The Ivy Coach Daily

August 9, 2023

2023-2024 University of Chicago Supplemental Essay Prompts

Chicago Essays, UChicago Essays, Chicago Admissions Essays
The University of Chicago is known for its quirky admissions essays (photo credit: Michael Barera).

Previously Published on July 10, 2015:

The University of Chicago has released its supplemental essay prompts for the 2023-2024 college admissions cycles. Applicants to UChicago’s Class of 2028 will be asked to answer two essays in addition to The Common Application’s Personal Statement. Each essay should be one to two pages in length and, as is tradition at the University of Chicago, the essay options for one of the two prompts are as weird as can be. So what are this year’s UChicago essay prompts? Let’s check them out!

2023-2024 UChicago Essay Topics and Questions

The Weird Essay Prompt

For the first essay prompt, which applicants should address in one to two pages, applicants are asked to choose one of the seven essay options, which are as follows:

1. Exponents and square roots, pencils and erasers, beta decay and electron capture. Name two things that undo each other and explain why both are necessary.

— Inspired by Emmett Cho, Class of 2027

2. “Where have all the flowers gone?” – Pete Seeger. Pick a question from a song title or lyric and give it your best answer. 

— Inspired by Ryan Murphy, AB’21

3. “Vlog,” “Labradoodle,” and “Fauxmage.” Language is filled with portmanteaus. Create a new portmanteau and explain why those two things are a “patch” (perfect match). 

— Inspired by Garrett Chalfin, Class of 2027

4. A jellyfish is not a fish. Cat burglars don’t burgle cats. Rhode Island is not an island. Write an essay about some other misnomer, and either come up with and defend a new name for it or explain why its inaccurate name should be kept. 

— Inspired by Sonia Chang, Class of 2025, and Mirabella Blair, Class of 2027

5. Despite their origins in the Gupta Empire of India or Ancient Egypt, games like chess or bowling remain widely enjoyed today. What modern game do you believe will withstand the test of time, and why?

— Inspired by Adam Heiba, Class of 2027

6. There are unwritten rules that everyone follows or has heard at least once in their life. But of course, some rules should be broken or updated. What is an unwritten rule that you wish didn’t exist? (Our custom is to have five new prompts each year, but this year we decided to break with tradition. Enjoy!) 

— Inspired by Maryam Abdella, Class of 2026

7. 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!

How to Approach the Weird Essay Prompt at UChicago

Irrespective of which essay prompt an applicant chooses among the first six, they should strive to showcase how they think and aim to be memorable. Not every essay in college admissions offers students such a unique opportunity to stand out, but this essay prompt gives students that opening.

As such, while all of Ivy Coach’s students’ essays are always weird, this prompt typically allows our students to showcase their weird sides more than any other. But their answers are not just weird for weird’s sake. Through their compelling narratives, they showcase — through their singular hook rather than well-roundedness — how they’re going to change the world in one super specific way.

Oh, and notice we didn’t suggest a student answer the “choose your own adventure prompt.” It’s because we would always prefer a student demonstrate that they wrote the essay just for UChicago. The other six prompts are so specific that it’s doubtful an applicant could repurpose the essay for another school, whereas a “choose your own adventure” answer can easily be used for other institutions. Thus, the act of choosing one of the first six prompts is itself a way of demonstrating interest to UChicago.

The Why Chicago Essay Prompt

UChicago’s second required essay should also be answered in one to two pages. For this prompt, students must answer the following 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.

This prompt is a straight-up-the-middle Why College essay that should be filled with specific reference after specific reference of how a student will contribute their singular hook to the school’s enduring programs and institutes, traditions, and activities. Notice we didn’t mention professors or classes. Professors leave and classes change. Besides, UChicago’s admissions officers weren’t born yesterday. They know students can cut and paste the names of professors and class names from one school to the next like a game of Mad Libs. They want to see a student wrote this essay just for them. They want to feel special!

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with UChicago Essays

If you need assistance optimizing your case for admission to the University of Chicago by submitting wonderfully weird essays that wow admissions officers, fill out our free consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to outline Ivy Coach’s college admissions counseling services for seniors.

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