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.
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