The college application essay is one of the only times during the admissions process where a student can showcase his or her personality. While many schools primarily focus their essay prompts on some variation of either “Why do you want to go to school here?” or “Tell us what makes you special,” some admissions offices are getting quite creative with their essay prompts. We’ve compiled some of our favorites here.
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago has long been known for its rigorous course load and the strength of its philosophy department. Given that, it’s no surprise all of the school’s application essay promptsencourage interested students to get a little philosophical. This option immediately stood out to us:
“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.”
Honorable mention: Incoming students can also choose to answer the question, “Were pH an expression of personality, what would be your pH and why?”
Interested in applying to the Ivy League university in Hanover, New Hampshire? Dartmouth is asking prospective students to reveal some of their personality secrets. “When you meet someone for the first time, what do you want them to know about you, but generally don’t tell them?” reads one question.
Honorable mention:“Every name tells a story: Tell us about your name—any name: first, middle, last, nickname—and its origin.”
Stanford University wants to get to know what students are like outside of the classroom.
“Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate — and us —know you better,” reads one prompt.
Honorable mention: “What matters to you and why?”
The university just outside of Boston is known for its offbeat application questions. Last year, prospective students were asked one of the great questions of our time: “What does #YOLO mean to you?” High school seniors interested in Tufts currently have the option to “Celebrate [their] nerdy side” in 200 to 250 words.
Honorable mention: “Sports, science and society are filled with rules, theories and laws like the Ninth Commandment, PV=nRT, Occam’s Razor and The Law of Diminishing Returns. Three strikes and you’re out. In English, ‘I’ before ‘E’ except after ‘C.’ Warm air rises. Pick one and explain its significance to you.” (Editor’s note: No, we couldn’t do this in 250 words either.)
University of Virginia
Sometimes the hardest questions to answer are also the shortest in terms of word length. “What’s your favorite word and why?” asks The University of Virginia’s Admissions Office of its applicants. (They are encouraged to answer in roughly 250 words.)
Honorable mention: “To tweet or not to tweet?”
Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.