellectual inquiry.

The exclusive group of early coffeehouse patrons included Sir Isaac Newton, a physics icon. The Royal Society often continued their discussions into a coffee hour where he and his fellow scientists engaged in debates alongside politicians other prominent Londoners.

At the University of Chicago, I could participate in the same scientific discussions as Newton. I could engage in debates with people of diverse backgrounds and majors. I could study under one of the best physics departments without sacrificing liberal discourse. It maintains the essence of the early coffeehouses in the context of a modern university.

As my tour guide said, it is truly a coffee campus.

Essay 6: Feel as free as a bird now.

Though Lynyrd Skynyrd is technically Southern rock, you can most definitely write about country music, like this student, who defended her beloved genre in the below essay.

Alright. I’ll just say it. Accept me or reject me, you should know.

I listen to country.

At my school, I conceal my taste in music. When listening to my playlists with friends, I keep a careful eye on the song. If I see a Dolly Parton or Tim McGraw album cover come up, I slam that fast forward key and pray my friend didn’t notice.

They say country is trash. My peers hear songs like “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” and “Ticks” and think all country music is like that. It isn’t. I swear.

If only my friends would listen to my favorite country songs, then they would understand. Maybe if they heard “Jolene”, by Dolly Parton,

Or Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried”.

They might appreciate Johnny Cash’s rendition of “Hurt”

Or even Tim McGraw’s “Felt Good On My Lips.”

Even “American Kids” by Kenny Chesney might spark their interest.

It’s too bad songs like “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” give country such an awful reputation, because there really are some wonderful songs out there.

Essay 7: A ruined book tells a story(?).

One essay prompt asks students: “Dog and Cat. Coffee and Tea. Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. Everyone knows there are two types of people in the world. What are they?” Keeping with the bookish theme (though this essay focuses more on Matilda and Harry Potter than Holden Caulfield and Nick Carraway), this student wrote about why some people appreciate worn books… and why others won’t let those same people borrow their books.

The only time I was scolded in elementary school was for returning a damaged library book. A drop in the bathtub had left the pages of Matilda irreparably wavy and crinkly. Even with a thorough blast from my pink Hello Kitty blow-dryer, the book could not be returned to its pristine condition. Librarians everywhere cringed; Jane Austen rolled in her grave. At eight years old, however, I was not deterred from finishing the book. I simply waited for the pages to dry and read on, eager to find out whether Matilda ever escapes evil Miss Trunchbull (Spoiler alert: she does). Never was the dichotomy between those who prefer well-loved books and those who keep their books pristine more evident to me.

Though less aesthetically pleasing, I never regarded that copy of Matilda as ruined. Even eight year olds understand the function of a book. Its job is to tell a story, to allow its reader to sink into a different world while clutched in his or her hand. They’re like presents on Christmas. The wrapping paper is simply a transportation device that needs to be ripped and damaged to get to your gift. People on team `well loved’ are recklessly obsessive about their passions. We are the risk takers of the world. While others live repetitive lives of organized beauty, our lives revolve around spur of the moment creativity. Like our minds, the margins of our books are filled with scribbled notes. Functionality is key to our existence. We don’t mind accidentally cracking the spine of a book if it was done in a wild frenzy to decipher a plot twist. People in this category are easy to spot in book stores. See a weirdo smelling the pages of used books? Probably a well-loved-book aficionado. The musky smell of old books is the smell of history. We revel in the knowledge that our favorite books were enjoyed (or critiqued) by owners prior to us. My used copy of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince has a coffee stain on page twenty-three. Whenever I come across it, I cannot help but imagine an avid, young reader like myself, so engulfed in a different universe that they didn’t notice their coffee dripping on the page.

In contrast, there are those book lovers who refuse to keep their books anything but pristine. Their shelves are lined neatly with rows of perfect, hardcover books. They never dog-ear their books. Instead, bookmarks are kept readily available to avoid sinking to such destruction. For them, reading time is always separate from bath time and meal time. These are the type of people who take ten minutes to unwrap a gift, carefully smoothing and folding each piece of wrapping paper to be saved for next year. Their perfect libraries give them comfort, and they care about the condition of their books just as much as they care about the wellbeing of their favorite characters.

Reading in public, I often get glares from pristine-book-lovers. I wonder why they look like they just saw a puppy getting murdered, until I realize that their gaze is zeroed in on the fluorescent highlighter I use to mark my favorite passages. Talking to them helps. Book lovers on both teams adore talking about books. They warm up to me when they realize that the book I’m marking up is a favorite of theirs and the line I’m highlighting is their favorite quote. We are all book lovers after all, and sometimes we become great friends. That is, until I ask to borrow a book.

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

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It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle

The University of Chicago

College Admissions

Some classic questions from previous years…

Joan of Arkansas. Queen Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Babe Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Mash up a historical figure with a new time period, environment, location, or occupation, and tell us their story.

—Inspired by Drew Donaldson, AB’16

Alice falls down the rabbit hole. Milo drives through the tollbooth. Dorothy is swept up in the tornado. Neo takes the red pill. Don’t tell us about another world you’ve imagined, heard about, or created. Rather, tell us about its portal. Sure, some people think of the University of Chicago as a portal to their future, but please choose another portal to write about.

—Inspired by Raphael Hallerman, Class of 2020

What’s so odd about odd numbers?

–Inspired by Mario Rosasco, AB’09

Vestigiality refers to genetically determined structures or attributes that have apparently lost most or all of their ancestral function, but have been retained during the process of evolution. In humans, for instance, the appendix is thought to be a vestigial structure. Describe something vestigial (real or imagined) and provide an explanation for its existence.

—Inspired by Tiffany Kim, Class of 2020

In French, there is no difference between “conscience” and “consciousness.” In Japanese, there is a word that specifically refers to the splittable wooden chopsticks you get at restaurants. The German word “fremdschämen” encapsulates the feeling you get when you’re embarrassed on behalf of someone else. All of these require explanation in order to properly communicate their meaning, and are, to varying degrees, untranslatable. Choose a word, tell us what it means, and then explain why it cannot (or should not) be translated from its original language.

– Inspired by Emily Driscoll, Class of 2018

Little pigs, French hens, a family of bears. Blind mice, musketeers, the Fates. Parts of an atom, laws of thought, a guideline for composition. Omne trium perfectum? Create your own group of threes, and describe why and how they fit together.

– Inspired by Zilin Cui, Class of 2018

The mantis shrimp can perceive both polarized light and multispectral images; they have the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom. Human eyes have color receptors for three colors (red, green, and blue); the mantis shrimp has receptors for sixteen types of color, enabling them to see a spectrum far beyond the capacity of the human brain. Seriously, how cool is the mantis shrimp: mantisshrimp.uchicago.edu What might they be able to see that we cannot? What are we missing?

–Inspired by Tess Moran, AB’16

How are apples and oranges supposed to be compared? Possible answers involve, but are not limited to, statistics, chemistry, physics, linguistics, and philosophy.

–Inspired by Florence Chan, AB’15

The ball is in your court—a penny for your thoughts, but say it, don’t spray it. So long as you don’t bite off more than you can chew, beat around the bush, or cut corners, writing this essay should be a piece of cake. Create your own idiom, and tell us its origin—you know, the whole nine yards. PS: A picture is worth a thousand words.

—Inspired by April Bell, Class of 2017, and Maya Shaked, Class of 2018 (It takes two to tango.)

“A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.” –Oscar Wilde. Othello and Iago. Dorothy and the Wicked Witch. Autobots and Decepticons. History and art are full of heroes and their enemies. Tell us about the relationship between you and your arch-nemesis (either real or imagined).

–Inspired by Martin Krzywy, AB’16.

Heisenberg claims that you cannot know both the position and momentum of an electron with total certainty. Choose two other concepts that cannot be known simultaneously and discuss the implications. (Do not consider yourself limited to the field of physics).

–Inspired by Doran Bennett, BS’07

Susan Sontag, AB’51, wrote that “[s]ilence remains, inescapably, a form of speech.” Write about an issue or a situation when you remained silent, and explain how silence may speak in ways that you did or did not intend. The Aesthetics of Silence, 1967.

“…I [was] eager to escape backward again, to be off to invent a past for the present.” –The Rose Rabbi by Daniel Stern

1. Something that is offered, presented, or given as a gift.

Let’s stick with this definition. Unusual presents, accidental presents, metaphorical presents, re-gifted presents, etc. — pick any present you have ever received and invent a past for it.

—Inspired by Jennifer Qin, AB’16

So where is Waldo, really?

–Inspired by Robin Ye, AB’16

–Inspired by Benjamin Nuzzo, an admitted student from Eton College, UK

Dog and Cat. Coffee and Tea. Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. Everyone knows there are two types of people in the world. What are they?

–Inspired by an alumna of the Class of 2006

How did you get caught? (Or not caught, as the case may be.)

–Proposed by Kelly Kennedy, AB’10

Chicago author Nelson Algren said, “A writer does well if in his whole life he can tell the story of one street.” Chicagoans, but not just Chicagoans, have always found something instructive, and pleasing, and profound in the stories of their block, of Main Street, of Highway 61, of a farm lane, of the Celestial Highway. Tell us the story of a street, path, road—real or imagined or metaphorical.

UChicago professor W. J. T. Mitchell entitled his 2005 book What Do Pictures Want? Describe a picture, and explore what it wants.

–Inspired by Anna Andel

“Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.”—Miles Davis (1926–91)

–Inspired by Jack Reeves

University of Chicago alumna and renowned author/critic Susan Sontag said, “The only interesting answers are those that destroy the questions.” We all have heard serious questions, absurd questions, and seriously absurd questions, some of which cannot be answered without obliterating the very question. Destroy a question with your answer.

–Inspired by Aleksandra Ciric

“Mind that does not stick.”

–Zen Master Shoitsu (1202–80)

Superstring theory has revolutionized speculation about the physical world by suggesting that strings play a pivotal role in the universe. Strings, however, always have explained or enriched our lives, from Theseus’s escape route from the Labyrinth, to kittens playing with balls of yarn, to the single hair that held the sword above Damocles, to the Old Norse tradition that one’s life is a thread woven into a tapestry of fate, to the beautiful sounds of the finely tuned string of a violin, to the children’s game of cat’s cradle, to the concept of stringing someone along. Use the power of string to explain the biggest or the smallest phenomenon.

–Inspired by Adam Sobolweski

Have you ever walked through the aisles of a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club and wondered who would buy a jar of mustard a foot and a half tall? We’ve bought it, but it didn’t stop us from wondering about other things, like absurd eating contests, impulse buys, excess, unimagined uses for mustard, storage, preservatives, notions of bigness…and dozens of other ideas both silly and serious. Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard.

–Inspired by Katherine Gold

People often think of language as a connector, something that brings people together by helping them share experiences, feelings, ideas, etc. We, however, are interested in how language sets people apart. Start with the peculiarities of your own personal language—the voice you use when speaking most intimately to yourself, the vocabulary that spills out when you’re startled, or special phrases and gestures that no one else seems to use or even understand—and tell us how your language makes you unique. You may want to think about subtle riffs or idiosyncrasies based on cadence, rhythm, rhyme, or (mis)pronunciation.

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