There is nothing more fearsome and intimidating to high school seniors than college application essays. While it is impossible to condense all of one’s dreams, passions, and personality into an essay in under 650 words, the prompts allow for some creativity. Many colleges do not want an essay restating the Common Application, the application used by most major universities. They want something entertaining, which is one of the reasons why many essay prompts can seem a bit ridiculous.
Most students find the more abstract essay topics the hardest to write, because they call upon creativity, coherent writing, a sense of humor, and enough confidence to take a risk. Examples include UNC’s current “What do you expect to find over the rainbow?” Bennington College’s 2010 prompt “Can a toad hear? Prove it;” and Brandeis’ prompt for the same year, which asked, “If you could choose to be raised by robots, dinosaurs, or aliens, who would you pick? Why?”
The University of Chicago and Tufts University are known for their wacky essay prompts, and Tufts won this year’s informal competition, hotly debated on online forums, over who has the weirdest topic with, “What does #YOLO mean to you?” Below are some of the more interesting prompts that have been part of the long debate over which school has the better prompt.
University of Chicago:
“So where is Waldo, really?”
“What does Play-Doh have to do with Plato?”
“Don’t write about reverse psychology.”
“Have you ever walked through the aisles of a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club and wondered who would buy a jar of mustard a foot and a half tall? We’ve bought it, but it didn’t stop us from wondering about other things, like absurd eating contests, impulse buys, excess, unimagined uses for mustard, storage, preservatives, notions of bigness… and dozens of other ideas both silly and serious. Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard.”
“Kermit the Frog famously lamented, ‘It’s not easy being green.’ Do you agree?”
“It’s Friday. Which of your mediocre talents are you going to post to the Internet this weekend, and why?”
“Discuss how you successfully conquered a First World Problem, White Girl Problem, Overeducated Problem, Stoner Problem, or another exaggerated obstacle of social, racial or habitual origin.”
“A great American writer once said, ‘Pimpin’ ain’t easy, but it sure is fun.’ Examine a personal experience that was hard work, but worth the effort.”
“You have been tasked with naming a celebrity baby, but you can’t use a name that has been registered in the United States since 1945, colors, or food items (even organic ones). What do you name the baby and why?”