Weird College Application Essays 2016

Students Need to Get Creative With These Unusual College Essay Prompts

It’s that time of year again! The 2017-18 Common Application is open, and now's the time for the class of 2022 to start on their college application essays and supplements – which can sometimes include weird and unusual essay prompts and short answer questions.

In addition to the Common Application essay (or the Coalition application essay), colleges will often require additional essays within their school-specific supplements. These essays can be as general as “Why do you want to attend X University?” However, many schools will also include quirky college application essay prompts or short answer questions as a way to get to know applicants better.

Supplemental essays are important because, not only do they help students demonstrate their knowledge of school, but they also help students reveal information that the university might not otherwise gather from other parts of the application. They can also give students the opportunity to show why that institution or major is a good fit for them, and vice versa.

Colleges have been coming up with unusual and quirky essay prompts for years now, with some prompts getting stranger each application season! These unusual essay prompts may seem silly at first, but they offer applicants a great opportunity to set themselves apart.

Here are some quirky and unusual supplement questions and essay prompts from this year’s college applications: 

In Love Medicine, author Louise Erdrich ’76 writes, ''Society is like this card game here, cousin. We got dealt our hand before we were even born, and as we grow we have to play as best as we can.'' Describe your ''hand'' and reflect on how you have played it. (Dartmouth College)

What historical moment or event do you wish you could have witnessed? (Stanford University)

Short Answer: Hashtag to describe yourself (University of Southern California)

Due to a series of clerical errors, there is exactly one typo (an extra letter, a removed letter, or an altered letter) in the name of every department at the University of Chicago. Oops! Describe your new intended major. Why are you interested in it and what courses or areas of focus within it might you want to explore? Potential options include Commuter Science, Bromance Languages and Literatures, Pundamentals: Issues and Texts, Ant History... a full list of unmodified majors ready for your editor’s eye is available here: https://collegeadmissions.uchicago.edu/academics/majors-minors. -Inspired by Josh Kaufman, Class of 2018 (University of Chicago)

What do you hope will change about the place where you live? (University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill)

For whom are you responsible? (University of Notre Dame)

UVA students paint messages on Beta Bridge when they want to share information with our community. What would you paint on Beta Bridge and why is this your message? (University of Virginia)

"Become what you are not yet" - Saint Augustine
When you daydream, who do you hope to become in the future? (Villanova University)

You have a popular podcast. What’s the title? What’s the topic? (Wake Forest University)

You are teaching a Yale course. What is it called? (Yale University)

Are you ready to get started on your college application essays? For more information on how IvyWise can help you with your essays and supplements, contact us today.

Christine: Be Genuine in Your College Applications from IvyWise on Vimeo.

Supplemental essays are often the most personal parts of college applications. Your essay lets you reveal aspects of your life and character that just don’t come across elsewhere. In some cases, though, the essay questions are so strange that they might seem more like puzzles than prompts. Take the following examples.

1. Tufts University

“Kermit the Frog famously lamented, ‘It’s not easy being green.’ Do you agree?”

Tufts University frequently supplies eclectic essay prompts, and this is obviously one of them. After all, it quotes someone who’s made of felt.

Nevertheless, it’s philosophical. It challenges students to define the existential condition “green” in their own way. No doubt many respondents will highlight a quirk that makes them distinct. It could be something physical like being tall, or it could be a personality feature like curiosity. Either way, applicants must decide whether that quality has caused them difficulties. 

Check out our database of successful Tufts profiles for more inspiration!

2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“What do you hope to find over the rainbow?”

This UNC prompt is also framed through the lens of popular culture. It references a song from the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz.”

It’s asking students what they want their futures to hold once they cross a certain threshold. Again, applicants must define their own terms. What is that threshold, the rainbow, that they must pass? Is it school? Is it the search for a true calling? These questions would probably keep the Scarecrow up at night. 

Here are UNC Chapel Hill essay examples!

3. University of Chicago

“What is square one, and can you actually go back to it?”

When it comes to asking offbeat essay questions, the University of Chicago is America’s reigning champ.

This one takes a familiar idiom ― “back to square one” ― and squeezes out its metaphysical implications. When people find themselves on the wrong path in life, to what extent can they go back and fix the problem? Can you really make amends with other people? Is there a point of no return in terms of decision-making?

Take a look at some UChicago success stories. 

4. Wake Forest University

“Give us your top ten list.”

This request must inspire many different kinds of responses. Many students probably submit earnest lists of heroes, career objectives or the struggles they’ve overcome. No doubt others offer humor, perhaps naming their most embarrassing moments or favorite dance moves. Some brave soul might provide ten reasons he or she hates top ten lists.

Would you be sincere or irreverent with your list?

See what others did in their Wake Forest application! 

5. University of Richmond

“Tell us about spiders.”

Here’s another question that’s wide open to interpretation. It also gives applicants the chance to display their unique sensibilities. You could opt for biological descriptions, an examination of how spiders have been perceived throughout history, an autobiographical story about childhood arachnophobia, an amusing look at the world from a spider’s point of view or something else entirely.

You have to wonder, though, how many admissions officers get the willies reading these essays.

Here’s a list of Richmond profiles to help you.

6. Brandeis University

“If you could choose to be raised by robots, dinosaurs or aliens, who would you pick? Why?”

Given the absurdity of its three choices, this question seems designed to test creativity and reasoning skills. How do you construct a logical argument from an illogical premise? How do you advocate for an idea that’s appalling? On the other hand, maybe some people like the notion of robots changing diapers or aliens singing lullabies.

Check out Brandeis University profiles!

Unusual college application essays certainly aren’t for everyone. Many students prefer standard queries about inspiring books or extracurricular activities. However, if you have an urge to show off your imagination and unique writing style, you might start hunting for an essay question as bizarre as those above.

Applying to college?

View the app files and essays of accepted students.

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Which essay prompt has you scratching your heads? Let us know what other strange ones you’ve encountered this application season! If you still need some inspiration, check out AdmitSee’s database of 60,000+ successful college application files. 

About The Author

Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.




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