The University of Chicago supplemental essays are notorious for making students think outside of the box with unique questions crafted by current students and alums alike. Read below for advice on answering Chicago’s supplemental essays:

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.

In addition to the creative essay prompts below, UChicago also asks you to write a more traditional essay – essentially answering the question: Why the University of Chicago?

You’ll see this essay prompt from many universities’ applications, and it is a fantastic opportunity for you to expound upon why and how the college is a good fit for you. Is it the academics? Be specific. What about the campus, or size, or intellectual vitality? The college doesn’t need to hear about itself (U of C admissions officers work there, and some went there – they know what UChicago is!). Instead, talk about how you will fit in. Are there opportunities in Chicago that excite you, or professors with whom you would like to do research?

This question demonstrates the importance of visiting colleges. You cannot really learn that much from a website, though that is a great place to start. If you can meet with an admissions representative near you – either at a prospect program or at your high school or local college fair – that is a great start. But it’s even better if you can visit campus and take a student-led tour and listen to an admissions officer in an information session. On your visit, you’ll hopefully learn why UChicago is a great match for you.

Essay Option 1

Was it a cat I saw? Yo-no-na-ka, ho-ka-ho-ka na-no-yo (Japanese for “the world is a warm place”). Może jutro ta dama da tortu jeżom (Polish for “maybe tomorrow that lady will give a cake to the hedgehogs”). Share a palindrome in any language, and give it a backstory.

– Inspired by Leah Beach, Class of 2026, Lib Gray SB ’12, and Agnes Mazur AB ‘09

The University of Chicago prides itself on its original essay prompts, and this is certainly very unique! The admissions committee wants to learn more about you, and if you are interested in wordplay, this might be the right question for you to answer.

You should create your own palindrome, rather than using a well-known sentence or phrase. In doing so, you will highlight your facility with words, phrases, foreign languages or linguistics. And then show off your creativity by creating a “backstory” that matches the palindrome you’ve written.

Most importantly, have fun with this essay!

Essay Option 2

What advice would a wisdom tooth have?

–Inspired by Melody Dias, Class of 2025

Be creative! The essay prompt is very short, and this allows your imagination to run wild, as there are really no parameters. The prompt obviously plays on the word “wisdom”: Think about what sage advice might be offered by one (say, a tooth) that is wise. 

Do you want to write the essay from the first-person (er, first-tooth) narrative? Will you answer the question literally or figuratively? Why do you think they are called wisdom teeth, and will that play a part in how you answer this question?

Essay Option 3

You are on an expedition to found a colony on Mars, when from a nearby crater, a group of Martians suddenly emerges. They seem eager to communicate, but they’re the impatient kind and demand you represent the human race in one song, image, memory, proof, or other idea. What do you share with them to show that humanity is worth their time?

—Inspired by Alexander Hastings, Class of 2023, and Olivia Okun-Dubitsky, Class of 2026

In this essay, you’ll want to think philosophically about the human race. How on Earth – pun intended – can you portray humanity with a song, image, memory or proof? You don’t want to simply provide a song (or other artifact) when you write this essay; more importantly, you’ll want to explain why you chose that song (or artifact). 

Be very thoughtful and deliberate. Spend a lot of time as you decide which artifact you’ll choose to represent humanity to the Martians, since your artifact will also say a lot about you: Your beliefs, your background, your interests, your philosophy on life, and so on.

Essay Option 4

UChicago has been affiliated with over 90 Nobel laureates. But, why should economics, physics, and peace get all the glory? You are tasked with creating a new category for the Nobel Prize. Explain what it would be, why you chose your specific category, and the criteria necessary to achieve this accomplishment.

—Inspired by Isabel Alvarez, Class of 2026

This is another way – perhaps – of answering a question that you’ll probably be asked by other universities: What do you want to study and why? 

If you’re already considering studying economics, physics or international relations, you might want to skip this question and choose a different one, though you could of course still answer this essay.

Let your passion and interest in another academic field shine through. Be sure to answer the questions asked; that is, discuss why you chose this new Nobel category as well as the lifetime of work that would be required to receive such a prize in your new discipline.

Essay Option 5

Genghis Khan with an F1 racecar. George Washington with a SuperSoaker. Emperor Nero with a toaster. Leonardo da Vinci with a Furby. If you could give any historical figure any piece of technology, who and what would it be, and why do you think they’d work so well together?

-Inspired by Braden Hajer, Class of 2025

This is a fun question to answer, especially if you love history and technology. (And if that’s the case, be sure to check out the HIPS major – History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science and Medicine – at UChicago.) Be thoughtful about the historic figure you choose to write about. Why did you decide to write about him or her? What is his/her significance to you? Similarly, think about the piece of technology given to your historical figure. Why did you choose that particular technology? What is its meaning to you, or what are its applications and why would that piece of technology on that historical figure be an interesting pairing.

Essay Option 6

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!

“Take a little risk, and have fun.” You’ve likely been writing several essays about an activity that you’ve taken part in, a specific program that you want to attend, or other topics that are more serious. Take this chance to think outside of the box and write something memorable and creative. Imagine a group of admissions officers sitting around a table reading hundreds of applications – what experience or aspect of your personality can you draw on to make the officer reading your essay look up and tell their colleagues about you? Don’t forget to write the question that you’re answering at the top of the essay.

About the author
Cecilia Yan

Cecilia earned a BA from University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and an MS from Boston University, where she focused her studies on public relations and marketing. Cecilia oversees graduate programs: business development, partnerships, marketing and counselors. She also works with China partnerships. Originally from China, Cecilia is a native Mandarin speaker.

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