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The 7 UChicago Essay Prompts: How to Write Stellar Responses

The University of Chicago, with its reputation for intellectual rigor and creative inquiry, offers a distinctive set of supplemental essay prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle. These prompts are an invitation to showcase not just academic ability but also creativity, personality, and thoughtfulness. Here’s an expanded breakdown of the prompts and strategies for crafting compelling responses.

UChicago Essay Prompts 2023-24

Question 1 : “Why University of Chicago?” (Required)

Focus: This essay seeks to understand your motivations for choosing UChicago, aligning with your specific learning goals and future aspirations.

Approach: Delve into the university’s unique academic programs, its vibrant community, and the opportunities it offers that resonate with your academic and career objectives. Articulate clearly how UChicago’s distinctive features – from its core curriculum to its emphasis on interdisciplinary studies – match your educational philosophy and interests. Reflect on how the university’s ethos and resources will support your pursuit of academic excellence and personal growth.

Question 2 : Extended Essay (Choose one)

  • Advice: Select pairs that reflect your intellectual curiosity and areas of interest. Explain the necessity of both elements in your chosen pair, weaving in personal insights or experiences demonstrating your depth of understanding.
  • Advice: Choose a lyric that genuinely intrigues or inspires you. Provide an answer that is not just creative but also reveals something significant about your worldview or personal experiences.
  • Advice: Invent a portmanteau that is both clever and meaningful. Your explanation should delve into why this combination of words is not only linguistically interesting but also conceptually significant.
  • Advice: Select a misnomer that you find particularly fascinating or relevant. Your essay should demonstrate your ability to think critically and argue persuasively, whether you advocate for change or the status quo.
  • Advice: Choose a game that you are passionate about or have a unique perspective on. Discuss its enduring qualities and how it reflects broader cultural, social, or technological trends.
  • Advice: Identify an unwritten rule that you find problematic or outdated. Discuss why it exists and argue why it should be challenged or changed, reflecting your values and perspectives.
  • Advice: This is your chance to be truly creative and original. Select a topic that you are deeply passionate about, and that showcases your unique voice and perspective. This could be an intellectual exploration, a personal a creative fiction piece. The key is to engage your reader with a compelling story or argument that reflects your individuality and intellectual verve. Think of it as a canvas to display your most imaginative and insightful self.

Crafting Your UChicago Essays: Key Strategies

  • Understand the UChicago Ethos : Before you begin writing, immerse yourself in the culture of the University of Chicago. Understanding the university’s values, such as its emphasis on intellectual freedom, interdisciplinary learning, and vibrant community life, will help you tailor your essays to resonate with what the school stands for.
  • Reflect Personal and Intellectual Growth : In each essay, whether it’s explaining why UChicago is a perfect fit for you or exploring an abstract concept in the extended essay, make sure to intertwine personal growth and intellectual development. Admissions officers are looking for students who are not only bright but also thoughtful and self-aware.
  • Showcase Your Intellectual Curiosity : UChicago values students who are passionate about learning and eager to explore complex ideas. Use your essays to demonstrate your love of learning, your willingness to question, and your ability to engage deeply with topics.
  • Balance Creativity with Clarity : While creativity is a key aspect of these essays, clarity of thought and expression is equally important. Ensure your essays are imaginative yet coherent, with a clear central idea or narrative thread.
  • Research and Specificity : When answering the “Why UChicago?” prompt, be specific. Mention particular courses, professors, research opportunities, or unique aspects of UChicago’s academic and community life that appeal to you. Show that you have done your homework and understand what makes UChicago unique.
  • Revise and Seek Feedback : Don’t hesitate to revise your essays multiple times. Seek feedback from teachers, counselors, or others who understand the UChicago admissions process. An outside perspective can help refine your ideas and ensure your essays are polished and impactful.
  • Embrace Risk-Taking : UChicago’s essay prompts encourage you to take risks in your writing. This might mean tackling a challenging topic, employing a unique writing style, or presenting unconventional viewpoints. Don’t shy away from being bold in your essays, as long as it authentically represents your thoughts and experiences.

Writing for UChicago’s supplemental essays is an exercise in balancing creativity with intellectual rigor. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate not just your fit for the university but also your potential as a student and thinker. Remember, these essays are a crucial part of your application – they are where you become more than just grades and test scores. They are where you become a person with ideas, dreams, and the potential to contribute something unique to the UChicago community. Take your time to craft essays that are reflective, insightful, and, above all, authentically you.

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How to Respond to the 2023/2024 University of Chicago Supplemental Essay Prompts

uchicago essay responses

Chicago isn’t only known for its deep dish pizza. It is also famous for being home to the prestigious University of Chicago, which has an acceptance rate in the 6% range. So, let’s learn how to make your UChicago supplemental essay question responses stand out! Applicants must complete two UChicago supplemental essays. To make your responses perfect, complete some research before! Figure out what it is about UChicago (besides deep dish goodness) that makes you want to attend their school! 

The University of Chicago is also famous for having some…unique supplemental essay questions. So, put on your creative cap and get ready to have some fun while responding to UChicago’s supplemental essay questions. Here’s our guide for how to ace these creative UChicago supplemental essays!

Also see: How to write an essay about yourself

Essay question #1 

“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 is your typical “Why us” essay. However, do not make your response boring or universal! Make it specific to UChicago. Use this space to really detail why this school is the perfect fit for you. 

Explore both the academic and extracurricular aspects of the university that stand out from others. Maybe you are extremely passionate about majoring in biology to soon become a doctor one day. Therefore, discuss what courses, research, and study abroad opportunities UChicago has to offer that will make this goal attainable. It is important to touch upon what you want your future to look like and how UChicago will get you to reach all of your goals. It is also important to touch upon the aspects of their school that makes them unique. What makes UChicago stand out from all of the other schools you are considering? 

Overall, an admissions officer reading your essay should have a good sense of what you are looking to get out of UChicago. In addition, they should easily be able to see how much research you have done and how serious you are about attending their university. 

Questions to consider

  • What makes UChicago unique from other colleges? 
  • Why are you excited to attend UChicago? 
  • Why did you choose to apply to UChicago? 

Also see: How to write a 500 word essay

Essay question #2: The extended essay

For the extended essay portion of your application, UChicago provides applicants with seven unorthodox essay options. Each of these choices were created by UChicago alumni and students, which means these questions were made with you in mind. They also emphasize creativity and unique ideas when responding to these prompts, so try to have fun with them! 

“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” 

This is a question that requires your thinking hat to be on to answer it! To begin, just brainstorm! Try to come up with some ideas of 2 things that undo each other, bonus points if you can come up with something that has significance in your life such as something you use on a daily basis or something you are passionate about. For example, if you want to major in chemistry at the University of Chicago, discussing beta decay and electron capture could reveal your passion for the subject. However, no pressure if you can only think of something logistical rather than meaningful to you! Once you are satisfied with your idea, you should describe how these 2 things undo each other and why both are necessary. Ultimately, this question is trying to hint at how balance is important! You should try to use this prompt as a way to dig deeper into your life and reveal some aspects of your personality and thought-process. Below are some examples of things that undo each other in case you are completely stuck! 

Some examples of things that undo each other: 

  • Typos and autocorrect
  • Wetness and a towel
  • Addition and subtraction
  • Lock and key
  • Sewing and unthreading
  • Stains and laundry 
  • Photosynthesis and cellular respiration

Questions to consider:

  • What 2 things do you use in your daily life that undo one another? 
  • Do you believe that balance is necessary in life? 
  • Why do you think so many things in our lives undo each other? 
“”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”

If you love music this is the perfect option for you! Think of your favorite singer, song or band and find a title or lyric that asks a question. The creativity with this prompt is endless, you can select a deep philosophical question or just an easy-to-answer funny question. Ultimately, what matters is that you answer the question in a creative and meaningful way. You want your unique personality to shine through throughout this response so be sure to be yourself in your writing. Below are a few examples of questions found in song titles or lyrics! But, feel free to select a question from a song that means a lot to you. The choice of lyric and singer can reveal a lot about your personality. 

Example of questions from song titles or lyrics:

  • “Should I stay or should I go?” -The Clash
  • “What would you do if you weren’t doin’ this?” -Luke Combs
  • “Wouldn’t it be nice?” -The Beach Boys
  • “Do you believe in magic?” -The Lovin’ Spoonful
  • “If the story’s over, why am I still writing pages?” -Taylor Swift
  • “What if I’m someone I don’t want around?” -Harry Styles
  • “What’s love got to do with It?” -Tina Turner
  • “Should I give up or should I just keep chasin’ pavements even if it leads nowhere?” -Adele

Question to consider:

  • What is your favorite song title or lyric that asks a question?
“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 Chaflin, Class of 2027”

Language is fun due to the unique creative word mashups that can be made. So, put on your creativity hat and think about two words that just need to be combined! This question is specifically asking for a “new portmanteau” so do not use a common portmanteau! Rather, try to be extremely creative in coming up with your patch (perfect match)! However, try not to forget that this is an essay to help you become admitted to the University of Chicago! Therefore, try to take it one step further and create a portmanteau that uses 2 words that describe you or one of your passions. Using words that are aspects of your identity can reveal so much about yourself which is all the University of Chicago wants from your response! 

For example, maybe you choose the words “runner” and “scientist” to make “runnitist” to describe yourself because you love to run but love to focus on the science behind running and training to avoid injury and be the best runner you can be! This can also lead you to discuss how you want to become a physical therapist and that is why you want to attend the University of Chicago! See full circle! Or should we say furcle?

Examples of common portmanteaus:

  • Smog (smoke and fog)
  • Brunch (breakfast and lunch) 
  • Spork (spoon and fork)
  • Motel (motor and hotel)
  • What are 2 words used to describe yourself? 
  • Why do you think these 2 words fit so well together? 
“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”

Misnomers are a fun (or confusing) part of language. Therefore, spend some time researching and brainstorming some misnomers. Once you find one that you love (or hate) you should begin crafting your response. Ultimately, it does not matter if you decide to change the name or keep it, rather your argument should be prioritized. Your argument will show admissions how your brain works and disclose what you are passionate about. Therefore, focus on crafting a strong and persuasive argument that supports your reasoning, no matter how ridiculous this argument may seem! 

Examples of misnomers:

  • Koala bears = they are marsupials not bears
  • Light-year = a measure of distance not time
  • Silkworm = they are caterpillars not worms
  • Black boxes = they are bright orange not black
  • Centipedes = they do not have 100 legs rather it varies from 30 to 354
  • Should your selected misnomer name be kept? Why or why not?
  • Are misnomers confusing? 
“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”

If you love game nights this is the prompt for you! Try to brainstorm some modern games which are games that are not considered classics such as checkers. Rather think of some recent games that have swept the newer generations such as mobile phone games or beach games such as Spikeball. Once you have decided on the perfect game that you believe will withstand the test of time, write about it! However, it is important to remember that the University of Chicago wants to know about you- not about a game! Therefore, try to limit your time explaining the game’s rules and intricacies! Rather, focus on how the game makes you feel or why you think games are important to society. Ultimately, be sure you are revealing unique qualities you demonstrate throughout your response!

Examples of modern games:

  • Candy Crush
  • Dungeons and Dragons
  •  What is a modern game you feel will withstand the test of time?
  • Why do you enjoy playing this game? Do you like that it’s a single player game? Teamwork game? Strategy game? 
  • Why is playing games important for society? What benefits does gameplay have? 
  • Has this game taught you anything? Any important life lessons? Any new skills? 
“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”

If you have ever been curious about some quirks of human life then this is the prompt for you! Try to think about an unwritten rule that has bugged you for a while. Why does this rule bother you? Why do you think people follow this rule even though it is unwritten? After you explain the rule and your side you should focus on shifting your response to reveal more information about your interests, goals and character.

Examples of unwritten rules:

  • Saying hello to fellow hikers on a trail
  • Asking people at tourist locations where they are from
  • Knock on the door before entering
  • Offering guests to your home a beverage or food
  • Don’t swipe on someone’s phone when they show you a picture
  • If someone is treating you to lunch, do not order the most expensive menu item
  • What is an unspoken rule that has always confused you? 
  • How does this rule make you feel? 
  • Why do you think this rule has been unspokenly accepted? 
“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!”

This prompt is your chance to create something completely new and unlike any other application UChicago has ever received. Use your creativity to the fullest extent and figure out your own way to showcase your personality. However, make sure you don’t go too overboard and stay focused on your goal of getting into UChicago. 

Try not to make your essay revolve around your academic achievements. Instead, tell a story of how you’ve grown and what led you to UChicago’s doorstep, or describe an old proverb and how it relates to your life. Either way, your options are unlimited and making your own prompt demonstrates your interest in attending this university. 

  • What story do you want to tell the admissions office?
  • How can I best showcase your knowledge or skills?
  • What are some of the older UChicago prompts that caught your eye?

Next steps after applying to UChicago

Now that the fun is over, and you have completed your UChicago supplemental essays – it is time to celebrate! Treat yourself to some deep dish pizza because you are one step closer to the Windy City!

Now, continue to show that you are interested in the university! You can do this by following their social media accounts, scheduling a tour, and reaching out to their admissions officers. Doing any of these will prove you are willing to take the next step with UChicago. 

After you have proven your interest in the school, time to sit back and relax! All the hard work is over. Soon enough, you will be relaxing in a dorm that overlooks the city skyline of Chicago. 

Additional resources

We know that being a student applying for colleges is not easy. There are a lot of tough choices that need to be made when it comes down to selecting a college. Once you start hearing back from colleges you should use our college comparison spreadsheet to help you. You can also check out our guide to how many schools to apply to in order to ensure you’ve got yourself covered.

In addition, be sure to check out our free scholarship search tool to help you choose a financially smart educational institution! It is always important to consider finances when selecting a college. Good luck on your college journey! Remember you will always end up where you need to be! 

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Additional colleges to consider

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  • University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
  • Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA)
  • New York University (New York, NY)
  • Columbia University (New York, NY)

Frequently asked questions about the University of Chicago supplemental essay prompts

How should i approach brainstorming for the university of chicago essays, can i reuse my common app personal statement for one of the supplemental essays, when are the application deadlines for the university of chicago, can i get creative with my university of chicago supplemental essay answers.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Applications, what is your minimum gpa or required sat or act score.

There is no minimum GPA or required test score. At UChicago, the admissions committee considers a candidate’s entire application—academic and extracurricular records, essays, letters of recommendation, and optional testing—and there’s no one piece of information that alone determines whether or not you would be a good fit for the College. You can learn more about this contextual review process  here .

I was unable to take the SAT or ACT due to a test date cancellation. Can I still apply to UChicago?

UChicago is test-optional, which means that we do not require students to share results of the SAT or ACT if you have been unable to test or prefer not to share your scores. This policy is open to all applicants, including domestic first-year applicants, international applicants, and transfer students. Further information about our test-optional policy can be found here .

Do you grant credit for AP and IB scores? For college-level classes taken in high school?

Yes! We accept scores of 5 on most Advanced Placement (AP) exams and of 7 on certain International Baccalaureate (IB) Higher-Level examinations for credit; other scores may be accepted in particular subjects. Learn more about accelerated course credit  here .

While UChicago is unable to grant transfer credit to first-year students for college-level coursework taken prior to matriculation, we understand that taking college level courses while enrolled in high school gives students strong experience with rigorous work that prepares you well for the UChicago experience. UChicago also offers placement and accreditation tests to entering students in select subjects to assure that students are able to start courses at a level that best suits their prior experience in a given subject.

Do you require SAT Subject Tests?

No. Regardless of what other test scores you may be submitting, SAT Subject Tests scores are entirely optional, and not sending Subject Test scores will not hurt your application.

Do you look at the essay section of the SAT or ACT?

If you choose to submit your SAT or ACT scores, UChicago does not require the optional essay portion of the SAT or ACT. If submitted, the essay score will not be an essential part of the application review.

I've taken the SAT or ACT more than once. Should I send all my test scores?

We superscore test scores, meaning that only your best testing results—your highest sub-scores and the best result of the two testing options, if you've taken both the SAT and ACT— will be considered in the review of your application. Lower test scores submitted will not be used in the review of your application. If you have chosen to submit SAT or ACT test scores, we recommend that you send us all of your test scores.

Because standardized test scores are optional portions of your admissions process, does that mean I shouldn’t take the SAT or ACT?

The SAT, ACT, and other standard measures can continue to be an important part of the University of Chicago’s contextual admission process for students electing to send scores and are a required part of the application process at many other highly selective schools. These tests can provide valuable information about a student which we and other colleges will consider alongside the other elements in a student’s application. We encourage students to take standardized tests, like the SAT and ACT, and to share your scores with us if you think that they are reflective of your ability and potential. Given that many of our peers do require testing, we anticipate that the vast majority of students will continue to take tests and may still submit their test scores to UChicago.

I don’t plan on submitting an ACT or SAT. What else should I submit?

We welcome any student, regardless of testing choices, to submit additional materials that they feel best highlight their skills, talents, and potential contributions to UChicago. Students may submit supplemental materials through their UChicago Account. These materials may include, but are not limited to, creative writing projects; highlights from music/dance/visual art/theater performances; school capstone projects such as the AP Capstone, the IB Extended Essay, or the equivalent; research project abstracts; business plans; or other work of note. Students may also elect to submit results of AP exams, SAT Subject Tests, or other supplemental testing on an optional and self-reported basis.

Is there a score cut off at which I should opt out of submitting my ACT or SAT?

We review applications contextually, which means there is never a score “cutoff” that would determine the fate of a student’s application. For many applicants, an SAT or ACT score can reflect their academic preparedness in a broader context. Students who feel this describes them are invited to submit these standardized scores. However, some domestic applicants may feel that an SAT or ACT score does not fully reflect their academic preparedness or potential. If this is the case, students may select UChicago's test-optional method of application, and not supply SAT or ACT scores with their application. We welcome any student regardless of testing plan to submit additional material that they feel best highlights their skills, talents, and potential contributions to UChicago.

If I had SAT or ACT scores sent before applying, can my application be reviewed without considering these scores?

Yes, if you previously had SAT or ACT scores sent before applying, you can indicate in your application that you wish to have your application considered without SAT or ACT scores.

What counts as an academic achievement of note in considering what to include in my application?

We read every application within the context of a student’s school, environment, and opportunities.  If you feel there is something that best highlights your skills, talents, and potential contributions to UChicago—and you have not already included it in your application—please share it with us!

Does UChicago not see a value in standardized testing?

Your transcript shows your academic record in the context of your school, but, since one school can be very different from another, it is useful to see evidence of academic achievement that exists outside of the context of your school. This is why some colleges ask applicants to submit an SAT or ACT score.

For many applicants, an SAT or ACT score can reflect their academic preparedness in this broader context. If you feel your SAT or ACT reflects your academic preparedness well, then please feel free to send this with your application. Some domestic applicants may feel that an SAT or ACT score does not fully reflect their academic preparedness or potential. If this is the case for you, you may select UChicago's test-optional method of application, and not supply SAT or ACT scores with your application.

We allow students to decide for themselves what optional information best represents their college readiness so that they can submit their strongest possible application. We want students to know: the application does not define them, they define the application.

Do you superscore test scores?

Yes, we superscore both the SAT and ACT, meaning that if you take either test multiple times, we will take your highest individual sub-section scores and combine them to give you the highest overall score possible.

Do you accept scores from the "old" SAT?

Starting in March 2016, the College Board offered a new, redesigned version of the SAT. We will continue to accept scores from the old version of the SAT for the five years that the scores remain valid and will superscore within both the old exam and the new, but will not superscore between the two versions.

Can I self-report my test scores or my transcript?

Both domestic and international applicants who choose to submit SAT or ACT scores may share either official or self-reported SAT or ACT scores. These students will not be required to submit official score reports unless they are admitted and choose to enroll. Students are able to self-report test scores through the Coalition or Common Application or may share a transcript that includes test scores.

Applicants who attend a high school in the United States may also self-submit high school transcripts and will be required to submit an official transcript if they are admitted and choose to enroll. International students should submit an official copy of their high school transcript.

What types of supplemental materials may I submit?

The most effective supplements share a representative sample of work that is important to the applicant. One to two minutes of a recorded work, two or three high-quality prints of a work of art, the best paragraph or page of a creatively written work, or an abstract of original research are recommended. If you do not believe that a traditional essay format can meaningfully share who you are, you can also submit an Alternative Project as an additional material. Alternative Projects may be multimedia works (videos, photo essays, art work, poetry, etc.) that applicants believe will introduce and represent themselves to admissions counselors.

What types of recommendation letters are required?

We require two letters of recommendation from two teachers of any academic subjects. If someone who is not a teacher can provide a different perspective on your work or personality, they are welcome to send in a supplemental recommendation in addition to your two teacher recommendations. Pick the teachers who know you best; they don't need to be in subjects related to your intended major.

May I submit supplemental letters of recommendation?

You may submit one additional letter of recommendation. The writer should know you personally and have worked closely with you in some capacity; this could include a coach, religious leader, group adviser, or employer, to name a few.

Is there a word limit or suggested word limit to your essay responses?

We suggest that you note any word limits for Coalition or Common Application essays; however, there are no strict word limits on the UChicago Supplement essays. For the extended essay (where you choose one of several prompts), we suggest that you aim for around 650 words. While we won't, as a rule, stop reading after 650 words, we're only human and cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention indefinitely. For the “Why UChicago?” essay, we suggest about 250-500 words. The ideas in your writing matter more than the exact number of words you use!

How do I make sure that UChicago has received all of my required application documents?

A little while after the application deadline has passed, you will be able to check to see which application materials we have received and processed by logging in to your  UChicago Account . Given the large volume of material submitted every year, there will be a reasonable amount of processing time between when you submit your documents and when they will appear in your Account. If anything is missing, we will give you ample time to submit or resubmit it.

May I submit supplemental materials in the arts, music, or my own original research?

Yes. The most effective supplements share a representative sample of work that is important to the applicant. One to two minutes of a recorded work, two or three high-quality prints of a work of art, the best paragraph or page of a creatively written work, or an abstract of original research are recommended. In addition, if you do not believe that a traditional essay format can meaningfully share who you are, you can submit an Alternative Project. The projects that can be submitted are multimedia (videos, photo essays, art work, poetry, etc.) that they believe introduces them to their admissions counselor and the UChicago community.

Can I participate in an interview as part of my application?

If you would like to add your voice to your application, you have the option to submit a two-minute video introduction, as an alternative to an interview. Your recording does not need to be extensively rehearsed or polished, and the video does not need to be edited. UChicago no longer offers on-campus or alumni interviews as part of the application process.

Is a video introduction required? Is it recommended?

The video introduction is not required but is recommended. A video introduction is one more way for us to get to know you and hear your voice (literally!), but it is up to the applicant whether or not to include one. Students who choose not to submit a video introduction will not be penalized in any way. Applicants can upload their video introduction to their UChicago Account under “Portfolio” with the title “Optional Video Profile.” You may upload your video to your UChicago Account at any time, but we recommend uploading by November 6 th  for Early Action and Early Decision I or January 8 th  for Regular Decision/Early Decision II.

Does my video need to be produced/edited/scripted?

The option of submitting a video gives students which wish to do so a different medium for developing their voice and ideas. In reviewing recommended video profiles, the focus will be on the content of the video rather than on production quality. Students who submit a video are encouraged to film in a quiet space that limits outside distractions (background noise, music, pet or sibling interference, etc.). While it’s okay to rehearse your message a bit so that you feel confident and ready, it’s helpful for us to hear these spoken in your normal, conversational voice—memorizing a “script” or reading from prepared notes is not necessary and might detract from a sense of your genuine voice.

Do you offer financial aid?

Yes. UChicago meets the full-demonstrated financial need of every admitted student through a need-based financial aid package that includes no loan expectation. Each financial aid package is tailored to the student and family’s particular financial profile; we require a few forms and documents in order to offer students an appropriate package. Although domestic applicants may apply for financial aid at any time, we recommend that they apply for aid when they apply for admission in order to receive an aid decision in a timely manner. UChicago does not charge an application fee to students who indicate that they intend to apply for financial aid. Learn more about applying for UChicago’s financial aid .

Do you offer merit awards or special scholarships?

Exemplary students are selected to receive University merit scholarships on the basis of outstanding academic achievement, extracurricular achievement, demonstrated leadership, and commitment to their communities. Merit awards are determined by committee on the basis of the application for admission without consideration of financial need. These awards range by amount from $5,000-$10,000 and can be awarded for four years of undergraduate study or as funding for summer opportunities. We also offer scholarships for first-generation college students, the children of police and firefighters, and the children of Chicago Public Schools educators. Each student admitted to the College will be automatically considered for merit scholarships; applicants do not need to fill out an additional application, with the exception of the Police and Fire Scholarship .

Special Circumstances

I had bad grades or a special circumstance that affected my performance in high school. does this mean i won’t get in.

No one’s record is perfect, and we understand that sometimes students’ transcripts have grades that are not indicative of their academic capabilities when they apply to college. If you have made significant strides in your academic performance, or outside circumstances have caused bumps along the way, please make sure that comes across in your application. The Additional Information portion of the application is a great place to discuss this. We truly embrace a contextual approach to reading applications, and this approach means seeing applicants as multi-faceted individuals rather than one-dimensional students.

I am taking the November SAT or October ACT as an Early Action or Early Decision I applicant, or the January SAT or February ACT as a Regular Decision or Early Decision II applicant. Will you consider these scores?

While we would, of course, like to receive your scores before the appropriate deadline, we will accept October ACT and November SAT scores for Early Action and Early Decision I, December SAT and ACT scores for Early Decision II, and January SAT and February ACT scores for Regular Decision.

I am interested in participating in a varsity sport. How may I contact a coach?

Contact information for our varsity coaches, as well as a survey for students interested in participating in varsity athletics, may be found  here .

Does the University of Chicago grant second bachelor’s degrees?

We do not offer second bachelor’s degrees. Please visit the website of the  Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies  for information on post-baccalaureate coursework and non-degree-program coursework.

May I apply to UChicago for entry in the Winter or Spring Quarters?

Entering students may only begin study at UChicago in the Autumn Quarter.

My school experience was disrupted or changed significantly during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Will this negatively impact my application to UChicago?

We understand that schools around the world made the difficult choice to close or engage in remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, we know many students may have experienced different grading systems or an inability to engage in school in their typical way in the Spring of 2020. UChicago always reviews applicants in the context of their school’s environment and grading practices, and will continue to give full consideration to all applicants regardless of the method of grading or assessment your school selected. We also know that many students experienced a disruption to their typical level of involvement in extracurricular activities. Rest assured that these circumstances, which we know were outside of any student’s control, will not negatively impact your application to UChicago or other colleges.

I am not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, but have been living in the United States for some time or am in the process of obtaining a green card but have not yet received one. Am I considered an international student?

Yes, for application and financial aid purposes you will be considered an international applicant until you receive a green card. For further help and questions as they arise during this process, contact us at  [email protected] .

Visiting Campus

I understand that many colleges are currently closed to visitors. how can i learn more about uchicago without a physical visit to campus.

We offer a variety of virtual opportunities to learn more about UChicago's academic, extracurricular, and admissions processes here .

UChicago will consider requests to take a one-year gap year from incoming first-year students before June 15. To be eligible for consideration, interested students should accept their offer of admission and place an enrollment deposit (or have a deposit fee waiver in place). Students must then apply for a gap year through their regional admissions counselor and will receive written confirmation from the Dean of Admissions if approved. Gap year requests should include a plan for a full year of structured programming, work, community involvement, or other exploration that could not be completed while enrolled in school. Students taking gap years will be asked to sign an agreement outlining expectations for conduct during their gap year. Second or two-year gap year requests are rarely approved except under unavoidable or well-defined national policies (typically including obligatory national/military service or other similar commitments).

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 4 tips for writing a stand-out 'why uchicago' essay.

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College Essays

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For students applying to the University of Chicago, the "why UChicago?" essay is more straightforward than most of the other essay prompts you'll see, but it can still be intimidating to try to figure out how you should tackle this essay.

What should you mention? What will impress the admissions team? What are they really looking for in your response?

We break down the "why UChicago?" essay, explain everything the University of Chicago is looking for in this essay, suggest topics to write about that'll help you stand out, and provide "why UChicago?" essay examples to help get your creative juices flowing.

The Why UChicago Essay Prompt

The "why UChicago?" essay is the only prompt that shows up every year on the UChicago application. It's also the only prompt that everyone must answer (you'll have multiple prompts to choose between for the other essay). This alone should tell you that the University of Chicago takes applicants' responses to this prompt very seriously.

Here is the 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."

There is no strict word limit to this essay, but UChicago suggests a response of one to two pages.

What Is the Purpose of This Essay?

Why does UChicago require applicants to answer this essay? What are they really looking for in your response? Let's analyze this prompt.

No matter which schools you're applying to, "why our college?" is probably the most common prompt you'll see on college applications, and for good reason: colleges, including the University of Chicago, want to see that you really want to attend their school. Why? Applicants who love UChicago are more likely to accept an offer of admission, be committed to their studies, participate in extracurriculars, and give back after they graduate.

If you show in your essay that you really love UChicago, it makes admissions officers feel more confident you're going to have a significant and positive impact on their school.

If you can't give any compelling reasons for choosing UChicago or you don't seem to have done much research on it, that makes UChicago admissions staff worry that you're not that invested and will do only the bare minimum in college without having much of an impact at the school or afterward. They may also think you don't really care about getting into their school, which can make them less likely to admit you.

Additionally, UChicago asks you to write this essay to ensure that you and their school are a good fit for each other . If you use the "why UChicago?" essay to talk about how much you love Division I sports teams or how you want to be a famous geologist, the admissions team may hesitate to offer you a place because their sports teams are Division III and they don't have a geology major.

Ultimately, the purpose of this essay has two parts: UChicago wants to make sure you know and value what they offer, and they also want to see how you're going to make use of these opportunities to reach your goals for the future.

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What Should You Write About in Your "Why UChicago?" Essay?

There are multiple ways to approach this essay prompt. However, since UChicago is best known for its academics, most applicants will make sure that at least part of their response touches on coursework and specific majors.

Here's a list of possible topics you can write about:

  • Majors or classes you're especially interested in
  • The UChicago Core curriculum
  • Professors whose work you admire and whom you'd like to study with or research with
  • Extracurriculars that you'd be interesting in joining
  • The school's intense academic atmosphere
  • UChicago Scav
  • Research opportunities you'd like to have
  • Small class size and discussion-based classes
  • UChicago students you've met who you admire
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Financial aid opportunities UChicago offers that make it possible for you to attend

In your response, you should choose about one to three reasons why you think the University of Chicago is the best school for you. For each reason, you should describe what UChicago offers and connect it back to your interests and skills to show how you're a good match for the school. Remember to answer the prompt completely; this means talking about both the learning and community at UChicago, as well as your plans for the future and how UChicago can help you achieve them.

uchicago essay responses

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Tips for a Great Response to the Why UChicago Essay

Regardless of how you decide to answer this prompt, there are four tips everyone should keep in mind to make sure they're fully answering the question, giving the information UChicago wants to see, and making sure they stand out from other applicants.

#1: Do Your Research

Before you begin writing your response to this essay prompt, you should know exactly why you want to attend the University of Chicago. There are multiple ways to do this research:

  • School website
  • Course catalog
  • School newspaper
  • Campus visit
  • Meeting with an alum or current student
  • Meeting with a professor

#2: Be Specific

From your research, you should have come up with specific reasons why UChicago is a great school for you. The more specific you can be when answering this prompt, the better. Don't say UChicago has great academics, caring professors, and an interesting student body. Most schools have that.

Instead, try to mention opportunities only UChicago can provide, such as specific professors, course names, extracurriculars, or research opportunities. The things you discuss should be things your other top schools don't offe— things that really make UChicago stand out.

#3: Show Your Passion

UChicago wants students who care a lot about their studies and their school, so make sure this comes across in their response. A bland statement like, "I am impressed by UChicago's strong economics program" doesn't tell the school anything about you or help you stand out from other applicants.

You've done your research to mention specific qualities of UChicago that have enticed you, and now you need to discuss specific qualities about yourself as well . Why does the economics program make you so excited? What do you want to get out of it? Do you want to use your knowledge to study the economies of different developing countries and use that knowledge to fight global poverty? That's what you should write about.

Showing a passion that's unique to you will help differentiate you from other applicants and show UChicago that you're going to take your studies seriously.

#4: Discuss Your Vision for the Future

The "Why UChicago?" prompt clearly asks you to connect your desire to attend UChicago with your future goals. So let them know your plans!  Do you hope to use your time at UChicago as a launching pad for a career as a researcher at Fermilab? Do you want to major in theater and performance studies and eventually open a drama school for underserved kids?  UChicago wants students who dream big, so let them know what your dreams are.

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"Why UChicago?" Essay Examples

To help you get a better idea of what a great response to this prompt can look like, below are two Why UChicago essay examples. The first is an excerpt of an essay written by an admitted student, and the second is an essay we wrote. After the examples we explain what makes them excellent responses.

As I prepare to leave my home for a university, I dream of joining the University of Chicago community. In all honesty, UChicago is probably the only university that will accept and even encourage my eclectic thinking and passion for finding adventure in everyday life. Although I hope to major in Computer Science, I also want to study political science and the Italian language to the extent that I can confidently debate Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan and copy Dante's terza rima poetry. I want to learn about game theory and astrophysics not just in surface-level introductory classes, but through in-depth discussion and analysis. At UChicago, the Core curriculum will feed my hunger for a broad undergraduate education by guaranteeing  that one-third of my studies will be dedicated to the exploration of the humanities, sciences, and arts. I yearn to engage in vibrant discussion with UChicago musicians who study neurosciences, business majors who star in theatrical productions, and psychology students who are learning Mandarin. At any other school, I would be an untraditional student, but at UChicago, I will fit right in. Traditional warrior princesses feel at home in castles; it is no surprise that UChicago's campus is full of them. At UChicago, surrounded by diverse thinkers and unique personalities of every kind, I know that I will feel at home, too. — Samantha M.

It was reading an issue of the Chicago Shady Dealer that made me know the University of Chicago was the right school for me. Any school that produced a satire paper that included hilarious and clever articles joking about students taking a math class in an abandoned parking garage or hysterical preaching and projectile vomiting during alumni weekend was a place where I knew I'd belong.

After speaking with a current UChicago student, I felt even more strongly that this is the school for me.  This student is a Creative Writing major, as I plan to be, and he mentioned so many opportunities for University of Chicago students to publish their writing, from the Shady Dealer , to the Chicago Maroon , to Sliced Bread . My only concern was having enough time to write for all these publications! I'm especially interested in the student magazine Diskord because of its focus on student opinions of national and global news. Many people dismiss young people as uninformed or naïve, but I've found many have my peers have extremely important things to say, and it's important to hear each other. The student I spoke with on the phone also mentioned that he was able to combine his interests in poetry and French Literature, and I really like how interdisciplinary the major is.

Theater and scriptwriting is something I've always been interested in learning more about, and I think University of Chicago's theater workshops and groups like Court Theatre could help me gain more skills in this area. People joke the University of Chicago is where fun comes to die, but from what I've seen, it's just the opposite. I've never met a group of students who were so funny, creative, and intent on making an impact, and I'd love to be a part of that.

Why Do These Essays Work?

  • Answer the entire prompt:  Both of these responses answer every part of the "Why UChicago?" essay prompt. They mention the type of learning the writers hope to receive, the type of community they want to be surrounded by, and what their plans for the future are.
  • Give details:  There are many details in both these responses, such as specific classes the authors want to take, what they want to major in, specific extracurriculars, and school publications they want to join.
  • Show where they fit in: It's clear from reading these essays how the authors see themselves fitting in at UChicago The first hopes to major in computer science while also debating famous literary works with fellow classmates, whereas the second wants to become a writer for school papers and possibly work on theater productions. They've shown that UChicago has opportunities they want to take part in and contribute to, and they tie this into their goals for the future.

The "Why UChicago?" essay likely won't be the make-or-break factor in your application, but it can help give the admissions teams a good idea of why UChicago is a great fit for you .   The purpose of this essay prompt is for you to show UChicago that you've done research on their school, you feel it's a good fit for you, and you already know some of the opportunities at the school you want to make the most of.

In your UChicago essay, you can write about multiple topics, including academics, the student body, extracurriculars, and research opportunities. Just make sure to thoroughly research the school, be specific, show your passion, and mention plans you have for the future. When in doubt, don't forget to check out successful "Why UChicago?" essays!

What's Next?

You'll need to write one other essay when you apply to the University of Chicago. Check out our other guide to learn how to tackle both UChicago essays .

The "Why This College?" is a common essay topic on college applications. Learn how to write a great "Why This College" essay for every school you're applying to by reading our guide on the topic.

Want to see some more college essay examples? We have links to 145 great college essays that includes our expert analysis on how you can write a standout essay of your own.

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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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An uncommon approach yields creative College essays

Earlier this summer, prospective students around the globe with an interest in the University of Chicago received an email with six unusual essay topics . The writing prompts included references to Oscar Wilde, the Transformer action movies, Susan Sontag, AB’51, and physicist Werner Heisenberg. And this little gem: “So where is Waldo, really?”

The annual release of UChicago’s essay prompts has become an eagerly awaited event — an imaginative exercise that often inspires even more imaginative responses. For many students and alumni, the essay questions help define the College’s wit and sense of intellectual adventure. It’s also a communal undertaking, with the majority of topics coming from current or past College students.

“We want the students to write about things that don’t show up in a workshop on writing college essays,” said Grace Chapin, senior admissions counselor.

In famous past essay questions, students have been invited to write how they feel about Wednesday, to find the meaning in the super-sized mustard at Costco, or to invent the history of an object. One essay question was simply, “Find x.” Another asked, “How did you get caught?”

Funny, poignant, thought-provoking and deadly serious essays pour in every fall and winter. Laura Castelnuovo, a second-year from New York City, chose the essay question: “Everyone knows there are two types of people in the world. What are they?” Her answer began like this:

For centuries, one thing has divided the human population like no other: the tomato. No, I don't mean the never-used alternate pronunciation or even the settled debate of fruit vs. vegetable, I mean that in my experiences I have encountered only two types of people: those who love tomatoes and those who hate them. These Newtonian-ly equal and opposing groups can be found at salad bars and dinner tables worldwide, taking their stance. Because when that fruit is sliced, battle lines are drawn.

The essay prompts are chosen from suggestions from current students and recent alumni. More than a thousand people sent in essay questions this year. Andy Jordan, a fourth-year in economics from Doylestown, Penn., has submitted a few questions for consideration since he applied to the College. “I enjoyed writing the essay when I applied in 2008,” Jordan said. “I answered the question with an entire essay of questions.”

His prompt, “Don’t write about reverse psychology,” appeared on the list for the Class of 2016. While this didn’t earn him a free T-shirt or cash prize, he said his friends were impressed.

“A good set of essay questions will give every student a chance to let their voice shine through,” Chapin said. They supplement the Common Application essay, which usually has a broad prompt like “evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.”

Prospective students are also asked to write an essay explaining why they want to come to UChicago, and to explain some of their favorite books or media. Add those to the “uncommon” essay question and the essay for the Common Application, and each applicant writes a total of four essays.

“We learn a lot by reading these essays,” Chapin said. “You can’t write it the day before it’s due, so we see extremely high-quality writing from the applicants.” The admissions officers read tens of thousands of essays between November and March, seeing the unique personality of each student between the generalities on the Common Application and the thoughtful and often funny essays from the supplement.  

Having found a fitting way to tackle the essays soon becomes a source of pride for the students. Hundreds of admitted students have posted their essays to the UChicago Class of 2016 group on Facebook, where they are met with encouragement and delight from fellow students. “It’s always a conversation topic during Orientation Week,” Chapin said. The shared experience lets people who have just met discuss something besides their hometown and course of study.

The tradition behind the unique essay questions is at least 30 years old. A question from 1984 invited the students to imagine themselves as astronauts on Mars, and asked them whether they would prefer to be teleported, molecule by molecule, back to earth, or to be the person running the teleporting machine.

The College Admissions office usually sees a flood of questions about the essays from applying students as their deadlines approach. This year, the officers created an instant meme for their Tumblr page with some simple advice: “Keep Calm and Study On.”

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How to Approach the University of Chicago Essay Prompts

The uchicago essay prompts, and how to nail them (2020-2021)..

Sad, but true: we love the UChicago essay prompts.

That being said, you might feel less enchanted. (We a t Prompt are college essay nerds who help applicants succeed at them for a living.)

If you’re looking for guidance, we’ve got a step-by-step guide to these questions.

The full prompts are below. In a nutshell, they consist of two required essays with no word limit:

  • Why UChicago . [In the past, U of C has suggested about 500 word s.]
  • Choose from a vast selection of “eloquent, intriguing, or downright wacky” essay prompts. And “have fun!” [Prompt suggests about 650 words .]

One final piece of advice — good writing requires feedback . Never more so when the writing is as tricky as this. So find someone who loves you and knows you well. And ask for some. And if you like the idea of personalized guidance from people who’ve done this thousands of times, get started here .

UChicago supplemental essay questions for 2020-2021

Question 1 [Why UChicago?]: 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.

Question 2: Extended essay(Choose one):

  • Option 1: Who does Sally sell her seashells to? How much wood can a woodchuck really chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Pick a favorite tongue twister (either originally in English or translated from another language) and consider a resolution to its conundrum using the method of your choice. Math, philosophy, linguistics... it's all up to you (or your woodchuck). Inspired by Blessing Nnate, Class of 2024
  • Option 2: What can actually be divided by zero?
  • Option 3: The seven liberal arts in antiquity consisted of the Quadrivium — astronomy, mathematics, geometry, and music — and the Trivium — rhetoric, grammar, and logic. Describe your own take on the Quadrivium or the Trivium. What do you think is essential for everyone to know? Peter Wang, Class of 2022
  • Option 4: Subway maps, evolutionary trees, Lewis diagrams. Each of these schematics tells the relationships and stories of their component parts. Reimagine a map, diagram, or chart. If your work is largely or exclusively visual, please include a cartographer's key of at least 300 words to help us best understand your creation. Maximilian Site, Class of 2020
  • Option 5: "Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?" - Eleanor Roosevelt. Misattribute a famous quote and explore the implications of doing so. Inspired by Chris Davey, AB’13
  • Option 6: Engineer George de Mestral got frustrated with burrs stuck to his dog’s fur and applied the same mechanic to create Velcro. Scientist Percy Lebaron Spencer found a melted chocolate bar in his magnetron lab and discovered microwave cooking. Dye-works owner Jean Baptiste Jolly found his tablecloth clean after a kerosene lamp was knocked over on it, consequently shaping the future of dry cleaning. Describe a creative or interesting solution, and then find the problem that it solves. Inspired by Steve Berkowitz, AB’19, and Neeharika Venuturupalli, Class of 2024
  • Option 7: In the spirit of adventurous inquiry (and with the encouragement of one of our current students!) 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!

[ Bonus note: While many of the past prompts are listed on UChicago’s application page, Prompt found all of them here , thanks to a Reddit thread .]

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uchicago essay responses

How to Write the University of Chicago Essays 2019-2020

uchicago essay responses

The University of Chicago, located in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, is known for the rigorous academic experience it offers its students. In 2019, the University of Chicago tied for 3rd on US News’ Best Colleges Rankings . This high ranking reflects UChicago’s excellent academic programs, faculty, resources, and reputation—but these factors also make admission to UChicago highly competitive. In the 2018-2019 cycle, UChicago accepted only 5.9% of applicants. UChicago admissions also stands out for another reason: the UChicago supplement is known for its quirky and challenging prompts. Read on to learn how to tackle these essays! Want to know your chances at UChicago? Calculate your chances for free right now.

Want to learn what University of Chicago will actually cost you based on your income? And how long your application to the school should take? Here’s what every student considering University of Chicago needs to know.

An Overview of the Prompts 

In total, you’ll need to answer two essay prompts on your UChicago supplement. 

  • The first prompt, which all applicants must answer, asks how the University of Chicago fits your academic and community needs, as well as your future plans. The “suggested” length for this response is 500 words.
  • The second essay that you’ll need to write is far more open-ended. The “suggested” length is 650 words, and you can choose from six prompts, all of which are highly unconventional. Each prompt is inspired by current UChicago students or recent graduates. You can also choose to answer any of UChicago’s old prompts instead.  

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 (500 words suggested).

Like most schools, UChicago’s “ Why School ” essay serves as a way of separating the applicants who are genuinely attracted to the school and its resources from those who have interests elsewhere.

The prompt does not provide a word limit, so in this case we recommend that your essay ranges from 650-750 words. This may sound like a lot to write, but it actually provides you more space to really dig into the reasons for why you are applying. Unlike schools with a shorter word requirement, you can use the space to touch on all aspects of the university (e.g. from its academics to research opportunities to student life) instead of writing only about the top one or two things that draw you.

Use this opportunity to reveal all of your different interests—both academic and non-academic—as the university really supports the idea of students who are diverse in their passions and have the drive to incorporate them into their college career. It’s not a surprise to find a break dancer who is also doing research in infinitesimal calculus or a chemistry major working on an independent journalism project.

One way you can approach this essay is by dividing your “reasons” into four categories: academics, research/internship opportunities, extracurriculars, and campus life. For each of these categories, find one or two points to talk about. Make sure to be as specific as you can, and always connect each point you mention back to how it relates to you.

For example, saying something like “UChicago has great academic programs” is not as effective as saying “The spirit of innovative problem solving which led to the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction matches my own desire to make great strides in the field of physics.”

While topics pertaining to academics and research opportunities can be easily found through a comprehensive search on the university’s website, it may be helpful to speak to students of the university pertaining to the latter two categories. To get you started, we have talked with CollegeVine consultants who are currently attending UChicago and compiled a few reasons why they love the student life on campus. This is not a comprehensive list, so if you have another reason that resonates more with you, definitely use it!

Reason 1: UChicago has many long-standing traditions such as Scav (which previously held the world record for being the largest scavenger hunt in the world up until 2017), Humans v. Zombies , and Kuvia (a week-long event where houses on campus participate in early morning exercises) all of which are hosted by its many clubs. This means that students can not only participate in traditions that have spanned across generations of students, but also be part of the planning process from their first day on campus.

Reason 2: Clubs get a lot of support from the school, and new clubs are given platforms to grow. This means that you will always be able to find people who share similar interests as you.

Reason 3: UChicago’s social activism clubs are very involved with the issues affecting the South Side of Chicago. They are helping to shed light and turn the narrative on a neighborhood that is often misunderstood and misrepresented in the broader eyes of the nation. This means that students are committed not only to their studies, but also to utilizing what they have learned in order to make an impact on the world.

Reason 4: The housing system on campus is very detailed and clearly has the intention of forming smaller communities and helping first years assimilate into college life. Rather than having students randomly assigned to a dorm, the college takes great care in matching each student to a specific dorm on campus that would reflect their personality and interests. Additionally, the RH and RAs are all trained to create a warm, family-like environment.

2) Required: One of 6 options (650 words suggested):

We’ve now arrived at UChicago’s well-known and off-the-wall essay prompts. So what’s the deal with these prompts? First and foremost, remember that UChicago’s goal is to challenge applicants and gain unique insight into how they think–and into their personalities and senses of humor! These prompts are designed to discourage formulaic or generic responses; the only way to ace these prompts is to think creatively.

Though all of the prompts UChicago puts out each year (and the ones from previous years, which are also options for you to answer) are unique, there are a few features that many of the prompts share. The prompts often ask applicants to reflect on, explain, add to, or elaborate on a phrase or idea. Often, this idea or phrase can seem silly on the surface, but these superficially absurd themes link to deeper questions and values. Indeed, the most compelling responses to these prompts often strike a balance between seriousness and playfulness, showing off both an applicant’s lighter and more reflective sides.  

These prompts can seem intimidating. But remember, this challenge is also an opportunity! UChicago gives its applicants a chance to let their whimsical sides shine through. Embrace this essay as a rare opportunity to have some fun while you show who you are and how you think.  

UChicago’s “seventh prompt” also offers insight into the motivation behind their infamous essay questions. This note, which invites students to make up their own question or to respond to previous years’ prompts, reads: 

“In the spirit of adventurous inquiry (and with the encouragement of one of our current students!) 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!” 

Here, the UChicago admissions committee is basically telling you what they are looking for from applicants in these essays. As you consider which prompt to answer, you should also ask yourself which of these prompts will best enable you to embody the “adventurous inquiry” that UChicago encourages. 

Choosing a Prompt 

The first step to take advantage of this opportunity is to pick a prompt to answer. For some applicants, one of UChicago’s zany prompts will immediately stand out as exciting and intriguing. If one of the prompts has really caught your attention, you’re in luck! However, other applicants struggle to choose a prompt that best fits their unique perspective and experiences. If this sounds like you, ask yourself these questions:

  • Which prompt would I most enjoy writing a response to? Which prompt would I most enjoy reading a response to? 
  • Which prompt will allow me to incorporate and display my knowledge or passion in my response? 
  • Which prompt provides the best opportunity for me to show my values and way of thinking? 
  • What dimensions of my personality are missing from, or underrepresented, in my application? Which prompt might allow me to showcase these traits? 

Even after mulling over these questions, you might still be unsure which prompt to answer. That’s OK! Read on to hear our breakdown of each of this year’s six prompts; reading the ins and outs of these options will help you to further assess which prompt is the best vehicle to convey your character, values, and perspective. 

Essay Option 1

Cats have nine lives, pac-man has 3 lives, and radioactive isotopes have half-lives. how many lives does something else—conceptual or actual—have, and why, —inspired by kedrick shin, class of 2019.

Understanding the prompt

The first sentence of the prompt plays on different sayings and facts about lives. By listing an old saying, a fact about a video game, and physics property, this prompt invites you to think creatively about the concept of “lives.” The prompt’s first sentence combines disparate statements about lives using the same format: “X has Y lives”; the second sentence of the prompt invites you to add your own item to this list. 

Though coming up with a “something else” is one of the major challenges of this prompt, the challenge won’t be over once you’ve picked your topic. In an essay like this, the “why” is almost as important as the “what.” You’ll likely be able to explain how many lives “something else” has in one or two hundred words; this will leave you with almost a whole essay to explain “why” your item of choice has a certain number of lives. 

This setup — a fairly simple, though creative question, and then a lot of space to explain your response — is perfect for writers and thinkers who want to display both the wittiness and depth of their thought. Effectively explaining why something has a certain number of lives will require well-structured thinking and writing, as well as careful reasoning. 

Conceptualizing your answer 

Your first step in answering this prompt will likely be to pick “something else” that has lives to focus on. Before you begin in-depth brainstorming, consider these guidelines:

  • Do not pick several things to focus on–this prompt asks about “something else,” which indicates that you should build your essay around one particular concept or item and its lives. 
  • Avoid writing about something identical or very similar to the items already listed in the prompt; if you write about another video game or about a specific radioactive isotope, your essay will likely seem unoriginal to the admissions committee. 
  • Consider how the “something else” that you choose to write about fits in with the rest of your application. You don’t have to choose something that is obviously connected to your interests or activities (for example, if you play tennis, you don’t have to write about the half life of a tennis racquet). However, you should think about how your topic of choice will fit into the larger picture of who you are.

With this in mind, let’s consider examples of stronger and weaker approaches:

Example 1: A student who has struggled with her faith might write an essay about how “humans have only one life.” The student might describe in detail how she grappled with her religious upbringing and with the question of whether or not there is an afterlife. Drawing on theology, as well as on her own experiences and moral views, the writer might argue that she now believes that it is important to live her life in the present, as if it is her only life. 

This topic’s strength is its obvious personal resonance and depth; its weakness is that it could easily become very heavy or philosophical. To balance this out, a strong execution of a prompt like this would include some lighter or more humorous examples, as well as vivid, detailed memories from the applicant’s life. 

Example 2: A student who is a long-time runner and artist could write an essay about how running shoes have four lives. The writer could explain how they wear their running shoes for track practices and meets first; then, when the support begins to wear out, they wear those same shoes for gym workouts and day-to-day walking; when the shoes get more worn out, they wear them for their part-time job mowing lawns, where the shoes quickly get even dirtier and more beat-up; finally, the student repurposes the rubber from the shoe’s soles for art projects.  

This response could be strong because of its highly personal nature; it uses a single object’s “lives” to also paint a picture of the applicant’s different interests and experiences. Moreover, the applicant could also create a powerful illustration about their belief in creatively reusing and repurposing objects. At the same time, this kind of approach is a good fit for UChicago’s unconventional and slightly irreverent essay philosophy. 

Example 3: An applicant who is really into cultural commentary and sociology could write an essay on a certain clothing style that has come back into fashion three times. This essay could weave together pop culture knowledge, insightful social critique, and funny personal anecdotes to explain why certain styles have so many lives and what this says about our society.

This approach could turn this prompt into a great vehicle for an applicant to display their knowledge of the social sciences and their ability to offer insightful analysis of seemingly superficial phenomena. The ability to thoroughly and engagingly contemplate even mundane phenomena is an impressive one, and an essay the demonstrates this skill could land well with the admissions committee. 

Example 4: A student who has worked for three summers at a forest ecological reserve could write their essay about the four lives of butterflies (egg, larva, pupa, butterfly). This essay would go beyond a mere factual description of the butterfly life cycle, and could instead explain what this life cycle has taught them about human life, our ecosystems, and processes of transformation.   

A topic like this one, like the previous example, offers an opportunity for the applicant to display their specific knowledge of a particular subject area. Nature-writing is a storied sub-discipline of creative writing, and if the applicant is able to create compelling, vivid descriptions of nature — interspersed with insightful personal reflections — this essay could effectively communicate the applicant’s passion for biology, writing skills, and broader worldview.

As you brainstorm topics for your own essay, ask yourself these questions:

  • What things or people seem to return in different forms throughout my life?
  • What elements of our culture seem to recur or transform over time? 
  • What other objects or beings do people talk about colloquially as having multiple “lives”? 
  • Have you ever felt that you or someone you know is starting a new life? 
  • How do you define “life,” or differentiate one life from the next? 

Essay Option 2

If there’s a limited amount of matter in the universe, how can olive garden (along with other restaurants and their concepts of food infinity) offer truly unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks explain this using any method of analysis you wish—physics, biology, economics, history, theology… the options, as you can tell, are endless., —inspired by yoonseo lee, class of 2023.

This prompt’s absurd yet logical premise — the physical impossibility of Olive Garden’s unlimited breadsticks — invites applicants to throw away traditional reasoning and truly take this prompt wherever they desire. Despite this freedom, the prompt’s setup is also a constraint; your essay will ultimately need to have something to do with finitude, infinity, and breadsticks. 

By asking applicants to use a “method of analysis,” the prompt hints that students should take a scientific, or pseudo-scientific, approach to answering this question. At the same time, the vast range of disciplines that the prompt lists (and their further note that the options are “endless!”) leaves plenty of space for applicants to answer this question from their own perspectives. 

Before writing, take a step back from the prompt itself and remember that this is, like the first prompt, an opportunity. In this case, though, it’s an opportunity to either show off your knowledge of a given area, or show off your off-the-wall creative thinking. No matter what, this prompt offers you a unique chance to demonstrate how you think — and, potentially, to show your sense of humor. 

As you dive into planning your response, keep these points in mind: 

  • This prompt asks you to “explain” how Olive Garden offers “truly unlimited” items. This means that it is not asking you whether or not Olive Garden really offers unlimited items; the prompt stipulates that unlimited items are offered, then asks you to explain how this can be. 
  • Note that the prompt asks you to use a “method of analysis.” This language invites you to bring an academic spirit of thoroughness and rigour to your essay. Though non-systematic approaches could work, this prompt is inviting you to marshall the tools of research to respond to this question, so keep this in mind as you draft your response. 
  • Don’t take this prompt too seriously; this question has an inherently absurd and ironic edge to it. Even if you decide to offer a very technical and “serious” response, keep in mind that your response will likely be read by the admissions committee as at least partly ironic. 

With this in mind, let’s consider how you can approach this prompt. Though there are obviously many (if not infinite!) ways to respond, most approaches that you could consider will fall into one of two categories. 

One approach is to focus on using your existing knowledge to answer this prompt in a fairly serious, fact-based way. If you have deep knowledge of any of the disciplines mentioned in the prompt (or of other disciplines that you think are relevant), you can construct a compelling response that demonstrates that proficiency. 

What would this look like? Consider these examples: 

Example 1: A student who has knowledge of world food systems and of mathematics might do some research into the location and typical business volume of Olive Gardens across the US. Then this student could write up a few equations to demonstrate that it is virtually impossible for Olive Garden to run out of soup, salad, or breadsticks on a given night. They could conclude that Olive Garden is able to promise unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks based on the practical reality, not on a theoretical one. 

This response’s efficacy would hinge on careful research and clear, impressive mathematics; it would work well for a student who seeks to demonstrate their systematic, rational, and thorough approach to answering questions, big and small. 

Example 2: A student who is knowledgeable about business and psychology could approach this prompt through the lens of those fields. This applicant could dive into the history of “free” or “unlimited” marketing schemes, explaining how these sorts of offers developed as a business strategy, and how customers respond to this kind of marketing. Ultimately, the writer might conclude that Olive Garden’s breadsticks, salad, and soup are not unlimited, but because of the fallibility of human intelligence and the expertise of advertising and manipulation, Olive Garden can make whatever claims they want.

This response could be effective and engaging because it would blend dry, witty cultural commentary and genuinely impressive academic knowledge. This approach could tie strongly into the application of a student whose other application materials demonstrate an interest in psychology, politics, economics, cultural criticism, or even humor or satire. 

If you do not have knowledge of relevant disciplines, you can embrace the absurdity and take a more creative approach to this prompt. This could mean:

  • Re-telling the story of the big bang to explain why the laws of physics that apply to the rest of the universe do not apply to Olive Garden.
  • Analyzing Olive Garden’s cooking process to explain how they circumnavigate the laws of physics. 
  • Creating a short fairytale or myth that explains how Olive Garden’s staff can be sure that they will never run out of these resources.

Essay Option 3

A hot dog might be a sandwich, and cereal might be a soup, but is a __ a __, —inspired by arya muralidharan, class of 2021 (and dozens of others who, this year and in past years, have submitted the question “is a hot dog a sandwich,” to which we reply, “maybe”).

This prompt offers you a blank slate to consider how one thing relates to another. Perhaps you have overheard — or been part of! — a discussion about whether a hotdog is a sandwich during a family barbecue or during a summer afternoon with friends. During these kinds of debates, people on both sides often have very strong intuitions about what should or should not be classified in a given category. This prompt gives you the chance to leverage the never-fading debatability of these kinds of questions to show what kind of classification debates interest you. 

The beauty of this prompt is that a strong writer and thinker could turn almost any response into a compelling essay. Even two obviously related terms (“Is water wet?”) could delight or inspire the admissions committee if handled in the right way. Like all the UChicago prompts, the key here is not only what you write about, but what you do with the 650 words you’re given.

With that said, it’s a good idea not to make this essay more challenging than it needs to be. To avoid sabotaging yourself, consider these tips as you choose a topic; these will help you pick a topic that has strong potential to demonstrate who you are and how you think. 

Because of the fill-in-the-blank structure of the prompt, your brainstorming should aim to come up with two items, one for each blank. The words in the prompt’s examples have the following conceptual relationship: the first word is a specific object (a food) and the second item is a more general kind of food. The relationship between the two words is that the first one “might be” classifiable as something that fits into the second category. As you think about what words to pick, keep in mind this template for how the two words relate.

Before you start brainstorming or writing, remember this:

  • This prompt is not asking to answer the questions: “Is a hot dog a sandwich?” or “Is cereal a soup?” The prompt has already answered these questions (“maybe!”). Like most of UChicago’s prompts, this prompt wants you to take a basic kind of question and go beyond it . This essay should be about two things that you want to discuss, compare, or relate to one another — not either of the examples given in the first two clauses of the prompt.
  • Avoid picking a topic that you think is “impressive” but that doesn’t really connect clearly with your interests, personality, or passions. 
  • At the same time, don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone; if you’re a social sciences nerd who hasn’t had space to include your love of particle physics in your application, this might be a great place to showcase that under-represented side of your interests. 

With these tips in mind, let’s consider different approaches you could take that maintain the basic conceptual structure of the prompt. To do so, let’s go through some examples:

Example 1: “Is a tomato a fruit?” This essay could open with vivid descriptions of the role that tomatoes play in the writer’s family’s cuisine — and around the world. Then, the writer could shift to describe how science views tomatoes (which are, indeed, technically a fruit). Using this contrast, the applicant could discuss the gap between cultural norms around how a food is consumed (savory versus sweet uses, for example) and the scientific definition of “fruit.” 

This example has strong potential. This is because it is similar to the other two items in the original prompt; it is (1) also about food and (2) taps into a popular debate. However, it offers a twist on the structure of the prompt’s first two clauses because there is a “scientific answer” to the question. This response would not be interesting if the writer simply answered: “Yes, a tomato is a fruit because scientific categorization says so.” However, by highlighting personal experiences and cultural practices — and how they diverge from science’s definitions — the writer could create a strong essay that demonstrates how they think about food, culture, science, and social norms. 

Example 2: Another student could ask: “Is a human being an animal?” Using their knowledge of the relationships between different species and ecosystems, this writer could first offer witty comparisons between the lifestyle of human beings and other animals. Then the writer could transition to focus on the vast ecosystem impact that human beings have in comparison to the minimal impact of animals. The writer could conclude in the same way that the admissions committee does: with “maybe” as the answer. 

This approach has good potential because it could allow the applicant to demonstrate their knowledge of environmental and ecosystem dynamics while maintaining a witty and engaging tone. Furthermore, because of the focus on how human beings impact the world around them, the applicant could also demonstrate their broader views and values.

The two examples above follow the same structure as the prompt’s first two items: they involve asking whether one thing fits into a broader category. Because we’re dealing with UChicago’s prompts, which are famous for pushing applicants toward unexpected and creative answers, you might be wondering whether you can — or should — consider throwing away this basic conceptual structure. The short answer is yes. A really clever or interesting idea that doesn’t fit into the “is a hot dog a sandwich” conceptual relationship could be effective, though perhaps a bit risky.

However, a poorly executed response that picks two random words and inserts them into the “is a _ a _” schema will likely fall flat for the admissions committee. If you are tempted to take this prompt in a totally unexpected direction, read these words of caution before you begin writing:

  • Generally speaking, using this structure to ask a seemingly random question (for example “is red an angry color?”) is a risky strategy. UChicago wants its applicants to take risks, but they also want thoughtful, well-written responses; if it seems like you’ve chosen a topic just to be “different,” your essay might come across as impersonal and pandering, rather than as a deep and powerful reflection of who you are and how you think. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule; an applicant could successfully execute the “Is red an angry color?” example by writing an amazing essay about optics and how the human brain processes color.
  • Using this structure to write about a topic that you’re passionate about — but that doesn’t really fit the structure — might also not be the best idea. Questions like “Is a peaceful world an achievable goal?” or “Is a gun an item that should be regulated?” could set your application back. Why? Well, these examples push the boundaries of the original prompt, both stylistically and conceptually; to some admissions officers, it might seem obvious that the applicant is heavy-handedly using the prompt to fit their own agenda, rather than finding an elegant and clever way to respond within the “Is a _ a _?” structure.

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uchicago essay responses

Our chancing engine factors in extracurricular activities, demographic, and other holistic details.

Our chancing engine factors in extracurricular activities, demographic, and other holistic details. We’ll let you know what your chances are at your dream schools — and how to improve your chances!

Essay Option 4

“fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” – jessamyn west, —inspired by elizabeth mansfield, class of 2020.

This is a classic minimalist prompt; the admissions committee gives you a six-word quote from Jessamyn West, an American novelist and short story writer, along with 650 words to respond to or reflect on the quote. If you’re a literature or film enthusiast, future English major, or creative writer, this prompt might be a natural fit for you; it provides an opportunity to discuss what creative or fictional art means to you. 

So, what does this quote actually mean? Essentially, West’s quote is saying that fiction has value because it can expose truths that are hidden in everyday life. This could mean basic or practical truths (for example, truths about people’s living conditions or even about scientific facts) or it could mean more conceptual truths (for example, truths about right and wrong). 

There is no one way to respond to a prompt like this, but below we’ll go through some basic strategies for approaching this prompt and organizing your thoughts. First, though, let’s discuss some basic parameters:

  • Make sure that your response addresses the relationship between fiction, truth and reality — these ideas are at the core of the quote, so they should be at the core of your essay, too! 
  • Make sure that your response reveals something about you; this is not the place to write a short academic essay on the life and work of Jessamyn West or to write a purely philosophical treatise about the nature of reality. 
  • Think about the role your response will play in your application as a whole. Ideally, this essay should add depth and complexity to the admissions committee’s understanding of you. Avoid conveying information about your passions, motivations, or worldview that is already clear from other essays; if your Common App essay is about what writing fiction means to you, avoid just reiterating the points you made there. At the same time, avoid giving a response that seems totally discontinuous with the rest of your application; If you describe yourself as a fact-obsessed scientist elsewhere, it might not be a good idea to do a 180 here and claim that you think fiction contains more truth than science.
  • Remember that you don’t have to agree with the quote; you can also respond with an argument or examples that qualify (“This is true of good fiction, but not of all fiction…”) or critique West’s quote (“I disagree with her quote because…”). 

If you’ve picked this prompt, you likely have something to say about fiction, reality, and truth — but you might not begin with a carefully-reasoned argument to defend your opinion. To effectively answer this prompt, you’ll need to come up with a creative, clear, compelling strategy to argue for, or illustrate your own view, on West’s quote. 

How can you do this? Here are a few ideas for broad strategies that you can consider:

A personal approach. Does this question speak to your life and experience? If so, don’t be afraid to answer this question through the lens of your own experience. 

Example 1: A student could write about how Harry Potter, though fiction, exposes universal truths about power, discrimination, and the efficacy of collective action that are often hard to see in day-to-day life. This applicant could briefly describe a few specific moments or scenarios from the books, explaining how these correspond to specific real-world situations where the “truth” might be hard to see. The writer could also focus on how this scenario influenced their own actions or view of the world. 

A historical approach. If you’re a history buff, you might be aware of historical examples of art that revealed truth. Another strong, focused strategy could be to pick one particular example from history and discuss what it shows (in your opinion) about West’s quote; to ensure that this essay is personal, you could also describe how this example inspires or informs your view of fiction, truth, and reality.

Example 2: A student could write about a specific artist who used their work to subvert an oppressive regime. After briefly describing this artist and their work, the applicant could shift to explaining what truth this art exposed, and how or why “reality” obscured this truth. To make the essay more personal, the writer could write about their personal link to this art. 

A creative approach. If you yourself are a creative writer, this prompt could become a canvas for you to display your own abilities. This could mean incorporating poetry or prose into your response, or even creating a whole short story in response to the prompt.

Example 3: Rather than writing an expository piece about why this quote is or is not true, you could use your own creative writing to show how fiction can expose truths that reality conceals. One way to do this might be to write a short piece of fiction that depicts something that is not often seen in reality. This can be a risky strategy, since your essay will likely not include a clear statement of your position on West’s quote; if you choose this approach, be sure to have trusted teachers, advisors, or peers read your essay to ensure that it is compelling and fits the prompt.

Writing your essay 

The ideas above are intended to help jumpstart your brainstorming for this prompt. However, the potential directions that your essay could take are almost infinite! 

As you write, remember that the prompt does not define “fiction,” “truth,” or “reality.” It’s up to you to decide how to interpret these terms. What matters most is showing the admissions committee that you have thought deeply and carefully about this quote — and, more broadly, about fiction, truth, and reality. 

Furthermore, be sure that you are consistent in your term usage throughout your essay. If you define truth at the start of your essay as “verifiable scientific facts,” and then later you write about truth more abstractly (for example, about moral or religious truths), your essay may feel inconsistent or confusing. 

Essay Option 5

Uchicago has international campus centers around the world, but we don’t have any interplanetary, interstellar, or interdimensional campuses… yet propose a spot in time or space, in this or any universe, for a new uchicago campus. what types of courses would be taught at this site what cultural experiences await students who study there, —inspired by peter jasperse, class of 2022.

This prompt is quite different from the others in that it is far more specific and directive; it invites you to imagine and propose a very specific “alternative reality.” If you’re a student who is passionate about being part of a certain kind of learning community or who is excited by utopian ideas that push the limits of human ingenuity, this prompt might be a good fit for you. 

Let’s take a moment now to list the different parts of the prompt that you need to address in your essay:

  • Propose a spot in time or space, in this or any universe, for a new UChicago campus.

The first step of an effective response will be picking a time or space for your imaginary UChicago campus. Don’t be afraid to get specific. Strong, creative writing requires imaginative scene-setting; this will likely be true of this essay, too!

  • What types of courses would be taught at this site?

This part of the prompt implies that UChicago’s academic curriculum might vary based on the school’s new campus location. Essentially, this prompt is inviting you to consider how the location of a school might influence not only its culture and atmosphere, but also its academic curriculum. 

  • What cultural experiences await students who study there?

This question might be easier for many students than the previous question; high schoolers often think about how a college’s setting will influence their experience on its campus; now, you just need to apply your imagination to your proposed new UChicago campus!  

First, let’s start with a word of caution. When you’re invited to imagine an alternative reality, it can be tempting to go overboard and throw in every ideal characteristic that you can imagine. 

Example 1: Imagine an essay that proposes that UChicago establish a new campus on the moon, with a full spa and swimming pool facility, inter-galactic exchange students and amazing, space-inspired cuisine. The essay could go into immense detail about these resources and all the different space-oriented courses that the campus will offer.

Why this approach is weak: Though writing an essay on this moon campus could be a lot of fun, it might not convey that much information about you, since you’ll likely get caught up in describing the out-of-this-world, over-the-top campus. A response like this is more likely to read like a description of your dream vacation than as an insightful discussion of your dream education.

To avoid this kind of less-than-insightful response, take a step back and think about your educational and community values and priorities. Consider these questions:

  • What is it that attracts me to UChicago in the first place? How could these values grow in a different setting?
  • What do I believe is the purpose of college education? How does a school’s setting interact with or contribute to this purpose?
  • What connections or insights do I think humanity needs to gain? How could a strategically-oriented UChicago campus help us gain these insights?

Once you’ve thought through these questions, pick a location that will allow you to highlight how your proposed UChicago 2.0 campus would realize your vision for higher education. In the end, this could turn out to be moon campus after all! Consider this tweaked version of Example 1:

Example 2: A student who cares deeply about climate change and who thinks that human beings need to carefully and ethically explore the possibility of living on planets or moons beyond earth could write a compelling essay proposing a moon campus. They could explain how this campus could both help humanity adjust to and learn about life beyond earth, and also give students a deeper appreciation for life on earth. This essay could even play with the fantastical possibility of alien exchange students , in the context of promoting cross-cultural understanding and sensitivity as human beings expand to new intergalactic territory.

This response would have some clearly science-fictional elements, but would not read as a purely superficial and fun proposal to have a dream vacation campus on the moon. By grounding the essay in the applicant’s beliefs about planetary destruction and the need for an ethical approach to space colonization, the applicant could successfully blend fantastical space speculation and meaningful, cohesive insight into their views on the matter. 

Strong responses can also be more practical — don’t let the prompt’s focus on “interplanetary, interstellar, or interdimensional campuses” force you towards a completely fantastical response. If there is a place on earth that you’re excited about, feel free to keep your essay firmly grounded on earth. Or, if you’re fascinated by a particular period in history, you could situate your proposed campus somewhere in the past. Consider these examples:

Example 3: Imagine an applicant who is passionate about international relations and cross-cultural understanding as well as marine biology. This applicant could write an essay proposing that UChicago build a floating campus that can move around the world. This campus could aim to provide students with an intercultural education, offering courses specific to the locations where the campus will dock each semester. The writer could also propose that the new campus’s STEM programs can offer research courses that involve diving and collecting specimens from specific ocean regions that the campus passes through. This sort of response could be highly creative, but also relatively realistic.

Example 4: An applicant who believes that many contemporary problems arise because human beings have not studied and learned from society’s past mistakes could use this premise as the motivation for an interdimensional campus. This proposed campus could essentially exist in limbo, offering courses across time and space to allow students to study history in real-time. The campus could also offer extracurricular and cultural activities across time and space, to expose students to the past foundations of modern cultures and beliefs. This essay could be centered around a few specific examples of courses or extracurriculars that the campus would offer, which would keep it from being too abstract. 

As you brainstorm and begin drafting your essay, your overall goal should be to balance creativity with deeper insight into your own values. The intentionally absurd and fantastical wording of the prompt is an invitation to create a proposal that bends — or goes beyond — the laws of physics or logic. However, no matter what laws you’re bending, be sure that your own educational dreams and priorities shine through. 

Essay Option 6

“don’t be afraid to pick past prompts i liked some of the ones from previous years more than those made newly available for my year. also, don’t worry about the ‘correct’ way to interpret a question. if there exists a correct way to interpret the prompt i chose, it certainly was not my answer.”, —matthew lohrs, class of 2023.

This prompt is, essentially, not a prompt — like the “seventh prompt” that we discussed in our general overview of this essay, this prompt serves as a reminder of the spirit and philosophy behind UChicago’s famously unconventional supplemental essay.

This prompt’s reminder that there is no one “correct: interpretation is also a timely reminder for us, as we near the end of this post. This post should get your creative juices flowing; it can help you see prompts from different angles, and also can help you relate your own knowledge, experiences, and beliefs to these prompts. However, aside from writing a response that might be taken as xenophobic, racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted or insensitive, there is no “wrong answer” to these prompts. The only way to give an “incorrect” response is to create an essay that is poorly written, not carefully thought-out, or that does not offer an insightful peak at who you are or what you stand for. 

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UChicago Essay Examples

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UChicago Essay Examples 

As one of the world’s top-ranked universities, the University of Chicago deeply values inquisitive and creative learners. For that reason, UChicago essays that worked are some of the most captivating and unique college essays out there. Hopeful applicants will benefit from reading UChicago essay examples. In fact, beyond just reading UChicago essay examples, closely analyzing UChicago essays that worked is an excellent way to prepare. 

Are you thinking of applying to UChicago but not sure what goes into writing UChicago essays that worked? You’re in the right place! In this article, we’re going to read some UChicago essay examples and see why they impressed admissions.

In this UChicago Essay Examples article we’ll look at: 

  • Recent UChicago essay prompts
  • Several real University of Chicago essay examples
  • Why the UChicago essay matters 
  • Tips for writing a UChicago essay, and more!

As one of the best universities in Illinois , the Midwest , and the world, UChicago demands top-tier essays. And with our expert analysis of UChicago essay examples, you’ll be better prepared to craft your own.. 

How many supplemental essays does UChicago have?

UChicago Essay Examples

There are two supplemental essays required for the UChicago application. These prompts can be found on the university’s site as well as in the Coalition Application or Common Application . It’s important to note these prompts—and, accordingly, UChicago essay examples—vary from year to year. However, you’ll find similarities among UChicago essays that worked regardless of the prompt. 

The first prompt is required of all students and is essentially a “why UChicago” essay. A “why UChicago” essay that works will follow the general framework of any other “why school” essay. 

UChicago essay examples for the second required essay change the most between admissions cycles. This is because the second essay responds to one of several prompts created by UChicago students.

For both required UChicago essay examples, there is no set word limit. However, the University of Chicago admissions office suggests 650 words for the UChicago extended essay example. As for the “why UChicago” essay, the suggested word limit is lower, at 250-500 words. Regardless of your final word count, UChicago essays that worked use their words effectively, as we’ll see soon.

What are the University of Chicago supplemental essay prompts?

UChicago essays that worked will respond to the unique prompts in an innovative and inquisitive manner. That being said, UChicago essay examples vary greatly as the prompts change yearly. 

UChicago posts its current prompts as well as some of the favorite prompts of the past years. In fact, you can even find past favorite University of Chicago prompts from as far back as the nineties. As prompts change, so do UChicago essay examples; however, elements of Uchicago essays that worked are pretty constant. With that said, let’s look at the current UChicago essay prompts.

The first UChicago essay prompt is required of all students:

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., the second essay—the uchicago extended essay.

The second required essay for the UChicago application is inspired by current students. In the most recent application cycle, it asks students to respond to one of the following options:

Essay Option 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, essay option 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, essay option 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, essay option 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, essay option 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, essay option 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, essay option 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.

Soon, we’re going to check out some UChicago essay examples. However, you may notice that our UChicago essay examples don’t respond to the current prompts. That doesn’t mean that these UChicago essay examples aren’t helpful! Responses to these prompts will vary greatly based on each student’s story. All UChicago essays that worked are valuable tools to aid you in writing your own college essays. 

Demystifying the UChicago Extended Essay

UChicago Essay Examples

When considering how to write a UChicago extended essay example, think about how unique all of the UChicago uncommon essay examples are. There is no one-size-fits-all way to craft impressive UChicago essay examples; rather, there are infinite ways to approach them. 

While that may feel overwhelming for some students, try to focus on the creative liberty the UChicago essay examples allow. Because the University of Chicago essay examples are so unique, students have a grand opportunity to express themselves. 

What’s the goal of UChicago essay examples? Well, the UChicago extended essay example has a slightly different goal than “why UChicago” essay examples. The prompts are admittedly “provocative.” After all, this competitive university wants the most curious, inquisitive minds in the nation. Accordingly, successful UChicago essay examples prove that admitted students aren’t afraid of thinking out of the box. 

In the end, although the prompts seem quite different from other college essays, the goal is the same. UChicago essays that worked share more about each student: their interests, background, life experiences, or tastes. The exciting part about the UChicago uncommon essay examples is the rare opportunity to embrace your quirkiness or get serious. The choice is yours! 

UChicago Extended Essay Example

The first of our UChicago uncommon essay examples touches on some themes common in more traditional diversity/background/life experiences prompts. Read the first of our UChicago essay examples closely. How does the writer share more about themselves in an eloquent manner while still responding to this unique prompt?

UChicago Extended Essay Prompt:

A neon installation by the artist jeppe hein in chicago’s charles m. harper center asks this question for us: “why are you here and not somewhere else” (there are many potential values of “here”, but we already know you’re “here” to apply to the university of chicago; pick any”here” besides that one). – inspired by erin hart, class of 2016..

In a culture where Bollywood’s ‘item girls’ receive fame and glory for their provocative dancing and scant clothing, I am often filled with shame and even disgust for my own Indian heritage. Films and television soaps reinforce gender stereotypes of dominating male characters, while their female counterparts are either passive homemakers or desirable ‘item girls.’ These movies are mainstream and celebrated in my culture, watched by children and grandparents alike.

How can I embrace and respect my culture if this inequality pervades? Because I notice these things, and define them as blatantly sexist, does that make me less Indian?

In a culture where dowries are still regularly exchanged between families, I cannot help but notice the objectification of women that is culturally acceptable and ubiquitous. I cannot understand how Indian women all over the world permit their future family to request money and goods equivalent to their supposed ‘worth.’ This is the feminist and Western approach to dowries However, if I look closer, there can be a degree of justification to this practice. The parents-in-law are given money and luxurious goods for the bride in order to protect her if her husband and breadwinner can no longer work.

While this reasoning does offer some justification for the persistent existence of dowries in the 21st century, it brings new objections to the presumption that the bride will not contribute to the family’s income. I see the world through two lenses as the clash between Eastern and Western culture pervades my every thought and action.

During rare family gatherings, the few times I get to see my extended family, the joy of the reunion is mellowed by what I see. The men and children lounge into the couches, sipping tea and crunching bhel (Indian snack), while chuckling and debating over current events. In the kitchen congregate the women, busy cooking and giggling with each other, but in a constant frenzy to prepare the next meal or brew more tea. Distracted by the simmering chai, this room lacks the same fervent discussion of prevalent global issues. The living room and kitchen stand divided between the men and women. As a female young-adult, I am confused as to where I belong- to which room do I go? While we are one family, the divide remains firm. I feel sick to my stomach, as I alone perceive the waves of sexism that ripple beneath our facade.

Adding to this confusion are my looks. I am a rich mocha, but with too much crème, and suddenly I no longer look Indian. My unique ringlets add fuel to my accusers’ claims. Too pale, and too many curls. I have been called nearly every ethnicity in the globe, from African-American to Latina to Russian. When I explain my Indian heritage, aghast, they cry, “But you can’t be Indian!” Hurt, I leave questioning my appearance and the personality I project.

On the other hand, Hindu culture reveres female empowerment through the worship of powerful female deities such as Kali and Lakshmi. This hypocrisy baffles me. Why I am here? Why am I Indian, when everyone questions my ethnicity, and I, myself, question certain practices?

I realize, I am here to question and ponder, because thinking about the life and environment in which you live is critical. Because the fact remains that I absolutely love my culture. The passionate, unrequited urges to dance at every occasion in a flurry of vibrancy cannot be found anywhere else. I love the intrinsic and irrevocable respect for the knowledge and experiences elders bring. Also, I appreciate the emphasis on family as ultimate supporters and best friends. I even love the sense of duty and service that being a daughter brings. Outwardly, perhaps, I don’t conform to the typical model of an Indian girl, reserved and soft-spoken, with thick, straight hair and rich mocha skin, but I have the heart and soul of one.

Why This UChicago Essay Worked

With endless ways to respond, this writer’s UChicago extended essay example offers the reader a unique look into her life. She contemplates the many clashes in her own culture and her way of thinking and navigating the world. However, in her final reflection on precisely why she’s “here,” she affirms the centrality of her culture to her sense of self. 

The author of the first of our UChicago essays that worked dissects aspects of her culture that disquiet her. The reader sees an inquisitive person who’s always questioned cultural norms that others within her family might not have. Of course, she doesn’t completely reject a culture because she doesn’t completely agree with it. On the contrary, she’s able to find and appreciate the parts that have shaped her into who she is. Additionally, while she may not exemplify what’s “typical” of her culture, she recognizes that it’s nevertheless intrinsic to her experience. And she loves it. 

UChicago essays that worked often show growth. In the first of our UChicago uncommon essay examples, the writer shows how she’s navigated the inner conflict she experiences around her culture. In the end, even though she doesn’t come to a conclusive answer, the writer accepts the ongoing process of questioning. Moreover, she recognizes her culture and her surroundings aren’t mutually incompatible, but that she must find her own balance. This willingness to accept ambiguity and keep questioning is certainly important at an elite institution like UChicago. 

More UChicago essay examples

Let’s continue with the UChicago uncommon essay examples. Again, as you read this UChicago extended essay example, note features common among college essays—not just UChicago essay examples. 

UChicago Essay Prompt:

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., uchicago essay example.

Downton Abbey makes me fantasize about the elaborate fashions of the 1900s, with long taffeta gowns and hats bursting with feathers and jewels, each lady is a vision of elegance. Each episode and season leaves me fascinated by the grandeur and magnificence of the house, which stands in stark contrast with the peeling grey wood of the downstairs kitchens and servant halls. The servant’s staircase is shabby and dull, and runs parallel to the vibrant tapestry-covered marble staircase for those upstairs. I am puzzled by the smooth refinement of upstairs, juxtaposed with the panting bustle of downstairs.

I constantly marvel at the writers’ ability to craft characters to whom I can relate, despite the gap of a century. The world they lived in is so vastly different from today, yet people of all ages experience comparable emotions such as jealousy, passion, and shame. I am left breathless by the fact that each character faces similar challenges of familial disappointment, honor, and struggle to find a purpose in life; just as we do today.

Technology may change, but human nature remains the same. In addition, the rich historical background of Downtown Abbey provides intricate context to the larger historical events I learn in class. I am transported from merely learning about the implications of World War 1 and the Spanish Influenza, to learning about how these impacted the daily lives of people.

Downton Abbey is more than merely a television show to me. Calling my grandmother in England to discuss in the elaborate plot twists and new character developments has brought us together for a shared passionate experience in the same living room. We avidly discuss Mary’s slew of new suitors and Daisy’s latest heartbreak via video chat. Excitedly we giggle over birth of baby George and Ms. Pattmore’s witty retorts. In a unique twist, Downton Abbey has become something that transcends the thousands of miles that separate us.

In addition, Pride and Prejudice couples my love of fairytales with my irrevocable feminism.

Forever imprinted in my mind is the first time I attempted to read Jane Austen’s masterpiece, as a plucky third grader who brought the book to reading circle. At that young age, I was merely fascinated by the drama of five girls, each with their own tantalizing personality. But now, I realize the subtle life lessons concealed within each page. This novel makes me squash my teenage urges to judge and categorize people instantly, instead realizing that there is something to be learned from all people from all walks of life- especially the people from whom I am the most different. This subtle yet sparkling wit of Mr. Bennett reminds me to laugh more at the chaos and confusion life often brings.

The dysfunctional and hilarious family dynamic provides comedic relief and reminds me of the 19th century equivalent of a reality show. I admire Jane Austen’s subtle yet thought-provoking feminism through Elizabeth, as she pokes fun at her best friend for marrying without love for money and position, something she could never do. Also, I am inspired by Elizabeth’s passionate resolve against being ‘anybody’s fool! I am drawn by my love for English literature, which provides a window to discover historical intricacies that mirror a universal human experience.

Why This UChicago Essay Stood Out

The second of our UChicago essay examples hooks the reader and shows the author’s ability to connect with others. Much more than simply saying, “I like Downton Abbey because of the costumes”, the writer describes in detail the wardrobe and architecture. UChicago essays that worked provide ample details to help the main idea—and the writer—come to life for the reader.

Then the writer goes on to show how humans share the same feelings and experiences, which transcend time periods. This shows the reader how the writer is capable of empathizing and relating to people even through their differences. As the author points out, human nature is the same no matter the time period. Their personal understanding of this will ideally motivate humanistic, world-changing work at UChicago and beyond.

Focusing on the personal impact

Although this writer includes their grandmother in the essay, notice that the focus comes back to a lesson. Writing about experiences with friends or family in college essays is by no means off limits. However, those who do so should use a strategy like this essay. In other words, the essay should ultimately discuss personal impacts or lessons on character. 

Finally, the writer touches on the book Pride and Prejudice and the feminism portrayed within the book. Through this point, we learn more of the author’s values as well as traits in characters—in people—that they admire. She again ties the book to the underlying theme of her essay which is the universal human experience. 

This multifaceted essay engages the reader, answers the prompt, and allows some insight into the author’s values and way of thinking. 

How do you write a UChicago essay?

UChicago Essay Examples

Logically, University of Chicago essay examples vary: a UChicago extended essay example differs in many ways from UChicago essay examples. However, while UChicago essays that worked may look very different, they serve the same greater purpose. Above all, writers must show admissions who they are and why they belong at UChicago. 

“Why UChicago” essay examples will follow the format of a “why school” essay. Students should get specific as they reference opportunities, programs, faculty, or extracurriculars found only at UChicago. Additionally, UChicago essay examples should demonstrate just why the writer belongs on campus. How do your values align with those of the university? What will you bring to the school’s community? UChicago essays that worked should also show that UChicago is a good fit for the student—it goes both ways. 

More ‘Why School’ essay examples

Before writing, check out some successful “why school” essay examples from a variety of different schools. Of course, pay special attention to the “why UChicago” essay examples. Additionally, don’t miss essay tips from the University of Chicago admissions team. Given the competitiveness of UChicago admittance, UChicago essays that worked must all stand out.

Why This College Essay Sample

As for the UChicago uncommon essay examples, they can be approached in a myriad of ways. Firstly, be sure to choose the topic that excites you the most. Which immediately catches your eye? If you can’t decide, brainstorm for each first to see what you can write. Then, choose the topic with the most potential for a meaningful essay you want to write. Successful UChicago uncommon essay examples are founded on genuine excitement about the essay, so choose a topic that excites you. 

You may want to free write to get your ideas flowing. From there you can choose the “meat” of your essay out of a slew of words. University of Chicago essay examples must be unique to get you admitted. UChicago essay examples that worked ranged from serious to humorous. Don’t be afraid to have fun and get creative. The main goal is to share with admissions more about yourself. And, of course, show off your writing chops!

Determining a College Essay Topic: Reflection Exercises to Try

Does UChicago care about supplemental essays?

UChicago Essay Examples

In short, yes, absolutely! Understanding why different University of Chicago essay examples had success will do wonders for students writing their essays. The essays are a pivotal part of the UChicago application. And as one of the best universities in the nation, UChicago wants students with well-crafted essays

Of course, there are many factors that contribute to college acceptance, such as GPA and extracurriculars. Students will want to polish each part of the application, which starts early with your high school curriculum choices.

Making sure that you meet all of the University of Chicago requirements and the UChicago application deadline is also imperative. After all, there’s no use in writing perfect UChicago essay examples if your application is incomplete or late. Start planning your application early so you have documents in hand well before the deadline. With this in mind, most colleges use a holistic evaluation process when considering candidates. With such unique essay prompts, it’s clear that University of Chicago admissions wants students who rise to the occasion. That means students who passionately, creatively, and inquisitively respond to the prompts. 

You’ll notice that all the UChicago essay examples provide some valuable insight into the writer’s life and personality. These wouldn’t have been apparent from other parts of the application. That is to say, your essays should help to fill in your picture, so to speak. Admissions officers read essays to learn more about students to ensure that their values and goals align with the university. 

Need more help with your UChicago essays?

While we’ve checked out a couple of UChicago essays that worked, there are plenty more resources on the topic! In fact, you can check out more University of Chicago essay examples and see just why they worked, too. Reading UChicago uncommon essay examples will help inspire you to write your best UChicago extended essay example. 

The UChicago acceptance rate is one of the most selective in the nation at 5.4% . In light of that, applicants should do everything possible to make their application stand out. Read our how to get into UChicago guide for more tips on being a competitive candidate. 

While our “how to get into” guides cover each step of the application process, we have additional resources beyond UChicago essay examples. Watch our webinar for more valuable insight on how to write and edit your own UChicago essays. You can also take a look at UChicago admissions’ announcement of the most recent prompts in the video below.

Chicago Essay Examples – 5 Takeaways

UChicago Essay Examples

What have we learned from these UChicago uncommon essay examples? Here are 5 key things to keep in mind to make sure that your University of Chicago essay examples are successful. 

5 Tips for Writing Chicago Essay Examples

1. start early.

This goes for all aspects of the college journey, from the demographic info to the essays. The UChicago application deadline can creep up with everything else busy high schoolers have going on. Don’t let it take you by surprise! Specifically, successful University of Chicago essay examples have almost certainly undergone more than one revision. Start your essays well before the UChicago application deadline to make plenty of time to brainstorm, outline, draft, and edit. Before applying, check out all of the application deadline options to see what works best for you!

2. Choose your topic carefully

In order to write your best essay, you’ll want to choose the topic that most excites you. Which prompt caught your immediate attention? And, can you respond fully to the prompt in a way that shows more of your personality and values to the University of Chicago admissions team? The strongest University of Chicago essay examples brimming with passionate language and excitement.

3. Get creative

You’ll notice that UChicago uncommon essay examples usually hook the reader. This is where the favorite writing phrase comes in handy: show, don’t tell. When writing your essays, don’t merely list your points. Captivate the reader with descriptive language and attention-grabbing narrative strategies. The successful University of Chicago examples almost read like a story that you just don’t want to put down. 

4. Meet the requirements

While there is no official word limit for the UChicago uncommon essay examples, there are “recommendations”. Successful University of Chicago essay examples are often 250–500 words for the first prompt and about 650 for the second. Obviously, be sure to answer both required essays!

5. Show who you are

This is the most important part of all college essays. Of course, comprehensively answering the prompt is also vital, but applicants must also tell admissions about themselves. Don’t just repeat other parts of your application; use the essays to share something about yourself that admissions wouldn’t see otherwise. Most importantly, be yourself! One of the most common mistakes applicants make is trying to write something that University of Chicago admissions officers want to read. Answer the prompts in an authentic and unique way. 

Overall, remember that UChicago uncommon essay examples are an opportunity to stand out among a pool of qualified candidates. At one of the most selective universities in the nation, UChicago uncommon essay examples catch the eye of the admissions team. So, be sure to read several UChicago uncommon essay examples possible before starting your own. They’ll surely spark inspiration as well as show what’s worked in the past. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed after dissecting the UChicago uncommon essay examples, don’t worry! CollegeAdvisor’s Admissions Experts help students in every step of the college application journey, specifically with the University of Chicago requirements. They offer personalized support with everything from creating a college list to writing essays to applying for financial aid. 

Don’t focus on rankings and acceptance rates when planning your essays—just creatively show who you are through your prompt responses. Have fun when writing each UChicago essay! After all, people call them “uncommon essays” for a reason. UChicago wants you to think outside of the box when responding to their one-of-a-kind UChicago essay prompts. 

UChicago Essay Examples

Sarah Kaminski wrote this article. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.

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uchicago essay responses

How to Write the UChicago Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

Padya Paramita

July 8, 2019

uchicago essay responses

A Guide to the UChicago Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

You probably already know that admission into the University of Chicago, with its acceptance rate of only 7.9%, is far from guaranteed. But as you gear up to apply, you might get further thrown off by the essays you have to write. Alongside the required classic “why UChicago” question, this highly selective school also presents you with some rather unusual prompts in the UChicago supplemental essays 2020-2021 .  

You don’t expect to see references to Costco or Harry Potter when you’re getting into the mindset for convincing admissions officers why you’re a good fit for a school, and yet these have been part of past UChicago prompts. It goes without saying that UChicago’s quirky prompts aren’t your typical supplemental essay questions. But despite their unique nature, the goal of the university is the same as any other school -  to understand your perspective, to get a sense of your goals, and determine whether your values align with those that UChicago looks for in its students. To guide you through each of the prompts, I have outlined the questions, how to go about tackling them, and more tips to help you write the UChicago supplemental essays 2020-2021 .

The UChicago Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

UChicago prides itself on its thought provoking supplemental essay prompts. Use these as an opportunity to introduce yourself, what you’re passionate about, and your ambitions and goals. Although there is no set word limit for any of the prompts, InGenius Prep counselor Natalia Ostrowski, who worked as the Assistant Director of Admissions at UChicago, recommends that you limit the first essay (“Why UChicago”) to a page (double spaced in 12 point font). The second essay - the more weird and unusual one of the two - should be about two pages, double spaced and in 12 point font. 

The voice in your essay can be serious, you can let your creativity completely loose, or you can find an in-between take on any issue you’re writing about. According to Natalia, “UChicago admissions officers want to see how you connect ideas and get a front-row view into your critical thinking, intellectual curiosity and excitement for knowledge.” 

So without further ado, let’s go through all of the prompts - including each of the odd ones - for the UChicago supplemental essays 2020-2021, and ways you should dissect and answer them:

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.

Although there is no strict word limit on this “why UChicago” essay, don’t go overboard with what you like about the university. Admissions officers already know it’s a great school. How do you narrow down what you love about the college? Well, look at the question for hints. The question asks that you elaborate on how UChicago can help meet your needs when it comes to the following:

When reading your response to this question, admissions officers are looking for whether you’ve done your homework on UChicago to determine how much you’d fit into the college. Below are a few questions that Natalia suggests you ask yourself to brainstorm for this essay:

  • Why is the Core important to you? (And don’t just copy/paste what you wrote for Columbia and vice versa — they’ll know) 
  • What specific majors are you interested in and why? 
  • Has it always been your dream to work with [ insert professor here ] or study abroad in [ insert location here ]? Why? 
  • Which activities are you excited to contribute to? Why do you want to be a Maroon (yes, UChicago has sports!)?

Emphasize the community aspect - how do you hope to find your people on campus? Is it 

the opportunity to participate in student organizations such as Humor Magazine or the intramural wiffleball team that call out to you? Or are you keen to explore Chicago’s Revival Community Improv Theater within walking distance of the college? You might want to continue your community involvement work from high school by participating in the Neighborhood Schools Program, The Civic Knowledge Project, or one of the college’s several organizations that help give back to the greater Chicago community. 

Since you have space, you can provide context on who you are, your passions, and the kind of values you hope to bring to UChicago. Whatever you choose to write about, make sure you prioritize what you’re looking for from your college experience and how UChicago is the ideal place to explore these interests or goals. Show admissions officers that you have done your research and can convincingly argue for your place at the school, clearly outlining the parts of campus you wish to commit to.

Question 2: Extended Essay (Required; Choose One)

Now we get to the more peculiar essays. At first - and even second or third glance - these questions are out of the box in comparison to other schools’ supplemental essays. But where do you even start? Natalia affirms that, “Admissions officers want to see how your brain works. It doesn’t matter what you write about or which question you answer — your ideas and how you write about those ideas is what matters.” 

She also adds that from your essay, “Admissions officers will be able to have a glimpse of who you might be in the classroom, or when you’re deep in discussion in the dining halls or dorms, or walking through the snowy Harper Quad on your way to get some hot chocolate at Hallowed Grounds.” 

The takeaway for admissions officers reading your UChicago supplemental essays 2020-2021 should be to understand what makes you tick and how you are going to contribute to the community. This is the goal you should keep in mind throughout your writing process.

Essay Option 1

Who does Sally sell her seashells to? How much wood can a woodchuck really chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Pick a favorite tongue twister (either originally in English or translated from another language) and consider a resolution to its conundrum using the method of your choice. Math, philosophy, linguistics... it's all up to you (or your woodchuck).

—Inspired by Blessing Nnate, Class of 2024

This is one of the most open-ended questions among the UChicago supplemental essays 2020-2021 , because with a convincing enough argument, you might just be able to sway admissions officers to believe - or not - that a certain tongue twister has an answer that we might not have thought about before. Here are some tongue twisters — with questions ingrained in them — to help get you started on your brainstorm:

  • Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?
  • Can you can a can as a canner can can a can?
  • She saw Sharif's shoes on the sofa. But was she so sure those were Sharif's shoes she saw?
  • Which witch switched the Swiss wristwatches?
  • To begin to toboggan first buy a toboggan, but don't buy too big a toboggan. Too big a toboggan is too big a toboggan to buy to begin to toboggan.

Don’t get so caught up in the tongue twister that you miss the second half of the question: “method of your choice.” Use this question to discuss your potential major or interest, because after all these are your supplemental essays. How can a certain law in physics explain if you can “can a canner?” Does the law of demand and supply in economics help answer the question of “How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?” This is a great question to combine both your imagination and creativity alongside your curiosity within your academic interest.

Essay Option 2

What can actually be divided by zero?

—Inspired by Mai Vu, Class of 2024

This is another open-ended prompt. Since, unlike the last question, the college hasn’t specified that you should use an academic subject to explain your answer, your options are truly unlimited in how you choose to answer the question. This prompt isn’t one where you should bring up your academic interests unless they flow in organically. But it is a great opportunity to show your humorous side and make the admissions officers laugh.

You can reflect on a real-life incident that occurred that helped you have a certain realization, or you can be more hypothetical and come up with your own math problem. Whatever you choose, it’s crucial that you explain why you’ve drawn a certain conclusion. What does “being divided by zero” mean to you? Why do you believe X object cannot actually be divided by zero? Since there are no specifications, you can use a concrete object such as chairs, or a more abstract example, such as happiness or grief.

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Download Every Supplemental Prompt Here!

Essay option 3.

The seven liberal arts in antiquity consisted of the Quadrivium — astronomy, mathematics, geometry, and music — and the Trivium — rhetoric, grammar, and logic. Describe your own take on the Quadrivium or the Trivium. What do you think is essential for everyone to know?

—Inspired by Peter Wang, Class of 2022

This prompt from the UChicago supplemental essays 2020-2021 is a great place to show the school that you’re not afraid to tie everyday mundane things to academic areas. Think about how you use topics such as astronomy or grammar in daily life. To tackle this prompt, you could talk about a particular mathematical formula that you believe everyone should know. Or you could take the Trivium route and explore how grammar has evolved over time.

Remember though, that you are encouraged to get as creative as you want with these, so if you want to use examples from a language that originated in a fantasy novel or film that you enjoy, you could take that risk. This question, like prompt 1, leans in a more academic direction than the others - since it explicitly brings up fields that you’d study in school and/or college. So if you’re not a fan of creative writing, this question might be more approachable for you since the answer can be framed with a scholarly angle. Whichever approach you choose, make sure to not emphasize the question, “what is essential for everyone to know?” but rather why you believe it’s important for every single person.

Essay Option 4

Subway maps, evolutionary trees, Lewis diagrams. Each of these schematics tells the relationships and stories of their component parts. Reimagine a map, diagram, or chart. If your work is largely or exclusively visual, please include a cartographer's key of at least 300 words to help us best understand your creation.

—Inspired by Maximilian Site, Class of 2020

If you’re an artist, or a visual thinker, this could be a great prompt to attempt. Since the question doesn’t specify whether the map you create can be from a real or fictional place, you can go all out and pursue anything you like. It can be on a smaller scale — such as your neighborhood growing up, or far bigger such as the entire continent of Asia.

One factor to keep in mind is to make sure that the subject has relevance to you. Since these essays help admissions understand what makes you unique and helps them make their decision, think about how you can use your choice of map to convey an interest or goal. If you want to be a computer scientist for example, you can reimagine the map for Silicon Valley to your convenience and explain why you’ve done so.

Essay Option 5

"Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?" - Eleanor Roosevelt. Misattribute a famous quote and explore the implications of doing so.

—Inspired by Chris Davey, AB’13

This is definitely a more lighthearted prompt among the UChicago supplemental essays 2020-2021, that allows space both for creativity as well as a chance to demonstrate your interest in a particular topic. You could, for example, take a quote from The Office or a well known internet meme and assign it to someone such as Albert Einstein or Abraham Lincoln. The more important aspect of this prompt is the second half of the question: the implications of misattributing a quote. How is an industry — or even the world — impacted if someone who is reputable has their viewpoint misunderstood? 

This can be a particularly interesting topic to explore if you’re keen on English or journalism, as students applying to UChicago often are. What are the consequences of misquoting someone? Take the quote and persona you’ve chosen and imagine how the world — or a community — would be shifted if people start believing that they used an uncharacteristic statement. Analyze how such an incident can shift dynamics, through a lens that you’re passionate about, such as sociology, politics, or literature. 

Essay Option 6

Engineer George de Mestral got frustrated with burrs stuck to his dog’s fur and applied the same mechanic to create Velcro. Scientist Percy Lebaron Spencer found a melted chocolate bar in his magnetron lab and discovered microwave cooking. Dye-works owner Jean Baptiste Jolly found his tablecloth clean after a kerosene lamp was knocked over on it, consequently shaping the future of dry cleaning. Describe a creative or interesting solution, and then find the problem that it solves.

—Inspired by Steve Berkowitz, AB’19, and Neeharika Venuturupalli, Class of 2024

UChicago appreciates students who “ dig deeper, push further, and ask bigger questions ” — and this question is an effective way to demonstrate that you have the traits that the school looks for in its students. Think carefully about what you wish to cover here — there really are no limits on your topic as the prompt suggests that your solution can be creative. Don’t be afraid to think out of the box. For example, you might find the perfect answer to the question of “milk first or cereal first?” by discovering a solution that explains exactly why one is more efficient than the other. 

By explaining what the solution is — and its subsequent problem — you not only get to apply your knowledge and understanding of a topic, you get to kill two birds with one stone and convey your area of interest to the admissions officer as well. For this prompt, I’d recommend having a third party read the essay to see if the logic you’ve used in solving the problem does indeed make sense. You don’t have to be scientific at all in your explanation - you just have to convince the reader.

Essay Option 7

In the spirit of adventurous inquiry (and with the encouragement of one of our current students!) 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!

If you don’t like any of the other options, why not look at 30 of the previous years’ questions that UChicago has provided to inspire you. The question “How are apples and oranges supposed to be compared? Possible answers involve, but are not limited to, statistics, chemistry, physics, linguistics, and philosophy” might appeal to you more than any of the new prompts for UChicago supplemental essays 2020-2021 . And that is okay. 

Note that UChicago is giving you an incredible amount of choice here by providing access to their past prompts. If you decide to go the alternative route and come up with your own question, it HAS to be good enough. It wouldn’t be the wisest decision to go with your own lame prompt with the plethora of options in your arsenal. 

While UChicago doesn’t prefer that you answer questions 1-6 rather than 7, carefully weigh your options before you decide to pick number 7. Is there nothing you might have to say for the first 6 essay questions? If that is indeed the case, and you’re willing to take the risk (and UChicago appreciates risk-takers) put your unique spin on a previous - or completely original - question!

Additional Tips for Writing the UChicago Supplemental Essays 2020-2021

Now that you’ve taken a look at the prompts for the UChicago supplemental essays 2020-2021 , here are a few tips to help your brainstorming process: 

  • Standout essays for standout prompts - The prompts for the UChicago supplemental essays 2020-2021 are without a doubt, highly unique. It’s okay to feel intimidated, and you might choose a prompt which asks for a more academic-leaning response if you’re not a creative writer. While it’sfine to find an option that’s tailored towards your assets, note that other applicants will be writing all sorts of weird and highly imaginative essays. So you need to come up with something memorable and original to stand out among the competition.
  • Consider multiple approaches - Each of the questions for the UChicago supplemental essays 2020-2021 have different routes you can choose. For some, such as the “misattribute a famous quote” prompt or the topic of your choice questions, you can write about anything. So don’t restrict yourself into thinking there is a right answer. While it might feel like the college may want you to answer a certain way, UChicago wants to understand your personality and background. Stay true to yourself and authentically convey who you are and the way you view the world.
  • Don’t let the prompts discourage you from applying to the school - While the prompts set by the University of Chicago are definitely unusual and undoubtedly tricky, they are not impossible to answer. The school has set a standard for similarly quirky questions and hundreds of students still get in every year. So the minute you see these on the Common App, don’t be tempted to run away and remove UChicago from your school list. It’s a great school, and if you have a strong application to compete with other top students, don’t miss out on the chance just because the supplemental essays seem a little intimidating!

The UChicago supplemental essays 2020-2021 can add depth to your application and help admissions officers understand who you are and what you’re looking for from your college experience. The “why UChicago” prompt is your chance to convey how you would be a good fit at UChicago and vice versa. On the other hand, the essay question is a great component to capitalize on so that admissions officers understand your interests, creativity, and how you view the world. The task at hand might seem like a tough uphill battle, but it’s definitely not impossible. Good luck!

Tags : university of chicago , uchicago supplemental essay tips , Uchicago supplemental essays 2020-2021 , university of chicago application essays , university of chicago essays

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UChicago Essay Prompts 2019-20: Write Unique Responses

carolina Hermes

It’s that time of the year again! University of Chicago is going to receive thousands of applications and responses to UChicago Essay prompts. You have to make sure you are among those few lucky selected students. But how would you do that?

You will have to sail your own boat as no Santa is going to come and make your wish come true.

So WHAT? Work hard? No JUST WORK SMART!!!

Why Supplemental Essays UChicago Admissions?  

Did you ever wonder why University of Chicago asks for essays and not letter of recommendations? Because they don’t care about how many medals or shields you’ve won! They want to see how you can make a difference!

What Are The UChicago Essays Prompts?

Most of the students ask, “What are the UChicago Essays?”

The answer is that University of Chicago asks for two essays for your admission application:

Prompt for Essay 1:

The prompt for essay 1 remains same every year and is called “Why UChicago”. Though the suggested length extends from 250 – 500 words, but you can go beyond 500. The prompt is:

Prompts for Essay 2:

Essay 2 is called “Extended Essay” with suggested word count around 600. You can write more than that but the admission board doesn’t like it very much.

The prompts for essay two change every year and are inspired by UChicago’s recent graduate or current students. Out of 6 topics, you have to select only one prompt and write about them.

The prompts for extended essay admissions 2019-20 are:

These extended essays are a challenge! While most of the students attempt it on their own many of them scout for college essay help .

Some UChicago Past Essay Prompts You Can Consider:

As you noticed that the last prompt leaves it to your choice or selecting any UChicago past prompt if you like. Check out the list of the following prompts for your essays:

Tips For Writing Stellar Responses To University Of Chicago Essay Prompts

For “why uchicago” essays.

When writing a response for 1 st university of Chicago essay prompts, you should write how this university will help you become a better person, how will it contribute in your career development and avoid writing about how big their campus is. Consider the following table by our website, EazyResearch, when writing your response to first prompt:

For Extended Essays:

If you are asking from a professional to write your admission essay for the UChicago, then stop!!!

As I said earlier, Chicago University look for individuals who are different in their own way. The admission authority looks for following qualities in your essays:

  • Your skills
  • Your qualities
  • Your flair of writing

You may lose your uniqueness when asking someone else to do it for you.

However, you can write your essay and get it proofread by essay editing services .

Here are some of the ways you can make your essays unique:

  • Choose the prompt that you think can relate with your own life and experiences.
  • Understand the prompt before start writing on it.
  • Avoid writing about cliché topics.
  • Don’t write about the examples given in the prompt. Take it as a basic and adapt it to your own experiences.
  • Do not extend beyond the word limit.

Though UChicago essays are not an easy pie, you can still ace it by adding your uniqueness into it. Just carefully put your thoughts into words and give it to a professional for proofreading. That will 100% guarantee your admission into your dream university!

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How to Write the UChicago Supplemental Essays 2023-2024

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The University of Chicago supplemental essays are designed to test your creativity, reveal your curiosities, and highlight your unique spark. Known as the quirkiest prompts on the college essay circuit, the UChicago essays strike fear into the hearts of many aspiring Chicagoans. But in reality, the UChicago supplemental essays are one of the few places in a college essay where your personality can truly shine.

UChicago campus on a fall day

There are two UChicago supplemental essays . For the first essay, you’ll select from a series of prompts created by current students or create your own. For the second essay, you’ll explain why you want to attend UChicago and feel that it’s the right school for you. This blog post will guide you through answering each prompt so that you can approach your UChicago essays with confidence.

UChicago’s 2023-2024 Prompts

Extended essay questions.

  •  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
  • “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
  • “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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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!

“Why UChicago?” Essay

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..

Next Admit Essay Review promotion

We need to address the elephant in the room. These essays do not have a word limit. Instead, you need to upload a document with a 1-2 page answer. This raises a lot of questions for students. Is the page double- or single-spaced? Or 1.5-spaced? Times New Roman font or Comic Sans? How big should the margins be?

Relax. Unless formatting is essential to your essay in some way, just keep your margins, spacing, and font standard. Double-spaced is generally advised. Again, unless your formatting is part of the essay itself, you’ll want to make it so ordinary that it isn’t noticed.

Option 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

Like many of these prompts, Option 1 begins with some examples and then explains what kind of examples they are. Then, the prompt suggests that you come up with your own examples and explain them to the reader. But what does the prompt actually mean?

Let’s start with the simplest example. Pencils write, erasers erase writing. But then a pencil can just write again, effectively “erasing” the power of the eraser. In this way, pencils and erasers undo each other and both are necessary. Similarly, if you square a number by giving it an exponent of two, you can undo that process by giving it a square root. Lastly, during the process of beta decay, neutrons turn into protons, while electron capture causes protons to become neutrons, undoing the effects of beta decay.

Once you’ve come up with your own example of two things which undo each other, see what you can do to bring your personality, background, and unique areas of knowledge into your short essay response. It’s totally possible to discuss topics like beta decay and exponents with a clinical, distanced tone, but you can bring in anecdotes from your life, puns or jokes, topics you’ve researched, or career paths you aspire toward.

Option 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

If you’re inclined toward music or writing, then this might be the prompt for you. Alternatively, if your application looks very STEM-focused or doesn’t provide an indication of your media consumption—what kinds of books you read or movies you watch—then this prompt might give you a chance to add nuance to your application by showing a different side of yourself.

There are many angles you can take this question. Once you’ve settled upon your favorite question from a song title or lyric, you can answer it by discussing politics, ethics, rhetoric, or even physics or sociology. Song lyrics tend to ask ambiguous, open-ended questions, which allows you to show your unique personality and worldview in your answer.  

Still stuck? Here are a few examples of how to approach this question (please come up with your own unique, authentic responses):

  • Olivia Rodrigo’s song “vampire” asks, “ How’s the castle built off people you pretend to care about? ” You could respond with your views on the role of major corporations in contemporary society.
  • 2Pac’s song “Changes” asks, “ Is life worth livin’? ” You could respond with a discussion of your growth into a self-confident person who sees their future clearly.
  • Taylor Swift’s song “Lover” asks, “ Have I known you twenty seconds or twenty years? ” You could respond by discussing a person who has had a major impact on your life.

Option 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

This prompt will be great for you if you enjoy playing with language and considering the flexibility of linguistic expression—or if you have a humorous portmanteau you’ve come up with! Still, you’ll want your imagined portmanteau to have some dimension and allow you to give the reader a sense of your personality.

If you love this prompt but are having trouble thinking of portmanteaus, try playing a game of word association with yourself. Look up a random word generator and in response to the word, write down whatever you first think of. See if those words fit together or give you inspiration!

Note that your essay should not be repetitive and explain the same portmanteau over and over, or provide dozens of reasons in favor of your portmanteau without any consideration of the reasons against. For instance, “patch” is a fun portmanteau of “perfect” and “match,” but “patch” is already a word, which provides the potential for confusion. Make sure you can give a thoughtful and well-rounded argument for your portmanteau, even if it is tongue-in-cheek. Consider the ways in which your imagined portmanteau might be useful in your daily life, how it might be uniquely useful to you, and how it might be useful (or useless) to others. 

Option 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

Like Option 3, Option 4 is a great prompt for you if you’re a wordsmith or pun-master or poet—or an aspiring one! This prompt gives you the opportunity to pick an interesting word or phrase and explore its metaphorical, figurative, and humorous implications if taken literally. If you’re someone who often takes things literally, you might be especially interested in this prompt.

Once you’ve come up with your misnomer, you’ll have to decide whether you want to defend its name or suggest a change. If you defend its name, be sure to develop a well-rounded argument, even if satirical; address opposing viewpoints, explain yourself from a few different angles, and make sure your essay culminates in an insightful, interesting, and/or entertaining point. If you come up with your own name, you’ll need to make sure your argument is thoughtful and your new name has reasons beyond the practical to support it.

Consider that this essay prompt, although casual, will give the reader insight into how you might write an argumentative essay for a UChicago course, or approach a lively classroom discussion. Whether your essay has a creative structure or a standard one, a lighthearted tone or a serious one, the essay should feel cohesive, purposeful, and well-argued. 

Option 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

This prompt allows you to discuss your own interest in a particular game which may have become a significant part of your social and/or intellectual life. Do you play D&D with your friends every weekend? Have you joined a Muggle Quidditch community? Do you connect with your grandparents over Clue? 

Whatever modern game speaks to you, you can discuss its impacts up-close and far away. A game stands the test of time by engaging a wide range of players. Maybe D&D brings your creative side out, and you believe its worldbuilding nature will allow it to continue evolving for centuries. Maybe you feel like the massive fandom behind Muggle Quidditch will allow it to live on, and its ability to create community has spoken to you. And maybe Clue has helped your family grow closer, representing to you a broader cultural shift.

You can interpret the term “game” and the descriptor “modern” loosely while answering this prompt. Just be sure to clarify how you’re using those terms at the beginning of your essay if you do employ them creatively! Also, remember that your reader might not be familiar with the intricacies of your game of interest, so you may want to explain the rules or objectives briefly in your essay’s introduction.

Option 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

This prompt will work well for you if you are a forward-thinking change-maker, a skeptic, a revolutionary, or an out-of-the-box thinker. Remember, these are the unwritten rules that “everyone” (you can interpret this word loosely) follows or has heard. These aren’t federal laws that need amendments or school policies worth updating. Instead, they’re cultural norms, societal expectations, or familial obligations which you believe are behind the times.

Consider the position from which you view the world as you respond to this prompt. How will the dissolution or evolution of this unwritten rule impact people who are different from you? Will the impact be positive, negative, or neutral? How might other people included in your definition of “everyone” feel about changing or discarding this unwritten rule?

As you compose your answer, you’ll also want to discuss how you will improve the rule, or what might fill the void left behind this rule. You could also consider discussing how the rule would be broken in the first place—on an individual level, or by many people all at once. Lastly, be sure to tie your essay back to your own personal life and experience at least once or twice in your essay. Ultimately, this essay is about you !

Option 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!

If these prompts weren’t creative and open-ended enough for you, you can come up with your own. Given that some of the prompts are so open-ended that you can almost discuss whatever you want, be sure to only select this option if you have a cohesive, coherent, and thoughtful idea. Consider giving yourself a specific prompt (which can even be included in the essay itself) to guide your writing process.

In addition, do your best not to turn this essay response into something that could’ve been submitted to another college or university. After all, UChicago’s prompts stand out because they are looking for students who stand out. If your essay response doesn’t stand out, you’re putting your application in jeopardy.

That said, if you have an excellent idea that would feel forced if applied to any of the six prompts above, then you have free reign here. Good luck!

Like many colleges and universities, UChicago’s admissions officers want to know why you specifically want to attend UChicago. What programs, courses, professors, clubs, or opportunities are available to you only at UChicago? What aspects of the campus culture speak to you? Why do you see yourself as a part of UChicago’s community?

Note that prompt’s emphasis on specificity. Use concrete details and sentences which could apply to no other institution than UChicago. Indicate how your unique future plans would be best served by learning and studying at UChicago. If you’re stuck, read through their website, watch videos about UChicago, and visit the campus if you’re able. Good luck!

If you need help polishing up your UChicago supplemental essays, check out our College Essay Review service. You can receive detailed feedback from Ivy League consultants in as little as 24 hours.

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How to Write the USC Supplemental Essays 2023-2024

UChicago essay samples?

Hey guys, I'm applying to UChicago and struggling with the unique essay prompts. Does anyone have any sample UChicago essays to offer or advice on how to approach them? I'd really appreciate your help!

Hey there! UChicago is known for its creative and unconventional essay prompts, so keep in mind that it's essential to embrace that quirkiness and think unconventionally when crafting your response, rather than trying to imitate exactly what someone else did.

That being said, CollegeVine does have two strong examples of UChicago essays written by real students for you to review, along with breakdowns of what they did well and anything that could have been done even better: https://blog.collegevine.com/uchicago-essay-example.

If you're wondering whether your own UChicago essay is working, think about utilizing either CollegeVine's free peer essay review service or submitting your essay for a paid review by an expert college admissions advisor. Sometimes, that second set of eyes is just the thing that takes your response from good to great.

Good luck with your UChicago essay, and remember - the key is to be yourself and embrace the creativity and curiosity UChicago is known for!

Harvard president Claudine Gay resigned after a firestorm of criticism. Why it matters.

Harvard University's first Black president has resigned following a weekslong firestorm of criticism including backlash for how she has handled antisemitism on campus and accusations of plagiarism in her academic work.

When Claudine Gay announced her resignation Tuesday, her critics celebrated a major victory — another university president had left their job following a fateful congressional hearing on antisemitism.

Harvard had initially stood beside Gay. Her ouster shows that public outrage can help affect change even at the highest levels of the nation's most prestigious institutions.

"This is not a decision I came to easily," Gay wrote in a statement. "But, after consultation with members of the (Harvard) Corporation, it has become clear that it is in the best interests of Harvard for me to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge with a focus on the institution rather than any individual."

Meanwhile, Gay's defenders say public outrage can be fickle and racist — and that people of color are particularly vulnerable. Here's what to know about the extended controversy and why it matters.

Who is Claudine Gay?

Gay was the first Black person and the second woman to serve as Harvard's president. Her resignation Tuesday makes her six-month term as president the shortest of any in Harvard's history.

Gay was named Harvard's 30th president after serving as a dean for Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She first came to the university in 2006 as a government professor, according to her biography on the school's website.

"Gay is a leading scholar of political behavior, considering issues of race and politics in America," her biography reads.

Gay, 53, received her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1998, and her dissertation won the Toppan Prize for best dissertation in political science. She also previously taught at Stanford University.

How did we get here?

Gay began her term as president last July. After an influx of reports of antisemitism and Islamophobia on college campuses nationwide since Oct. 7, university leaders including Gay and University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill faced growing pressure to respond to concerns about Jewish students' safety.

Gay's response to a line of questioning from GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik during her testimony before a House Committee on Education and the Workforce on antisemitism on college campuses in December prompted outrage. Asked by Stefanik whether calls for the genocide of Jews violate Harvard’s rules of bullying and harassment, Gay responded, “It can be, depending on the context.”

“Antisemitic speech when it crosses into conduct that amounts to bullying, harassment, intimidation — that is actionable conduct and we do take action,” Gay said.

Critics faulted Gay for not giving a simple "yes."

In the midst of the uproar over the congressional testimony and response to antisemitism was the growing rumble of accusations of plagiarism.

Harvard's initial review of some of Gay's work found instances of “duplicative language," but that Gay's work didn't rise to the level of misconduct. Accusations persisted, however, published in some cases in right-leaning publications and brought by anonymous conservative activists.

Why does Gay's resignation matter? Different advocates have different answers.

Gay's comments before Congress generated criticism from across the political spectrum. But her resignation sparked different reactions from across the political spectrum .

Some Jewish groups said her resignation matters because it means she was held accountable for her remarks.

Ron Halber, the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, told USA TODAY after her resignation that university presidents have to understand that speech can create an environment where Jewish students feel "physically intimidated."

"We wouldn't accept it for any other group. Why should the Jewish community demand any less?" Halber said.

But the accusations of plagiarism leveled against Gay that helped end her term as Harvard president were pushed largely by conservatives. And those accusations in particular were done in bad faith and had racist roots, according to Gay's supporters.

They say the resignation matters because it shows how vulnerable people of color can be to accusations tinged with racism. They cite rhetoric that claimed Gay had gotten the job in large part because she is a Black woman as particularly concerning.

Those accusations can have a "devastating effect" on Black women advancing in the corporate world, government and academia, said the Rev. Al Sharpton.

"To act like this president, Claudine Gay, was not qualified to be president, and that she was only given the job because she was a Black woman, is a threat to Black women in high positions all over the country," Sharpton told USA TODAY on Wednesday.

Gay wrote it was "distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor … and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus."

Attacks on the embattled president took the form of "repugnant and in some cases racist vitriol directed at her through disgraceful emails and phone calls," according to the Harvard Corporation, one of the institution's two governing boards.

Gay was also criticized for her work on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at Harvard before her tenure as president.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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Guest Essay

What Nikki Haley Didn’t Say

An image of former ambassador Nikki Haley is projected on a television screen. In the image, the reflection of a light looks like a halo.

By Steve Inskeep

Mr. Inskeep, a co-host of NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “Up First,” is the author of “Differ We Must: How Lincoln Succeeded in a Divided America.”

Nikki Haley drew criticism this week for what she didn’t say. As she campaigned in New Hampshire for the Republican presidential nomination, a person asked her to name the cause of the Civil War.

Ms. Haley, a former South Carolina governor, joked it was not an “easy question.” She then mentioned “how government was going to run,” “freedoms,” the need for “capitalism” and individual liberties. When the questioner observed that she hadn’t mentioned slavery, she asked, “What do you want me to say about slavery?”

She told a radio interviewer the next morning that “of course” the war was about slavery, that she was not evading the issue but trying to reframe it in modern terms. While we shouldn’t read too much into one video clip, it’s fair to ask: How is the Civil War’s cause not an easy question?

The facts of our history are currently contested — especially that history. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has acted to restrict what he sees as woke views of slavery and race in schools. Other Republican-led states have taken similar measures, and Donald Trump has offered his own hazy views of the past. It’s no wonder Ms. Haley spoke cautiously. The history of race has become as fraught a topic on the political right as it has been on the left.

All this points to a reality we would do well to confront: Some Americans do not believe slavery was the cause of the Civil War. I encountered some of them while discussing a recent book on Abraham Lincoln.

A few days ago, a caller on C-SPAN identified as “William in Lansford, Pa.,” asserted this to me: “The Civil War wasn’t about slavery. It was about the states fighting with one another about money.”

It was far from the first time I’ve heard such claims. It’s not hard to see why a candidate might avoid engaging too deeply with voters on this topic.

But the rest of us can arm ourselves with a few base-line facts. Far more than most historical events, the Civil War is debated among ordinary people as much as among historians. (Lincoln called it “a people’s war,” and it’s now a people’s history. I recently attended the annual Lincoln Forum in Gettysburg, Pa., where scholars shared the room with hundreds of superfans.) If we are to hold on to our history, we can prepare ourselves to respond calmly and with facts when someone makes a doubtful claim. Evidence shows what the war was about. It also shows why some people think it wasn’t about slavery — and why it matters a century and a half later.

The evidence is straightforward. Southern states rejected Lincoln’s 1860 election as a president from the antislavery Republican Party. South Carolina was the first of 11 states that tried to leave the Union, and Confederates fired the first shot of the Civil War there at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

Leaders of the would-be new republic named slavery as their cause. Alexander H. Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, gave a speech in 1861 in which he said “the assumption of the equality of races” was “an error” and “a sandy foundation” for the country he intended to leave.

More than 30 years of agitation over slavery preceded the war. Northern antislavery leaders denounced the South’s institution more and more loudly and finally organized through the new Republican Party to gain political power. Southern leaders, who once cast slavery as a tragic inheritance from colonial times, increasingly defended it as moral and good.

After the South’s defeat in 1865, these plain facts were obscured. Former Confederates cast their war heroes, like Robert E. Lee, as defenders of their home states rather than champions of slavery.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy campaigned for generations to downplay slavery’s role in the war. In a 1924 speech to the group’s annual convention, Hollins N. Randolph asserted that “Southern men” had “fought to the death” for “the liberty of the individual, for the home and for the great principle of local self-government.” Never mind that it was “the liberty of the individual” to own other human beings. The speech advocated raising money for a great Confederate monument that still exists at Stone Mountain, Ga.

Beyond the bombast, historians contested many facets of the long road to war. To give just one example from the immense scholarly record: T. Harry Williams, a 20th-century writer, put some blame for the war on Northern capitalists. He said they foresaw “fat rewards” in knocking proslavery aristocrats out of power and reshaping the economy to benefit their own factories and railroads. But really, such arguments amount to different interpretations of how the United States came to fight a war over slavery.

Today some people quote Lincoln — accurately — saying his main war aim was preserving the Union, not ending slavery. But these quotes cannot sustain any argument longer than a social media meme. Lincoln also said that slavery was “the cause of the war.” Preserving the Union ultimately required slavery’s destruction.

It seems that people question the historical record less because of doubt about the past than because of conflicts in the present. Some conservatives feel that progressives use slavery as a cudgel against their side in modern debates over race and equality.

The first Republican president saw slavery neither as a cudgel nor as something that he needed to obscure. In an 1864 letter, he described slavery as a “great wrong” and added that people of the North and South alike shared “complicity in that wrong.”

Complicity. Lincoln affirmed his country’s responsibility for failing to live up to its promise of equality. He still believed in the country and its promise.

Lincoln never claimed to be morally superior to his countrymen. He focused on an immoral system, which he worked to restrict and then to destroy. The end of slavery is now part of this country’s legacy. It’s also part of the legacy of Lincoln’s party, though Ms. Haley’s example shows it can be hard for Republican candidates to talk about it.

Steve Inskeep, a co-host of NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “Up First,” is the author of “Differ We Must: How Lincoln Succeeded in a Divided America.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

Follow the New York Times Opinion section on Facebook , Instagram , TikTok , X and Threads .

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  24. Claudine Gay resignation: What happened and why it matters

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