University of chicago essay questions (order an essay inexpensively)

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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.

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!

15 Crazy College Application Essay Questions

If you're lucky enough to have an admissions essay like one of these, let your imagination soar in creating your one-of-a-kind response.

February 10, 2014

College application essays don’t have to be a drag – and these schools prove it. They’ve created some of the most outlandish, thought-provoking and original essay questions out there.

Here are the 15 schools that think outside the box, when it comes to admissions essay, with some examples of our favorite questions they’re asking on The Common Application this year.

Now, it’s up to you to impress admissions officers with a response that measures up.

Amongst the schools with the most create assortments were Lehigh University, Tufts University and Wake Forest, though we’ve decided to remain (sort of) impartial and list the schools with the most creatively candid questions in alphabetical order.

The following 15 schools had some of our favorite imaginative college admissions essay questions begging the question: how would you answer?

1. Brandeis University

“You are required to spend the next year of your life in either the past or the future. What year would you travel to and why?”

Leave it to the liberal arts colleges to come up with something thought-provoking. This private research university, located in Waltham, MA, is sure to get your creative juices flowing!

2. Bucknell University

“Pick a movie or novel where the protagonist makes a difficult choice. Do you agree or disagree with the decision he or she made?”

Another private liberal arts university, Bucknell is located in the central part of Pennsylvania in the town of Lewisburg. If you’re looking to bring unique perspectives to a university, this may be the one for you.

3. Hampshire College

“Create two questions that drive you.”

This private liberal arts school, located in Amherst, MA, is so outside of the box, they got rid of the box (i.e. questions) all together. If you’re up for the creative challenge, seize it!

4. Kalamazoo College

“Let’s go back to a time when learning was pure joy. Please tell us your favorite childhood book and why.”

Also dubbed “K College” or “K,” this Kalamazoo, Michigan school produces more Peace Corp volunteers than any other U.S. academic institution!

5. Lehigh University

“What is your favorite riddle and why?”
“Describe your favorite \”Bazinga\” moment.”
“You’ve just reached your one millionth hit on your YouTube video. What is the video about?”
“If your name were an acronym, what would it stand for and how would it reflect your strengths and pesonality?”

When it comes to originality, Lehigh definitely took the cake. Believe it or not, we had to narrow our choices down to the above questions! But this Bethlehem, PA, university is also known for academics and landed on the Top Party Schools list. Talk about well rounded!

6. Stanford University

“What matters to you, and why?”

Stanford left the essay open to interpretation for the scholars applying to the university, which is considered to be one of the most prestigious in the United States and the world.

7. Texas Christian University

“Take a blank sheet of paper. Do with this page what you wish. Your only limitations are the boundaries of this page. You don’t have to submit anything, but we hope you will use your imagination.”

This optional “assignment” from the university, located in Forth Worth, TX, must leave a blank stare on students faces all the time. Who else wonders what types of submissions (and how many paper airplanes) they get?

8. Tufts University

“Celebrate your nerdy side.”
“What makes you happy?”
“What does # YOLO mean to you?”

Competing with Lehigh, Tufts University had quite the array of unique questions, so we had to pick favorites. Tufts is known as a Little Ivy and a “New Ivy,” so we imagine that those applying to this school, which ranks amongst the top in the nation, appreciate the chance to speak their minds via the college application essay. Learn more about Tufts University.

9. University of Chicago

“Winston Churchill believed ‘a joke is a very serious thing.’ Tell us your favorite joke and try to explain the joke without ruining it.”
“How are apples and oranges supposed to be compared?”

The University of Chicago cleverly takes essay questions suggested by students. So if you find the questions a little too peculiar, blame your peers. If you can take on the essays, you can join the nearly 15,00 students that attend the school – which is another ranked as one of the most prestigious, both nationally and worldwide.

10. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“What do you hope to find over the rainbow?”

This public research university is consistently ranked among the highest in the United States and is one of eight original Public Ivy schools. Perhaps the answer to the essay question should be: an Ivy League education with public university tuition prices?

11. University of Notre Dame

“By the end of the college application process, you will have probably written dozens of essays and responded to a multitude of questions. Use this opportunity to try something new.”

If you want to become one of the 8,000 undergraduates who identify as the Fighting Irish, you’ll need to plan and strategize to impress admissions officials at this private Catholic research university.

12. University of Virginia

“To tweet or not to tweet?”
“What’s your favorite word and why?”
“Describe one of your quirks and why it is part of who you are.”

Located in Charlottesville, VA, this public university was conceived and designed by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. We cannot help but wonder, which side of the “tweet” or “not to tweet” spectrum do you think he’d land?

13. Villanova University

“What sets your heart on fire?”

Founded in 1842, this private university is the oldest Catholic university in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It was named for Saint Thomas of Villanova, but we’d advise against answering in any way that may suggest he sets your heart ablaze. That’s just …awkward.

14. Wake Forest University

“Some say social media is superficial, with no room for expressing deep or complex ideas. We challenge you to defy these skeptics by describing yourself as fully and accurately as possible in the 140-character limit of a tweet.”
“Give us your top ten list.”

Wake Forest is a private university with its main campus located in Winston Salem, NC. The original location was in Wake Forest, hence the name. What would be on our top ten list? How about these school facts? The school has 93 percent retention rate and an 85 percent four-year graduation rate – not bad!

15. Yale University

“You have been granted a free weekend next month. How will you spend it?”
“What is something about which you have changed your mind in the last three years?”

You may have heard of Yale University – it’s a private Ivy League research university in Connecticut? It’s also the alma mater of five U.S. presidents, among countless other scholars. With a retention rate of 99 percent, we’re guessing most students don’t answer, “Going to Yale,” as what they’ve changed their minds about.

Perhaps which side of a legal issue you fall on would be a safer answer, especially since Yale Law School is the most selective within the United States.

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Tufts University has received some attention recently for its #YOLO-based application essay prompt, but this was far from the first time a college has asked students to think outside the box.

“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.”

“If you could choose to be raised by robots, dinosaurs, or aliens, who would you pick? Why?”

“Make a bold prediction about something in the year 2020 that no one else has made a bold prediction about.”

“You have just finished your three hundred page autobiography. Please submit page 217.”

Johns Hopkins University

“Using a piece of wire, a Hopkins car window sticker, an egg carton, and any inexpensive hardware store item, create something that would solve a problem. Tell us about your creation, but don’t worry; we won’t require proof that it works!”

“Tell us about the most embarrassing moment of your life.”

“So where is Waldo, really?”

“Create a short story using one of these topics: ‘The End of MTV,’ ‘Confessions of a Middle School Bully,’ ‘The Professor Disappeared’ or ‘The Mysterious Lab.'”

“St. Mary’s College is casting for the incoming class. Send us your audition tape via the Web or DVD. Please provide us with the site for posting. Selection of this option will stand as your college essay. Consider your audience.”

“Sartre said, ‘Hell is other people,’ but Streisand sang, ‘People who need people/Are the luckiest people in the world.’ With whom do you agree and why?”

“Modern improvisational comedy had its start with the Compass Players, a group of University of Chicago students who later formed the Second City comedy troupe. Here is a chance to play along. Improvise a story, essay, or script that meets all of the following requirements:

– Its characters may not have superpowers.

– Your work has to mention the University of Chicago, but please, no accounts of a high school student applying to the University—this is fiction, not autobiography.

– Your work must include at least four of the following elements: a paper airplane, a transformation, a shoe, the invisible hand, two doors, pointillism, a fanciful explanation of the Pythagorean Theorem, a ventriloquist or ventriloquism, the periodic table of the elements, the concept of jeong, number two pencils.”

“What invention would the world be better off without, and why?”

“If you were reduced to living on a flat plane, what would be your greatest problems? Opportunities?”

“Kermit the Frog famously lamented, ‘It’s not easy being green.’ Do you agree?”

Ivy Coach College Admissions Blog

“Way to tell it like it is, Ivy Coach” – The Dartmouth

2017-2018 UChicago Essay Prompts

The University of Chicago’s 2017-2018 admissions essay prompts are as creative as ever.

The 2017-2018 UChicago essay prompts are out. Applicants to UChicago will be required to answer: “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.” So that’s a Why Chicago. The next question (which is optional but that which is ‘optional’ in highly selective college admissions isn’t really optional!): “Share with us a few of your favorite books, poems, authors, films, plays, pieces of music, musicians, performers, paintings, artists, blogs, magazines, or newspapers. Feel free to touch on one, some, or all of the categories listed, or add a category of your own.”

And then students must choose from one of the six extended essay questions, which read as follows: (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? (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. (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.

(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.” (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. (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.

As regular readers of our college admissions blog know well, the University of Chicago has a proud history of offering an extensive application — with long essays that need to be tailored to, you guessed it, the University of Chicago. Prefacing the UChicago essay prompts themselves, the admissions office writes, “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.”

In a sea of highly selective colleges that want to do all they can to encourage students to apply, to boost their application numbers and invariably lower their admission rate (all in an effort to boost their all-important “US News & World Report” ranking), the University of Chicago stands in defiance of this trend. The University of Chicago wants students who love them and what better way to prove a student loves them? They have to write lots of essays just for UChicago — essays they really can’t get much mileage out of with other schools. We salute the University of Chicago for their continued defiance, for daring to mandate that their applicants answer such extensive essay prompts.

University of Chicago 2017-18 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

University of Chicago 2017-18 Supplemental Essay Prompt Guide

The Requirements: 2 essays of 1-2 pages each

This is it, the infamous U Chicago supplemental application. These quirky prompts have been a rite of passage for generations of applicants. So before you dive in, just remember that if they could do it, so can you! Your goal in writing your Chicago extended essay should be the same as ever: to reveal something new to admissions. It might even help to have a few ideas in mind before reading through your options. These prompts are so specific and strange that, in the end, the key is just to follow your instincts. What speaks to you right away? What inspires you?

Respond to the required essay and choose one of the six extended essay options and upload a one- or two-page response.

Question 1 (Required): 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.

Think of this run-of-the-mill why essay as the overture to your magnum opus (i.e. the Extended Essay). Chicago wants you to cover all the bases – “learning, community, and future” – so as with any why essay, you’d best buckle down and do your homework. The more specific details you can incorporate into your essay, the more sincere and personal it will feel (and be!). Explore both academic and extracurricular opportunities. How will you pursue your interest in oceanography? With a major in biology and a semester in Australia? What research opportunities will you pursue? Will joining the club crew team help you feel more connected to aquatic life despite your midwest location? One thing you won’t find on the school website, though, is that third piece, that “future” thing. Think about where you’d like to be five or ten years from now – your career or the impact you’d like to have or even just a geographic location. How will a U Chicago education help you get there? How will your scholarly and social pursuits help you grow? Show admissions how U Chicago is the bridge between the person you are and the person you hope to be.

Extended Essay Questions: (Required; Choose one)

Before you read these questions, remember that you only have to pick one. So brace yourself and follow your gut. We’re going in.

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? -Anonymous Suggestion

The rambling setup for this prompt disguises the simplicity of its essential question: what matters to you? In more specific terms, what is deeply important to you, but hard to talk about with others? Maybe your fascination with cicadas has taught you a thing or two about global warming, but friends and family are grossed out by insects and afraid to face the changes taking place in their immediate environment. Or perhaps you think it’s time to end the stigma surrounding mental illness by talking about it openly. You could also confronta less dire, but equally unsettling truth, like the fact that people knew what Sia looked like before she started wearing that wig. Whatever you choose should be a matter of personal importance. Show admissions what you’re willing to commit to in the face of skepticism or disapproval.

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

Are you a portmanteau wizard or a pun queen? This could be the word-playful prompt of your dreams. And honestly, what else do we even say? We don’t want to take the fun out of inventing your own bizarre major! Keep in mind that you don’t have to limit yourself to just the (actual) majors that interest you, but you do have to have to honor the limits of the prompt! You’re only allowed one typo. So what’ll it be? Egonomics? Bib Problems? Herstory? Classical Studies: Green and Roman Studies? Commit to whatever you choose and create a deep course of study: what are the names of the classes you would take, the texts you hope to read, the typical career path for alums? Tackling this prompt requires wit, creativity, and a quirky sense of humor – all qualities the university prides itself on. Do you have them?

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

Think of this as the kooky cousin to Common App prompt #1, which asks you to describe some aspect of your background. This prompt is asking to see the world through your eyes and to catch a glimpse of the experiences that have informed your perspective. What crucial experiences have composed your sense of the world? What elements compose your day to day life? Maybe growing up in a family that cooked all the time has taught you to interpret your environment based on flavor, and your world is composed of a swirling combination of salty, sweet, bitter, and sour. Or perhaps you believe that more intangible things, like kindness and concern, make life on earth possible. Maybe your love of geometry and photography has you seeing the world in obtuse, acute, and straight angles. Whatever your paradigm, make sure to explain where it comes from. What people or experiences have taught you to see the world in this unique way?

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

In other words, what do you want the world to see (or not see) when it looks at you? How do you present yourself? Maybe you don’t leave the house without pulling on your chunky black combat boots as they seem to tell the world that you’re not the man or woman to mess with. Perhaps you wear the old locket your late grandmother gave to you everyday and it gives you the strength to face your fears throughout the day. Don’t feel limited though – you absolutely do not have to be a fashionista to tackle this prompt. In fact, clothing is really just one point of entry to answering the essential questions. Maybe you don’t think much about what you wear, but put on a certain posture every time you walk through your neighborhood. Perhaps you grew up with superstitious parents who always made you wear protective amulets before going on big trips or taking big tests. Maybe your makeup is your armor as it gives you the power to shape (or contour?) who the world will see you as that day. What do you do to make yourself feel safe? What aspects of your physical presence do others seem to respond to? Your outer appearance is just the jumping off point for you to reveal something new to admissions.

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

This prompt is so weirdly specific! If this one calls out to you, chances are it’s because something springs to mind right away — a love of bad metaphors or the musky complexity of burnt toast. But if you want to try to brainstorm, think about the things that people tease you about. What do your friends and family lovingly poke fun at? The childhood blankie you still keep on your bed? The pungent cheeses you insist on storing in the family fridge? The old knock-knock jokes you like to tell? The great thing about this prompt is that, when you finally land on a topic, it will be unique to you and no one else (a core tenet of CEA’s essay-writing philosophy). Writing this essay will give you an opportunity to reveal your creativity and compassion: the requisite qualities for seeing potential or beauty in something or someone’s flaws.

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.

This is your life preserver in a sea of oddball prompts. If all else fails, you can recycle an essay you’ve written for another school, but it had better be good. It had better be some of the best writing you’ve ever done. U Chicago has made its expectations clear for applicants who choose to go their own way. So, if you choose to use something you’ve already written, be sure to get creative with the prompt. Take a hint from the other essay options and lead off with a quote or theoretical musing that points towards some essential question.

You might also choose this option because none of the other prompts provided ample latitude for you to tell the story you really want to tell. In this case, you should craft your essay and prompt somewhat concurrently. As you brainstorm, keep an eye on essential themes that you can weave into a creative prompt, or that your essay can put a fun twist on. Were you born with a congenital eye defect that literally (and metaphorically) affects how you see the world? (Q: How is your perspective on the world unique?) Or maybe your joint interests in computer science and urban planning have led you to muse on what it really means to go “ off the grid .” This approach works best when you already have an idea in mind, but no matter what you write about, have fun with it! Writing your own prompt gives you a excellent opportunity to display an extra level of meta thinking and self-awareness.

How to Write the University of Chicago Application Essays 2017-2018

The University of Chicago, located in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, is a private research institution that ranks #3 in U.S. News and World Report’s Best National Universities.

If you’re working on your University of Chicago application, you know getting into UChicago is no simple task — the class of 2020 had an acceptance rate of 7.9%. The writing supplements can be a challenge to tackle because of their open-ended and creative nature. This post will help guide you through all of the University of Chicago’s essay prompts.

Read on to understand how to tackle Chicago’s unique application essay prompts for 2017-2018.

University of Chicago Application Essay Prompts

Required Prompt

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.

Like many other schools, UChicago asks applicants to answer what is essentially a question asking, “Why do you specifically want to attend this school?” This is a common prompt at many top schools, and it is what we like to call an “essay of elimination.” By itself, the “Why School X?” essay rarely gets a candidate into a school, as it is really difficult to write an answer to this question that is truly unique and meaningful.

Instead, schools like UChicago use this application to separate the candidates who are truly passionate about attending the school (it has too many strong applicants for a limited number of spots in the incoming freshman class). That’s why a poorly written or mediocre “Why UChicago?” essay can keep you out, even if a great one cannot get you in.

And the only way to actually mess up this question, beyond obvious errors, like making grammar mistakes or saying something offensive, is if you don’t write an essay that is specifically about the University of Chicago.

Generic statements like “I’m excited to spend the next four years in Chicago,” “UChicago students have a tight knit community,” or “the campus is beautiful” — that apply to dozens of colleges around the country — should be avoided. The university wants to know that you want to specifically attend it, not just that you want to attend any Top 15 university in the United States. Specificity is key .

Unique Things About UChicago

To help you as you write your Why UChicago essay, we have included a few special and unique things about the University of Chicago, according to CollegeVine team members from the school. This is by no means a fully comprehensive or complete list, and it would behoove you to do your own research as well, as ideally, you will find specific reasons for attending UChicago that align with your own admissions profile. We would also warn that unless you plan on reading through 15 years worth of Scav lists, merely name-dropping Scav will likely diminish the specificity and strength of your essay.

Note: As this question is asked every year by UChicago, these notes borrow heavily from the lists we presented in our blog posts for the essays for the classes of 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.

Extended Essay Questions: 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?

– Anonymous Suggestion

The key words in this prompt are “victory” and “progress,” which indicate that the prompt is set up nicely for you to draw a contrast between the topic that you think is important but under-discussed and other topics.

One natural axis with which to approach this essay is policy or politics . It is pretty easy to draw a contrast between issues that are politically contentious, like abortion or free speech, and issues that are highly impactful but less debated, like malaria in Africa or the opioid crisis in the United States. If you go down this path, it’s important to note that questions like abortion and free speech are certainly important.

Instead of just arguing that they are not important, you can draw upon the prompt in saying that discussion of those issues is usually conducted in such a manner that no progress is made. Instead, it’s usually about trying to yell at the other side.

As long as you make this clarification, you can then turn to the real or underlying issue and explore it further, laying out why you think it’s important. This essay archetype can be made more effective if it is interwoven with a strong personal narrative that ties you to the important and under-discussed issue (for example, perhaps you have cousins that have gotten addicted to opioids). But it is still possible to write an excellent essay in this vein even if you don’t have a personal connection to the essay.

Another angle to take with this essay is to focus on a highly specialized or niche area within a topic or field of interest and write a deep-dive essay that shows off your passion for a subject. This can obviously be something like a deep academic treatise on an overlooked aspect of Russian history between 1640-1700, but it doesn’t have to be about a purely academic topic.

For example, if you’re an avid soccer player and fan, you can write an essay about why the 3-5-2 formation is under-discussed and under-utilized, despite allowing several underdog teams to pull upsets in international tournaments. The important thing isn’t that the idea is particularly academic or erudite, but rather that you know the topic extremely well and can display your love for it through the essay.

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

This prompt certainly lends itself to an essay with a more humorous tone, and it is quite easy to slip into a joking treatment of “Bromance Languages” or “Ant History.” There are certainly interesting essays that can be written in this vein, but we would caution that it is really difficult to pull off a humorous tone in a written format because so much of humor is contextual and specific to the tastes of the audience.

You can still write an essay that attempts to leverage humor with this prompt, but you should keep your audience in mind. Admissions counselors at top universities tend to be younger, highly educated, and politically progressive. So it’s probably not the best idea to slip that “edgy” (i.e., racist) joke that you found on Reddit into this essay. And regarding tone, you should be going for something closer to Mel Brooks or Woody Allen than to Adam Sandler.

However, you don’t have to tackle this prompt with a humorous lens. Instead, you can use it as an opportunity to show off your intellectual chops and flexibility, or highlight multiple academic themes on your profile.

For example, let’s say that you’re interested in both linguistics and gender and sexuality studies. Instead of cracking the all-too-easy jokes about Bromance Languages, you could reframe your exploration of the topic by using it as a launchpad to discuss the concept of toxic masculinity and how that prevents effective communication in male friendships by creating a taboo around discussing one’s feelings openly.

This essay is going to work best if you find a pun or fusion that aligns closely with your profile. To share just one more example, let’s say that you renamed “Social Sciences” to “SoCal Sciences” and are interested in studying urban studies and history. You could frame the renamed major as the study of how the historic presence of industry and the military (the hard “sciences”) in Los Angeles shaped the urban geography of the city and made it harder for the city to densify its neighborhoods once those industries left.

Again this is just one of numerous possible examples with the dozens of majors on that list. You should think carefully about your own.

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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

This prompt is the first to really lend itself to a highly personal narrative, as you can use it as a vehicle to comment on the broader psychology or organizational patterns of the society around you while weaving in your personal experience. As an example, if you struggled with self-esteem and communicating with peers when you were younger, you might argue that your place in the world is driven by the combination of confidence, intellect, and the ability to communicate or connect with other people.

If you mixed your analysis of these topics with intensely personal and negative memories of times that you struggled in each area, it could be the foundation for an incredibly powerful essay.

Conversely, you can easily lay out a more positive case and tell your story that way. For example, you could propose that the world is composed of altruism, Smithian self-interest, and random chance. Using this as your foundation, you could argue that every event in your life falls into one of these categories, and share anecdotes of how your life displays each of those traits.

Once again (as with most UChicago essay prompts), there is also a more academic angle that you can take, perhaps illustrating your knowledge of sociology, economics, or neo-Marxist analysis. The key with this type of approach is to ensure that you are displaying both your intense passion for the field and your in-depth knowledge of it. UChicago is the rare school that will accept your display of an academic or quirky passion in a college essay, but you cannot fake it — your essay needs to display the deep love and passion you have for the subject or field.

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

This is probably the prompt that lends itself most to a personal narrative or story, for obvious reasons. One tactic that you can take is to describe a personality trait or common behavior of yours as your armor — for example, confidence or sarcasm — and interweave that with anecdotes that prove the point. In general if you take this approach, you want to try and choose less common or clichéd personality traits.

Sarcasm is about the most conventional answer that you can give that still makes for a compelling essay, anything more narrow than that (like confidence) will likely come off as clichéd. A slightly more innovative approach in this style is to use it to show that you’re willing to engage with your flaws a little bit, especially if you are a strong applicant on paper. Obviously you don’t want to go overboard, but (as an example) describing a nervous tic where you rub your pen during a test to help calm yourself down could serve as an essay that humanizes you and takes a more innovative approach to the prompt.

Another angle to take with this prompt is to use it to explore an extracurricular activity or passion that you display in your profile. For a specific activity or passion, you could then talk about a fundamental skill or “go-to move” that you fall back on when things aren’t going smoothly in this activity, which thus makes it a form of “armor” that you use to avoid failure in the activity.

The sports examples are easy to think of: For example, perhaps your go-to move in basketball is a fadeaway jump shot. But the concept can also be applied in a non-sports context. If you are a Lincoln-Douglas debater, then maybe there is a rhetorical trick or technique that you always fall back on when you’re in a tough debate. Or if you conduct a lot of physics research, perhaps you always fall back on your understanding of data when you see results that you can’t replicate or that are confusing. Regardless of the arena, the point is to highlight a foundational skill that you use in the activity to reiterate your passion and dedication to the activity.

One final approach is to engage literally with the question and talk about your favorite piece of fashion or clothing. Perhaps you have a favorite shirt or there’s a pair of shoes that has a special place in your heart. But if you do write about an actual piece of clothing, you shouldn’t just skim the surface level, i.e., “I like this shirt because I look good in it, and it makes me feel good.”

Instead, you should use it as a jumping-off point to reflect on who you are as a person and share that with the admissions counselor. For example, you might write an essay about your favorite pair of sweatpants because you always do your best work in those sweatpants (and cannot do your best work unless you are comfortable and warm). You might also extend the essay to talk about why you sometimes feel the need for solitude (which the sweatpants implicitly represent) amidst the social strain of being in high school.

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