University of Chicago Supplemental Essay Tips

2020 – 2021 University of Chicago Application Essay Tips

This is a fun essay guide to tackle, as the University of Chicago is very well-known for their creative and out-of-the-box essay prompts. When you get to your University of Chicago supplemental essays, shake off the straight-forward cobwebs that you may have built up across your other applications. Your University of Chicago application is where you should let your creative flag fly.. and let it fly high! You know the best part about their questions? They come from actual students and alumni! So, if you find yourself scoffing at the prompts, perhaps you should re-evaluate if this is the perfect school for you. Of course, these students are not the full representation of the student body. However, since these students and their prompts were selected to be officially used as application essay prompts, it’s a pretty good indication of student culture.

“Each year we email newly admitted and current College students and ask them for essay topics. We receive several hundred responses, many of which are eloquent, intriguing, or downright wacky. As you can see from the attributions, the questions below were inspired by submissions from UChicago students and alumni.”

Here’s the important thing to remember: the prompts can be wacky, but that doesn’t mean throw all application strategy out the window. These essays are still your space for talking more about yourself, your candidacy for UChicago and why they’re the perfect fit for you. Stay true to yourself and the voice you have taken in the rest of your application, but don’t be afraid to throw in a little extra flare, too.

University of Chicago Required Prompt #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.

Ah yes, the “Why ____?” prompt. We’re familiar with this prompt, yes? University of Chicago leads you exactly to how you should respond to this prompt. By saying as you know it now, they are asking for examples of the research you have done that support why you are applying, and why they’re the perfect fit for you. They also directly ask you to address with some specificity your own wishes and how they relate to UChicago. If you mess up a response to this question, it’s 100% on you, because they are very specific with what they are looking for.

First, throw out any responses about being in the city of Chicago. That isn’t specific to UChicago, so we wouldn’t encourage you to include that here. Also, UChicago knows they have great professors, hard-working students, rigorous coursework and a welcoming community. While telling them those things in this essay would reaffirm their love for the school, it won’t help you stand out in a sea of competitive applicants. Steer clear of those cliche examples!

When you think about UChicago, what excites YOU? What are your personal aspirations, and how is UChicago uniquely positioned to help you achieve those goals? If you’ve have interactions with professors, alumni or current students, this is a great place to mention it. Sharing these experiences develops your personal connection to the school, which is an important factor in admissions. We would encourage you to not just simply name drop. But if you’ve had a conversation with an alumni, why does it matter here? Were they a student in a particular academic program that interests you? Did they give you insight on professors to do research with? Did they share more about a unique study abroad opportunity only available at UChicago? Think about how those connections tie you to the school, and then help satisfy your desire for a particular kind of learning, community and future.

University of Chicago Extended Essay

Choose one of the seven extended essay options and upload a one or two-page response. Please include the prompt at the top of the page.

You’d be surprised how many students miss the second half of the instructions and don’t include the prompt at the top of the page. That leaves the admissions reader to wonder what the heck you’re writing about! And, with only about 8 minutes to read your completed application, you don’t want them spending any time trying to answer questions you should have answered for them!

University of Chicago Extended 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

University of Chicago Extended Essay Option 2:

What can actually be divided by zero?
—Inspired by Mai Vu, Class of 2024

University of Chicago Extended 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

University of Chicago Extended 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

University of Chicago Extended 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

University of Chicago Extended 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

University of Chicago Extended 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!

When it comes to the UChicago Supplemental Essays, it’s essential to remember the core values of a good supplemental essay:

  • Unveil more information about your candidacy
  • Tie your response into your fit for the school with concrete examples
  • Show off your authentic personality

We hope this guide is helpful! If you have more questions about the UChicago Supplemental Essays or other college application essays, feel free to connect with us! We’d love to help!

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