College Application Essays (2012-2013)

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It’s that time again! With the Common Application and Universal Application releasing their 2012-2013 editions on August 1st, along with several schools releasing updated supplements, the college application season has officially kicked off.  College admissions officers may read hundreds of applications and while a student’s “hard factors” including grades, transcripts, and standardized test scores, don’t leave much room for interpretation, a student’s “soft factors,” such as letters of recommendation, interviews, and resume give each applicant an opportunity to let their personality shine through.

An applicant’s college admissions essay and personal statement in particular, allow the application reader to picture the student as a living, breathing human being.  When reading an essay, the admissions board will try to determine: Who are you? Will you make a valuable contribution to your future campus community? What type of character traits do you possess? Are you responsible? Shy? Creative? A Leader? A nonconformist?  Some colleges take a particularly creative approach to the application essay prompt with the hopes that students will reply in kind. Here are some of the quirkiest college admissions essay questions that we’ve come across this year:

  • “From now on, I’ll connect the dots my own way,” says Calvin in the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Watterson ’80. What is “your way” of making sense of things? Are there dots you hope to connect? (Kenyon College)
  • A package arrives at your door. After seeing the contents you know it’s going to be the best day of your life. What’s inside and how do you spend your day? (Brandeis University)
  • You arrive at one of your classes to find the room/lecture hall unexpectedly empty. In the room you find a potato, a book, and a tube of paint. Why are those things there, what is the connection, and where did everyone go? (University of Michigan, Honors Program)
  • Explain unicorns. (University of Michigan, Honors Program)
  • You just put a message in a bottle and threw the bottle out to sea. What is the message? (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
  • So where is Waldo, really? (University of Chicago)
  • “A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.” – Oscar Wilde.

    Othello and Iago. Dorothy and the Wicked Witch. The Autobots and the Decepticons. History and art are full of heroes and their enemies. Tell us about the relationship between you and your arch-nemesis (either real or imagined). (University of Chicago)

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