Each year, applicants to The University of Chicago are asked to answer two supplemental essay questions. Sounds normal enough, right? Not quite – UChicago is famous for its unique essay prompts which are often creative and uniquely fun.
Applicants are asked to submit two essays with their application. The first is the standard "why UChicago" question. The second question takes a more creative approach. The essay prompts change wildly each year–because they are submitted by current students!
The University of Chicago’s history of unique essay questions began in 1984 when the admissions staff added a fun prompt asking students to image themselves as astronauts on Mars. In 2000, UChicago students took over the task of writing essay questions. Each year, UChicago receives several hundred essay prompt submissions from students enrolled at the university and narrows it down to a handful for applicants to choose from.
When asked why they offer such unique essay prompts Peter Wilson, assistant vice president of enrollment and student advancement and director of undergraduate admissions, says: “We are interested in diversity in all its forms, and a wide variety of questions allows for a wide variety of ideas to be represented.”
How does the university of Chicago, as you know it, 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.
Essay Option 1: Was it a cat I saw? Yo-no-na-ka, ho-ka-ho-ka na-no-yo (Japanese for “the world is a warm place”). Może jutro ta dama da tortu jeżom (Polish for “maybe tomorrow that lady will give a cake to the hedgehogs”). Share a palindrome in any language, and give it a backstory.
— Inspired by Leah Beach, Class of 2026, Lib Gray SB ’12, and Agnes Mazur AB ‘09
Essay Option 2: What advice would a wisdom tooth have?
— Inspired by Melody Dias, Class of 2025
Essay Option 3: You are on an expedition to found a colony on Mars, when from a nearby crater, a group of Martians suddenly emerges. They seem eager to communicate, but they're the impatient kind and demand you represent the human race in one song, image, memory, proof, or other idea. What do you share with them to show that humanity is worth their time?
— Inspired by Alexander Hastings, Class of 2023, and Olivia Okun-Dubitsky, Class of 2026
Essay Option 4: UChicago has been affiliated with over 90 Nobel laureates. But, why should economics, physics, and peace get all the glory? You are tasked with creating a new category for the Nobel Prize. Explain what it would be, why you chose your specific category, and the criteria necessary to achieve this accomplishment.
— Inspired by Isabel Alvarez, Class of 2026
Essay Option 5: Genghis Khan with an F1 racecar. George Washington with a SuperSoaker. Emperor Nero with a toaster. Leonardo da Vinci with a Furby. If you could give any historical figure any piece of technology, who and what would it be, and why do you think they’d work so well together?
— Inspired by Braden Hajer, Class of 2025
Essay Option 6: And, as always… the classic choose your own adventure option! In the spirit of adventurous inquiry, choose one of our past prompts (or create a question of your own). 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!
Lost your keys? Alohomora. Noisy roommate? Quietus. Feel the need to shatter windows for some reason? Finestra. Create your own spell, charm, jinx, or other means for magical mayhem. How is it enacted? Is there an incantation? Does it involve a potion or other magical object? If so, what's in it or what is it? What does it do?
— Inspired by Emma Sorkin, Class of 2021
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
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, AB’07
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
Due to a series of clerical errors, there is exactly one typo (an extra letter, a removed letter, or an altered letter) in the name of every department at the University of Chicago. Oops! Describe your new intended major. Why are you interested in it and what courses or areas of focus within it might you want to explore? Potential options include Commuter Science, Bromance Languages and Literatures, Pundamentals: Issues and Texts, Ant History... a full list of unmodified majors ready for your editor’s eye is available here.
— Inspired by Josh Kaufman, AB'18
How did you get caught? (Or not caught, as the case may be.)
— Inspired by Kelly Kennedy, AB’10
Discover more of The University of Chicago’s past essay prompts on their admissions essay website.
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